Coming at the guitar as a bassist, that odd jump from the G to the B (major third rather than perfect fourth) always tripped me up. When I started playing guitar more regularly at church, I decided to go for the option of tuning in 4ths all the way across just as on my six string bass. The standard tuning would then be E A D G C F although I decided to go for an octave above the tuning I had settled on for my bass: D G C F Bb Eb.

This does muck up all the familiar guitar chord shapes but opens up a repertoire of moveable patterns that don't have to be reconfigured as you move the starting note from string to string. I can also carry riffs and scales around the neck with ease.

Is anyone else using (or have even just tried) 4ths tuning in a worship setting or am I the only one?

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Your comment on the 3rd reminds me of a limeric on the VDGSA website.  I also play a couple of gambas which are bowed and fretted 6 string instruments tuned to lute (or in my case guitar drop 2 frets) tuning.

Lute/Gamba tuning: D G C E A D.   My tuning: D G C F A D.

by Harriet Risk Woldt:

When on gamba you're learning to fiddle,
At first there's this terrible riddle.
It isn't the fourths
That throw you off course;
It's the dadburn third in the middle.


I have never tried a 4th tuning as you describe.  But I do remember when researching the bass (which has been my main axe for the last 2½ decades) that some guitarists picking up the bass tuned the 4 strings per the 4 high strings of a guitar - E  B  G  D.

I suppose what you describe would be no different.

There are lots of chord shapes that seem trivial in standard tuning which become either tricky or pretty much impossible when tuned in 4ths. On the other hand there are some advantages.

Take for example the straightforward D that most guitarists probably learn as their second or third chord: X00232. The P4 shape requires that you subtract 1 from the value for the top two strings: X00221. In either case, the notes are A D A D F# (I'm working as if based on a lowest note of E - my actually tuning, in D, subtracts a further two semitones from each note and would make this shape sound like a C chord).

Those top three notes are the important ones - they form a 2nd inversion major triad (5 - 1 - 3). That is the same relationship of notes formed on the A, D and G strings in the beginners version of E major (0 2 2 1 0 0). I think the fact that I can now move the 221 pattern around anywhere on the neck, knowing that it is a major chord based on the middle note, is very flexible and helps me to think about the patterns of the music rather than just learning a bunch of shapes. Round about the time a guitarist steps up to the intermediate level and begins exploring moveable chord shapes rather than the simple "folk" repertoire is the point when this would provide a real boost.

Of course, to get the sound of many classic guitar lines, the characteristic shapes that come from EADGBE tuning is the better choice. I'm taking advantage of the fact that we've normally got acoustic guitar and keys (as well as bass and drums) in the line up at church so my role is providing the icing on the cake and exploiting a different range of sounds is a positive advantage. If I'm bearing the weight of the songs, then I'm more likely to fall back on acoustic guitar in standard tuning (although I'm working on that!).

Tuning in 4ths isn't the normal way for basses is it?

Yes - E  A  D  G  one octave below the 4 bass strings on the guitar. 

If you have a 5 string it adds a low B


BTW - the tuning is the same for the String Bass (orchestral double bass) which is the only member of the gamba family to survive the change from baroque to classical/romantic music.  It was the inspiration for Leo Fender to fashion a bass guitar, which actually took the instrument full circle.  The string bass had frets also back in the 1600s.

Duh Stevo. I see what you're saying now. All 4ths instead of some.

So you are playing a 6 string bass tuned up to D??? I play a 7 string tuned to Drop A and the 5 string follows... There is a guitarist who plays at the baked potato in studio city with Virgil Donati and he is tuned in fourths. His name is Charles Altura (that took me a while to find again) I've seen him and here is a video

This is very different then the Christian top 40 but something tells me that you will enjoy it. Concerning regular chords if you have an acoustic or another guitarist then you can just figure out your own triads as you don't need to play a regular C if he or she is. In the end just do what works for you and yes, you may be the only one.

Hey does anyone else play a 7-String tuned to drop A for worship and writing or am I the only one? :)

It is about what finding what works. My bass tuning got adjusted about six years ago when I realised that I hardly ever went below a D but frequently found myself reaching up beyond the 12th fret even on a six string bass. The former was partly determined by often playing through amps that couldn't do a decent job on the bottom end of the range and the latter because, particularly in the church I was at then, I often needed to be able to add chords in a guitary range without sacrificing the bass for other bits of the song.

I imagine that going down to a super-low A puts you in a similarly small pond as me ;-)

ps. love the Donati band clip - I think I might have seen it before, possibly on the Facebook group for P4ths tuning, but it is definitely up my street.


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