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Thread: Middle four tuning

  1. #1

    Default Middle four tuning

    I'm relatively new to tenor guitar, and prefer to finger pick melodies with occasional grace notes and drones rather than strum. Hence i usually tune CGcg because of the regularity of the note spacing in the first five frets.

    However, i've been thinking about tunings that are based on the 6 string. I know that so-called Chicago tuning (DGBE) is popular because it matches the first four strings of standard tuning on a regular guitar. However, it seems to me that matching the middle four strings (ADGB, or at least their relative spacing, such as GCFA or DGCE) would be more natural for a guitarist to play on a tenor. Essentially, you form the chords in the usual six string shapes, and ignore fingers that "fall off" ONE string on either side of the fretboard rather than TWO strings on the bass side. At least it feels more natural to me.

    Is this a common tenor tuning? What are the downsides? Thanks for your insights.

    ron

  2. #2
    Lord of All Badgers Lord of the Badgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Middle four tuning

    Hm. For me the common tunings are CGDA, DGBE, GDAE.
    I list in that order because that's probably the hierarchy based on history.

    I don't recognise your suggestions as 'common'.

    The majority of TG players here I suggest come via mandolin family so that's fifths tuning with some variations - and CGcg (GDgd) are my goto alt tunings besides GDad or its CGdg equivalent.

    I personally find fifths to be far more logical as a mandolin family player.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Middle four tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord of the Badgers View Post
    The majority of TG players here I suggest come via mandolin family so that's fifths tuning with some variations - and CGcg (GDgd) are my goto alt tunings besides GDad or its CGdg equivalent.

    I personally find fifths to be far more logical as a mandolin family player.
    I understand, and agree with that viewpoint. I'm just speculating about an alternative for those who come at it from a guitar perspective and who want a tenor tuning that feels more similar to what they already know.

  4. #4
    Tinkerer Huck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Middle four tuning

    Welcome Ron.

    Here is my 2 cents.

    Quote Originally Posted by rlgph View Post
    Is this a common tenor tuning?
    No, it is uncommon - but not unheard of. As this is a Mandolin site most prefer fifths tuning. A google search for ADGB tuning will probably return more results.

    Quote Originally Posted by rlgph View Post
    What are the downsides?
    Tune books, fake books or reference materials may be limited.

    If you want to keep it similar to a 6-string guitar - the obvious answer to me would be DGBE.

    Nothing wrong with your idea - just uncommon.

    Best wishes,
    Huck

  5. #5

    Default Re: Middle four tuning

    Since I am primarily a bass guitar player I looked at tuning my tenor guitar to EADG (like a bass guitar). The problem was I couldn't form chords that contained all of the necessary notes. On a six string guitar the two bass notes are typically doubling a note that is already being played on strings 1 through 4. In order to play chords I switched to DGBE.

    I didn't consider tuning my tenor guitar to ADGB. You would need to go through and determine if each chord had all of the required notes. I don't think this tuning would work for all of the chords, but I haven't gone through and checked it out so I can't say for sure.
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  6. #6

    Default Re: Middle four tuning

    I did a quick study on the D major chord (D F# A) using ADGB tuning. The standard chord formation for a 6 string would be 0023. This would result in ADAD. The F# is missing. A D major chord could be played using this tuning using 0423 fingering (A F# A D). The downside to this approach is the root of the chord is the highest pitched note. It is preferable to have the root of the chord be the lowest pitched note. It may be possible to play chords in this tuning, but alternate fingering would need to be developed for at least some of the chords.
    Blueridge BR-60T Tenor Guitar
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  7. #7

    Default Re: Middle four tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by Chip Stewart View Post
    I did a quick study on the D major chord (D F# A) using ADGB tuning. ... The F# is missing.
    Yes, i was aware that the usual D chord fingering missed the 3rd. Were i to use this tuning i would either play a C shape (with a partial barre to cover the 2nd string, 2nd fret), a barred A shape, or be satisfied with a modal D.

    Incidentally, you can can get a glimpse of the entire fretboard in the two tunings with the following diagrams:

    DGBE tuning:
    https://rlgreene.net/DGBE.jpg

    ADGB tuning:
    https://rlgreene.net/ADGB.jpg

    The color scheme is as follows: blue->root, red->3rd, and green->5th. As you said, any major chord has to have at least one of each. (You can also get a sense of the shapes of corresponding minor chords by mentally moving the red dots up one fret on the diagram; figuring out the shape of dominant 7ths is also not too difficult using the diagrams.)

    BTW, these diagrams come from a Java applet that i wrote to explore various tunings. Unfortunately, most browsers do not accommodate Java any longer due to its vulnerabilities. One can still run it from Microsoft Internet Explorer, but you need to know how to give it the correct permissions and trust my site. If you want to try it, you can find the applet at rlgreene.net/chords.html.

    ron

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Middle four tuning

    IMHO a 4-stringer tuned DGBE is a big 'uke - nothing wrong with that. Tuned EADG, it's more of a piccolo bass. Tuned CGDA, it's a mandola with fewer strings. I'm a long time folk-blues finger-picker. I just had to suck it up and learn 5ths fingerings with my first mando - visualize a guitar's bass strings inverted.

    A warning for guitarists downsizing: I prefer to tune my Puerto Rican cuatro's courses ADGBE which is iffy because my guitarist fingers keep searching for the other string. Damn muscle memory...

  9. #9
    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Middle four tuning

    I have an old harmony 215t that I mess around with. I have had it tuned CGDA like a mandola but the 24" scale has been difficult for me. A couple weeks ago I tried ADGB - middle four from a regular guitar. I liked it a lot, but felt like the high B was not quite right. I then cranked it up a half step to C and have been very happy playing tunes. Haven't looked into four string chords though.
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  10. #10

    Default Re: Middle four tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by Hypoxia View Post
    IMHO a 4-stringer tuned DGBE is a big 'uke - nothing wrong with that.
    A big "uke" that sounds like a guitar. I readily admit that I moved to a tenor guitar tuned DGBE because six strings were too much for this bass player to handle. The funny thing is that most people can't hear the difference between my tenor guitar and a six string guitar. When they hear me playing but can't see me, they think I'm playing a six string guitar. While I'm sure a trained musician would notice the bass notes are missing the "average" person usually doesn't.
    Blueridge BR-60T Tenor Guitar
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  12. #11

    Default Re: Middle four tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by HonketyHank View Post
    I have an old harmony 215t that I mess around with. I have had it tuned CGDA like a mandola but the 24" scale has been difficult for me. A couple weeks ago I tried ADGB - middle four from a regular guitar. I liked it a lot, but felt like the high B was not quite right. I then cranked it up a half step to C and have been very happy playing tunes. Haven't looked into four string chords though.
    Straight 4ths tuning. I like the idea of that. As i recall, some chords are awkward, but i mostly don't play chords on my tenor. The tuning i've liked the best so far has been CGcg for finger picking because of the regularity of the note locations -- 2nd and 4th frets on all strings and 5th fret on strings 2 and 4 for the notes of the C scale. But i may play around some more with ADGC.

  13. #12

    Default Re: Middle four tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by Huck View Post
    A google search for ADGB tuning will probably return more results.
    That's funny, because that's how I found this thread on this forum!

    I'm coming from the cigar box guitar community. I started with a 3 string a couple years ago tuned to GDg, then made a 4 string tuned to GDgb (we like our open tunings).

    Recently, trying to figure out "Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers, I tuned the low G to an A to match the 4 middle strings of a standard guitar, and I'm really liking the tuning, but I haven't found any CBG players using it, hence the google search that brought me here. I just had to register and reply to let you know Ron, you're not alone! There are probably dozens of us!

    I've never played a standard guitar before and am mostly teaching myself by ear, so when I eventually build myself a 6 string, I hope it should already feel familiar. Until then, I'm finding standard guitar tabs are fairly easy to adapt and transpose, opening up a lot more songs for my,... I guess tenor CBG?

  14. #13

    Default Re: Middle four tuning

    Thanks for letting me know. I don't know whether you checked the link for the fretboard diagram of ADGB in one of my posts in this thread. The diagram takes a little thought and theory to understand, but it can help visualize the fingering for chords over the entire fretboard. Here is the diagram (click to enlarge):
    Click image for larger version. 

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    The color scheme was described in that earlier post.

    BTW, another tuning you may want to experiment with (since you aren't currently wedded to standard guitar tuning) is ADF#B. A number of the chord shapes are simpler with that change in the 2nd string.

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