#1
Perfect Fourths Tuning, defending the Fourth!

Hello there, before I start, I'd like to excuse myself for potential bad grammar, English is not my native. I'd like you to point out something in need of revision.

I want to talk with you about the way I tune my guitar for a while now - the P4 tuning. I searched UG forums and found almost nothing about it...maybe one thread where people thrash it with subjective conclusions like "It's hard to play 6-string chords" or "it's hard to bend (lol, just get lighter strings...)". I want to defend the tuning as a very satisfied user of the same and I'd like to promote it a little, as a valid alternative.

I am preparing a site dedicated solely to the all fourths tuning, with a lot of resources in the future. I need to know will I have people reading it at all...since there are very few guitarists using that tuning.

For starters I'd like any of you who play in any kind of fourths tuning (I play in ultra low BEADgc), even 6-string bass players, to add me as a friend here on UG, so I can send them a link to the site when it gets a domain...for now I'm testing it out on some free wordpress service and I'm preparing the first several lessons before I buy the domain.

If you are using any other alt. tuning, join my new group dedicated to us, alternate guys and hopefully - girls. http://groups.ultimate-guitar.com/tuned-out/

Before you start to read the next part, take notice that an alt. tuning is something that changes the view on your guitar playing completely, and most rules for regular tuning do not apply or apply in a smaller scale. Try to open yourself to other and new possibilities.

Now let's begin by answering some FAQs, and addressing the most often remarks made on the tuning.

"Is it hard to play barre and other 6-string chords?"

-Yes, it is, and I really think that if you're a strict rhythm guitarist, pop-guitar player or a classical guitar player, the tuning is not for you because it's different. But you should not thrash it, because a lot of people can benefit from it in some musical styles that do not require all 6 strings to be used for chords, or in case of classical guitarists, do not have a "since infinity" tradition of a standardized EADgbe tuning.

"Is it harder to play arpeggios and sweep-pick?"

- Again I must agree, five or six string arpeggios will be really hard, I know from experience. But that will open up a new horizon - 4 string arpeggios which are really cool and easy in P4, and since the intervals are consistent, you can be sure you got it right, and you can always tap an additional note with more confidence.

Also a point I want to make - I've seen a lot of guitarists just showcasing with sweep picking songs which sound cool but consist of only a few chords and are boring harmonically. Sweep picking has become a brag-skill, and I know a lot of non-guitarists which consider it boring and faggy. So having the sweep picking option reduced, you'll actually focus more on actual performance, melody, harmony...playing what's in your head, not just playing with fingers.


"Is it hard to bend?"

- Well, of course it's harder, but come on...one half step...if it's really that hard, just try a lighter string. I have a completely custom set of strings for my tuning, which is a high 0.16(I think) string and low 0.75 so I can tune down to B. It's derived from a Zakk Wylde ultra low tuning set without the E string + a out-of-set 0.24 wound G string. Then the B string was moved down to be the E string. It's all just a matter of how much you play, and how fast you get accustomed. Every one of us had trouble when one time we bought a set of thicker strings than those we played in the beginning.

"I can't find any resources!"

- This is so true, but if you're a guitarist that learned your stuff logically, you will easily adapt any diagram that is possible to adapt. If you're not...there are few of us who re willing to share. And again...that is the pain of alternate tunings, we're like an endangered species...

I posted several P-4 related articles on my guitar blog http://zhille.wordpress.com which are filled with diagrams for the beginning P4 guitarist. Since those posts, I decided to make a website dedicated to this tuning only.

"I can't play my favorite songs!"

This is maybe the biggest drawback of any alternate tuning, and the best thing to solve that is having two guitars Song involving a lot of open E and B strings will be impossible to play in E P4. But then...you'll have open C and F strings, so you'll get nice set of open chords to play in F major.

As an UG user has pointed, most guitar work is done in sharp keys, and having an open F string can diminish the possibilities. But I again repeat that I recommend P4 more to people doing original guitar work, because of those facts. And again - every alternate tuning has that problem.

"I will have to learn all over again???"

- Well, basically, you will have to get accustomed to a new system, and it's the same with all tunings...just tell me you did not have to learn everything again when you tuned to DADGAD...it's a thing that needs to be done, and I think P4 gives you the easy way, since the 4 bottom strings will be the same. You just play all through the neck like you play the bottoms. You'll quickly find your way. And yes - you'll rip on bass since it's in fourths

With those two questions explained, I'd just like to point out some things that a guitarist gets when he/she tunes to P4.


The benefits of P4

Standardized, consistent intervals

Wouldn't you like to play 4string chords, or diads, triads, passages, the same on all string sets, without changing the fingering to suite the major third between G and B?

Have you tried making the fingerings for 4-string drop-2 seventh chords and it's inversions in standard tuning? I have...12(yes, twelve) fingering for a single chord + 3 inversions. Then I switched to P4 and re-done that to get 4 fingerings per chord+inversions. So, TWO THIRDS less to learn!

Having everything standardized and consistent is maybe the most important thing in this tuning, and worth of a lot of "anti-P4" points made earlier.

Visual/aural consistency

When you finger an octave...it will sound like an octave all the time! When you finger the minor scale it will result in a minor scale no matter which string you use as a root... I always envied bassists on that. They finger a minor third and don't need to re-think what the string is...they get the minor third.

I never thought visual/aural consistency meant so much until the day I got accustomed to my new tuning! Now my playing has improved, and I can play with less thinking about strings, and more thinking about the thing I want to play, the thing that is inside my head...that perfect melody.

So this consistency is good both for a rhythm player and a melodist, lead player.

You get an additional half step in range

This is probably not so important, but if you have a 24-fret guitar in P4, you can play a note that requires 25 frets with standard tuning. Or you can tune down to Eb while still having an open E and B strings...

I made a similar article on my little guitar blog, and if you're interested - take a look, drop a comment...
Perfect Fourths tuning article on Zhille's Guitar Blog

This is it for now. I will add more if I think it's necessary. For now, I think this article does well. Remember, if you use the tuning mentioned here, add me as a friend on UG.

Thanks for your time, and have fun.
I am Žile, I'm from Serbia, and I like guitars... and beans of course...never underestimate well cooked beans!

Join Alternate tunings
TUNED OUT
Last edited by zhille at Nov 25, 2009,
#2
Most guitar based music is written in Sharp keys, in the same way that most Brass based music is written in Flat keys. By having an open F string you really reduce your open options for any sharp key.

Also barre chords can become absolute arses, since anything barred on the low e-string will almost certainly have to be fingered on the high e-string (especially if as is common the low e has the root, you'll need to finger the high e-string unless you want a [relatively uncommon] b9 chord)

I'm not saying anything you said is wrong, i just fail to see the point of it, maybe for a out and out shredder it'd be useful on occasion, but for any rhythm guitar work it's just going to make things harder.

For bassist i can see it, playing barre chords is less important for a bassist, but for any sort of rhythm guitarist i fail to see the use

Sorry if this sounds a bit harsh :s
#3
Quote by doive
Most guitar based music is written in Sharp keys, in the same way that most Brass based music is written in Flat keys. By having an open F string you really reduce your open options for any sharp key.

Also barre chords can become absolute arses, since anything barred on the low e-string will almost certainly have to be fingered on the high e-string (especially if as is common the low e has the root, you'll need to finger the high e-string unless you want a [relatively uncommon] b9 chord)

I'm not saying anything you said is wrong, i just fail to see the point of it, maybe for a out and out shredder it'd be useful on occasion, but for any rhythm guitar work it's just going to make things harder.

For bassist i can see it, playing barre chords is less important for a bassist, but for any sort of rhythm guitarist i fail to see the use

Sorry if this sounds a bit harsh :s


your 1st point: seeing as its a completely different tuning, i hardly think it matters what 'most guitar music' is written in

2nd: whilst it might be useful for some shred work, i find that many things are actually easier to shred in standard tuning, most utilisation i make of 4ths tuning is to keep the same chord shapes across all string groups, mostly for jazz playing. Kind of proves it as more versatile

DEFEND THE 4THS!
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#4
Thanks for the input I really like to have opinions on both sides. For example, I never thought about what you said about the keys. The open F can maybe be avoided by tuning everything one step lower. I guess everything is subjective.

I did not have much trouble with that all because I mostly write original music, and do not cover songs. I mostly transcribe cello music.
I am Žile, I'm from Serbia, and I like guitars... and beans of course...never underestimate well cooked beans!

Join Alternate tunings
TUNED OUT
#5
I think this is a really good idea for an article, maybe on on 5ths tuning too? Although that might be considered a little too far out of normal...
Quote by Shred Head
You have an atrocious sense of humour!

Quote by StrayCatBlues
You win 100 hilarity points.

Spend them wisely.


Quote by GrisKy
you're a funny, funny man, chimp in a tux... funny indeed.
#6
Quote by chimpinatux
I think this is a really good idea for an article, maybe on on 5ths tuning too? Although that might be considered a little too far out of normal...


Lol, guess in what tuning is my second guitar? A kind of modified NST - C-G-D-A-E-G# ...I'd make it all fifths or tune the G# to A, but I'm chasing that special ultra light string that can be tuned up to A or B I don't play that guitar much, but I can say that it's an interesting tuning, you get an awesome range. It's just too hard to play because of the big distance between the frets. I think a solution for a perfect guitar tuned to fifths is a child-scale guitar, I even thought about buying one, 3/4 scale

For now I'll focus on the P4, it's jut too damn interesting and I even shred better with it.

Thanks for the support. I'm looking to make a couple more revisions, and hopefully the article gets approved.
I am Žile, I'm from Serbia, and I like guitars... and beans of course...never underestimate well cooked beans!

Join Alternate tunings
TUNED OUT
#7
Quote by zhille
Lol, guess in what tuning is my second guitar? A kind of modified NST - C-G-D-A-E-G# ...I'd make it all fifths or tune the G# to A, but I'm chasing that special ultra light string that can be tuned up to A or B I don't play that guitar much, but I can say that it's an interesting tuning, you get an awesome range. It's just too hard to play because of the big distance between the frets. I think a solution for a perfect guitar tuned to fifths is a child-scale guitar, I even thought about buying one, 3/4 scale

For now I'll focus on the P4, it's jut too damn interesting and I even shred better with it.

Thanks for the support. I'm looking to make a couple more revisions, and hopefully the article gets approved.


Have you looked at octave4plus strings? They make special strings capable of going up to high A or even high B, so yes you can get them! when i finish building my baritone its going to be in 5ths from low A to high G#
Quote by Shred Head
You have an atrocious sense of humour!

Quote by StrayCatBlues
You win 100 hilarity points.

Spend them wisely.


Quote by GrisKy
you're a funny, funny man, chimp in a tux... funny indeed.
#8
I made the first revision, added some pros and cons, and explained one more fact in the FAQ.

Thanks for reading
I am Žile, I'm from Serbia, and I like guitars... and beans of course...never underestimate well cooked beans!

Join Alternate tunings
TUNED OUT
#9
The post is revised again and I think it's pretty complete, I'd like it to get reviewed by the UG columns and articles team.

All alternate tuning people join this group in my signature.

Respect!
I am Žile, I'm from Serbia, and I like guitars... and beans of course...never underestimate well cooked beans!

Join Alternate tunings
TUNED OUT
#10
Using barre chords for rhythm guitar in a band is generally to be avoided, except when you use an acoustic. I can really think of no major guitar player who uses barre chords. In a band with more than 3 instruments including drums you will try to divide the octaves between the different sounds and instruments, like the keyboard player will generally not play bass on the keyboard when there is a bass player to do that job. Barre chords generally go over 2 octaves and take up lots of tonal space. Chords with 2 - 4 strings are much easier to place successfully in an arrangement and leaves more space to the others. The P4 tuning is perfect for this purpose because once you have learned it you will have total freedom to improvise with chords and to vary the rhythm playing to the benefit of the song.
#11
5th tuning can be obtained by stringing the guitar the other way round: the thickest string on the bottom and the thinnest on top. Keep the open string tuning E A D G C F top to bottom or transpose it as desired. You can play your guitar as normal, and you will hear the right scales and chords, but the intervals go down in stead of up when you play the next string.
#13
I really do not understand why you find shredding and bending more difficult with P4 tuning. For easy and accurate bending you need to use the right string gauge to have strings with the right tension. For shredding the P4 will require that you learn some new movements with your fingers and your wrist. Once you have learned them shredding and sweeping are just as easy (or as difficult) as with the standard tuning.
#16
I hope that this won't count as a necropost, but I am also interested in the P4 tuning!

By now, there is a fantastic guy on youtube who teaches techniques in P4.

As a bass player I find this far more logical.

The only bad thing here is the fact that it's harder to play most chords, so it's more of a shredder or improviser tuning than a rhythm one. But hell, play the root like a bass player.
#17
Quote by Finn S-Riisager
Using barre chords for rhythm guitar in a band is generally to be avoided, except when you use an acoustic. I can really think of no major guitar player who uses barre chords. In a band with more than 3 instruments including drums you will try to divide the octaves between the different sounds and instruments, like the keyboard player will generally not play bass on the keyboard when there is a bass player to do that job. Barre chords generally go over 2 octaves and take up lots of tonal space. Chords with 2 - 4 strings are much easier to place successfully in an arrangement and leaves more space to the others. The P4 tuning is perfect for this purpose because once you have learned it you will have total freedom to improvise with chords and to vary the rhythm playing to the benefit of the song.
are you joking
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#18
Quote by realsmoky
I hope that this won't count as a necropost

I've got bad news for you. And more importantly, the reason we don't dig up old threads is because the discussion's moved on, and the person who started the thread probably either posted their column, or isn't on UG anymore. Either way, this thread is dead.
#19
Quote by Cavalcade
I've got bad news for you. And more importantly, the reason we don't dig up old threads is because the discussion's moved on, and the person who started the thread probably either posted their column, or isn't on UG anymore. Either way, this thread is dead.



Well, we can start a new discussion on this ( which I would really appreciate ) without opening a new topic. That is, at least, my forum logic.


As for the bare chords thing - in many music genres bare chords are used. Or the western chords. No matter which ones you use, you're playing most often on all 6 strings.


Now, is that good?

The answer is probably YES, it is. Why?

Well it worked for decades ( centuries would be too much to say I think ).


BUT - that does not mean that nothing should change.

You see, when you play in a band which has 2 guitarists , there is really no need that both play the same thing. So - one could play a full chord ( six strings ) and the other one ( the one who'd use P4 ) play 2, 3 or 4 strings of a chord ( based on the chord needed ) or simply the root ( something like bass just an octave or two higher ).

You could also play the root + octave which would give a nice harpish keyboardish background sound ( awesome with a super chorus ).

Or breaking down a chord would be probably nice too.

AND IF IT ALL FAILS, POWER CHORDS ALL THE WAY! Give that jazz a freaking piece of punk!


___


As for playing chords in general - it's ( at least as my research goes ) really hard to play chords on all six strings at the same time.


What can you do ?


You could mute the F string, or the E string, based on the chord you wanna play. To some this might feel really weird as for me. I personally don't suggest this one, while Tom's Music Lessons http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W73StQ7kP0A suggest it.


The second option is to avoid playing anything besides powerchords which is actually rarely a good solution. While it is to be considered in a band with more than one guitarist or with a keyboardist this might be useful. 3 man bands it's bad.


My personal favorite is a combination of 2 'techniques'. The first one would be to learn the so called Western Chords, which basically are the same chords we all use but you hold them different. You need to use your left hands THUMB for the E string and hold major, minor and 7 stuff the usual way on A D and G. Most often, the C and F strings will be naturally muted, but learn how to play only 4 strings at a time.

Now this provides a problem playing higher end chords. For that, you need to learn to play chords without strumming the F string. For example, playing a D major could be done like


F NOT PLAYED
C 6
G 7
D 7
A 5
E 5


Different chords and the way you want them to sound will require you to drop the E string sometimes, and sometimes both E and F. Some might find that this is hard but hey, you learned to drop G B and E while you play a power chord, you can do this too.
I will post a shape guide here when I get a bit used to writing tabs.

Keep the Fourths alive!
Last edited by realsmoky at Sep 16, 2013,