I've been playing guitar for about 15 years so I know the difference between standard and open tunings. When I learned, I learned on standard and it's the tuning I use the most even though I know how to play in others.

My question is why did the standard tuning become standard? It seems like it's deliberatly complicating our lives as musicians, much as the QWERTY keyboard was designed to slow people down.

It seems that any open tuning would be a better starting place for a begginer since basic chords are more accessible and if you're going to have to learn scales and chord patterns for years anyways, might as well use a more accessible tuning.

I understand the thinking that an open tuning might limit our creativity to that particular chord but most guitarists think in E anyways so I don't think it would limit us that much...

Plus it would mean that young musicians who are learning how to tune their instruments would also be learning fundamental chord theory so it wouldn't be just random arbitrary knowledge, it would be useful information from day one of their classes.

What does UG think?
I think that part of what makes the standard tuning more palatable is how it separates a lot of scales and lead guitar work with 1 fret in between. I dunno if that makes sense or not, but it's definitely not just about chords.

Basically the tuning allows your ring finger and pointer finger to be comfortably spaced for most chord and scale situations. I think that's part of the reason it's considered "standard" but I honestly don't know the history.

Thought provoking question, for sure.
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It's mainly so the fingering is easier, not so much for some open chords, but overall for scales and arpeggios etc.
I think the strings are 4th apart (except G to B) simply because we have 4 usable fingers when it comes to fretting. In the open position, we can use one finger per fret and when we run out of fingers, we naturally move to the next string.

The interesting question is why make the G-to-B string different than all the other strings. This certainly ruins the regularity of patterns and adds an element of complexity that trips up people. I suppose it's probably related to providing some variation in terms of interval accessibility.
i believe G and B strings are different in order to fir in the barre chord.
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Quote by bustapr
i believe G and B strings are different in order to fir in the barre chord.


It's a standard that makes physical and musical sense.

You might want to play around with alternate tunings if:
1. A work is easier to play for you, but for most stuff you won't.
2. You hear music in your head and it's easier to get out if you change the tunings.
3. You want to experiment like Sonic Youth or Goo Goo dolls did
It's a good question and I have yet to come across a definitive reason why. I am tempted to agree with robertwilliam9, however, there are other stringed instruments that aren't tunes in 4ths, violins and mandolins for example are tuned in 5ths.
The reason is, the intervals in standard tunings make it easy to both play chords and utilize scales. Open tunings make it easier to play chords, but harder to play scales, due to the extreme intervals between strings. Using "4ths" or "5ths" tuning may make playing single note scales easy, but playing chords in those tunings can be difficult.

So stardard tunings are the middle ground between playing chords easily, and being able to play scales quickly.