Why is guitar tuned the way it is

Why is a Guitar tuned in the First Place?

A guitar is a six string musical instrument that needs to be tuned every once in a while, in order for it to sound like it should when being played. While there is more than just one type of guitar, all of them need tuning and the basic reason is the fact that tuning ensures proper and unique sound from each of the strings on a guitar. One cannot hope to play anything on a guitar if the High E string (1st string) sounds like the G string (3rd string) or anything else for that matter. Each string on the guitar must be tuned in accordance with the specific note that it is supposed to play for it to be suitable for playing appropriately. Although one can tune a guitar according to his/her own hearing, it won’t sound right while being played in a group or a band and for that reason, one needs to follow the universal musical standards of tuning (Low E, A, D, G, B, High E).

Why the Guitar is Tuned the Way it is?

It is quite a popular question actually as it is indeed possible to tune a guitar in more ways than the standard EADGBE rule and some of the expert guitarists do that too. However, it is not recommended until and unless you know what you are doing. The reason however, can be divided into two parts, traditional and logical.

Traditional or historical reason – The way the guitar is generally tuned today is largely due to the fact that double coursed guitars had primarily come from European lutes, which were generally of the six string double coursed variety. The intervals used on the ancient lute were EADF#BE, which as one can see, is pretty close to the EADGBE standard used by modern guitars today (except of course the third string). The reason as to why the lutes were tuned in such a way was because the music of the time demanded the musical instruments to be poly-modulus. What this means is that it was tuned in a way so as to play all the key notes in the contemporary musical culture. Since the lute is the forefather of the modern guitar, the tuning system has therefore been carried down to the guitar almost unchanged.

guitar tuning

Logical or practical reason – The practical reason as to why the original standard tuning method is still more or less maintained pertains to the fact that it offers more freedom than the non-standard methods of tuning. The EADGBE tuning allows a guitarist to play in all possible keys, be it major or minor. While some of the notes are definitely harder to play than the others, it is quite possible. On the other hand, non-standardized methods of tuning a guitar (open) might just be suited to play in a few keys while making playing in the others a very difficult task. In other words, it is the universal nature of the standard tuning method that a guitar is tuned the way it is.