The guitar is normally a G tuning instrument but recorders are C or F instruments,Do I need to alter standard guitar tuning to eg C tuning, in order to play with a C Recorder eg Descant or Tenor, or F, to play with a treble recorder? Guitar also sounds an octave lower to what it is tuned to, but I should imagine this causes no issues.

  • 5
    I’m voting to close this question because the premise is false Commented Jul 2, 2023 at 18:11
  • 3
    @CarlWitthoft Why would that be a cause to close a question?
    – Nacht
    Commented Jul 2, 2023 at 23:52
  • 3
    @Nacht - if the premise is false, there actually won't be a tangible question, thus no direct answer.
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 3, 2023 at 6:49
  • 4
    @Tim that's not correct, the answer is the fact that the premise is false, as is demonstrated by your own answer below. If every question consisting of an incorrect premise got closed, all Stack Exchange sites would lose a great many valuable questions.
    – Nacht
    Commented Jul 3, 2023 at 10:57
  • 3
    @Nacht & Tim: In this case, the question contained a very answerable core, "should I do anything funny when using these two instruments together," and the answers are conceivably helpful to others. But one could imagine a question so mistaken that the only answer is fairly useless: "Why didn't Beethoven finish his 8th symphony?" "Uh... he did. I guess you're thinking about Schubert." Commented Jul 3, 2023 at 15:59

5 Answers 5


'Guitars are normally G tuning' - no, they're not. They play quite happily in any key, unless open tuned. They're chromatic instruments.

So, play your C, or F (or any other transposing or fixed key instrument, e.g. C harmonica) and play the appropriate chords for it on guitar. If necessary, use a capo on guitar to get chord shapes that are easier/better sounding, but that's about it!

  • 1
    "Guitars ... play quite happily in any key" - yes, and so do recorders, though it's not quite as easy to transpose as on guitar. Commented Jul 2, 2023 at 17:24
  • 11
    Guitars play quite happily in any key. Guitarists, however, may complain vociferously.
    – avid
    Commented Jul 2, 2023 at 20:19
  • 1
    @leftaroundabout - with guitar (and bass), one can play exactly the same fingering in numerous keys (every key) using the same pattern, and even the same shapes for chords, as I'm sure you know. So transposition is a doddle. Whereas on recorder (and just about every other instrument), different fingerings are necessary for each different key. That's the nub of this.
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 3, 2023 at 10:18
  • 1
    @WayneConrad - just tell him he's in A#. He'll be a s happy as a pig in $#it..!!!
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 3, 2023 at 16:05
  • 3
    The recorder transposes poorly. The guitar only transposes poorly when open string notes are involved, and in some of those cases, a device called a capo can transpose them anyway. E.g. a melody in C on a C recorder will not nicely transpose to C#; almost every fingering will require tricky partial holing or lower holes to be covered. The guitarist just moves the hand half step to a higher fret and plays the same scale pattern.
    – Kaz
    Commented Jul 3, 2023 at 22:20

You can play a guitar in any key. You can play a recorder (whether C or F) in any key (although beginners are happiest in keys with few sharps or flats). There's no need to retune or transpose.

A guitar sounds an octave lower than it is notated. If you really need a unison with a recorder you might need to play an octave higher, otherwise it's no problem.


Some instruments, mostly brass, are transposing, which means that the notes written for them won't correspond with the sounding notes: trumpets are commonly b-flat trumpets, which means that when you play a written c', a b-flat sounds.

Both recorders and guitars are not transposing (give or take an octave for guitars and some recorders). So even when we say that a treble/alto recorder is in F, it's not considered a transposing instrument, because we still name the notes by what sounds, not by the fingering.

  • Seems we got off-piste with comments on my question - considering playing in any key. So, as far as 'transposing' instruments, you're right, except for the octaves, which won't affect the considerations of this question.
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 4, 2023 at 7:13

No. The tuning refers to what sounds come out of your instrument when you hit the open strings or respectively close every whole on the recorder. Also not sure what makes you think the guitar is tuned in g, the standard tuning is usually e a d g b e (from low e to high e).

You can still play lots of keys on both instruments by using different fingerings, both are chromatic instruments so you can hit every note in a given scale and aren't limited to one. That might be more difficult for the more exotic but generally you're flexible with that.

Also with regards to transposing instruments, that's about the notes in sheet music vs the notes that come out of your instrument. So some instruments transpose their notes to be better readable in sheet but when they play a different note comes out so you have to account for that. But the standard guitar plays an octave lower than notated while the soprano recorder plays an octave higher than notated. So essentially you avoid complicated ledger lines that way but essentially still play the same note just lower or higher.

Same goes for the alto just that you don't start with c but with f.


Your premise is false as both guitar and recorder are by and large chromatic instruments capable of being played in any key. Both recorder and guitar are written at pitch with a possible octave offset (guitar is played an octave lower than written, soprano recorder an octave higher than written, alto recorder either at pitch or an octave higher; its fingering starts with an F though as opposed to the soprano and tenor recorder starting with a C).

Apart from the pitches themselves, there also is intonation. Guitar is a uniformly fretted instrument; consequently it is usually tuned using equal temperament. While the bulk of the open strings fit a G chord, tuning them to pure intervals (like when using flageolet tuning tecnniques without modification) tends to make numerous chords work rather badly. So the usual tuning is one of equal temperament, as opposed to unfretted string instruments (like the violin) which are usually tuned in pure fifths, and in playing practice avoid the use of open strings other than for double stops.

Due to the fretting, guitar intonation is basically fixed. This can cause problems in connection with the very pure and straight tones of recorders: professional recorder players have some leeway in intonation as well as vibrato techniques; young players tend to produce fixed pitches. A recorder can be tuned to very little degree by adjusting the mouth piece but that comes at the cost of impacting the integrity of its overall intonation.

So while there are no transposition issues, the pleasantness of the guitar/recorder combination depends on the guitar being well-tuned to the occasion and the recorder player being skilled enough to fine-tune intonation on the fly.

As more instruments (or just environmental noise) is added, the intonation problem becomes less obvious.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.