I'm primarily a rhythm guitarist who has recently taken up bass. I've been struck how easy the equal 4th intervals between strings is for scale patterns, which surely have as much relevance for lead guitar as bass guitar?

I imagine the standard guitar tuning is done for ease of chord shapes (as well as tradition) or for classical playing which also tends to involve chords of different types.

For someone playing strictly lead guitar, melody lines rather than chords, would this tuning work well? It feels like with 6 even-interval strings you could race around the fretboard more naturally.

Is this widely used, are there notable players who use this?

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    I can't think of an example of a guitarist who literally never plays chords, or at least arpeggios. Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 16:10
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    But arpeggios work fine with equal intervals, as do 2/3 string chords (probably). It's traditional full chords which would become unworkable (I think)
    – Mr. Boy
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 16:12
  • Yep. Traditional full chords become problematic with all strings tuned in fourths because the outside strings are then five steps around the circle of fifths from one another. Starting with a low E, you'd have E-A-D-G-C-F strings, so a six-string major or minor chord can have two open strings max. Not ideal if you want to play chords. Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 11:27
  • @ScottWallace - but quite often, chords can be and are played using 3 or 4 strings only, anyway.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 11:29
  • I think most people who play guitar will play some of each, and just get on with it. Getting used to that also means re-tuning any other guitars that you borrow/use. Hardly worth the fuss. But an interesting idea, nevertheless.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 11:32

3 Answers 3


It really depends on what kind of melodies you like to play. The advantage of the many, many alternate tunings of the guitar and of using a capo is that they make certain melodies, chords and riffs more fluid to play because they're right under your fingers. The common standard tuning of the guitar, EADGBE, makes it easy to play most chords as well as blues scales.

Robert Fripp uses and teaches an even tuning in fifths that he calls New Standard Tuning, C2-G2-D3-A3-E4-G4. You need to use a special string set for this, though and take off your highest pitched string if you wanted all fifths (See link.) An all-fifths tuning is used by fiddles, cellos and mandolins. Stanley Jordan, as noted, uses all-fourths tuning.

I've experimented with a lot of alternative tunings over the years but I always find myself returning to standard tuning supplemented with capos. I only have to know one set of patterns which I can translate up and down and across the neck. The G-to-B string shift up a fret is not a big deal and I have all these easy partial chords and arpeggios to grab when I'm playing solos. YMMV, of course.

  • The New Standard Tuning is not an all-fifth tuning, but has a third at the top. I don't know offhand of any six stringed instruments that tune in all fifths. Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 14:12
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    @ScottWallace there are six-stringed cellos and violins, but they're at least as exotic as all-fourth tuned guitars. Heck, even my five-string cello regularly has people asking how this is even possible... with a standard body, it would be really hard to differentiate all six strings individually with the bow, but I think on “bodyless” electric instruments there's not too much of a problem. Steinberger has six-string cellos in regular production. Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 19:36
  • @leftaroundabout- Yes, I know of six-stringed cellos and violins. I guess I should have said "chordal instruments", because I don't imagine you play many sextuple stops on these bowed instruments. Another constant-interval tuning is the all-fourths E-A-D-G-C-F tuning sometimes used on Arabian ouds- but then again, this is primarily a melody, not a chordal, instrument. Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 13:47

Another advocate of even-interval tuning is Tom Quayle. I discovered him via That Pedal Show. He uses fourths, as shown below. There are many tunings; enjoy them all, if you can!

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    Interesting, thanks. Yeah he makes the same basic point I was - no matter where you start, string or fret, you can use the exact same patterns. It works well on the bass which is much more of a single-line instrument.
    – Mr. Boy
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 8:30

If you used even tuning and just played lead guitar it would theoretically work out better from a fingering standpoint, but I think it would cause problems (or a least a lot of extra work) for established players to switch to it.

The only guitarist I can think of who uses even tuning is Stanley Jordan.

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