Northern Musicians Guide to Tunings
For a complete list of books and tunings available click here.
Many people have asked what I suggest for the tuning
of each instrument. If you do not already have a tuning you want to
work with, I suggest the standard tunings. Read carefully. Many instruments commonly use more than one tuning.
For Tenor Guitar, Tenor Banjo, Mandola and Mandocello the CGDA tuning is the place
to start if you have no preference or are just looking at getting
into one of these instrument.
This is for a couple of reasons.
- It’s by far the most common tuning.
- The tuning is in 5ths, giving the instrument the unique
characteristic open sound.
- Once the chord are learned for CGDA you can easily switch
instruments, Tenor Banjo, Tenor Guitar, Mandola and Mandocello since all use this
same common tuning.
- The second most common tuning is GDAE, which is still tuned
in 5ths giving the characteristic sound of the tenor but off by
a half octave. It is the standard tuning for Mandolin and Octave Mandolin,
as well as being used on Mandola, Tenor Guitar, Tenor Banjo and occasionally on
Mandocello. It is sometimes refered to as Irish tuning.
- Once you’ve learned the chords in CGDA it is an easy thing
to relearn the new roots of the GDAE tuning and you then have
available Tenor Banjo, Tenor Guitar, and Mandolin.
- A very common and versatile tuning. Also sometimes refered to as Irish tuning.
- Used on Tenor Banjo, Tenor Guitar, Mandola, Mandocello and Bouzouki.
- Often referred to as Greek tuning. To my knowledge only used on bouzouki and is
the traditional tuning for this instrument.
- A little less versatility here. This tuning stands alone,
but many people absolutely love it and it has some great
characteristics being partly in 5th tuning and partly outside.
- This is also known as ‘plectrum tuning’.
- Fairly rare tuning for banjo but has some adherents in the
Tenor Guitar Community and is the new standard for Bouzouki.
- This tuning is the same as the four highest pitched strings on
the 6 string guitar.
- Used to allow 6 string guitar players the easy use of the tenor
but it lacks the openness of the 5th interval tuning system. On the other hand, it doesn't
require quite the same physical gymnastics for the left hand.