Why Are Guitar Strings Tuned as EADGBE?

If you have been playing guitar for a while and found out, there are several tunings to go with, you might be wondering why we always use the EADGBE standard tuning. As this tuning is a crucial part of the guitar’s sound and identity, there is a logic and history behind it.

The standard tuning’s origins date back to a few hundred years. It is the sweet spot between physical comfort for playing different chord shapes and scales as well as musical convenience. This tuning makes the chord position transitions smooth while playing common scales easier by minimizing fretting hand movement. 

In this article, I will dive deep into standard tuning, exploring the history, origins, variations, and impact of the tradition.

The History of Guitar Tuning

The modern-day guitar, as we know it, evolved during the 14th and 15th centuries from various stringed instruments of different cultures, such as the lute and vihuela. These instruments featured different numbers of strings and tuning standards, which affected the tuning of guitars.

Renaissance and Baroque Tunings

During the Renaissance and Baroque eras, there were different stringed instruments that were predecessors of the guitar. Lutes had E-A-D-F#-B-E tuning standard, while the vihuelas were tuned to G-C-F-A-D. These tunings were responding to the musical needs and preferences of the time.

The Birth of the Standard Tuning

The standard tuning was born in the 19th century by the Spanish luthier Antonio de Torres Jurado, who made quite a lot of innovations in guitar design. This was the birth of the modern classical guitar, as Torres standardized the guitars with six strings and the EADGBE tuning. This became the foundation of modern-day guitar as it opened the possibilities for a broader range of musical creations and approaches for musicians.

The logic behind the standard tuning is the secret of perfect fourths and the major third intervals. All the strings are tuned to perfect fourths except the major third interval between the 2nd and 3rd strings. The addition of a major third interval is due to avoid the EADGCF tuning, which is made with all perfect fourths but gives you the problematic interval between E and F. This minor second interval threatens all the harmony as they are only half a step apart.

The standard tuning adds the major third on the 2nd and 3rd frets, creating a better-sounding tuning while keeping the playability and versatility of the tuning. This tuning offers a great balance between playability and harmonic possibilities, as well as comfortable chord shapes and fingering positions.

The Impact of EADGBE Tuning

Versatility and Adaptability

The standard tuning is a highly versatile tuning order that offers high versatility for players. With the standard tuning, players easily play different scales, chords, and transits between different keys and progressions, as it makes playing various genres and playing techniques pretty smooth.

Songwriting and Composition

The standard tuning also makes the riff creation and soloing quite convenient. With the perfect fourth and a major third pattern, it is pretty straightforward to create ear-pleasing progressions and melodies.

Balanced Harmony

As mentioned before, the standard tuning hits the sweet spot between playability and harmonic range. This is the main reason it became the standard for, first, classical guitars, then acoustic, and finally, electric guitars.

Learning Process

As the standard tuning offers pretty easy chord shapes and scale positions, it makes the learning curve of the instrument quite easy. For instance, the open chords are pretty easy on beginners, which sets a great starting point for further development.

Alternative Tunings

While the standard tuning, EADGBE, is the most popular tuning, there are many guitarists experimenting with alternative tunings for different musical possibilities. Different tunings offer different sonic textures and songwriting approaches, which is great for creative purposes.

Open Tunings

Open tunings such as Open D (DADF#AD) and Open G (DGDGBD) are pretty popular in blues and country music, as well as for slide guitar. Open tunings offer resonant sound with open chords as they are tuned to a chord strummed without fretting. 

Drop Tunings

Drop tunings such as D (DADGBE) and Drop C (CGCFAD) are the favorite scales of guitarists who like heavy-riffing and power chords. One or more strings are tuned to lower pitches in order to expand the range of power chords and riffs for darker and more aggressive sounds. They are mainly used in rock and metal music.

DADGAD and Beyond

There are many other tunings, like Celtic tuning (DADGAD) and C6 (CACGCE), mainly used in folk music. They offer unique chord voicings and harmonies.

The Influence of Iconic Guitarists

Jimi Hendrix and Eb Standard

Jimi Hendrix was one of the first guitarists who started tuning his guitar a half-step down. This one-semitone-down tuning has been used by many guitarists since then as it is both a timbral-register choice and a method for new strings to break in safely. The string tension is around 10% lower than the standard tuning, increasing playability.

Keith Richards and Open G

In songs like “Start Me Up” and “Brown Sugar,” Keith Richards, the prolific guitarist of The Rolling Stones, showcases his favorite tuning, Open G. It has become one of the signature sounds of the band and the guitarist, as it provides a resonant and unique sound.

Joni Mithcell and Open D

Folk, blues, and country guitarists love the Open D tuning variations for fingerpicking style purposes. Guitarists like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell are some of the names that use this tuning the most frequently.

Jimmy Page and Unique Tunings

There are some guitarists who like to experiment with unique guitar tunings. One particular name is Jimmy Page, as he loves to use alternative tunings such as open D in “Kashmir,” open F in “Bron-y Aur Stomp,” and Gsus4 tuning in “Rain Song.” 


In short, the standard tuning, EADGBE, has a rich history. It is preferred by guitarists due to its versatility, adaptability, and harmonic possibilities. As it offers quite easy fretting with comfortable fundamental chord shapes and scale positions, it is a great starting point for beginners, making the instrument easier to learn.

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I have been playing guitar since 2004. As long as I can remember I always had a huge passion for rock music and I extremely enjoy playing it. Helping people on their rock journey is what drives me to keep on playing. Read More About Me

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