Guitar Tuning and the Guitar Fretboard

So, what is the correlation between guitar tuning and the guitar fretboard?

This is actually one of the key points in order to understand how notes are arranged on the fretboard. That is because any change in tuning will produce a completely new array of guitar fretboard notes.

Although there are potentially limitless ways of tuning the guitar, the most useful tuning to know (at least at an initial stage) is the standard one: six strings tuned at the interval of a perfect fourth from each other, except for the second and third strings, which are tuned a major third apart.

guitar tuning

That is, the intervals are:

guitar tuning intervals

The standard tuning system of the guitar

What a strange tuning system this seems to be! This tuning system is unique to the guitar: most other string instruments are tuned using the exact same interval for each pair of adjacent strings...

violin tuning

The tuning systems of other stringed instruments

This apparent lack of symmetry is not too helpful when it comes to learning chords and scales on the guitar fretboard. The reason is obvious: if, for instance, you have a three note chord that you play on the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings, you will have to learn a new fingering pattern to play an equivalent structure using, for instance, the 4th, 3d and 2nd strings.

This is the reason for which there are countless chord and scale pattern permutations. If you are so inclined, there are many books —such as "chord bibles"— that show you those permutations. A smarter approach, though, is to understand the underlying principles. The fact is that there is a logic behind guitar tuning. When you understand these underlying relationships, it will be like having the master key to all those permutations, without the excessive rote.

(Hint: it's in the circle of fifths. Stay tuned for all the secrets of fretboard symmetry).

fretboard essentials

Guitar Fretboard Articles:

1. Guitar Fretboard in Depth: go back from Guitar Tuning and the Fretboard to section overview

2.Guitar Notes: A view along the Fretboard, and other important points

3. Fretboard Diagram —string by string: still looking along the fretboard, at scales and modes this time

4. Guitar Tuning and the Fretboard: a view across the fretboard

5. The Guitar Fretboard Chart explained afresh —also for Bass players

6. Fretboard Map: connect the dots!

7. 24 Frets: The full diagram

Fretboard Essentials

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