All Fourths tuning on guitar

For all you guitarists out there: did you ever tried playing in All Fourths Tuning (EADGCF)?
It’s been my only tuning now for a couple of years and i’m not going back.
I discovered the tuning myself when playing around with the IFR exercises. I ended up e-mailing @ImproviseForReal about it a long time ago, and I found out he uses it too.

It makes a lot of sense for IFR-style playing. With this tuning you get rid of the ‘special zone’ on the fifth string alltogether. That makes every chord and scale shape movable, not just across the neck but also across the strings.
For example: if I play note 1 with my middle finger of the left hand, I know note three is one string down and one fret ‘up’ towards the nut. On a regular guitar that changes if note 1 is on the G-string. And changes again if note 1 is on the B string. So there are three shapes to remember.
With EADGCF there is only one.

Of course there are downsides. For example: you lose the ‘standard’ open chord shapes like open C or G. There are other open shapes to discover though. The trade-off is totally worth it for me.

Did anyone in here ever try? What are your thoughts?

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Yes. I first came across it while first reading the IFR book, where David mentioned that he used it. I was intrigued, investigated the idea & liked I what I found. I’m a ‘patterns’ person & the elegant logic made perfect sense to me.

At that stage I hadn’t yet got a guitar, so when I ‘corrected’ that omission, I decided to use ‘P4 tuning’ (same thing, alternative name) right from the start.

As you say, it looses out on a couple of open chords, but as you also say there are other things that ‘we’ have access to that standard tuning doesn’t, and every pattern we find can be used anywhere there are enough strings & frets to use. :smiley:

So I’m with you & consider the ups outweigh the downs.

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Yep. It makes a lot of sense. It’s interesting that it doesn’t seem to be part of the curriculum. Having said that there is something to be said for getting used to the 4/5 hiccup. Obviously lots of great playing has been done with this tuning.

I keep going back and forth. In the context of traditional learning (and memorizing!) chords, scales and modes adding symmetry to the mix certainly helps.

Thanks for bringing this up.

Hi. Welcome to the Forum.

Obvioulsy I can’t speak for David Reed (@ImproviseForReal), but my guess is that at least part of the reason is to keep the whole IFR approach as ‘open’ as possible. A lot about the IFR approach is cross-instrument, & even where the material is instrument specific it’s kept very open to different tastes & genre. David is very enthusiastic about P4 tuning, but not to the extent of wishing to push it onto others? A big part of the IFR approach is providing ways for you to develop what’s in you.

Maybe some day he might produce some P4 related materials? I suspect he’d enjoy that, but I also suspect he has many less specific & higher priority developments in mind for IFR before that?

I’ve found that using P4 with IFR materials is just fine. If you happen to be doing one of the guitar courses, then yes there is a small need to adapt ideas for the two highest strings, but the same applies to using pretty much any pre-prepared guitar materials.

If you have questions about using P4 with IFR, maybe try asking David? I asked before I started his Guitar Video Course, and more recently I had another question related to part of his Chord Melody Workshop. I’ve always found his replies to be very helpful.

Lovely and thoughtful response. I’m already tuning to p 4 in the first exercises. We’ll see how it goes once chords are introduced. I have to admit though that an open string is a beautiful thing. :wink:

I’m thinking of giving it a try. I’ve heard of a couple of different approachs: re-tuning top 2 strings to C and F, as mentioned, but also re-tuning bottom 4 strings to Eb Ab Db Gb. As I’m just getting into guitar playing, I like the idea of movable patterns.

Any thoughts, particularly what are the downsides of this tuning ?

I tighten B & E to C & F. Slackening off the others is an interesting idea, but I don’t see any particular advantage unless those notes are of particular interest &/or you like the tone of slacker strings?

Using B & E to C & F, keeps the notes on the low E (and of course A, D & G ) the same as for standard tuning.

That’s going to vary from person to person.

e.g. If you do a lot of using material that is based on the fingering associated with stardard tuning (e.g. pretty much anything that is annotated using ‘Tab’) you’ll need to ‘translate’ for the two highest strings.

I think he mentioned once that he wants to produce a video course for P4 playing. But I imagine it’s on the bottom of his to-do-list :slight_smile: since the audience is pretty small .

I’m going to commit to P4. I asked Mr. Reed for his opinion and got this astoundingly comprehensive and thoughtful response.

Hi Robin,

It’s a very personal decision. I’ve used P4 exclusively in my own music practice for more than 10 years and I love it more each day. It is quite literally impossible to imagine the incredible benefits that you get from having a perfectly regular tuning. It goes far beyond the obvious simplifications in your thinking. What’s even more exciting is what your mind does with this extra mental energy now that it no longer needs to waste so much energy just picturing musical shapes on the fretboard. Once you can see those effortlessly, your mind starts to look BEYOND those shapes, to even larger patterns and connections. You begin to see entire chord progressions and even entire songs anywhere you look on the fretboard. Also on a physical level, something begins to happen to you when there is a one-for-one connection between any musical phrase and its physical shape on the fretboard. It allows you to relax more deeply into your own subconscious mind and just play what you feel. It’s a feeling of simultaneously being totally lost but also totally oriented, because everything around you is so familiar that you don’t even have to think consciously about where you are because you can simply FEEL the sounds around you. Especially if you’re already practicing the IFR method so you’re learning to associate the sounds with their location on the tonal map, adding P4 tuning to this process is like having super powers!

There is absolutely nothing about P4 tuning that would ever hinder your progress if your goal is to create and express your own music. It’s just the opposite. P4 tuning is a tremendous accelerator of that progress.

But you’re right to be thoughtful about what you lose with P4 tuning. With any tuning, certain combinations of sounds become possible and others become impossible. So there’s no net gain there. The advantage of P4 is the simplicity and the order. But in terms of the total number of sounds available to you, it’s no better or worse than traditional tuning. You lose some combinations but you gain others. Where this could be important to you is if you value playing other guitarists’ music note for note. Here are some examples of pieces you might not be able to play note for note in P4:

- famous riffs and intros to classic rock songs
- classical guitar repertoire
- flamenco guitar falsetas and arrangements
- certain specific blues performances

What all these kinds of music have in common is the use of open strings and a very “guitar centric” way of composing. If the musician only discovered those combinations of sounds by noodling around on a guitar in traditional tuning, then obviously the traditional tuning will be essential for recreating those exact sounds. So if that’s something you care about, then that would be a reason to stay with traditional tuning. Also if you want to teach guitar lessons someday, most of your students will be playing traditional tuning so that might be another thing that keeps you tied to traditional tuning.

So a big part of this question is what kind of materials you want to work with as a musical artist. Some very brilliant and avant-garde musical artists work with very traditional pop sounds. So even if their musical concept is quite revolutionary, they still need to be able to strum big bar chords on the guitar because they want to make reference to that very specific sound from our culture. So if strumming those big chords on the guitar is an important ingredient in the music you want to make, then you might be more of a pop or rock artist who needs to use these important sounds from our shared culture.

But if you are more of a musical purist who is simply fascinated by notes, chords, sounds and rhythms, then you might imagine playing the guitar much more like a piano. In that case what you most care about is simply having the most empowering tool to express the sounds that you imagine. And that would certainly be P4.

So probably before deciding about P4 tuning, the real question is how you envision yourself using sounds in your music. Are the traditional guitar sounds from rock and pop music going to be an important ingredient in your music? Or do you see yourself as more of a jazz or experimental guitarist with a much more open palette of sounds? If you can answer this question, I think you’ll be able to see whether there is any reason to stay with traditional tuning or whether you would be happier with P4.

I would love to know your thoughts!

I have to say that I’m really glad I joined this program. And y’all are nice bunch of folks.



Go for it. :smiley:

Thanks for posting David’s response. I’m going to jump in too! I’m relatively new to guitar playing, so don’t feel like it’s going to be that much of a big move. In fact, knowing a bit of piano, I’ve been having difficulty getting comfortable with the irregular guitar tuning. Also, I think it will keep me away from just getting some sheet music or tabs and trying to figure out how to play something, I’m going to totally rely on my my ears. Wish me luck!

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Welcome to the pool. I’m sure you’ll find the water is just fine. :slight_smile:

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I’ve got quite a few resources. Let me know if you need anything.

Personally I’m going to keep it as simple as possible.

Many of the books are overly complicated and some just seem to be catalogs for chords.

Truth be told there’s not that many fingerings and I think David’s premise of focusing on the tonalities and intervals is a much better approach.

And different hands will favour some fingerings over others? That to me is an aspect of the beauty of IFR, i.e. my exploring is helping me discover which combinations suit my hands & ears.

It’s all very well some guru recommending a particular fingering, but sometimes when you notice the size of their hands & fingers compared to the fretboard then look at your own you have to conclude that maybe something different may be better for you! :wink:

I’ve been looking for material but can’t find very much. A paper giving some chord ideas was useful: “Sixty Guitar Chords for All-Fourths Tuning - An introductory tutorial about chords on a guitar tuned to all fourths” by Keith Bromley. But not much on YouTube. I’m enjoying just working out shapes myself though.

Let me put together a list for you.


Not to diss other teachers and methods (there are many very ernest and thoughtful educators out there) but following the mandate of one of them to “eat cup a noodles and learn all the “grips” for 18 hours a day for 6 months” is just not an attractive option for me. Even the word “grips” bothers me. It’s not a motorcycle or a hammer… it’s a guitar.

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I’m finding David Reed’s IFR Chord Melody for Guitar approach to be good for that.

There are some youtube videos on it, but I did the Chord Melody Guitar 1 workshop last January & it was great.

Technically the full implemenation of the ideas was/is beyond my current finger skills, but that wasn’t/isn’t relevant - the fingering skills are something I’m catching up on & in the mean time I can work with what I have. What was important was grasping the concepts. With those concepts in mind I now have a better vision for where I want to go & how to get there. Even more so now I’m doing the level 2 workshop[1].

The Chord Melody Guitar course is taught with David using standard tuning, but all the ideas apply just as well to P4, and if any P4 related question arises David is his usual extremely helpful self in answering.

N.B. You’ll not see level 2 on the IFR website as it’s only available to people who have already done level 1.

Thanks Robin. I’m loving it so far … Just discovered the lovely arpeggio patterns, right up the fretboard, playing just the chord notes from each chord (1 chord, 2- chord 3- chord etc), playing 2 notes on each string. So for 1 chord, playing 1 and 3 on 6th string, then 5 and 7 on 5th etc. Each chord type has a different pattern, and you can start on different chord notes for variations as well. All beautifully symmetrical!

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I’ve come across some books on P4 tuning, one by Ant Law 3rd Millenium Guitar, and a couple by Graham Tippet with Scales shapes etc. Would you recommend any of these?