A Comparison of New Guitar Methods
For 6- & 7-String in Standard & Uniform Tunings
Introduction:  All 4ths Tuning

The pioneer of All Fourths Tuning appears to be a gentleman named Bob Bianco (born 10/7/1934, died 1991).  He happened to play his guitar left-handed without restringing it.  He practiced about six hours a day, was playing his first gigs at the age of nine, and began studying the Joseph Schillinger System of Musical Composition at age eleven.  He also taught guitar in Standard Tuning, played piano and sang.  Around the age of seventeen he dropped out of high school and joined the Air Force, where he had a half-hour T.V. show.  After that he taught music in Queens, New York.  In the late '60s and early '70s, he recorded on guitar with one of his students, the great Latin jazz pianist Eddie Palmieri, on the albums "Justicia" (Tico, 1969), "Harlem River Drive" (Roulett, 1971) and "Vamonos pa'l Monte" (Tico, 1971).  Palmieri called him his "greatest of all teachers", once saying "Bob Bianco was my personal guru in every category that you can think of".  In 1969, in two weeks, he wrote the first book on the All Fourths Tuning, published that year as the "The Guitar in Fourths".  It was short and simple, showing just a few open chords.  More volumes were tentatively planned, but the first didn't sell well enough.

A jazz guitarist named Michael Reizenstein in Yonkers, N.Y. has reportedly played in All Fourths since the '60s.  (He also designed a nine-string guitar called the "9stein".)  Pioneering touch-style virtuoso Stanley Jordan may have begun playing in All Fourths as early as 1970, and has recorded in All Fourths since at least as early as '85 (with his first album "Magic Touch").  Fingerstyle guitarist and Windham Hill Records founder, William Ackerman, recorded in All Fourths as early as '77 (on his second album "It Takes A Year").  A writer, actor, and director named Tom Noonan has been developing All Fourths technique and material for a book since possibly as early as 1979 (which book is not yet published to the best of my knowledge).  My work with this tuning began when I picked up guitar in 1991.  Guitarist, composer, and student of Lenny Breau and Joe Pass, Jonny Johansson, has used All Fourths tuning since ____ and currently tunes his 9-string in All Fourths.

The first and second strings are raised a half-step higher than Standard Tuning.  Thus, any pair of adjacent strings is a perfect fourth apart.  I find that this simplifies the fingerboard and makes it more logical.

Getting Started With the Touch Technique

There are many advantages of tuning the guitar in a symmetrical system such as perfect fourths or perfect fifths.  The most obvious advantage is that there [is] less information to [be] learned since everything you know can be recycled in all keys.  For example, a C major seventh chord using drop-two voicing needs only four fingerings to cover the entire range of the guitar when tuned in a symmetrical system such as perfect fourths.  Using a regular guitar tuning [i.e. the Standard Tuning], twelve fingerings are needed to cover the entire range of the guitar.  This adds up so in the long run you save a lot of time by tuning to a symmetrical system.


Let's examine Jonny's example.  For a Major Seventh chord, because it contains four notes, there are four basic voicings:  one for each note that can be on top.  Let's compare basic, four-string shapes for just the voicing with the seventh on top.  For a six-string guitar in Standard Tuning, a four-string shape may occupy four different sets of strings (one through four, two through five, or three through six).  Each of these three positions requires its own shape:

6StringNeckCMaj7Std.gif (11178 bytes)

For a guitar in All Fourths tuning, there is only one shape for this voicing, whatever the position:

6StringNeckCMaj7All4ths.gif (11244 bytes)

As you can see, the Standard Tuning requires three times as many shapes for the same voicing, multiplying the work involved both to learn it and play it.  This problem exists equally for scale patterns.

That's pretty much the only tuning I use....  ...Any time the music gets complicated harmonically, Fourths Tuning is the only way to go.  Standard Tuning is too confusing.

Interview with Guitar Player Magazine, 1985

(Thanks to Ann Bianco for information regarding Bob Bianco.)


Compare to Standard or Major 3rds Tuning

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