The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

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Hans Bezemer
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The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by Hans Bezemer »

As some may know, I've switched to an all fifths tuning a while ago.
Right now I'm relearning how to play guitar and thought that it may benefit others when I share the stuff that I need to know myself also.
Therefore I'm making a Scale, Arpeggio and Chordbook for an all fifths tuning.
It's work in progress but the most commonly used scales, chords and arpeggio's are already included.
The whole project is licensed under Creative Common 4.0, so everything is free to use and share.

Hans

The path for the book.
The path for all the files.
Channel on playing.
Channel on building.

David King
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Re: The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by David King »

Thanks for this Hans. We violin players might finally rejoice.

Brian Evans
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Re: The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by Brian Evans »

I found myself thinking about this as I am learning mandolin. As an experiment I tuned the mandolin in Ukulele tuning, which is the same as the top four strings on guitar capo'd at the fifth fret. Obviously all of the guitar chords and scale patterns worked fine, but the space was so condensed it was almost impossible to play. The reason (well, "A" reason) for fifths tuning on mandolin leapt out - you can stretch to 7 fret chords no problem, you can do full scales in one position on two adjacent strings, your fingers naturally cover two frets each and you aren't crowded at all, and the instrument becomes easy to play. I would therefore think the biggest hurdle to guitar in fifths is stretching for intervals while playing scales (you'd have to be pretty stretchy to cover 6 frets from first position, I can't do it).

As an aside, the reason I am twinking on my Mando is to play fiddle tunes, so I got a bunch of fiddle tunes in tab and notation and started confusing myself trying to figure them out. At the same time I've been working with a friend who is doing a Masters in Music on a guitar fretboard pedagogy, me being one of the test subjects. I got a dozen or more different exercises that have been published that purport to help people learn the fretboard, and I guess I learned the fretboard because I sat down to play some fiddle tunes the other day and discovered I could sight-read mandolin music in notation. It turns out the notes on the E string are still the notes on the E string (and it's even in the right place, the notes on the A string are the same notes up an octave, D string is totally easy because it's almost in the same place as guitar and the notation has the notes in the same octave, and G string is just down an octave. When I didn't think about it I could sight-read not half bad! Fun and games with frets and strings.

Brian

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Hans Bezemer
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Re: The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by Hans Bezemer »

Stretching was a bit of a hassle in the beginning. After watching some cello players play ( a cello has the same stringlength as my baritone guitar), the solution was to make a jump more then a stretch (moving your whole hand instead of only your pinkie).

I copy your sight-reading experience: most of my strings have the same pitch as a guitar string (only some an octave down or up): C, G, D, A, E, B.

I'm very interested in your friends thesis, can you give some more details on this subject? Does he already drawn some conclusions?

David King
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Re: The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by David King »

Bassist Rex Maddox was a big proponent of tuning in fifths and his instrument might have been 43" scale to boot.

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Beate Ritzert
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Re: The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by Beate Ritzert »

Thanks Hans, cool documentation.

A quick node on one of Your final remarks, especially the string length requirement for CGDAE-tuning: it works pretty well on my acoustic thinline archtop which has a a 628 mm scale.

You can even go down one quart lower, on the G, if You use appropriate strings (090 and above, maybe even 084). With 630 mm scale length! I learned that during my Bass VI conversion project.

And please consider that the thickest guitar strings available as single strings are 080s...

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Hans Bezemer
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Re: The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by Hans Bezemer »

David King wrote:Bassist Rex Maddox was a big proponent of tuning in fifths and his instrument might have been 43" scale to boot.
Yes and also jazz bassist Red Mitchell changed to fifths during his career. There's also a classical bassist who is promoting an all fifths tuning tuning.
Beate Ritzert wrote:Thanks Hans, cool documentation.

A quick node on one of Your final remarks, especially the string length requirement for CGDAE-tuning: it works pretty well on my acoustic thinline archtop which has a a 628 mm scale.

You can even go down one quart lower, on the G, if You use appropriate strings (090 and above, maybe even 084). With 630 mm scale length! I learned that during my Bass VI conversion project.

And please consider that the thickest guitar strings available as single strings are 080s...
Finding the right strings is bit of a trouble, I use a combination of guitar and bass strings. The bass strings I cut to the appropriate length.
But: There will be a time that all fifths players can choose their strings from several companies in different gauges, flatwound, roundwound etc. etc. :lol:
Do you still play with this tuning on your guitar?
Did you leave one nutslot open or was it custommade for 5 strings?

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Beate Ritzert
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Re: The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by Beate Ritzert »

The 5 string has a custom made nut. And it happens to have a neck that is so narrow that it is better suited for 5 strings than for 6 strings anyway. To me it actually has the ideal width for 5 strings. But i do not play it often, and i even did not finish it.
Main reason: i found out that it needs a neck reset and a new upper block.

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Hans Bezemer
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Re: The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by Hans Bezemer »

Beate Ritzert wrote:The 5 string has a custom made nut. And it happens to have a neck that is so narrow that it is better suited for 5 strings than for 6 strings anyway. To me it actually has the ideal width for 5 strings. But i do not play it often, and i even did not finish it.
Main reason: i found out that it needs a neck reset and a new upper block.
Made me think of this.
I think they are used in Brazilian music but can't remember their Portuguese name...

To bad about the neck reset and upper block, that is not something you do on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Hans

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Re: The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by David King »

Beate,
Sorry, I was actually thinking of Red Mitchell, I have no idea who Rex Maddox is, my apologies to him or her if they exist.

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Beate Ritzert
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Re: The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by Beate Ritzert »

Hans Bezemer wrote: Made me think of this.
My guitar is from the 60s.

Referring to the patent:
I must be doing something wrong. Maybe i should start sending the content of my waste basket to the patent officers once a year...
To bad about the neck reset and upper block, that is not something you do on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
No it isn't. Especially not in this case of a failed attempt to do a neck reset on an archtop guitar. I glued it with Ponal (consumer quality white glue) and the precision lacked. It'll be hard to open the connection... Ponal is thermoplastic, but it resists larger temperatures than hide glue.

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Beate Ritzert
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Re: The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by Beate Ritzert »

Hans Bezemer wrote: Finding the right strings is bit of a trouble, I use a combination of guitar and bass strings. The bass strings I cut to the appropriate length.
But: There will be a time that all fifths players can choose their strings from several companies in different gauges, flatwound, roundwound etc. etc.
As You are from Europe - have a look here:

https://schneidermusik.de/shop1/index.p ... acturers/1

They offer Daddario Chromes, Pyramid Nickel rounds (really good and cheap) and, for snobs, Optima gold plated as sets and singles in gauges sufficiently stepped to do a CGDAE tuning. Alternatively and possibly cheaper You can combine strings from a "heavy, jazz" set and set one step lighter. I find the set on my 5 string pretty well balanced ´; i am using Pyramid Nickel rounds and a 010 high e and like them really well.

It is much more tricky to find something appropriate for my Bass VI except the Earnie Ball 2837 rounds, especially no affordable flatwounds.

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Hans Bezemer
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Re: The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by Hans Bezemer »

Beate Ritzert wrote:
Hans Bezemer wrote: Finding the right strings is bit of a trouble, I use a combination of guitar and bass strings. The bass strings I cut to the appropriate length.
But: There will be a time that all fifths players can choose their strings from several companies in different gauges, flatwound, roundwound etc. etc.
As You are from Europe - have a look here:

https://schneidermusik.de/shop1/index.p ... acturers/1

They offer Daddario Chromes, Pyramid Nickel rounds (really good and cheap) and, for snobs, Optima gold plated as sets and singles in gauges sufficiently stepped to do a CGDAE tuning. Alternatively and possibly cheaper You can combine strings from a "heavy, jazz" set and set one step lighter. I find the set on my 5 string pretty well balanced ´; i am using Pyramid Nickel rounds and a 010 high e and like them really well.

It is much more tricky to find something appropriate for my Bass VI except the Earnie Ball 2837 rounds, especially no affordable flatwounds.
Did I mention that my instrument is tuned a octave lower? So my low C is a half step higher then a low B of a 5 string bass.
Therefore I need some bass strings.
I order mine from www.lordofthestrings.com. As a real of thumb a 0.618 (golden ratio) ratio between the strings gives a balanced string set. I use a .125 flatwound bass string for my low C and a 0.013 for my B string.

Clay Schaeffer
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Re: The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Most often tenor guitars are tuned in fifths. If I were to build a 6 string to be tuned in fifths I would consider doing a fanned fret fretboard. It might reduce the finger stretches some and make string selection a little easier.

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Hans Bezemer
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Re: The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by Hans Bezemer »

Clay Schaeffer wrote:Most often tenor guitars are tuned in fifths. If I were to build a 6 string to be tuned in fifths I would consider doing a fanned fret fretboard. It might reduce the finger stretches some and make string selection a little easier.
You're right about the fanned frets, I actually build a 7 string tuned in fifths with fanned frets. But I also wanted an acoustic guitar to play with. Building one myself is way beyond my skills, so I searched for a relatively cheap baritone guitar.

As for picking strings, as a rule of thumb I use the golden ratio (1.618) as a ratio to calculate the next string gauge and this gives a balanced string set (theoretically 1.5 would be the right ratio, but in practise the bass strings need more tension to get a balanced feel).
Hans

Bob Hammond
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Re: The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by Bob Hammond »

I am ignorant about this.

But I just strung up this 5-string 23-24" tenor for the first time about 3 hours ago. The neck joins the 13.5" body at the 17th fret, and it sounds crispy. I'm going to let it stay at the conventional ADGBE for a while. But I'll study Hans' material and try out the fifths tuning scheme
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Clay Schaeffer
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Re: The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Hi Bob,
Tenor guitars were originally built and tuned in fifths as a crossover instrument for tenor banjo players - they have a similar scale length (21-23 inches) and generally a similar neck shape. CGda is the conventional tuning. Guitar players sometimes tune them Dgbe as they also do to baritone ukes. New instrument, same old chord forms.

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Hans Bezemer
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Re: The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by Hans Bezemer »

Bob Hammond wrote:I am ignorant about this.

But I just strung up this 5-string 23-24" tenor for the first time about 3 hours ago. The neck joins the 13.5" body at the 17th fret, and it sounds crispy. I'm going to let it stay at the conventional ADGBE for a while. But I'll study Hans' material and try out the fifths tuning scheme
Bob that's a beautiful instrument you have, did you build it yourself?
This instrument will fit this tuning like it's made for it! :)

If you want to try an all fifths tuning, you could start with a low C (4 steps below a low E of a guitar), G, D, A and E (regular high E of a guitar).
This would yield a range almost the same as a seven string guitar, with only five!
an alternative could be: low F (one step above a low E of a guitar), C, G, D, A (fourth above an high E of a guitar)
The high A might be a bit tricky.

For the first option I think a 0.070 (same as a baritone low B string) gauge would be a good startingpoint and 0.010 for the high E).
The gauges for the strings in between can be calculate with the following formula:
StringRatio = (GaugeHighString/GaugeLowString)^(1/(NumberOfString-1))
StringRatio = (0.010/0.070)^(1/(5-1))= 0.615 (which is close to the afore mentioned golden ratio of 1/1.618 = 0.618)

Now you can calculate the approximate gauges:
C = 0.070w
G = 0.070 * 0.615 = 0.43w
D = 0.43 * 0.615 = 0.026w and so on and so forth
A = 0.016 single
E = 0.010 single
Find the nearest available gauges and you' ll be fine.

Hope this would encourage you to try out this tuning.

I'm pondering over another thing.
I'm planning to make some video's.
What would be useful / needed to help people to get started with this tuning?
Playing some basic chords and scales? Play some familiar songs?
Make some basic lessons?
I would love to hear some thoughts on this subject.


Hans

Bob Hammond
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Re: The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by Bob Hammond »

HI Clay, Hans

This is instrument is an experiment, built from odds & ends that I had on hand, and that's part of the reason for the small size. The body is based upon Scott Antes tenor guitar plans at ~80%. But I didn't think that I'd like the 18.4" scale, so I decided on a 23" length with five strings, and this decision necessitated that the neck should join the body at the 17th fret (no cutaway needed!) Then, I thought that a multi-scale fingerboard might give better results.

The soundboard is spruce, the body & neck maple, and the fingerboard, bridge, and bindings are grenadillo. The neck is reinforced with a square 0.20" carbon fiber tube with a 1/8" stainless steel rod inserted inside the tube. The inexpensive Grover tuning machines are for a baritone uke, and the gear ratio is not to my taste. The entire instrument was made with hot hide glue, with a hand-rubbed SealCoat shellac finish (I hesitate to use the description 'French Polish').

The bridge is quite chunky and likely too heavy. Previously, I'd made a small 4 string/20" scale instrument, and I found that a light bridge made it sound like a banjo, and a heavy bridge made it sound much more like a guitar. On this instrument, I'm going to leave the heavy bridge on for a while, and then I may carve it down.

I also did some background reading on the internet, and learned some things about the history of the tenor as a transitional instrument for banjo players, and learned that many people use conventional DGBE ('Chicago') tuning. Currently, it is strung with' ghs' brand light gauge strings: 0.042, 0.032, 0.024, 0.016, and 0,012. I'll look around my shop for some heavier strings for the fifths tuning scheme.

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Hans Bezemer
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Re: The Quintar Project: Popularizing an All Fifths Tuning

Post by Hans Bezemer »

For a built from odds & ends, you did a very fine job!

I would love to hear some soundclips when it is all set up.

It is no trouble to add an overview diagram to my SAC-book with your tuning and number of strings, if it will help to find your way.

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