I know that GDGB is a popular tuning for the 4 string (or whatever equivalent in other keys). If you've ever tried to play slide in this tuning you may have run into a few problems. For your consideration.....

The top string is the one that you play most of your melodies on, when it's tuned to the major third you've got a problem. Slide players are constantly trying to find ways to avoid the thing, you don't put it on the all important top string. And you can't play around with the major/minor third tension if it's on the open string.

One of the great things about slide playing is that it's linear. You can play a melody by moving your slide up and down on one string and so you get a physical and visual sense of the melody as it rises and falls. As most of your melody playing is on the top string surely it makes sense to tune it to the tonic and have your scale mapped out from open to octave where you'll be resolving most of the time.

Your melodies will use the tonic note more than any other. Why would you put it up on the 8th fret and force your melodies to pivot around this very unfriendly part of the neck? The note on the second string up there would be the b6, you don't want to be playing those two together.

Even if you're not playing slide it's still handy to have that linear sense of your melody on the top string and with the 3 down an octave you don't have the big gap between the 1 and the 5 at the bottom end. I know that many people will use the 1 and 5 down there for their 'power chords' but you lose so much everywhere else and you can get the same result by playing in the third position.

Vestapol tuning puts the 1 on the top, Spanish tuning has the 5 on the top, I prefer the 1 but you can work with the 5, it's a big strong note with a similar function to the 1. The 1 lines up with the 6 on the second string and this can be useful, certainly not dangerous. If you're trying to play a tune originally played in either of these tunings, and most will be, you'll have to do something about this pesky third on top.

I remember working as a trainee in IT many years ago and would often ask questions about why things were done in a certain way and a regular response was 'histerical reasons', a play on 'historical reasons', with the obvious undertone. I suspect the popularity of this GDGB tuning may have more to do with that than anything actually useful.

I'm not trying to start a fight here so please don't take any of this personally.

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Interesting.  Just to clarify, are you suggesting 1351 or Vestapol and 5135 for Spanish? I'm going to have to give this a try.

I prefer 1351, the top 4 on vestapol. 5135 could be worth a shot too although the 5 on the bass presents its own challenges. Even 1135 with the bottom string way down an octave might be worth a try.

I'll be the first to agree that there is plenty of 'followers' around who just do what is done without question for sure but I suspect that gdgb is more popular mostly because it contains the very popular 3 string tuning within it, so that high string can be treated as 'optional' and when you learn to mute it all those 3 string riffs can come right across. I think of gbdg as dobro or bluegrass tuning because it's what all those dobro guys use. I do agree that it leads you to more melodic places, but hack and slash 'George thorogood' slide is definitely more difficult. And of course you can go Hawaii/country western and add 6s or 9s, more melody and plenty more chord voicings, but you lose the ability to just dumbly strum on through the lot. There are many approaches to slide guitar.

What you've got is a major third, a minor third and a fifth. It's just the order you put em in. For every argument there is an equally valid counter argument. The funny thing about it, to my mind, is that we bring these decisions/sacrifices upon ourselves by making an axe with less strings, pick up your old telecaster and you can have your cake and eat it too.

True. I guess I struggle in a world being where being able to  'dumbly strum through the lot' is an advantage.

And I get your point about picking up the telecaster, that's why I dig the 3 string, it's a whole different beast.


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