For example, is it better to learn the guitar using an all-fourths turning if your goal is more than strumming pop/folk chords on all six strings.

Many professional musicians use this turning and also state they wished they had started learning the guitar using an all fourths tuning , such as Stanley Jordan, Alan Holdsworth (RIP), Alex Hutchings, Tom Quayle, Justin Perdue and Ant Law.

3 Answers 3


If you ask the question as: "is it better to learn the guitar using an all-fourths turning" I would expect the question to be closed as any answers would be primarily opinion-based. But you could instead ask something like: "what are some comparative advantages and disadvantages to learning the guitar using an all-fourths tuning." This at least offers some hope of reasonably objective answers.

For what it's worth, I think have heard Tom Quayle say that he wished that he would have stuck with the standard guitar tuning from the beginning; that he has to use standard tuning with students, and that tuning in all fourths makes some things unplayable. The symmetry of this tuning seems seductive, but the asymmetry of standard tuning provides more fingering options; for me this is the deciding factor. I am surprised to see Jimmy Bruno on your list.

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    Thank you but isn't an ad- or disadvantage as much opinion as everything else? May 13, 2018 at 1:41
  • Ok, I'll perform an experiment. I'll post exactly that question and I suspect it will either be put on-hold or whatever form of assessing as inappropriate is available. May 13, 2018 at 4:47
  • I believe I can objectively answer the suggested question. May 15, 2018 at 13:08

Most of these types of question are fine, as long as there are some things that someone could write in an answer that wouldn't be entirely personal.

I also don't think it should really make much difference whether someone asks 'which is better', or phrases the question as 'what are the advantages and disadvantages'. If the answer to 'which is better' is "it depends...", then we can simply say so in an answer, and talk about what it depends on (which would mean that the answer would be about advantages and disadvantages anyway). I've mentioned that in Are we, perhaps, voting to close questions a little too enthusiastically due to giving undue weight to certain turns of phrase? - Asking "what is the best..." is very natural language to use in English, and we shouldn't be closing questions purely because they're phrased in that way.

There are a lot of questions in the scope of this site that won't be entirely objective, and that's fine - even since the early days of stack overflow, "good subjective" questions have been encouraged on Stack Exchange.

  • If the downvote is due to disagreement, an explanation would be useful - i really don't think there's anything controversial here ! May 15, 2018 at 5:14
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    I didn't downvote, but I (perhaps also?) disagree that "which is better?" and "what are the advantages and disadvantages?" are equally acceptable phrasing. One immediate problem I have with the former phrasing is that it strong suggests the asker will not be satisfied with a comparison and will never accept an answer that does not express an opinion. Regarding how much weight we give to turns of phrase - this entire medium is word-based (ok with some images, etc.), and if a turn of phrase can make an answer completely wrong (which it can), then one can also make a question off-topic. May 16, 2018 at 14:35
  • @ToddWilcox Thanks for the thoughts. I can understand the concern, but I think in everyday life if someone asked me "which is better...", I wouldn't assume that they would not be satisfied with a comparison answer unless I know they were explicitly looking to me to make a decision for them. I rather feel that seeing things differently on to that SE is kind of making up our own rules as to how natural usage of English language works... May 16, 2018 at 14:42
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    I take it for granted we have to use English differently in different contexts. Certainly I don't write on SE anything like the way I speak in real life. Ok, maybe a little bit. Either way, maybe we have established that there is a little bit of controversy. My understanding of SE is that working together to create great content is a primary goal. I think that goal is better met by paying careful attention to several kinds of details, including turns of phrase. At least some precision in language seems to help a lot in generating the best content. May 16, 2018 at 14:55
  • @ToddWilcox I'd agree with much of that... with the caveat that we can't necessarily expect stack exchangey-language from all users - especially newish users, ESL speakers, or others who may not be inclined to adapt their own style to 'house style'. In some cases I just feel we might better serve our aim for good content by treating a less-than-optimally-phrased question that has a good 'core' as a good question. May 16, 2018 at 15:23
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    My impression is that it has the potential to be a good question if the asker is willing to edit it. Many times when I VTC I also comment suggesting an edit that would make the question appropriate and then I would retract my VTC or vote to reopen. I have a dim memory of one time when the asker actually edited the question in a constructive way. 98% of new askers never edit, and at least one has more than once edited heavily and made things worse. Frankly, I don't have a lot of sympathy for new users who won't even read comments and try to edit. Maybe we don't want them here. May 16, 2018 at 15:45
  • @ToddWilcox in some case, maybe, but a lot of the potential future content for the site is going to come in the form of 'diamonds in the rough'. Existing high-rep users don't really ask a lot of questions; new users (the ones who actually ask questions) may not initially understand the SE model well enough to even be able to respond particularly well to a VTC / request to edit. It's not as if we're swamped with questions - we should be able to have the patience to give a positive response wherever possible. May 16, 2018 at 23:23
  • I think it's too high a bar to expect people to ask "what are some comparative advantages and disadvantages to learning the guitar using an all-fourths tuning" - some people just don't talk or write that way. They'd say "Is it better to learn the guitar using an all-fourths turning"... I can't see how being exclusive to the point where the latter isn't allowed is justifiable, really. May 16, 2018 at 23:26
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    The first has objective and lets the OP (and others) decide what is best for them, the second just solicits opinion without any objective reasoning. The phrasing is very important and it can also be asked in a very typical fashion of "What are the pros and cons of ...". Yes, we can polish the questions to put them in that form that's useful to the site, not just a one and done. As a community we need to take care of these questions, not just allow them in any shape or form. It's not mutually exclusive to be to both care about quality (edit, vtc, request clarification) and be welcoming.
    – Dom Mod
    May 17, 2018 at 2:06
  • @Dom I agree that the phrasing "what are the advantages and disadvantages…" aligns better with how we answer questions on this site than "which is better". All I'm saying is that when we encounter a "which is better" question, we have a clear path of action - treat it as "what are the advantages and disadvantages…" when we answer, and possibly make a tactful edit to the title/content if really necessary. I can't remember many occasions when an asker was unhappy with a more objective treatment of their subjective question; I can remember many where askers were unhappy about a quick VTC. May 17, 2018 at 6:28
  • @Dom and I agree that It's not mutually exclusive to be to both care about quality and be welcoming - I'm sure you'd also point out that having good, clear Q&A is part of the 'welcome' that future users get. Todd and yourself are both very good at balancing the two concerns IMO, which is why If we got another question like "is it better to learn the guitar using an all-fourths turning" from a newish user, I would hope it wouldn't be closed or even threatened with being closed - but rather answered from a more objective POV and possibly edited a little. May 17, 2018 at 6:35
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    I wonder if we have different goals for Stack Exchange. For me, the best content is the goal, and if a new user will not take suggestions for edits and will be put off by close votes and wants SE to be what they want it to be instead of learning what SE is, then I am personally comfortable with them not wanting to continue to use the site. My view of SE is that it's not for everyone. It's for people who think turns of phrase are important (among other things). Maybe I'm in the wrong with that view. I can only say I have not yet had reason to believe that I am. May 18, 2018 at 15:41
  • @ToddWilcox I personally think that 'what SE is' can be improved. I was very heartened to see this post, which (as it says at the bottom) also applies to SE in general. There will always be people and questions that SE isn't right for, but I also think it's worth delivering the 'you're doing it wrong' message with as much tact as possible, and sometimes, not always feeling we have to deliver it at all - for example, just because of a turn of phrase. I agree that precise language can... May 19, 2018 at 7:58
  • ...sometimes be important, but sometimes it isn't - if it's possible to look at a question and see 'where someone is coming from' and that there is an objective or good-subjective answer that will help them, then in some cases we can just do that without the added friction of jabbing at the question asking it to be improved. And I think this example, "is it better to learn the guitar using an all-fourths turning", would fall in that category. May 19, 2018 at 8:03

In real life, a good teacher treats every question as open-ended. He wouldn't consider an 'is it better...?' question to be solely asking for his personal opinion - he might offer it, but would naturally continue into examples and reasons. And it would very likely end up without reaching any firm conclusion.

But the Stack Exchange culture can be very literal. Give someone an excuse to flag your question as 'opinion based' and you'll get closed down. So it's politic to twist the wording in the way @David Bowling suggests in his reply above. You'll still get the opinion and the reasons for it. Just ASK for the reasons.

Obviously, I won't be offering my opinion as to whether this is rather silly or not.

  • +1.... pretty much what I was trying to say in my answer! May 26, 2018 at 8:11

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