A re-entrant tuning is a tuning of a stringed instrument where the strings (or more properly the courses on coursed instruments) are not ordered from the lowest pitch to the highest pitch (or vice versa).
A break in an otherwise ascending (or descending) order of string pitches is known as a re-entry. Most common re-entrant tunings have only one re-entry. In the case of the soprano ukulele, for example, the re-entry is between the third and fourth strings, while in the case of the Venezuelan cuatro it is between the first and second strings.
Instruments often tuned in this way include:
- Soprano and concert ukulele.
- Baroque guitar
- Mexican vihuela
- Venezuelan cuatro.
- Five string banjo.
- Andean charango.
- Ainu tonkori
Instruments occasionally tuned in this way include:
The tunings of coursed instruments, such as the twelve string guitar and eight string bass, are not considered re-entrant provided that the principal strings of each course are ordered from lowest to highest.
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Ukuleles other than the tenor and baritone are most commonly tuned in re-entrant fashion. These conventional re-entrant tunings are sometimes known as high 4th tunings.
Non re-entrant tunings, also known as low 4th tunings, exist for these instruments.
The Andean charango, a small 5-course, 10-string guitar frequently made from an armadillo shell, is most usually tuned in re-entrant fashion.
Other members of the charango family, such as the hualaycho, ronroco, and charangon are similarly tuned.
The ten string extended range classical guitar was originally designed for a specific re-entrant tuning invented by Narciso Yepes, now called the Modern tuning. Both this and other re-entrant tunings, such as the Marlow tunings, are now used, as well as non re-entrant tunings such as the Baroque. These tunings may also be used on related instruments, such as ten string electric and jazz guitars.
The Venezuelan cuatro is a member of the guitar family, smaller in size and with four nylon strings. The cuatro is similar in size and construction to the ukulele and it is one of several South American instruments by the name of cuatro, which is Spanish for four. Despite of the name, not all instruments called Cuatro have four strings, but the Venezuelan Cuatro, preserves this number of strings.
The traditional tuning is re-entrant, but with the re-entry between the first and second strings, rather than between third and fourth as in the ukulele. The results are very different in tone.
Other tunings of the Venezuluelan cuatro are not re-entrant however they are not as popular as the "Camburpinton" tuning (A1 - D2 - F#2 - B1)
A variety of tunings are used for the four string tenor guitar, including a relatively small number of re-entrant tunings. One example of a re-entrant tuning for tenor guitar is strings 1-3 E-B-G as for the normal 6-string guitar, but string 4 is tuned to D an octave above the 4th string of the 6 string guitar.
The fifth string on the five string banjo, called the thumb string, also called the "drone string", is five frets shorter than the other four and is normally tuned higher than any of the other four, so technically this is a re-entrant tuning, albeit not in the more usual sense of the term. The five string banjo is particularly used in bluegrass music and old-time music.
The four string tenor banjo, more often used in jazz, lacks this shorter string, and is rarely if ever tuned in re-entrant fashion.
- See also the detailed articles on particular instruments.
- Guitar tunings web page