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Guitar Tunings - Open C Lesson

I have spent a lot of time trying out open tunings on guitar. This tuning is not very widely used, but I like it.

Open C tuning

Guitar can be played in a number of different tunings, and this can make it a very versatile instrument, as the chords contained within different tunings are almost infinite in number. This tuning is not the most popular - other tunings such as DADGAD and open G are far more widely used. For solo performance it does have a lot of advantages though.

My other hub Guitar Tunings - Open C tuning has more info.

  • Standard tuning, low to high in pitch, is E A D G B E.
  • Open C tuning is C G C G C E.
  • Strings 6, 5, 4 are lowered, string 2 goes up one semitone or one fret.
  • The tuning now has a lot of bass, and generally sounds very full and powerful.
  • You can play harmonics at frets 5, 7 and 12
  • You can play slide blues using the same three frets.

Open C tuning


Guitar tab examples

This is for a 12-Bar blues, and you can play slide or bottleneck guitar parts - which is a lot of fun. Guitar tab has been extensively covered on hubpages - but basically the thinnest string (string 1) is the top line, and the thickest string ( string 6) is at the bottom. The numbers are frets numbers, which show you which fret to play in. Guitar tab is a very quick and easy way to learn to play, because you don't have to read music notation.

Check out some great slide guitarists on Youtube -

  • Ry Cooder
  • Bonnie Raitt
  • Lowell George

Try using a glass slide on your little finger. This leaves you with other fingers free to play chords and riffs. If you don't get on with this, maybe try middle finger instead.

Tab starts with a turnaround intro - the chord grids above might help learning the shapes. It's kind of an A7 shape, moved across one string. When the riff starts on line 2, it's played in a shuffle or boogie-woogie rhythm. You can approximate this by saying humpty-dumpty, humpty-dumpty - but don't try this in a public place.

After 4 times, it's up to fret 5 barre, with the extra note on and off. Back to the first riff, only 2 bars this time - then G, F, C and turnaround. None of this is written in stone and can be adapted, but keep to the bar lengths. It should sound familiar if you've heard 12-bar blues before, and this is actually hard to avoid!

Barre chords - you don't need to play all the strings, in fact it will sound better if you just play the lowest four.

Using the slide - if you are new to this, the slide should make only the lightest contact with the string, right above the fret rather than behind it as you normally play. A wobble or vibrato can be made by rocking the slide back and forwards of the fret position, but ending in the right place, which is directly above the fret and in line with it. To get the maximum effect, move the slide as slowly as possible, so that you can really hear the movement in pitch. You almost never want to have the slide static - the vibrato is like that of a good singer, and it makes the note sustain properly.

More tab examples

From w/ slide (with slide) I've written out some easy riff ideas that work with these chords. You can play them without slide too. When you are confident at playing the riff and chords part, try stopping the sequence and inserting some of these lead breaks. It's not that easy, but will sound great.

General advice - anything at frets 0, 3, 5, 7, 12 is going to sound right. For notes in fret 3, if you make the note slightly flat it will make it sound more authentically blues.

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What's a riff? - a repeated pattern of notes. It sounds way better than wandering up and down a scale pattern.


Joni Mitchell is the preeminent example of a songwriter who uses open tunings - her whole sound is created with them. Chord voicings that just aren't possible in normal or standard tuning can be explored. Joni songs often use Open D as in Big Yellow Taxi.

As Open C isn't widely used, there is a lot of potential for discovering new sounds and making your own guitar sound a bit unusual. You are really going into the baritone guitar range, and the lower pitch and key can help with singing, depending on your vocal range.


Jon Green (author) from Frome, Somerset, UK on April 09, 2013:

Hi Eugene - you're welcome. let me know if there is something you'd like me to cover in the hubs. Cheers, Jon

Eugene on April 09, 2013:

Hi Jon, just wanted to say I appreciate the information you've put together across your Hubs. I've found it very useful!


Jon Green (author) from Frome, Somerset, UK on July 22, 2011:

Hi - start with first position chords, Dylan songs etc - singing along and tapping out rhythms will both help.

writerlee on July 22, 2011:

This is great! I agree with Phillbert, I'll have to check back on your hub once I get better at the guitar... I'm about a week into teaching myself. Thanks!

Jon Green (author) from Frome, Somerset, UK on July 13, 2011:

Thanks Philbert. It's good to learn 12-Bar blues in normal tuning too.

Phillip Drayer Duncan from The Ozarks on July 12, 2011:

Very cool! I'll have to come back and read this again when I get semi-decent at playing the basics!

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