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Open G Tuning Guitar

Most of the time I use standard tuning and play jazz standards, but I like Open G tuning for songwriting.

Open G tuning

Open G tuning is as follows: D G D G B D (strings 6 -1)

Guitar standard tuning: E A D G B E

To tune a guitar to Open G from normal tuning, just lower strings 6, 5 and 1 by a tone, or 2 frets. Now when you play the open strings, you have a G chord, and a good sounding G chord at that. You can play C and D by barre shapes at frets 5 and 7, and then you already have the I IV and V chords in the key of G - G, C and D. So many simpler songs are very easy in this tuning, actually much easier than in normal tuning.

A tuner can help, I will usually use a Snark headstock tuner as it is very simple to use and very good in low light situations. You might consider a heavier string gauge too, by way of compensating for the reduced string tension.

A great tuning for slide guitar, as the major chords are just straight across the frets

When there is a cross ( x ) above a string, don't play it. 0 = open string.

Chord grids read like this: the 6 vertical lines are the strings, horizontal lines are the frets. Concentrate on the strings fretted by your left hand.

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Guitar chords in Open G tuning


Using the open G tuning

This tuning is ideal for slide guitar, and is also used extensively by Keith Richards - if you hammer on the chord shape shown onto a barre chord shape.(see diagram)

Chord diagrams - when using the Am and Bm shapes, you can dispense with the inside note, just experiment with the voicing of all chords. There may be a practical reason for this, in order to slide around chord shapes a bit faster.

Paul McCartney's Blackbird can also be played in this tuning. It's usually played in normal tuning, but the Open G version just has the edge. To play the Blackbird style chords, just use the 10th interval chords shown - I've only notated the first part. The last chord in this section is circled, so there are two chords shown in that chord grid.

It's really handy to have a guitar left permanently in this tuning, like we need an excuse for another guitar. I would go for a Telecaster or acoustic.

Strumming is OK, but I would recommend trying fingerpicking to get the best out of this tuning. Also you can change key with a capo, for instance a capo in fret 2 will give you an Open A tuning.

Open G users

  • Joni Mitchell uses this tuning for great songs such as Little Green, from the Blue album. See the excellent Joni Mitchell - Complete So Far songbook.
  • Sheryl Crow uses it for If It makes You Happy, another great song.
  • Ry Cooder uses it often, in common with many other slide guitar players.
  • Keith Richards uses this tuning widely, including for Wild Horses, one of the best Rolling Stones songs.
  • If you are already using Open D tuning, probably the most useful and widely used tuning, most of the harmonised scale chords in that tuning can be transferred to Open G by moving across one string. The shapes and general pattern of the chords are very similar.

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