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.
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)
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.