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Guitar Lesson, Open G Chords

For many years i taught guitar and music theory in college, here is some material I found helpful.

Chord diagram

I have several other hubs on guitar in Open G tuning. I also like Open D and DADGAD tunings, and it's hard to pick a favourite, even though it would simplify things.

These are the harmonised scale chords in the key of G, arranged in an ascending sequence. Due to the open strings, these should have a great tone and sustain, and really bring out the tone. They will work on acoustic or electric.

Another new hub entitled Guitar in Open G has more chord pictures.

Then there is Open G Guitar - we are getting a theme here!

Harmonics chords are shown with cross signs - just barre very lightly directly above the fret, not where you would normally finger a barre chord.They should ring for all eternity.

Also on the third line - Keith Richards style chords for rockin' out. Hold the barre down and hammer-on the chord shape with other fingers.

Tuning your guitar to open G (low to high pitch) D G D G B D

  • A variation on this tuning is C G D G B D
  • Open D tuning uses similar chord shapes, just move the shape across one string, it works for most of the chords.

Tune strings 1 and 6 down two frets (take it slowly) and tune string 5 down to G. You can use the 3rd string as a reference note.

Chords in Open G tuning


Wild Horses

I did link to this video, but it has been taken down. Look it up on Youtube - Stones unplugged studio version. One of my favourite acoustic tracks, this is the Stones at their very best, with a great open G tuning guitar part. Using the chord chart above (use an F chord too) you can work out a great version of this song. Isn't Keef great? I love everything he plays on this, and Ronnie is trying hard too. Keyboard is wonderfully understated too. Oh, and the vocal harmonies!

Little Green by Joni Mitchell is also in this tuning, and Blackbird by The Beatles works OK in normal tuning, but Open G is the best if you have the patience.

Sheryl Crow, probably influenced by her time with The Stones, uses this tuning for If It Makes You Happy, and they got it from Ry Cooder!

I'm not transcribing these tunes because of copyright restrictions.Although Youtube breaches copyright on an epic scale, I think it's justified by the educational value involved, and I don't think the writers or artists suffer on balance.

Slide Blues

If you replace the barre at frets 5,7,12 with a slide this tuning is ideal for playing slide. Try notes at fret 3 too for a real blues sound, with vibrato.The slide rocks back and forward, but ends up above the fret again.It's really easy to get started on this, and it's probably the most fun you can have on guitar. Listen to Bonnie Raitt playing slide.

See also my hub Guitar - slide basics

Songwriting and theory

Try using these chords to write your own songs. As they sound so great, you might only need to use 3 or 4 of them to come up with something good, and this is the best way to really explore a guitar tuning.

Check my other hub Guitar in Open G tuning for some more ideas, links to Bob Brozman blues videos,etc.

Every key uses a set of 7 different chords, in a set order:

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Chord 1 is major

Chord 2 is minor

Chord 3 is minor

Chord 4 is major

Chord 5 is major, often with a 7th added

Chord 6 is minor

Chord 7 is m7b5

Most simple songs will use chords 1, 4, 5 (i, IV, V) - this applies to early Dylan, Hank Williams and country, early rock n' roll and Blues.


Jon Green (author) from Frome, Somerset, UK on February 28, 2012:

Hi - the new Open G Guitar covers that. Cheers, Jon

Jon Green (author) from Frome, Somerset, UK on February 27, 2012:

That might be on another hub - but if not I'll do one.

Joseph Jacobs on February 27, 2012:

Nice, but please put some more simple (1 or 2) finger chords - possibly all the simple barre chords too



Jon Green (author) from Frome, Somerset, UK on December 22, 2010:

You're welcome Bill. Open tunings such as Dadgad, open D, Open G are a great way of discovering new sounds. It's good to have a guitar dedicated to that tuning though.

billreid on December 22, 2010:

Jon, thanks for the benefit of your knowledge. It has given me a renewed interest in trying out new things on the guitar.

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