Skip to main content

Open G Guitar Tuning Lesson

I have several hubs dedicated to Open G, Open D, DADGAD tunings for guitar, the cheapest way to get different sounds!

Open G tuning for guitar

Guitar can be played in many non-standard tunings, and Open G tuning is one of the best - not only is it really easy to get started in this tuning, but also the reduced string tension brings out all the tone of acoustic guitars. My other hubs have info on the way it has been used by bands and songwriters, and applications such as slide guitar.

Open G tuning is used by many of my favourite guitar players, including Ry Cooder, Joni Mitchell, and Keith Richards.

Here we are just going to use two finger chords and keep it really simple.

First, tune your guitar to Open G, which is D G D G B D low to high. The strings that you need to change are 6, 5 and 1. Do this fairly slowly, and take the string down to below the target pitch - when you bring it up to pitch it will stay in tune much better. By the way, this is also applicable to standard tuning on the guitar.

Acoustic Guitar in Open G - Paul Brady

Open G tuning chord shapes


Harmonised scale in G

If you play the chords in this order you will get a harmonised scale of G, that is, all the chords in the key of G in the same order as the major scale. The chord names are approximate, and note that you are not generally going to use string 6 (low D) - this is not that useful, and it's the reason the Keith Richards removes that string entirely, as it kind of gets in the way. So, play these chords on the middle 4 strings only to begin with, even though string 1 is OK too.

Key of G: G, Am, Bm, C, D or D7, Em, F sharp m7b5, G.

This is the harmonised scale of G, the building blocks of thousands of songs.

The major chords are G, C, and D and these are referred to as the I IV and V chords (1,4,5) - the name derived from their position in the major scale, which uses the notes G, A, B, C, D, E and F sharp. Virtually all songs will use these three chords together, and very often one or two of the minor chords.

A good approach is to try and work out some easy songs in this tuning, Dylan songs and Hank Williams tunes would be a good starting point.

Next set of chords

The next set of chords are two- note chords on string 4 and 3, the middle two strings. As we have not changed these strings from standard tuning, anything you play in standard tuning on these two string will remain the same. With the drone strings going, these harmony notes sound good - and again I have notated the Harmonised scale of G. As the scale goes so far up the neck, it is only practical on electric guitars, but on acoustic guitar you could just use a part of the scale.

You can also play C and D as barre chords at frets 5 and 7. (see diagram)

Last line- play strings 5,4,3,2 open for a G chord, then the Am7 type shape.

Finally, these other shapes can be used, and they are related to the first set of chords.

Guitar chord tips

It's a good idea to arpeggiate the chords, that is playing them one string at a time. You get a better picture of the sound of the chord this way, and it's also a useful way to check for buzzes, and that you are playing the right bass note for the chord.

I usually classify chords in three categories, as Joe Pass used to do.

  • Major
  • Minor
  • Seventh
Scroll to Continue

That way, you're not getting hung up on detail, but understand the function of the chord. Other great songs that use this tuning: Wild Horses, If it Makes You Happy, Little Green. If you play in Open D many of these chord forms can be transferred across one string, visually they look very similar.

Theory of Harmonised Scales

The pattern of chords in the key of G shown above, the harmonised scale of G, repeats for all the other keys. In other words, the order of major and minor chords, the fret distances between each chord, remain the same for all keys.

So you can transfer all the info into different keys.

Chords in the key of A would be the same pattern, shifted up 2 frets ( G to A is 2 frets)

You could also get the same result by using a capo in fret 2, and retain all the open chord sounds.


Jon Green (author) from Frome, Somerset, UK on February 29, 2012:

No problem! - another thing you can do is play harmonics at fret 5, 7, and 12 across all the strings - including chords. fret 5 is weak, but the others are fine.

DFiduccia from Las Vegas on February 29, 2012:


I'm sorry I used the wrong spelling for your name. It's just an old habit. John was my favorite uncle, when he was still with us.

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

Thanks a lot. It's a good idea to rake through the chords so you hear all the notes.

DFiduccia from Las Vegas on February 28, 2012:

Great Hub John!

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

Good point - I'll post some videos soon.

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on February 28, 2012:

Once a guy tuned one of my Martin's, a D 18 to open G to play Pink Floyd's "Fearless."

I wanted to learn the tune which was one that I'd always liked a lot anyway....but I just couldn't leave my guitar tuned like that because I was overly worried about the string tension of the open G tuning.

I think you'd benefit on these types of hubs by including a video from youtube of someone playing something in (for this hub) and open G tuning. If someone watches a video (as sometimes viewers aren't so much into text...and just are poking around on the net) then they'll stay on your page longer, and give you an ad impression, and improve the page rank of your page.

Related Articles