Why would someone want to try open G tuning? Why would anyone want to use anything other than standard tuning? These aren't uncommon questions for some guitarists.
If you have ever been curious about exploring alternate tunings Open G tuning for guitar is a great place to start. It is quick to pick up since you only need one finger to play all of the major chords.
Get ready to open up your guitar to a whole new world of interesting sounds and possibilities.
Let's get to it!
Open G Tuning And Chords
What is Open G Tuning?
Open G tuning is when you tune the strings of your guitar in such a way that when strummed open they make a G chord. Your string setup will go from EADGBe to DGDGBD.
How To Tune Your Guitar To Open G Tuning
Tuning to Open G is pretty simple. You really only need to retune 3 of your strings; the low E, A, and high e. Remember to tune down and not up to the correct notes. To tune to Open G you will drop your:
- low E to D
- A to G
- high e to high d
When you are tuned correctly to Open G the strings will make a G chord when strummed open.
Why Use This Tuning?
Because Keith Richards says so and who can argue with a legend?
Seriously, though. There are many reasons why you would want to explore this, and other, alternate tunings.
Kill your boredom
It may sound controversial, but sometimes playing guitar can get boring.
I know, I know! But hear me out.
What I mean is we all get stuck in ruts sometimes where everything we play starts to sound the same. Everyone experiences these plateaus. Alternate tunings, like Open G (or Open D, Open C, Drop D, DADGAD, etc) are excellent resources to shake up your playing.
Giving your instrument a new layout and giving you a new way to look at it is a perfect way to spark your creativity and make playing fun again.
Again, this may sound controversial, especially if you are just starting out. Open G can be played with literally just one finger. You'll see some diagrams below, but you can play any of the major "cowboy chords" by simply barring the bottom 5 strings along the neck.
How To Make Chords
Just because the tuning has changed does not mean the rules of music theory have changed. If you want to build a major chord you will still need to build a major triad.
Inversions can make your chord progressions sound less repetitive and a bit more interesting. Open G tuning allows you to make inversions easily since half the strings are tuned to the same note; D.
An inversion is essentially when you switch the order of the notes in a chord around. For example, we will look at a D chord in standard tuning:
A D chord is built with 3 notes; the I (1st), or D, III (3rd), or F#, and V (5th), or A. The way most of us play it is with your:
- index finger (1) on the A note of the G string on the 2nd fret
- middle finger (2) on the F# note of the high e string on the 2nd fret
- ring finger (3) on the D note of the B string on the 3rd fret
But you can create an inversion by putting your:
- index finger (1) on the A note of the G string on the 2nd fret
- middle finger (2) on the D note of the B string on the 3rd fret
- ring finger (3) on the F# note of the B string on the 4th fret
Same chord. Same notes. Different position.
You will notice the sound of the chord has changed just a bit. You can probably tell that this can add a bit of subtle variety to your chord progressions.
As we mentioned, Open G tuning has 3 strings tuned to D which means you can always find the note you need in a different position.
Try it out!
Similarly to standard tuning, Open G's low and high strings are tuned to the same note, D. That makes finding the octave super easy. Consider adding in a bass note or matching high note into your chords for some more flavor.
Open G Chords
This is what you are probably here for. What good is a new tuning if you don't know how to play any chords with it? Like we said earlier, you can literally play any of the major "cowboy chords" with just one finger.
Single Finger Chords
These chords are really easy to play. If you are a beginner, this can also be a less frustrating way to work on hand and finger strength for barre chords. You can also shift your finger up or down a fret to play the corresponding sharp (#) or flat (b) chords.
Open G Minor Chords
Minor chords are a bit more difficult than the major chords. You will notice they still incorporate barring but you will need to barre the top 4 strings while fretting B string a fret behind. These chords will take a little bit of finger gymnastics to get used to.
Open G 7th Chords
We're back to the easy chords again. Play a major chord and fret the high d string with your pinky 3 frets up.
Open G sus4
Both sus4 and add2 chords are fun to toss into a standard chord progression. They just take moving around your ring finger or pinky.
Open G add2 Chords
Open G Tuning Chord Progression
Here's a fun little chord progression just using the C chord and some variations. Play around with this pattern and then come up with some chord progressions of your own.
Songs That Use Open G Tuning
Even a small glance at the list below will show you just how prevalent Open G tuning has been in modern music, especially rock music. Practically, half of Keith Richards' and The Rolling Stone catalog was written in this tuning.
- Watch Over You by Alter Bridge
- Walkin' Blues by Eric Clapton
- Hard to Handle by The Black Crowes
- High Speed by Coldplay
- Bohemian Like You by The Dandy Warhols
- Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits
- Red Rooster by Howlin' Wolf
- Crossroad Blues by Robert Johnson
- Little Green and Nathan LaFraneer by Joni Mitchell
- I Can't Be Satisfied by Muddy Waters
- Daughter by Pearl Jam
- Fearless by Pink Floyd
- Bad to the Bone by George Thorogood
- Death Letter by The White Stripes
- Sitting in the Jailhouse by Johnny Winter
Eagles of Death Metal
- Basically, their entire catalog with a slight variation. Both the 5th and 6th strings are tuned to G.
Jimmy Page holds a great love for alternate tunings. Aside from Open G, he also used DADGAD and Drop D.
- Black Country Women
- Dancing Days
- Going to California
- In My Time of Dyin'
- That's the Way
- Traveling Riverside Blues
The Rolling Stones
Keith Richards used a 5 string guitar tuned to open G (without the 6th string): G–D–G–B–D.
- Browne Sugar
- Can't You Hear Me Knockin'
- Honky Tonk Women
- Jumping Jack Flash
- Start Me Up
- Tumbling Dice
- You Can't Always Get What You Want
Open G tuning is an incredibly fun alternate tuning to explore. You can see the wide range of songs you can play to get started out. Soon enough, you'll be writing your own songs and progressions.
Time to get back to playing!