Tuning your guitar differently may sound weird, but in fact it’s pretty common. Singer-songwriters and blues musicians do it all the time. Standard E tuning is cool, but you can do so much more with your ax. In this blog post we’re going to introduce you to one of the easiest alternative tunings: the open G.
So, what’s an open G tuning? It looks kind of like the drop D tuning and the Dsus4 tuning we discussed in previous blog posts. The difference is that this way of adjusting your guitar makes all your strings together sound like a G chord.
How to tune your guitar in open G?
As you might know, a chord is built up using the root note, the third, the fifth and the octave of the root. For a G chord those are G, B and D. So, with that in mind you can start tuning your guitar as follows: first string (high e) becomes a D, second string (B) remains a B, third string (G) remains a G, fourth string (D) remains a D, fifth string (A) is tuned down to a G, and the sixth string (lower E) is lowered to a D.
“Why should I want to do this?” Good question! For starters, this tuning makes it much easier for you to play guitar if you want to jam to tracks that consist of major chords. Just remember this: you have to rediscover the fifth string: G (open string), G# (1), A (2), A# (3), B (4), C (5), C# (6), D (7), D# (8), E (9), F (10), F# (11), G (12).
Every fret on the fifth string stands for a major chord
These are the root notes you’ll find underneath each fret on the fifth string. The fun thing about the open G tuning is that strumming all strings at once gives you a full major chord. Which chord it will be depends on which fret you barre. For example, let’s say you want to play a track like “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals. This song is all about the C chord, the D chord and the F chord.
So, if we use the cheat sheet we find the D chord on the seventh fret. If you barre all the strings except the sixth, you’ll hear a D chord when you strum all strings. Now move this figure down two frets, mute the sixth string and give it a ring. Yes, that is indeed the C. For the F chord you just slide three frets up fingering the D chord. Easy, right?
But what if you’re a big R&B fan and you would like to jam to the chords of “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys? There are some minor chords in this song and that’s where the trouble starts. You really have to calculate and rediscover the whole guitar neck. Well, that’s a bummer isn’t it?
No worries, we’ll give you a head start and help you with some chord diagrams, made specially for an open G tuning. Check them out below and remember that these chord shapes are moveable. You just have to calculate how the chords change when you’re playing them up and down the neck.
Famous songs in open G tuning
You’re probably wondering by now whether there are any songs written in this tuning that you might know. If you’re a Rolling Stones fan we’ve got good news for you: Keith Richards just loved the open G tuning. He even removed his sixth string so he didn’t have to worry about it, since you root all the chords on the fifth string. One example of a song written in open G is “Jumping Jack Flash” by the Rolling Stones.
A lot of Mississippi Delta blues is written in open G as well. It’s pretty sweet to slide-guitar in open G and the fingering isn’t that hard. One of the first to record a song in this tuning was the man, the myth, Robert Johnson himself. He used open G for his famous “Walking Blues” chord progression. With this he inspired future artists to create interesting songs using open G. Try out “Black Door” by The Black Keys, “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, it take a Train to Cry” by Bob Dylan, or – for the fans of “Terminator Judgement Day” – “Bad To The Bone” by George Thorogood.
Final thoughts on open G tuning
When we look at the open G tuning we have to conclude that this is a whole new dimension. We’ve opened up a wormhole and traveled to a parallel universe where the same guitar has a totally different sound and approach, but with some practice we can still play it.
Try it out, fiddle around and don’t be afraid to fail. Just have fun with the re-exploration. It’s good for practicing your hearing, your chord use and the way you approach songs. Enjoy and happy jamming!