Alternate and Open Tunings 1

If you are a beginner to intermediate guitar player then maybe you heard these terms but you were unsure what they meant. In essence what we are talking about is re-tuning the guitar away from the standard guitar tuning and completely changing the notes the strings are tuned too. Every time you change the tuning you move the chords and the scale patterns around. There are several different ways you can tune your guitar. Maybe you are an advanced guitar player and you have experimented with some of the more popular tunings. If so please submit your favorite tuning in the comment area and tell us what your insights are about that tuning and why you like it. There are several advantages to playing in a different tuning, but before we cover that let’s explain what open tuning means.

Open Tuning

The term open tuning basically refers to re-tuning the guitar so that when you strum it open you actually play a chord. You can use any chord you can think of. Basically you will re-tune the E-A-D-G-B-E strings to other notes. One advantage to doing this is the fact that all you need to do is lay your finger straight across any fret to play a chord. Every time you move up one fret you go up one chord. This provides a great advantage if you want to play guitar with a slide. This is why D and G tunings are the most popular tunings for playing slide guitar. So let’s look at those tunings

Open D Tuning= D-A-D-F#-A-D

Open G Tuning= D-G-D-G-B-D

In the D tuning you can see the root notes are found on the 6th, 4th, and 1st strings. The 5th chord degree is on the 5th, and 2nd strings. and the 3rd chord degree is on the 3rd string. Just by changing one string you can radically change the whole tuning. For example, If you tune the F# to a F you now have a D minor tuning. If you make the F# a G note you now have a popular suspended 4th tuning known as DADGAD. (D-A-D-G-A-D)

In the G Tuning the order of the chord degrees are a little bit different. The root note is found on the 5th and 3rd strings. The 5th degree is found on the 6th, 4th, and 1st strings. and the 3rd degree is found on the 2nd striing.

Another advantage to playing in an open tuning is the fact that you can play notes very high up  on the fret board and at the same time capitalize on the open strings. This allows you to come up with melody structures and rhythm arrangements that are impossible to play in standard tuning. The absolute fun part of a new tuning are the melodies you invent when using high notes and open strings together.

Some of the more popular open tunings are,

  • Open D= D-A-D-F#-A-D

  • Open Dm= D-A-D-F-A-D

  • Open D sus 4th D-A-D-G-A-D

  • Open G= D-G-D-G-B-D

  • Open Gm= D-G-D-G-A#-D

  • Open G sus 4th= D-G-D-G-C-D

  • Open C= C-G-C-G-C-E

  • Open Cm= C-G-C-G-C-D#

  • Open C sus 4th= C-G-C-G-C-F

  • Open E= E-B-E-G#-B-E

  • Open Em= E-B-E-G–B-E

  • Open E sus 4th= E-B-E-A-B-E

  • Open A= E-A-E-A-C#-E

  • Open Am= E-A-E-A-C-E

  • Open A sus 4th= E-A-E-A-D-E

These 15 tunings just represent the basic chords. You can also have 7th type chord tunings and 9th type chord tunings. There are as many tunings as there are chords. To get the most out of these open tunings it is important to have an understanding of music theory, especially chord music theory. You can learn what you need to know for free right here on this website. Just click on the Free Guitar Lessons section and go to Advanced Guitar Level 3. Start at video 5 to learn about chord theory, or click on the link below.

Advanced Guitar Lessons Level 3

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