Guitar Open D tuning info

Open D tuning

Open D is a great alternative tuning for guitar. I think of it as the Big Yellow Taxi tuning, as Joni Mitchell used it for several songs.

Strings 1 and 6 go down to D (use string 4 as a reference note) string 2 goes down to A, and string 3 goes down to F sharp, or down one fret from normal tuning.

Normal tuning: E A D G B E

Open D: D A D F♯ A D

  • String 6 is the thickest, left hand side of the chord diagram. String 1 is the thinnest, on the far right hand side.

Now when you play the open strings you get a D chord, and a barre at fret 5 will produce a G chord. Fret 7 barre will give you an A chord. A barre is when you use your first finger to cover all the strings on the same fret.

As most simple songs in folk, blues, rock and country can be played with just 3 or 4 chords, there is almost no limit to the number of songs you can play in this tuning if you choose to do that.

I've shown the chords here as a harmonised scale in the key of D, which gives you chords in the following order:

Major (I) minor, minor, Major (IV) Major (V), minor, m7 flat 5, Major(I)

Note that string 5 is muted, which tends to happen without any effort anyway as your first finger can stop it sounding.

As this is the same for all keys, you could get the same pattern of chords in the key of E by using a capo at fret 2, and the chords in G by using a capo at fret 5.

More info

My new hub Guitar Open D Tuning, Guitar Chords contains more info, with a guide to playing Irish songs and more chord shapes.

Chords in Open D Tuning

Slide Guitar

You can use a slide at frets 0, 4, 5, 12 to play the basic 12-Bar blues changes.

When you have this down, try using notes from fret 3 as blue notes. Dust My Broom (Elmore James) is a Robert Johnson song that works well in this tuning.


Harmonics are produced by lightly touching the strings with your left hand, right above frets 5. 7. and 12 (not where you would normally fret the note, but right above the fret.)

In this tuning you can easily play a whole chord of harmonics by playing a barre shape at any of these fret positions.

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Comments 2 comments

wilbury steve profile image

wilbury steve 6 years ago from Great Wakering, England

practical,interesting & informative as always. Thanks for posting!

Jon Green profile image

Jon Green 6 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK Author

Thanks Steve, you're welcome.

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