Open G Tuning slide guitar
My new hub:
Guitar Chords in Open G tuning: Keith Richards
Contains lots more info on playing guitar in Open G tuning, with guitar chord pictures and videos.
Open G Tuning
Why use this tuning? It sounds great and is very versatile. It also enables you to play nice chord voicings with open strings and harmonics, and use slide guitar sounds. Normal or standard tuning: E A D G B E changes to D G D G B D (Open G) Strings 1, 6 are taken down 2 frets, to D - string 5 down 2 frets., to G. While tuning down release the string slowly, to avoid string breakage.
NEW HUB: Guitar in Open G chords has chord pictures for this tuning, which could save you a lot of time.
If you play strings 5,4,3,2,1 you have a G chord - miss out string 6. It should have a great sustain, and generally sound fuller than a normal tuning G chord. Barre chords at frets 5 and 7 produce C and D chords. Barre chords - flatten first finger across all the strings, or at least across strings 1-5. Missing out string 6 (thickest string) makes it much easier to get a clean chord, so generally I'd recommend that.
See my new hub Open G Guitar for chord pictures and more info on using the Open G tuning.
The other alternative tuning that is widely used and I find useful is DADGAD. There is a hub article on this (Guitar in DADGAD tuning) in my list. See "more Hubs" just to the right.
DADGAD is better for Irish, Celtic styles of music. Open G is more useful for blues, slide guitar, Keith Richards style songs. But you should try both for yourself. For songwriting, both tunings can be really inspiring. Also, for multitrack recording, layering an open tuning guitar part can really improve the overall sound.
My new hub Guitar in Open D tuning has got the basic chords shapes in open D, as used by Joni Mitchell in songs like "Big Yellow Taxi".
Try an Am7 shape chord, adding second fret on string 5. So string 5 is fret 2, string 4 is fret 2, string 2 is fret 1. One of these days I'll work out how to import graphics! Then move the entire shape up 2 frets. You should now have Am and Bm shapes. Then do C and D as described above. To play chords with harmonics or with a slide rest barre finger above frets 5, 7, 12.
Try these chords out in any order - because they are all part of the harmonised scale they will all fit together. Harmonised scale - see my other hubs for explanation. Briefly, every key contains 7 chords, built on the 7 different notes of the major scale - in the real world of songs these are constantly used together.
Slide Guitar Basics
Using a slide on your little finger (pinky) play anything you like on frets 5, 7, 12 and importantly, 3. Although full chords work, also try alternating picking on strings 1, 2, 3. Using fret 3 will produce a blues scale so this will work well with 12-bar blues.
If you are not familiar with slide, use a glass slide, as heavy as possible, directly over the fret and with vibrato. Move forward and back around the fret position while thinking about jelly on a plate(!) The slide should rest gently on the strings, following the line of the fret, but not pushing down at all, just making contact and kind of floating above the neck. There is plenty of stuff on Youtube, for instance Bob Brozman, who is a total expert on slide, Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, Sonny Landreth. By watching them play, it will make more sense.
Check out my hub Slide Guitar for some video links and some more info on this. Interestingly, I think a complete beginner might make very fast progress by just learning open G slide
bobbrozman.com contains good info about slide in open G, and there are many DVDs, which I can really recommend.
Music theory: I find it really helpful to keep blues theory in a separate box to standard music theory. Reason: it's a 7th -based system rather than a diatonic harmony system.
What is the best slide? Save yourself a lot of time and order one from diamond bottlenecks (in the UK). They produce specialist slides with the best sound and support recycling. If they are good enough for Bob Brozman, they're good enough for the rest of us!
History of Open G
The background (as I understand it) - the tuning came from Hawaii, was adopted by the early Delta bluesmen, including Son House and Robert Johnson. From there, in a direct line to Keith Richards and The Rolling Stones, Joni Mitchell, Ry Cooder.
It's used in Brown Sugar, Wild Horses and many other guitar - based songs. Currently, Bob Brozman is an expert in using it. His DVDs explain in great detail how it works.
Joni Mitchell uses it for Little Green, probably one of her best songs. It's hard to call, because there are so many of them!
As the string tension goes down with the tuning, you might consider slightly thicker string gauges to compensate. This, combined with a high action, will give you a better tone. Amp distortion and a compressor pedal may help with sustain, but this tuning already gives you quite a lot of that. Lastly, it's a lot of fun, and quite easy to pick up. Listen to some Ry Cooder and Bonnie Raitt material for inspiration.
Types of guitar
National steel guitars are great for open G slide playing. Bonnie Raitt , Sonny Landreth and Ry Cooder all use Fender Stratocasters, at least some of the time, though they may be modified with different pick-ups etc. Generally, the action wants to be as high as possible, the reverse of what you'd usually want. Keith Richards uses a Telecaster for open G.
You can buy a kit that uses a raised nut to bring the action higher.
Lap steel guitars are a different instrument, but closely related - David Lindley is a master on these. Jerry Douglas is the best on dobro in a more country/folk style. These guys are just amazing musicians and show what can be acheived.