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Guitar open G tuning songs

Updated on April 18, 2016

Open G tuning for guitar

Open G tuning, where the guitar is tuned to a chord instead of normal tuning, remains one of the quickest and cheapest ways to expand the sound of your guitar playing - it is ideal for slide guitar too. I have other hubs about this tuning if you are interested in the background, so here are the practical shapes you'll need to get started in this versatile tuning.

The tuning is D G D G B D , from the lowest sounding, 6th string.

The easy way to play the I IV and V chords in this tuning is

G: open strings, strings 1-5

C: Barre in fret 5, strings 1-5

D: Barre in fret 7, Strings 1-5

Some of my favourite songs in this tuning are:

Wild Horses by the Rolling Stones (they use this tuning a lot)

If It Makes You Happy by Sheryl Crow

Blackbird by the Beatles

Morning Morgantown and Little Green by Joni Mitchell

You can also take these shapes and use them to create your own songs, or do new arrangements of existing songs. For instance, She Belongs To Me by Dylan sounds great in this tuning.

Open G chord shapes

To change to open G tuning, just take strings 1 and 6 down to D, string 5 down to G.

Ex.1 features Blackbird style shapes, it's best to use Travis picking for these. Ex.2 features Joni Mitchell chords. Ex.3 is an example of harmony chords for the top strings. Good for fills or lead parts.

All this stuff works on electric guitar, but usually sounds best on a steel-string acoustic. I like Taylor guitars, Martin guitars, Collings guitars. If you have a dedicated 2nd guitar for open G (a really good idea) it may be worth using a slightly heavier string gauge to compensate for the lowered string tension you get in this tuning. You can also play harmonics on any string or strings at frets 5, 7, 12 - try it as it sounds fantastic.

Other tunings

There are many different alternative tunings for the guitar, which are all worth trying - however, it's best to settle on one or two to avoid confusion. Open G also sounds great with the low 6th taken down to C instead of D - Shawn Colvin and Jackson Browne both use this tuning, and it does give you a great low bass note to fill out the sound.

You could argue that the low G on string 6 is a distraction, and I think Keef removes this string altogether. That's because generally the root notes for chords are on string 5.

Open D and DADGAD are the other most widely used tunings. I've got a few hubs on the subject if you are interested. Also there is a new hub on Drop-D tuning and its applications.


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