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Guitar in Open G tuning

Updated on April 2, 2016

Guitar in Open G tuning

In this article I'll be looking at some ways that you can use the Open G tuning to maximum effect, for playing and also songwriting. It's a great tuning for guitar chords and also slide guitar, which are explained in some of my other hubs.

Open G is d g d g b d (low to high)

From standard tuning you need to lower strings 1,5 and 6 two semitones or 2 frets. Release the string slowly so it doesn't break - but don't worry, this almost never happens, even with strings that are past their sell-by date. Here are the strings in standard tuning:


↓  ↓            ↓


Fret numbers are given on the left of the grids - watch out for them!

Tuning tips

This will really help to keep the guitar in tune: lower the string to below the pitch desired, then bring it up to pitch. The chord pictures work as follows:

The 6 vertical lines are the strings, the horizontal lines are the frets. The headstock would be directly above the chord diagram.

Open G chord pictures

Example 1

This is using some Paul McCartney ideas, heavily influenced by a Mr J.S.Bach, a non-Liverpudlian. Recorded with birdsong from George Harrison's garden, it's an essential guitar piece. You can play this song in normal tuning, but really it sounds best played in open G tuning. There's not a huge difference though.

Example 2

This is Joni Mitchell territory, one of the great songwriters in my opinion. A few of her best songs lend themselves to this tuning. The loop symbol at frets 5 and 7 means it's a barre chord where you flatten your first finger over the strings that are marked.

In this key (G) frets 5 and 7 will be a C chord and a D chord, frets 0 and 12 will be a G chord. So a 12-bar blues would be played with these three chords, either with your finger or with a bottleneck or slide.

Fret 0 and 12: G

Fret 5: C

Fret 7: D

Example 3

A descending scale with harmony idea, best finger-picked for full effect. You can also play great songs like Wild Horses by The Stones in this tuning, and 12 -bar blues, especially Delta Blues like Robert Johnson tunes.

Here's a list of the great songs you can play in this tuning - either used on the original recording, or just works well:

Little Green, Big Yellow Taxi ( original in open D I think) and Morning Morgantown (Joni Mitchell)

Honky Tonk Women

Brown Sugar

Wild Horses

She Belongs to me

If it makes You Happy


Open G blues

Blues is great in open G, and you can use a slide on fret 12, fret 5 and fret 7 to play the basic blues changes - as well as blues notes at fret 3. All the strings work, and it's also good to keep a drone G (open string 5) going underneath the slide action. Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt and Bob Brozman are all masters of this style of playing.


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