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Open Tunings Lead to More Interesting Guitar Playing

May 10, 2011

Open tunings will expand your guitar playing in ways you never imagined. I play Open G most of the time. Many Fahey songs are in Open C, Open D, and Open G. I discovered open tunings, also called alternative tunings, from John Fahey and Joni Mitchell. Genius that she is, Joni has used and/or created some 100 open tunings. Check out:

Joni Mitchell Tuning Notations

Tuning Patterns on Joni’s site

Tips for Playing Joni

There is a treasure trove of information there.
David Crosby and Jackson Browne each use open tunings in many of their songs.

Caveats: Don’t tune your strings too high – they will break, and also puts stress on the neck. Always tune each string down a little before tuning back up.

This fabulous little online tuner is a gem to try out open tunings: Guitar Tuner

Related: Alternate Guitar Tunings

The most frequented alternate tuning is called Drop D (just drop both E strings down to D … making your guitar strings spell DADGBD). This tuning basically puts you in G major. Strum it open. Experiment with your typical chord positions and notice suddenly the chords are thicker. This works really well with bar chords, and even better with fingerpicking.

Several folks take it a step further and tune the B string down to an A (DADGAD) – putting you in D major.

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