Blues Guitar Lesson: Open D Tuning

A person is holding a guitar and harmonizing it using the open d tuning

Discovery is what music is all about and if you are like us, you can't wait for the next lesson. Surely you have heard how different tunings can offer an entirely new perspective and approach to the way you play. We are here to talk about a tuning that is quite popular—open D tuning. Open D tuning is a favorite of slide guitar players and of rock legends like Bob Dylan because of its full and vibrant sound and its flexibility with chords. Get ready to learn a tuning that will provide you with new chord shapes and beautiful sounds for your arsenal.

Open D tuning provides a flexibility that isn't always found in other tunings while also enriching the sound of your guitar playing. This tuning has a long history behind it and continues to forge one to this day in tracks by various artists such as Neil Young and Mumford & Sons. Open D tuning can be a gateway to different playing styles such as fingerstyle and slide, so be prepared to explore the possibilities.

What Is Open D Tuning?

Open D tuning is a type of open tuning that sounds the D major chord when the open strings are strummed. Open D tuning allows for chords to be played using only one finger across all the strings making it popular for both beginner and experienced players. The open strings of this tuning are as follows from lowest to highest D-A-D-F#-A-D. Open D tuning is one of the simplest tunings on guitar because of limited fretting necessary. It allows for experimentation and versatility as embellishments are easier to play when barring chords.

Historic Nature

Key of D

Advantages and Disadvantages

How To Use A Slide

Slide guitar is a technique that is often used in blues to add further expression to sound and create glissando and vibrato effects. Slide guitarists use an instrument called a "slide" or "bottleneck" which is a small piece of metal or glass which resembles a bottleneck and is fitted on a single finger. By gliding from one pitch to another and letting notes ring out the guitarist can create an emotional resonance in the extended note. Blues is often characterized by these types of sounds that have in them what is referred to as "soul."

Mastering the Craft

Open vs Standard

How To Play Open D Tuning: Techniques, Tips, And More

Playing in open D will take time to master as you will have to learn new chord shapes but you can also navigate chords by barring with a single finger so there are options. To tune to open D you will want to re-tune the sixth string one octave below the fourth string, which is D, then tune the first string one octave above the fourth, tune the fifth string to A, the third string to F# and then the second string to A but an octave above the fifth. The result should ring out a D major chord when you strum the open strings.

Embellishing and Droning


Chord Shapes and Barring

Take Your Time


Man wearing a blue coat is holding a guitar and tuning it in

Photo by nappy from Pexels

We have provided you with the basics for open D tuning but there is so much more you can learn from playing this wonderful alternative. Give yourself the opportunity to take this on and try using a slide or fingerpicking with it as these styles are suited for the open D tuning. The open D tuning already has an amazing history in music but you can make your own and in time may even write the next chapter.

Featured Image: Image by Pexels from Pixabay

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