How to Go from Standard to Open G Tuning

For the guitar player looking to add variety to his style, different tunings offer just that. Depending on the style of music you play, you may find it suitable to change your tuning, and there are so many options. Open G tuning is one of them. We want to take the time here to discuss its characteristics and many benefits. Grab your guitar and settle in because we are about to introduce you to the "Spanish tuning."

Open G tuning has many advantages and lends itself to specific styles of music that are recognized and adored by many. This style of tuning is featured in songs from all over the world but is most prominently used in folk music and blues. The open G tuning keeps characteristics of the standard tuning and therefore remains a popular style that is both alternative but not over complicated. If you want to mix things up by adding layers to your sound, you have come to the right place.

What Is Open G Tuning?

Open G tuning is an alternative open tuning style that features the G major chord. The notes that are found in the G major chord will also be found in the open G tuning. Similar to other types of open tunings the open G tuning also allows for the eleven major chords to be strummed by barring the index finger on one fret at a time, excluding the G major chord which is strummed on the open strings.

Spanish Tuning

The open G tuning earned its name "Spanish tuning" because of its use by Spanish players during the Creole period. The tuning dates back to this period in Louisiana when French and Spanish cultures mixed. Spanish players would use the tuning and it became common in the area, eventually earning its reputation as an exotic and sometimes even "dark" sound. The style has been a revelation for many musicians across the years, notably Keith Richard's of the Rolling Stones who spoke at length about the tuning in his autobiography Life.

Part of the Family

Open G tuning is part of a family of open tunings that all are variations of the standard tuning. Open D and open C are only some other open tunings that also feature major chords and that are widely used in music today. The open G tuning has become a standout because of its popularity in blues and therefore in rock music. This tuning will be immediately recognizable in songs like "Little Green" by Joni Mitchell and "Honky Tonk Women" by the Rolling Stones.

Standard Tuning

To refresh your memory here, we want to talk about standard tuning. Standard tuning IS E-A-D-G-B-E from low to high and continues to be the beginning and end of all tunings because it offers such versatility that virtually any song can be played in this tuning. A guitar player who understands this tunning well will not only welcome variations but will understand how those small changes in tune can produce sounds entirely different. There are many types of tuning, perhaps hundreds of them, but they are not all so musically inclined. Learn to love and appreciate the standard tuning first and all else will come from there.

Benefits of Open G Tuning

a person is playing and tuning the guitar

Photo by from Pexels

The open G tuning is an excellent way for beginners to experiment with different tunings because it allows other chords to be strummed by barring with a single finger and because the conversion to it is easy. The open G tuning has a unique sound that is far enough removed from the standard tuning and yet keeps characteristics of it. Tuning your guitar to open G will offer a multitude of opportunities to experiment and find your own unique sound and that is always an aim of any dedicated guitar player.

Global Sound

Open Strings

Single Finger Barring

A Fuller Sound

How to Go from Standard to Open G Tuning

Tuning to open G is simple and will open an entire world of new sounds for you. To tune to open G you will need to lower both E strings to D and then lower your fifth string from A to G. Did you notice that the changes were small? Your two and fourth strings remain the same and now you are in open G tuning. Chord progressions you recognize are still there and now have some added power such as the I, IV, V in G. The G chord which will now be strummed with the open strings will have heat added to it and will resonate nicely. There are several chords to be discovered in this amazing tuning.

Learn and Practice

Understandably so tuning down to open G will take time to learn and while you will find some things easier, you may also find other things are harder and that is the beauty of string instruments. Taking the time to learn this tuning and experimenting with its sound will help you grow as a musician, and will help you understand a lot of what has made blues rock so popular. Remember that many of the things you can do on standard tuning can be done in open G, and that means that riffs of your own can be embellished with the rich sound of this tuning.

Simplicity Is Key

Keep in mind as you play that the simplicity of music is sometimes what makes it so catchy. Since tuning down to an open G can help you transition between chords somewhat easier than standard tuning and with a fuller sound, you can create simple transitions that can really perk up the ears of your listeners. The old European parlor songs of the 1800s had a simplicity to them as do the blues. Simplicity is key but so is creativity and that is completely up to you.


A person is tuning the guitar

Image via Pexels

You can see why so many great guitarists of past and present have tuned their guitars to Open G. The possibilities for powerful riffs and beautiful harmonies are endless and you can take full advantage of them too. This tuning is synonymous with the blues but that does not mean that it only fits there. Musicians from all styles of music have used it and that speaks to its versatility. Grab your guitar and tune down those strings. We'll let you get to that now.

Featured Image by SplitShire from Pixabay

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