May 17

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Tune In, Break Out: Experimenting with Alternative Guitar Tunings

By Layla Majewski

May 17, 2024

guitar, Guitar lessons

Experimenting with different tunings on the guitar is a fascinating journey that opens up a world of creative possibilities, allowing players to explore new sounds, textures, and harmonic relationships. 

While standard tuning (EADGBE) serves as the foundation for most guitar playing, alternative tunings offer a unique way to reimagine familiar chords, melodies, and progressions. Whether you're a seasoned guitarist looking to break out of a rut or a beginner eager to expand your musical horizons, experimenting with different tunings can be a rewarding and enriching experience. Here are some popular alternative tunings to explore, along with suggestions for how to get started:

1. Open D Tuning (DADF#AD):

Open D tuning is a versatile and widely used alternative tuning that is favored by many slide guitarists and blues players. In open D tuning, the guitar is tuned to a D major chord, which allows for easy access to a rich palette of open chords and resonant harmonies. To get started with open D tuning, simply tune the sixth, fifth, and first strings down a whole step to D, A, and D, respectively, and tune the second string up a half step to F#. Experiment with playing open chords, slide licks, and fingerstyle patterns to discover the unique tonal qualities of open D tuning.

2. Drop D Tuning (DADGBE):

Drop D tuning is a popular alternative tuning that is commonly used in rock, metal, and acoustic guitar playing. In drop D tuning, the sixth string is tuned down a whole step to D, allowing for easy power chords and heavy riffing. To get started with drop D tuning, simply tune the sixth string down to D while leaving the other strings in standard tuning. Experiment with playing power chords, palm-muted riffs, and melodic lines to explore the dynamic range and versatility of drop D tuning.

3. Open G Tuning (DGDGBD):

Open G tuning is a popular alternative tuning that is often associated with blues, folk, and slide guitar playing. In open G tuning, the guitar is tuned to a G major chord, which allows for easy access to a rich array of open chords and resonant harmonies. To get started with open G tuning, simply tune the sixth, fifth, and first strings down to D, G, and D, respectively, and leave the other strings in standard tuning. Experiment with playing open chords, slide licks, and fingerstyle patterns to explore the expressive possibilities of open G tuning.

4. DADGAD Tuning (DADGAD):

DADGAD tuning is a versatile alternative tuning that is commonly used in Celtic, folk, and acoustic guitar playing. In DADGAD tuning, the guitar is tuned to a Dsus4 chord, which allows for easy access to a rich array of open chords and lush harmonies. To get started with DADGAD tuning, simply tune the second string down a whole step to A and leave the other strings in standard tuning. Experiment with playing open chords, modal melodies, and fingerstyle patterns to discover the unique textures and colors of DADGAD tuning.

5. Open E Tuning (EBEG#BE):

Open E tuning is a versatile alternative tuning that is favored by many slide guitarists and blues players. In open E tuning, the guitar is tuned to an E major chord, which allows for easy access to a rich array of open chords and resonant harmonies. To get started with open E tuning, simply tune the sixth, fifth, and first strings up a whole step to E, B, and E, respectively, and tune the second string up a half step to G#. Experiment with playing open chords, slide licks, and fingerstyle patterns to explore the expressive possibilities of open E tuning.

Experimenting with different tunings on the guitar is an exciting and rewarding journey that offers endless opportunities for creativity and self-expression. Whether you're drawn to the bluesy sound of open D tuning or the ethereal textures of DADGAD tuning, there's a world of musical exploration waiting to be discovered. So grab your guitar, tune up, and let your imagination run wild as you explore the rich and diverse universe of alternative guitar tunings.

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