Tuning your guitar differently can produce some incredible new sounds for the creative process. Open tunings in particular produce shimmering and complex overtones when you play with a lot of open strings. Here is a quick rundown on four different tunings for you to experiment with when you’re looking for a bit of inspiration.
First you have the good old Standard tuning that everyone uses. This tuning is mostly in fourths and is called “Standard Tuning” because every guitar comes stocked with it’s strings tuned to E A D G B E.
Playing a major shape in this is tuning is rather easy and introduces the use of the “power chord”. To constructively show off the different tunings I’ve used a progression of G, A, Bb, A as a reference for the rest of the tunings. The major shape in this tuning looks and sounds like the following:
DADGAD is my personal favorite alternate tuning due to it’s suspended sound. The stacked 5ths and suspended 4th produce an incredible harmonic series above just about any passages you play.
The easiest way to get your guitar to DADGAD fast is by tuning your low and high E string to the D string and then tune your B string to the A string. It doesn’t take long if you have developed your ears to a point where you can tune by ear. Once that is done your ready to start jamming away.
Here is an example of how to play a major shape in DADGAD tuning.
Open up the Tuning
When you take away the body of the chord and just play the octaves and open strings the rich sounds of the tuning start to take shape. If you’re looking to play in the key of D (the saddest of all keys) then this tuning may be the one for you. It allows for pretty much any passage to sound like it’s a part of this overtone series.
One of the best parts about open tunings like DADGAD is that once you get your hands on a capo you can change keys quite easily. Horn players in particular enjoy their flatted keys so jumping to Eb or Ab makes your life and their lives very easy.
Tuning your guitar to some wild tunings will start to shape ideas for chord progressions that you may have never explored before. Take E A C A C E for example. This tuning is basically an A Minor tuning. Here how to play a Major chord shape within this tuning.
EACACE is very minor and allows you to hit some pretty cool overtones when playing simple riffs like the following:
This one is an Open D minor tuning with a C on the 2nd string. This makes up a D Minor 7th chord when strumming all 6 open strings. Here is how to play a major chord in this tuning.
Once you start playing in this tuning the ideas start falling out of your head. It’s almost unbelievable how easy it is to create something using the simplest of fingerings in this tuning. This sound example was basically done with just a power chord shape on the 5th and 4th strings.
This combines Double-Drop D and Open D Major together in order to form the following. This shape is a bit easier to make in this tuning due to the intervals between the first 4 guitar strings. Here is how you play a major shape in this tuning.
When you want epic you turn to this tuning. The Drop D combined with the Major 3rd and Major 6 in the open strings gives off a shimmering sound when played with the right chords.
To sum it up, don’t go your whole life without experimenting with other tunings. Your guitar was made to work for you, not against you. Open up your tunings and see what comes out!