Slide Guitar Tuning: Open Tunings to Play Slide Guitar

guitar music theorySometimes playing your guitar in standard tuning just isn’t enough. When playing particular music types, it’s often easier to tune your guitar so that chords are played instead of individual notes. This is done using open tuning. Below are five different types of open tunings – open D, open C, open G, open A, and open E. Using a capo, you can easily change certain open tunings into other open tuning types. A capo on the second fret will change an open D tuning to an open E, and an open G will be changed to an open A. You can learn more about other types of guitar tunings in this articleTake a class in guitar essentials.

Open D Tuning

Mainly used for acoustic or electric guitar, this particular open tuning allows a D major chord to be played without fretting any of the strings. Fretting the strings will produce different major chords all the way up the neck. Below is a chart that shows how to change your strings from standard tuning to open D tuning. Take a course in guitar techniques.

StringStandard TuningOpen D Tuning
1Edown to D
2Bdown to A
3Gdown to F#
4Dremain at D
5Aremain at A
6Eup to D

The three notes A, D, and F# make up the triad of the D major chord. There are a number of variations on the open D tuning including the open D major 7 tuning, the open D minor tuning, and a few more. This particular tuning method has been used by several different artists including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Barry Gibb.

Open C Tuning

This particular tuning method uses the three notes that make up the C major chord – C, E, and G. Like the tuning above it, tuning your guitar in this way will allow you to create the major chord sound without needing to fret any of the strings. If you do fret the strings, you can create the sound of any of the other major chords. The chart to change your tuning to open C is below. Take a class in guitar finger picking.

StringStandard TuningOpen C Tuning
1Eremain at E
2Bup to C
3Gremain at G
4Ddown to C
5Aup to G
6Edown to C

Like the open D tuning, open C tuning has other tuning options. Open C tuning or variations on this open C tuning have been used by William Ackerman and Led Zeppeplin’s Jimmy Page.

Open G Tuning

Tuning in open G involves the notes of the G major chord, which are G, B, and D. This open tuning will allow you to play a G major chord without fretting any of the strings. As with the D and C open tunings, this tuning will allow you to play the other major chords simply by fretting at a particular fret along the neck of the guitar. The chart detailing the tuning is below. Take a class in blues guitar.

StringStandard TuningOpen G Tuning
1Edown to D
2Bremain at B
3Gremain at G
4Dremain at D
5Adown to G
6Edown to D

Open G tuning has variations just like open D and open C tuning. One particularly popular variation is the repetitive variant that is used for Russian guitars, Dobro guitars, and banjos. Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones used an open G tuning, as did Randy Jackson from Zebra.

Open A Tuning

This particular tuning type is less common than the other three because placing a capo on the second fret can easily change an open G tuning to an open A tuning. The chart below details how to tune your guitar to open A tuning.

StringStandard TuningOpen A Tuning
1Eremain at E
2Bup to C
3Gup to A
4Dup to E
5Aremain at A
6Eremain at E

Jimmy Page used this particular open tuning as did Jack White.

Open E Tuning

Like the open A tuning, open E tuning isn’t commonly used because you can simply place a capo on the second fret to change an open D tuning to an open E tuning. You can use the chart below to tune your guitar to an open E tuning.

StringStandard TuningOpen E Tuning
1Eremain at E
2Bremain at B
3Gup to A flat
4Dup to E
5Aup to B
6Eremain at E

The open E tuning has been used by a number of artists including Brian Jones, Keith Richards, and Bob Dylan.

Helpful Tools to Tune Your Guitar

Manual tuning can prove difficult for some people. If you love playing guitar, problems with tuning doesn’t have to be one of the reasons you give it up. There are tools you can use to help you tune your guitar.

  • Using a Clip-On Tuner

These particular tools are great because they can tell you exactly what note your string is currently tuned at. There are a number of different models, and picking the right one for you will depend on your budget and needs. Many of these tuners can be used for most stringed instruments so you might even be able to find a friend with a stringed instrument that has one if you’d like to try one out first.

  • Using a Mobile Application or Computer Software

Obviously, cellphones have microphones that can pick up sounds around them. It would be impossible to make phone calls without such a microphone. As such, using your phone as a tuner is an excellent idea. There is a program called gStrings, which you can use to tune your guitar.

There’s also an iPhone app called PitchPerfect, which can be downloaded for free. Like gStrings, you can use this app to tune your guitar. Along with an iPhone app, NCH Software offers PitchPerfect as a free downloadable PC or Mac program. So, your budget doesn’t have to get in the way of your desire to explore new tunings on your guitar.