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Standard tuning is, well, standard. It provides incredible versatility and simplicity, but if it is the only tuning you use it can quickly start to get boring.

Luckily, you don’t have to be boxed in by standard tuning. There is a nearly infinite combination of open tunings that will enhance your creativity while providing new challenges (but not too many) that will keep you entertained– especially after a long winter of working in the same tuning.

Open Tunings 101

Here is everything you need to know to start learning open tunings.

To be able to play in an open tuning, you first need to understand what one is. Essentially, an open tuning is when you tune your guitar in a way that forms a full chord without pressing any of the strings. For example, in open D tuning (D, A, D, F#, A, D) just strumming your guitar makes a D chord.

Open tunings are traditionally used in blues and folk music, especially when playing slide
guitar. But these beautiful tunings aren’t limited to those uses. Legendary artists like Joni Mitchell, Led Zeppelin, and many more regularly incorporated open tunings in their music, and so can you.

There is a clear downside to open tunings: they will significantly shorten the lifespan of your strings. It depends on how frequently you change tunings, but if you don’t want to be constantly changing strings I suggest staying in your preferred open tuning for an extended amount of time. If you are constantly switching back-and-forth between tunings, you will have to invest more money than you would probably like to in strings. 

Check out this free intro lesson on open tunings from Yvette Young.

Relearning Chords 

Obviously, if the tuning is different, so are chord shapes. You will have to invest time into relearning. Although chord variations will definitely take time and dedication to remember, the beginner chords are normally fairly easy to pick up, as you just need to barre the correct fret. 

Take open D for example, playing the guitar open is a D chord. After D is E, so if you barre the second fret, you are now playing an E major. After E is F, so move that barre to the 3rd fret to play an F major.

F is followed by G, meaning barring the 5th fret will be a G major. Reset, now we are at A, and all you have to do is move to the 7th fret. So on, and so forth. This applies to every open tuning! Just start at whatever chord is open, and move through it as I did in the above example. It’s a great place to start and will make playing variations much easier.


As I mentioned earlier, slide guitar is what open tunings are traditionally used for. It makes playing simple chords much easier with the slide, as changing chords is as easy as sliding your finger up and down the guitar.

Though slide is mostly used in blues music, it can be incorporated into any genre of music. But before you get started on that creative journey, starting with blues style slide guitar is the easiest way to build a foundation that you can build off of. 

JamPlay has an amazing free blues slide lesson, that is the perfect place for all guitar players to start!

So, what are you waiting for? Get that guitar in an open tuning and enjoy!

JamPlay is home to more than 500,000 guitarists with guitar lessons from world class instructor artists in every genre and for every interest to power up your guitar skill. Join at

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