Altered Tuning Fun (Part 2)

Hope you had fun exploring Drop D and Double Drop D last month. We’re only one step away now from Open G Tuning which is a foundation Open Chord tuning and LOTS of fun… it will open the door to a huge amount of music, especially if you dig The Rolling Stones and slide guitar!

Open G Tuning

If you’re in Double Drop D, all you need to do now is lower the A string (String 5, second thickest) down a tone to the note G – you can use String 3 as a reference. If you’re not in Double Drop D, then you also need to tune both outside strings down a tone to the note D.

Now when you play all the open strings, you are playing the notes DGDGBD which as any of you that have studied basic music theory will know, are all notes of a G Major Triad (GBD). Notice that it’s “Open G”, but the lowest note is the note D… if you take off the thickest string the lowest note becomes the low G which makes more sense, and one of the reasons Keith Richards played his infamous five string telecaster!

Chord shapes now start to get a little interesting… and regular chord shape would need notes on the 6th 5th, and 1st string moved up a tone, which is quite often impossible, but trying will take you to some interesting places and increase your understanding of both the tuning and the function of chord tones in regular tuning, which is extremely valuable. The Open A chord is a great place to start if you move String 5 and one up a tone you end up with all the notes of the chord in the one fret which is obviously easy to barre, and the reason this tuning works so well for slide guitar. The root note is on String 5, but up two frets from where you might usually find the note, so I find it easier to think of the root on String 3 of the shape, but that requires knowing the notes on the neck well (which you should!).

The famous Stones move you need to know about is the 6sus4 chord which you get by adding your 2nd and 3rd fingers in front of the barre as shown below. Don’t worry about the name; it’s just a cool sound to play with!

D (TAB: x 5 5 5 5 5)
D6sus4 (TAB: x 5 7 5 6 5)

Just adding the 6th on and off (like in a blues shuffle) is a simple and super effective move, and the sus4 on its own is easy and sounds cool. Change the 6th into a dominant 7th by moving it up one fret. You can also try two frets higher than the barre on String 3, gets you an add9 chord which is a real tasty sound to mix with the sus4 or the 6, try it!

Dsus4 (TAB: x 5 5 5 6 5)
D6 (TAB: x 5 7 5 5 5)
D7 (TAB: x 5 8 5 5 5)
Dadd9 (TAB: x 5 7 5 5) – note – boxes I gave you are in C, not D!

Lot’s of cool groves to explore with just this. Can you figure out how to play a 12 bar blues shuffle using this grip? Try it on your own, but to help you out (if you don’t need it, then don’t read on, for now, go play!) G is open, C is fret 5 and D is fret 7. Remember G is also at the 12th fret. Try the straight bar and then adding the 6th in the basic shuffle groove on beats 2 and 4.

<< small tab of the above shuffle J? possible?>>

If you want to get experimenting with slide guitar – now’s your chance. I have a beginners intro to slide guitar lesson on my web site, but basically, don’t press it down very hard, just so the slide touches the strings (and not the frets) and try to mute the strings behind the slide with the fingers on the nut side of the slide. I find playing slide with a pick near impossible, so you might like to start doing it fingerstyle and muting (with strumming hand) any strings you don’t want to ring out.

But HAVE FUN – don’t worry too much about what you’re doing and why if you are new to this stuff – just enjoy the ride and the fresh sounds you may not have made before.

A fun place to start is Little Red Rooster by The Rolling Stones, basically a Blues in G, so the info above plus your ears should get you most of the way there… listen and try to emulate the slides and the vibrato.

If you are a more experienced Open G player, then start trying to find other chords, just pick an open chord and figure out how you might play it if String 1, 5 and 6 are up a tone and see what happens.

Some great (non-slide) examples are Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones, Romeo And Juliet by Dire Straits and Bohemian Like You by the Dandy Warhols (essentially the same as Brown Sugar!).

If you want to solo in Open G (and if you’re playing a blues that might well come up!), then remember that you can play on Strings 2/3/4 and nothing changes! And if you want to get out onto the String 1, 4 or 5, just move the notes up a tone. It might sound complex, but it’s just practice and experimenting, and it’s not difficult when you’ve played around with it a bit – but you won’t have so many pet licks to play with! Remember that most Blues solos are played mainly on thinnest four strings anyway, so you just need to shift notes on String 1 up a tone. Or do you? Try all your favourite licks and see how they sound – some will be awesome, so will not. Let your ears guide you more than your brain.

Re-tuning is nothing to be afraid of, and for creative guitarists, it can breathe a lot of new life into the instrument – chords have a fresh resonance, you’ll play new sounds that you just can’t get in regular tunings, and I hope that this taste will whet your appetite for experimentation! Safe travels!

Food For Thought