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7 Fun Alternate Guitar Tunings for Beginners to Try

We can all generally agree that the harmonious sound of a typical standard in-tune guitar is incredibly satisfying for guitarists. But after a time of playing, you may be unsure about your next move. Your desire to take on new challenges and learn new songs may be a result of your need to escape the repetitive shapes, rhythms, and sounds.

So, would you like to stretch and develop your musical creativity? If so, using an alternate tuning for your guitar is the best approach to start your new musical journey.

Before we discuss many alternate guitar tunings for beginners in this article, let's concentrate on what alternate guitar tunings are.

Alternate Guitar Tunings

Most guitarists adhere to the standard tuning method, which is a combination of the notes E-A-D-G-B-E (from string 6-1).

Alternate Guitar Tunings

However, the specific notes on the strings are sometimes altered, resulting in different note combinations. Whenever this happens, the note placements across the fretboard may be altered.

Alternate tuning is, therefore, a combination of notes on the six strings of the guitar that’s not the standard 6E-5A-4D-3G-2B-1E open-string tuning method. Now that we know what alternate tunings are all about, let’s get into the various alternate tunings you can try out. We’ll focus on seven different alternate guitar tunings.

Drop D

Drop D is one of the simplest alternate tunings. It’s well regarded and favored by guitarists. It basically entails the change in pitch of one string, which is your low E string (number 6).

You adjust its pitch by lowering it a tone down to D. The strings would, therefore, be 6D-5A-4D-3G-2B-1A2B-1E.

You can find a lesson for drop D tuning here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_HVUCSPoXk

Alternate Guitar Tunings

DADGBD (Double drop D)

This tuning is achieved by first tuning a standard tuned guitar to a drop D, as previously discussed, then proceeding to tune the high E string (1st string) a tone down to note D. You’ll have achieved a doubled drop D.

Guitarists use this tuning to majorly play songs that are in the key of D, since strings 6, 4, and 1 are in D. “Black waters” by The Doobie brothers is an example of a song composed in drop D tuning. Here’s the link to the song: https://youtu.be/m4oZCtfmh44

“Bandit” by Neil Young is also an amazing song in drop D. You can find its guitar tutorial here: https://youtu.be/GWH_HWNvtWU

Alternate Guitar Tunings

DADGAD

This tuning is achieved by changing just one more string out of the Double Drop D tuning: the 2nd string, or B string. Lower the B string a tone down to note A to achieve a DADGAD set of turning. When you strum the open chords, you get a Dsus2 chord, which is so nice and gives this tuning a unique modality to work on.

Anything you play in D on DADGAD will sound heavenly since it’s built on open strings. Two of the most famous songs on DADGAD are “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin and “Photograph” by Ed Sheeran. Here are the links to the two guitar tutorial lessons respectively: https://youtu.be/IDJIwD6on-Q and https://youtu.be/LhRx9nYbU_w

Alternate Guitar Tunings

4. Open D

A change in one more string from the DADGAD will give you an Open D. It’s often known as a D major Chord and is mainly heard in blues guitar music

To tune your guitar to Open D, you first lower your 1st and 6th string a whole tone down to D, and then lower the 2nd string a tone down from B to A. Lastly, lower your 3rd string half a tone down from G to F# to achieve an Open D tuning DADF#AD

“Kamera” by Wilco is a song that employs the use of Open D. Here’s a link to its guitar tutorial lesson: https://youtu.be/I1OL5xV0ljA

Alternate Guitar Tunings

Open E

Open E is almost the same as Open D tuning—only that this time, you’ll swap the D strings to E. A guitar tuned in Open E is in E Major chord when strummed.

To achieve an Open E tuning from a standard tuning, you’ll only be required to adjust the pitches of three strings: the 5th, 4th and 3rd strings. First, tune the 5th string a whole tone up from A to B, the 4th string a whole step up from D to E, and the 3rd string half a step from G to G#.

Your strings should, therefore, be tuned as EBEG#BE after you’re done. You’ll notice Open E and Open D have the same structure, so their fingerings will be the same.

Open E is common in rock, folk, and blues music. “Gimmie Shelter” by Keith Richards is a song in Open E tuning. Here’s a link to its guitar tutorial lesson: https://youtu.be/64motJ8-Bfs

Alternate Guitar Tunings

Open G

Just like Open E, Open G is similar to Open D. You may find it easier to tune than Open E.

We’ll start by tuning from the standard EADGBE tuning, where we will start with the 6th and 1st string and adjust them a whole tone down from E to D. Proceed to adjust the 5th string down a tone from A to G. You’ll, therefore, have achieved DGDGBD on your strings, which is an Open G tuning

In this alternate tuning, a G Major chord results from strumming the open strings. “Brown Sugar” is one of the tunes that Keith Richards wrote in Open G. Here’s a “Brown Sugar” guitar lesson link: https://youtu.be/HQ-4_hDTEKE

Alternate Guitar Tunings

7. Open A

The tuning of Open D and Open E is comparable to that of Open A and Open G. Open G tuning is essentially a step down from Open A tuning.

Start with standard tuning, EADGBE, and then adjust your guitar to Open A by raising the second string a tone up from B to C#, the third string a tone up from G to A, and the fourth string one whole tone up from D to E. Your strings will be in the format EAEAC#E.

Caution: Open A tuning puts a lot of strain on the strings because they tune up, which puts the strings at risk of breaking. Some guitarists use a capo on fret two to produce an Open A sound after tuning their guitars to Open G to prevent this.

Open A is popular in blues songs and slide guitar music. Johnny Winter’s “Mean Town Blues” is an example of a song incorporating Open A tuning. Here’s a guitar tutorial to “Mean Town Blues”: https://youtu.be/rxpHPskLvgU

Please note: In the video, the guitar is tuned to Open G. A capo is used to bring it up to Open A to avoid breaking the strings, as mentioned earlier.

Alternate Guitar Tunings

Wrapping Up on Tuning

Although Drop D tuning and the Open tunings aren't the only options available, for a beginner, these are the fundamental different tunings that could set you off on a new musical journey. Explore the many tunings, experiment with the sounds, compose music, and enjoy music. The alternate tuning that sounds and performs best for you ultimately depends on your preferences.

Author

  • Alternate Guitar Tunings

    My "day job" used to be teaching but I decided to give that up to play music full time. I have gigged all over the world playing in bands or as a solo act since then. I still have a passion for teaching others anything related to music. Writing content for InciteMusic.com gives me an opportunity to combine my love of music and education.

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