Common Guitar Tunings

Guitar Tunings

Common Guitar Tunings

Tuning is something that nobody likes to do but everyone needs to do. The space in between songs in a set and the time between takes in a studio. Tuning takes up most of that time. Below we will look at popular tunings and examples of each of them.

Standard Tuning

Standard tuning is the most common guitar tuning. This tuning is E-A-D-G-B-E from thickest string to thin. This is the tuning you should use when first learning guitar. It is standard for most lesson and chord books. Once you advance, you can try some of the open tunings listed below.

Open Tunings

Open tunings are popular for both acoustic and electric guitar. Commonly used in acoustic folk, acoustic and electric blues, slide guitar, and heavy metal styles. People use open tuning to help achieve different chord voicings and sounds. Open tunings can make playing a little easier since you can tune the open strings to a major or minor chord. Below are the most common opening tunings and what songs you can hear the tuning on.

Drop “D”

Drop “D” tuning is (D-A-D-G-B-E.) This tuning has found its popularity in hard rock and heavy meta. The low “D” is used to chug with high gain to produce a powerful depth to the sound. One example of drop “D” tuning is Van Halen song “Unchained.”

Open “G” tuning

Open “G” was a favorite of the early bluesmen. The strings are tuned (D-G-D-G-B-D). This tuning was used by Robert Johnson and many others, all the way up to modern-era Mississippi hill country. The most famous guitarist to play in open G is Keith Richards. Keith’s rhythm guitar approach in open G tuning is the backbone of many great Rolling Stones songs. “Honky Tonk Woman” by the Rolling Stones is a good example of open “G.”

Open “D” tuning

This tuning is (D-A-D-F#-A-D.) It is easy to get deep rich chords in this tuning by just laying one finger over the strings. This tuning is used by classic and folk rockers, John Fogerty and Bob Dylan. Check out Dylan’s tune “Simple Twist Of Fate.”

Open “E” tuning

Open “E” is another common tuning among the Delta blues men. This tuning is (E-B-E-G#-B-E.) This was adopted by southern rock great Duane Allman. A legendary one “E”riff  by Allman can be heard on Allman Brother’s Band song “One Way Out.” Dereck Trucks is another ambassador of open “E,” as he plays exclusively in this tuning.

Open “A” tuning

The tunings discussed thus far are all pitching the strings down. Open “A” gets into the higher register  by tuning the guitar to (E-A-E-A-C#-E.) Johnny Winter and Jimmy Page used this tuning. Listen to Page’s playing on Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying.”

Popular guitar tunings

Here are few open tuning guitar players to check out.

Ani DiFranco

Jerry Douglas (Resonator Guitar)

Derek Trucks

Antoine Dufour

Michael Hedges

Rich Robinson

Ry Cooder

Lowell George

Joni Mitchell

Sonny Landreth

Duane Allman

Shopping for a tuner

When shopping for a tuner, here are the questions to ask yourself. First, do I want a hand held tuner or one to go on my pedal board? Will a headstock tuner work for me? Do I need a tuner that will just tune to standard or one that will allow my to tune to different tunings? I am looking for a strobe tuner or a standard VU/needle style tuner? Will the pedal tuner fit on my pedal board? Do I have power for the tuner on my power supply? Can I power other pedals off of my tuner pedal?

If you ask yourself these questions, you should be able to narrow down your options and find the tuner that best fits your needs. Remember, if you aren’t playing in tune, it just won’t sound right and your audience or bandmates won’t be happy. Friends don’t let friends play out of tune. Take the time between songs or takes when recording to make sure you are in tune. Use the same tuner for the band if you are recording. That will help the overall tuning of the song you capture to tape or drive.

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