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Alternate Guitar Tuning

Using an alternate guitar tuning is a good way of adding different sounds to the guitar. The guitar doesn’t have to be tuned in the standard E A D G B E tuning.There are quite a few players that don’t use the standard tuning at all or very little. George Thorogood is one example. His reason is he plays slide guitar in most songs.

An alternate tuning is usually tuned to a chord using the Root, 3rd and 5th as open string tones. The 3rd can be flatted 1/2 tone(1 fret) making it a minor chord tuning.

A good way is to get another guitar and use it for non standard tunings like for slide guitar.

Some finger pickers like these and other tunings because it brings the notes closer together for fretting. This is something Classical guitarist’s won’t lower themselves(Joke) to do.

Guitar Set-up

There are three ways to set a guitar up for alternate tunings.

Slide Only – One

If you are only going to play slide guitar then you can set your string height high. This will get a real clean sound. You also want to use heavier gauge strings.

Slide and Regular – Two

The second way is you have to compromise a little so you can finger notes and chords and also play slide. You can’t use thin strings for slide they don’t sound good at all. So you have to find strings that you can finger and play slide, a medium gauge should be good to start with. You might have to raise your string action too so you dont get fret bang from the slide.

Regular – Three

The 3rd way is if you are going to fingerpick or just play like normal. This is how Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones plays in a G or E tuning.

He plays the song Brown Sugar in an open G tuning but not always. He is also known for changing the way he plays songs now and then.

Try an Open Tuning

Even if you don’t want to play slide or finger pick try tuning your guitar to one of these tunings.

It doesn’t sound the same as a fretted chord and really sounds good on an acoustic guitar.

Caution! You might get hooked on that open chord sound. I think that’s what happened to Keith Richards. He likes to play in the G tuning a lot. Brown Sugar was recorded using this tuning although it could be played in a standard tuning but it wouldn’t have the same sound.

Tune up and try one.

If you like this sound you will want to pick up a slide or two for playing.

What makes this style appealing is you don’t have to know a lot about music to sound professional. You just need to perfect the slide technique.

Open E Tuning
Alternate Guitar Tuning

This open tuning tunes the guitar so when you strum all the strings you hear an E chord. I’ve had people that don’t play strum a guitar tuned this way and they think that playing the guitar is easy because they played that open chord that sounded good.

The guitar gets tuned as follows.

  • E string(heavy) = E = Root
  • A string = B = 5th
  • D string = E = Root
  • G string = G♯ = 3rd
  • B string = B = 5th
  • E string = E = Root

This tuning is equal to this chord but you don’t have to use any fingers.

This one is an alternate guitar tuning popular for slide guitar. You will find a lot of songs with slide are written in the key of E.

Listen to George Thorogood, Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Winter, or The Allman Brothers

They each have a unique slide technique that you will recognize when you hear one of their songs for the first time or if you hear them in concert with another group.

Here is another page with some more on the E tuning.

Open E Tuning

Open D Tuning
Alternate Guitar Tuning

This tuning is easier on the guitar neck because it is tuned lower. Most guitars are made for the stress of standard tuning or close to it.

This tuning is the same as E except it is one whole tone lower. The scale degrees(Root, 3rd and 5th) are in the same order as E tuning.

Here is how it gets tuned

  • 6th string(heavy) = D = Root
  • 5th string = A = 5th
  • 4th string = D = Root
  • 3rd string = F♯ = 3rd
  • 2nd string = A = 5th
  • 1st string = D = Root

You leave the 4th and 5th string as is and retune the rest.

If you leave the 3rd string at G you get the DADGAD tuning which is a D suspended 4th. This tuning is popular in the Irish fiddle tunes in 6/8 time.

Open D = Open E a Whole Tone Lower

This tuning is the same as E. In other words from the 6th string to the 5th is a 5th interval and so on. They only difference is it’s a whole tone lower.

So anything you read about the E tuning can be applied to the D tuning as well.

Your main blues keys are D, G and A without using a capo.

The D chord is open or 12th fret

The G chord is on the 5th fret

The A chord is on the 7th fret

Here is a page with some more info and open chords for D tuning.

Open D Tuning

Open G Tunings
Alternate Guitar Tuning

This is Keith Richards favorite open tuning. A lot of Stones songs were recorded using this tuning Brown Sugar is one of them.

The G tuning is close to the standard E A D G B E so you might hear a song played in either tuning like at a concert where the song was recorded in G tuning but played live in standard tuning or the opposite.

This tuning has two types a high and a low. It changes the 6th and 5th string tunings.

Low G tuning

  • 6th string(heavy) = D = 5th
  • 5th string = G = Root
  • 4th string = D = 5th
  • 3rd string = G = Root
  • 2nd string = B = 3rd
  • 1st string = D = 5th

High G Tuning

  • 6th string(heavy) = G = Root
  • 5th string = B = 3rd
  • 4th string = D = 5th
  • 3rd string = G = Root
  • 2nd string = B = 3rd
  • 1st string = D = 5th

More G Tuning Stuff

Open G Tuning

Open A Tuning
Alternate Guitar Tuning

This open tuning is the same as the G but one whole tone higher.

The A tuning puts a little more stress on the guitar neck but you can get almost the same results by putting a Capo on the 2nd fret and just move all your chords and licks up two frets.

Here’s the A tuning

  • 6th string(heavy) = E = 5th
  • 5th string = A = Root
  • 4th string = E = 5th
  • 3rd string = A = Root
  • 2nd string = C♯ = 3rd
  • 1st string = E = 5th

More about the A tuning.

Open A Tuning

Many More Tunings

You can tune a guitar to just about any custom tuning you can think of. I think it is Joni Mitchell that has a guitar set up to change to a lot of different custom tunings for playing live. She uses some very uncommon tunings which gives her a unique sound besides her voice.

Thank You for Visiting our Alternate Guitar Tuning Page.

I hope you found this page useful.