Open D Tuning

One of the most commonly used alternate tunings is that of Open D. The tuning is used across many different styles of guitar music but most commonly it is used in blues and folk music.

How to tune to Open D


Open D tuning tunes the strings of the guitar so that when all the strings are played open it forms a D Major chord. The D Major chord is formed from the three notes which make up the D Major triad, these are the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of the D Major scale, which are D, F# and A respectively. Thus, each of the guitar strings in open D tuning will be tuned to one of these three notes.



Thankfully, these notes are easiy accessible without too much retuning from the standard guitar tuning. If we take a guitar with standard tuning of E-A-D-G-B-E we can look at the changes to be made to reach open d tuning. Starting from the 6th string which is the thickest string:

The lowest E string gets tuned down two half steps to D.

The A string remains the same and is not retuned.

The D string remains the same and is not retuned.

The G string gets tuned down a half step to F#

The B String gets tuned down two half steps to A

The highest E string gets tuned down two half steps to D.


Here it is in an easier to read table: 


Guitar String Standard Tuning tuning alteration Open D Tuning
6th E Down 2 half steps D
5th A No change A
4th D No change D
3rd G Down 1 half step F#
2nd B Down 2 half steps A
1st E Down 2 half steps D

 

 

Chords in Open D

 

One of the good things about playing blues in Open D is you can easily access many of the most common chords used in blues music. The scale degrees I IV and V, which are D, G and A respectively in the D Major scale, form the standard '3 chord trick' which is the basis for many blues tunes and these are very easily accessed and transitioned between in this tuning. Scale degrees IV7 and V7, which are G7 and A7 on the D Major scale, are also easily accessible and are commonly used in this style of music.

In addition, scale degree vi, which is Bm in the D Major scale, is also easy to get to and this forms the 4th chord in the standard 50's sequence along with I, IV and V. Although this chord isn't commonly used in blues its handy to know where it is.

Using a handy little website called chordgenerator.net I have put together a list of the most common chords used when playing blues music in open D. For a more comprehensive list of chords you can easily find them by doing an internet search or, as I do, use powertab editor which has an excellent chord generator built in.


Blues Shuffle


In addition, this tuning allows you to play many of the blues shuffle sequences more easily than in standard tuning. The standard 12 bar blues shuffle becomes a lot easier than in standard tuning, negating the need for the wide left hand stretches. We will look at blues shuffle sequences later but for just now I will post a tab for the standard 12 bar blues shuffle in Open D tuning.

Here is a link to a powertab version of the blues shuffle (which will require powertab to play) and below is a text version


Open D Blues Shuffle Powertab 


                 STANDARD 12 BAR BLUES SHUFFLE IN OPEN D TUNING
 
Tuning (D A D F# A D) 
 
4/4

|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|------------------|
|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|------------------|
|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|------------------|
|-0-0-2-0-0-0-2-0-|-0-0-2-0-0-0-2-0-|-0-0-2-0-0-0-2-0-|-0-0-2-0-0-0-2-0--|
|-0-0-2-0-0-0-2-0-|-0-0-2-0-0-0-2-0-|-0-0-2-0-0-0-2-0-|-0-0-2-0-0-0-2-0--|
|-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-|-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-|-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-|-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0--|


|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
|-5-5-7-5-5-5-7-5-|-5-5-7-5-5-5-7-5-|-0-0-2-0-0-0-2-0-|-0-0-2-0-0-0-2-0-|
|-5-5-7-5-5-5-7-5-|-5-5-7-5-5-5-7-5-|-0-0-2-0-0-0-2-0-|-0-0-2-0-0-0-2-0-|
|-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-|-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-|-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-|-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-|


|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
|-7-7-9-7-7-7-9-7-|-5-5-7-5-5-5-7-5-|-0-0-2-0-0-0-2-0-|-7-7-9-7-7-7-9-7-|
|-7-7-9-7-7-7-9-7-|-5-5-7-5-5-5-7-5-|-0-0-2-0-0-0-2-0-|-7-7-9-7-7-7-9-7-|
|-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-|-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-|-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-|-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-|

Slide Guitar and Fingerstyle Playing

 

One of the most useful applications of the Open D tuning is playing slide guitar. In this tuning, because the major chords are formed with a barre across all six strings, you can access these chords using the slide which isn't possible in standard tuning. In addition, it allows you to use various thumb picking patterns on the open lower strings whilst still allowing you to slide around on the upper strings. Again this is tricky in standard tuning because of the need to fret the underlying chords for the bass picking patterns.


Video


Here is a video showing how to tune your guitar to open D and a brief look at some of the things you can do in this tuning.


I will post various other songs and lessons using this tuning in the not too distant future.

Thanks for looking,
Neil

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