Open D tuning is one of the most popular alternate tunings and a creative tool that many guitarists enjoy. Whether you’re composing your own original music or just playing your favorite songs, it will for sure expand your music theory knowledge and guitar-playing skills. You will discover so many new possibilities and different chord shapes to play on your guitar.
In this article, I listed some of my favorite songs in Open D tuning from a variety of genres and artists. You’ll also notice that I get into more depth with some songs over others, and that’s because these are the songs I personally tried learning in Open D tuning myself; therefore, I can provide you with more insight and tips to get started! Alright, without further ado, below is a list of songs in Open D tuning.
Table of Contents
- 1. The Cave by Mumford and Sons
- 2. Little Martha by the Allman Brothers
- 3. Dust My Broom by Elmore James
- 4. Ivy by Taylor Swift
- 5. Show-biz Blues by Fleetwood Mac
- 6. Like Crying by Fleetwood Mac
- 7. The Gardener by The Tallest Man on Earth
- 8. Buckets of Rain by Bob Dylan
- 9. Open Your Eyes by Alter Bridge
- 10. Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell
- 11. Simple Twist Of Fate by Bob Dylan
- 12. Lovestain by Jose Gonzalez
- 13. She Talks To Angels by The Black Crowes
- 14. Even Flow by Pearl Jam
- 15. Shake Your Money Maker by James Elmore
- 16. Barcelona by George Ezra
- 17. Late July by Shakey Graves
- 18. Motion Sickness by Phoebe Bridgers
- 19. Pretty Mary K by Elliott Smith
- 20. Into the Mystic by Van Morrison
- 21. Lump Sum by Bon Iver
- 22. Highway 51 Blues by Bob Dylan
- 23. Jive Talkin’ by Bee Gees
- 24. Dreamin’ by Mac DeMarco
- 25. Re: Stacks by Bon Iver
- 26. Loser by Beck
- 27. How You Can Mend a Broken Heart by Bee Gees
- 28. Girl in the Forest by Calexico
- 29. What He Wrote by Laura Marling
- 30. Agape by Bear’s Den
- 31. Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes
- 32. A Life of Illusion by Joe Walsh
- 33. Wasteland, Baby by Hozier
- 34. Taro by Alt-J
- 35. Crippled Inside by John Lennon
- 36. Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell
- 37. Mountains By Message to the Bears
- 38. Oxford Town by Bob Dylan
- 39. Your Love is Forever by George Harrison
- 40. 1999 by beabadoobee
- 41. Acadian Driftwood by The Band
- 42. Graduate by Third Eye Blind
- 43. Santa Monica Dream by Angus & Julia Stone
- 44. Fitzpleasure by alt-J
- 45. Oceans by Pearl Jam
- 46. Chelsea Morning by Joni Mitchell
- 47. Magnolia by Gang of Youths
- 48. The Thrash Particle by Modern Baseball
- 49. Sunshine Road by Owen Campbell
- 50. Broken Crown by Mumford & Sons
1. The Cave by Mumford and Sons
|Tabs||View The Cave Tabs Here|
Mumford and Sons are an English folk-rock band from London. They have four incredible studio albums, which garnered them numerous awards over the years. Mumford and Sons’ songs are great if you are starting to learn songs in Open D tuning. I may be a bit biased because I saw them play live and fell in love with their music, but ‘The cave’ is one of the best songs ever written in Open D tuning, in my opinion. The Cave is actually their third single ever and was released off their debut album ‘Sigh No More’ after ‘Little Lion Man’ and ‘Winter Winds’. Off the bat, it got nominated for grammy awards, including Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song, Song Of The Year, and Record Of The Year.
Like many typical folk songs, “The Cave”s structure is a pretty basic ‘verse,’ ‘chorus’ type of structure. The way to play this song is very simple strumming, that’s why this is a great song to start with if you just learned how to tune to Open D or if you’re looking for a song to learn quickly in Open D. This song is all about how free and grande it sounds, so don’t hold back on the belting either!
2. Little Martha by the Allman Brothers
|Tabs||View The Little Martha Tabs Here|
The lesson video above is in Open E tuning; however with your guitar in Open D tuning, you can simply put a capo on the second fret, and then the song is played the same. “Little Martha” was the only song written by band leader Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers Band. It was actually recorded just a few weeks before his death in an accident and made it as the last track in their fourth studio album “Eat A Peach.”
The Allman Brothers were an American rock band formed in the late sixties in Georgia by brothers Duane Allman and Gregg Allman, alongside Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Bush Trucks, and Jai Johanny. The band played a mix of blues, jazz, and country music and filled their live shows with a ton of instrumentals and jam improvs.
This song is originally in open E, but tuning your guitar in this tuning really puts tension on the strings, so many people cover it in Open D instead. “Little Martha” should be played on an acoustic guitar in a bouncy fingerstyle approach. This song is performed as a guitar duet with Dickey Betts with very little accompaniment so it might be a little challenging to play on your own. However, it’s a pretty simple song melodically and rhythmically, and that’s what made it instantly popular among fans. According to Leo Kotte, who used to cover the song, it is “the most perfect guitar song ever written.”
3. Dust My Broom by Elmore James
|Tabs||View Dust My Broom Tabs Here|
“Dust My Broom” is a blues song by American blues artist Robert Johnson. It was originally recorded as “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” and is actually based on an earlier blues song, “I Believe I’ll Make a Change,” much like most of his songs. Elmore James recorded the song in 1951, and this is the version that ended up being the one everyone knows and loves!
The original song by Johnson was performed in a Delta blues style and consisted of only his vocals and an acoustic guitar. James took his triplets and adapted them in a slide guitar style which is now considered one of the most well-known guitar riffs in blues history. The song has then been covered by many musicians over the years and has been selected for the Blues Foundation Blues Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame, and the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry.
To play this song, you will be mostly playing with a slide on your pinky with your other fingers behind the slide for support and prevent any noise. Measures 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, and 8 are completely played with the slide, and measures 5,6, 9, and 12 are played without!
4. Ivy by Taylor Swift
|Tabs||View Ivy Tabs Here|
In “Ivy,” we hear Taylor Swift tap into her powerful storytelling skills to describe the rush of a secret love affair. The song is part of Swift’s ninth album Evermore, packed with minimalist folky acoustic records like this one. Her lovely voice floats above delicate fingerpicking in Open D tuning and is accompanied by endearing banjos.
5. Show-biz Blues by Fleetwood Mac
|Tabs||View Show-biz Blues Tabs Here|
The first song by Fleetwoodmac that you can learn to play right away in Open D is “Showbiz Blues,” a song off their “Then Play On” Album, which is actually one of my all-time favorite albums by them. This song has such a bluesy-country sound and is a lot of fun to play on the guitar.
The song was written by Peter Green but was also recorded by Gary Moore on his “Blues for Greeny” album (A tribute album to Peter Green), so give that version a listen as well before you start learning it! This song is awesome to play in Open D tuning using a country-blues-style slide guitar. On the “Then Play on” Album, Peter’s guitar is slightly flat, but in the Gary Moore version, you’ll find that it’s played in Open D.
6. Like Crying by Fleetwood Mac
|Tabs||View Like Crying Tabs Here|
Another Fleetwood Mac song and also from the “Then Play On” Album, “Like Crying,” is another favorite to play in Open D! What’s amazing about this album is that you constantly feel like you rediscover it when you listen to it many times. The tracks on this album ricochet between a bluesy and psychedelic rock sound. This song specifically is more of the bluesy type of song on this album.
“Like Crying” is a duet between Danny Kirwan and Peter Green and sounds like an Everly Brothers-style song, according to Kirwan. It’s really fun to play the guitar riff and really lets you break away from the typical shapes you’re used to playing without open tuning.
7. The Gardener by The Tallest Man on Earth
|Tabs||View The Gardener Tabs Here|
The Tallest Man on Earth is the stage name of Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson. He plays many of his songs in open tunings and was inspired mainly by Nick Drake during his twenties. He chose this style because it allowed him to pair his vocals with intricate guitar techniques; that’s the beauty of playing in open tunings. Many compare his music to Bob Dylan and similar artists. Matsson is a great guitarist and finger-picker, and you’ll notice that immediately by listening to his songs.
“The Gardener” was his debut album “Shallow Grave” ’s first single, one of my favorite songs off the record. It’s quite the haunting, unsettling type of song. The song talks about the murders he committed to keep his image of being the “Tallest man” in the mind of a lover.
His voice is rich and takes center stage, much like his guitar playing is mostly strumming and fingerpicking, inspired by the American south.
This song is quite the poetic, front-porch type and is the perfect song to add to your Open D song repertoire. There are many variations and covers on the internet playing it in standard tuning or with a capo on the second fret, but the right way to play this song is in Open D, like the original version.
8. Buckets of Rain by Bob Dylan
|Tabs||View Buckets of Rain Tabs Here|
How can we have a list of songs in Open D tuning without including Bob Dylan? Bob Dylan is the artist of this type of guitar technique. One song I love by him and have learned myself is “Buckets of Rain.”
“Buckets of Rain” was released in 1975 on Bob Dylan’s famous album “Blood on the Tracks.” It was originally recorded in E major but sounds just as good in Open D. The song has only two instruments, bass and acoustic guitar, so it will be fairly easy to learn. It may initially seem difficult to learn, but once you’ve figured out the main pattern, it should be pretty easy. This song will help you sharpen your sliding technique for sure.
This song is one of those old blues folk songs, mostly due to its arrangement. The melody and the guitar are playing together while the bass is playing only D notes creating some sort of drone underneath that carries the guitar and vocals on top. The only fingerpicking you’ll do will be on the first high D, the third F# strings, and briefly on the high A string.
As easy as it sounds, though, many people don’t pick it up immediately. Depending on your guitar-playing skills and how advanced you are, it might take some repetition and practice before you get this one right.
9. Open Your Eyes by Alter Bridge
|Tabs||View Open Your Eyes Tabs Here|
Alter Bridge is one of the best American rock bands formed in the 2000s! The band consists of Myles Kennedy, Mark Tremonti, Brian Marshall, and Scott Phillips, some of which came from the former American rock band Creed.
“Open Your Eyes” from the band’s debut album “One Day Remains” instantly became one of their most popular hit songs. This is one of the easier songs, and it’s in Open D, or is it? Yes, it is, but technically it’s not the same Open D tuning traditionally used but rather utilizes all D and A open notes for a kind of alternative Open D tuning, DADADD. This leaves you with some really cool chord shapes to get you started. I would suggest you use a pick for this one to get the strong strumming open sound of this song. Learning the solo will be the main challenging part of learning this song, but with a little bit of practice, I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it. The vocal melody is pretty simple as well, and anyone can sing along with their guitar!
10. Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell
|Tabs||View Big Yellow Taxi Tabs Here|
“Big Yellow Taxi” was written, composed, and released by Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell in 1970 on her album “Ladies of the Canyon.”
This is an intermediate-level song to learn in Open D tuning. It’s got some barre chords, and the playing style is strumming. The song is originally played in the key of E; you can technically tune your guitar up to open E, but as we’ve established before, this would put a lot of pressure on your strings, so tuning to Open D and then putting a capo on the second fret is the best alternative!
This song is all about the rhythm, so make sure you practice the strumming pattern to make sure it’s both rhythmic, and the chords come out clean at the same time. Use a pick on this one, too, to get the right strumming sound. Don’t worry if you don’t get it sounding exactly like the original, though, it’s not absolutely necessary to get the exact combination of when your fingers are coming down and going off the strings. Feel free to experiment and find a way that feels natural to you; this song is a lot of fun to play!
Popular Related Articles: Easy Songs to Play on Guitar
11. Simple Twist Of Fate by Bob Dylan
|Tabs||View Simple Twist Of Fate Tabs Here|
Another one by a great artist, “Simple Twist of Fate,” is off Bob Dylan’s 15th studio album “Blood on the Tracks.” The lyrics for this song have been changed and rewritten many, many times over the years, and he never sings it like the original record anymore. Almost all the songs on “Blood On The Tracks” were written in open E-tuning. As I’ve mentioned above, I don’t advise you to tune your guitar up; rather, tune it down to Open D and put a capo on the second fret to get to the key of E.
The song features just an acoustic guitar, harmonica, and bass. It is a pretty easy one to learn, it has no barre chords and a lot of strumming, so you’ll really enjoy it if you’re just starting out with the guitar. The strumming pattern is also very simple and is maintained throughout the whole song, so learn the pattern first to get it out of the way, then go on to learn the chords.
For this song, If you start by learning the chords to the intro, you’ll find that you’ve already learned the whole song because the chords for the verses are exactly the same. Now, there are a couple of areas where you’ll find the harmonica solos, but you can just skip them. The only other variation is the outro which should also be extremely easy to learn! This is one of my favorite Open D tuning songs.
12. Lovestain by Jose Gonzalez
|Tabs||View Lovestain Tabs Here|
Before we start, No, this song is technically not played in Open D tuning. But it is similar in that the low E is tuned down a full step to D, and the G string is tuned down a half step to F#, resulting in quite a unique tuning used by José Gabriel González here, DADF#BE. José combines his Latin background with a Scandinavian approach to songwriting, which makes his sound quite unique, shifting away from the typical western ideal of folk and acoustic music. His lyrics manage to take you inwards on a poetic journey of peacefulness and healing.
‘Lovestain’ from his debut album “Veneer” has such an incredible pace despite only being vocals and guitar, aided by quiet handclaps. This is one great song to learn in Open D tuning and quite different from the typical bluesy-type songs that make up most of this list. “Lovestain” will challenge your fingerpicking techniques, but once you learn it, it should be fairly easy to play. Just add some simple vocals on top, and you’re good to go!
13. She Talks To Angels by The Black Crowes
|Tabs||View She Talks To Angels Tabs Here|
“She Talks to Angels” is a song by the rock band The Black Crowes from their debut album “Shake Your Money Maker” and was the fourth single released from the album. The Black Crowes have sold more than 30 million albums and are listed amongst VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.
In a webisode, Chris Robinson (lead singer and founder) explained that the song’s lyrics are based on a “goth girl” he got to know in Atlanta who was “into heroin” and about the club scene generally in their early days.
The song was covered many times by other artists, including the band Shinedown and Mark Morton.
When you start to learn “She Talks to Angels,” you will find that the timing can be a little tricky to master, but if you take your time to learn it slowly, it should not be too difficult. This is definitely a rock-ballad type of song. Don’t forget to add your capo to the second fret after you tune down to Open D. You will be learning some riffs, licks, and strumming patterns for this song; definitely a good one!
Popular Related Article: List of Songs in Drop D Tuning
14. Even Flow by Pearl Jam
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“Even Flow” is a song by the American rock band Pearl Jam, and it was released as the second single from the band’s debut album, “Ten.” I’m sure most of you know who Pearl Jam is, but just in case you don’t, Pearl Jam is considered one of the most influential alternative rock bands of the ’90s.
“Even Flow”’s lyrics were written by vocalist Eddie Vedder & the music was composed by guitarist Stone Gossard. The song describes the story of a homeless man with strong imagery of his experience. In the song, the homeless man sleeps “on a pillow made of concrete” and begs passersby for spare change. Vedder further explained later that the song was inspired by a homeless Vietnam War veteran who became his friend at the same time he was working on Pearl Jam’s first album. Evidently, Vedder wrote the song after learning that the man had died while they were on tour.
On the original recording of the song, it actually doesn’t sound like a perfect D major; it sounds like it is a big sharp or tunes up accidentally or intentionally, who knows.
So for this song, the music was written by guitarist Stone Gossard, playing his parts in Open D tuning, and McCready complemented it with a similar strumming pattern in standard tuning. There’s also a funk guitar riff that was recorded in the song by Gossard. All throughout the song, we have two separate guitar parts playing together. So when you’re learning how to play this song, I’d suggest starting with the lower guitar part first, followed by the higher parts, played by Mike McCready, that work over it. Some parts are strumming, and some are slide guitar so you can alternate between the two to play both parts as if they are phrases answering each other.
For this song specifically, I’d suggest not even trying to get your version to be spot on with the original because even the original song has never been played live, exactly like the recording after it had been released. Just try to put your own flair on it and have fun with it.
15. Shake Your Money Maker by James Elmore
|Tabs||View Shake Your Money Maker Tabs Here|
“Shake Your Money Maker”! Who Knows it? Our final song on the list is “Shake Your Money Maker,” a song recorded and released by Elmore James in the early sixties. This song has become a blues standard, inspired by earlier blues songs; it has been interpreted, covered, and recorded by several blues and other artists over the years. “Shake Your Moneymaker” has been included on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll,” and the Blues Foundation inducted it into the Blues Hall of Fame as a “Classic of Blues Recording.”
I’m personally a huge fan of Emore James’ both guitar playing and vocals. “Shake Your Moneymaker” is an up-tempo twelve-bar blues that features a slide guitar. It’s absolutely classic, and that’s why I chose this as our last song on the list. Although this song can be dated back to many other songs, James’s version is the one that stuck with history.
As you will probably figure out, this isn’t a beginner’s song to learn. Slide guitar is not just something you learn overnight, but this song is a great way to start learning for sure. It may take some time, but there’s always a starting point, and once you practice it, you’ll find that you learn some classic shapes and styles we see being played in many slide guitar songs in Open D.
You will notice that the song speeds up gradually, starting off around 170 bpm, and by the time it is finished, it’s all the way up to 190 bpm. The guitar is mostly simple rhythmic phrases answering the vocals with harmonies and rhythmic parts of similar sound to a horns section, if that makes sense. If you’re familiar with slide guitar, though, then this song should be a piece of cake to learn.
You can either play this song on your own or with a friend, but if you’re playing it solo, you can alternate between the two parts of the guitar, the rhythmic part and the slide fills in between, with vocals sitting on top.
16. Barcelona by George Ezra
|Tabs||View Barcelona Tabs Here|
British folk-pop icon George Ezra uses his unmistakably deep voice, sweet acoustic melodies, and brilliant songwriting skills to turn his travels into beautiful songs. Though not as popular as his breakout hit “Budapest,” “Barcelona” is a lovely ballad that’s sure to make you fall in love with the city.
This is a fingerstyle song with captivating patterns and an offbeat syncopated rhythm in Open D tuning. Check out the tabs and tutorials for a note-by-note breakdown.
17. Late July by Shakey Graves
|Tabs||View Late July Tabs Here|
Famous by his stage name Shakey Graves, Alejandro Rose-Garcia combines mightly fingerpicking, string bends, and unique pedal effects to complement his poetry. His eclectic catalog is home to “Late July,” a fantastic song to expand your fingerpicking skills in Open D tuning.
Complex fingerpicking patterns put it out of the beginner-level league. Meanwhile, a solid foundation in fingerstyle will make it way easier to add this tune to your repertoire.
18. Motion Sickness by Phoebe Bridgers
|Tabs||View Motion Sickness Tabs Here|
Phoebe Bridgers’ rapid rise to stardom is no accident. The indie-folk icon’s atmospheric acoustic melodies and honest songwriting often remind you of the late Elliott Smith, who Bridgers often cites as her favorite musician.
In the upbeat “Motion Sickness,” she goes with heartfelt, honest lyrics about a past relationship instead of bitterness, as seen in most kiss-off ballads. The track featured in Bridgers’ critically acclaimed debut album and packs an Americana vibe.
19. Pretty Mary K by Elliott Smith
|Tabs||View Pretty Mary K Tabs Here|
Elliott Smith’s nuanced and observational songwriting has influenced a generation of musicians, including Phoebe Bridgers. Lyrically, “Pretty Mary K” proves to be a headscratcher. However, in terms of guitar, the New Moon album version of the song is an excellent example of fingerpicking in Open D tuning.
The song has Smith employing a Travis-picking pattern throughout, and anyone with a basic knowledge of fingerpicking should be able to tackle it with ease.
20. Into the Mystic by Van Morrison
|Genre||Blues, folk, rock|
|Tabs||View Into the Mystic Tabs Here|
True to its title, “Into the Mystic” is a calming song with blissfully poetic lyrics and a melange of genre-blending melodies. It was written and released by the iconic Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison and featured in his 1970 album Moondance. With simple yet captivating arpeggios and chord progressions, the tune takes listeners on a spiritual quest.
The entire song is based on Open D tuning with a capo on the first fret. You can even play it in the standard tuning with a capo on the third fret.
21. Lump Sum by Bon Iver
|Tabs||View Lump Sum Tabs Here|
“Lump Sum” appeared in the indie-folk band’s debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, whose success proved to be a game-changer for them. It is one of the most underrated songs from the album that also houses the band’s massively popular single “Skinny Love.”
From vocal delivery to atmospheric melodies to the spinning guitar outro, “Lump Sum” is pure perfection. It’s an easy-to-play Open D song, and you should be able to add it to your repertoire in no time.
22. Highway 51 Blues by Bob Dylan
|Genre||Blues, Folk rock|
|Tabs||View Highway 51 Blues Tabs Here|
Here’s a bluesy piece in Open D tuning straight out of the Nobel-prize-winning Bob Dylan’s catalog. “Highway 51 Blues” was originally composed by famous blues pianist Curtis Jones in 1938. It became a mainstream sensation after getting covered by Dylan in 1962.
As one of Dylan’s early works, this song had strong blues overtones but also gave listeners a glimpse of his love for rock and roll. It’s in Open D tuning and made up of three chords, E, A, and B, strummed really fast. Remember to place a capo on the 2nd fret to play along with the original.
23. Jive Talkin’ by Bee Gees
|Tabs||View Jive Talkin’ Tabs Here|
“Jive Talkin’” paved the path for the disco era for Bee Gees and made them one of the most successful bands in the genre. Believe it or not, the song’s interesting rhythm was inspired by the sound their car made on their daily commute to the studios.
With its catchy synth line, danceable beats, and singalong chorus, “Jive Talkin’” took no time to climb to conquer the Billboard charts. You may come across tutorials that teach the song in standard tuning, but the way Barry Gibb plays it in the original is all in Open D.
24. Dreamin’ by Mac DeMarco
|Tabs||View Dreamin’ Tabs Here|
Montreal-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mac DeMarco’s music is like a blast of fresh air. Like most of his tracks, “Dreamin’” is wonderfully weird. You hear DeMarco crooning and playing stunning guitar licks – All for the idea of that one perfect girl who pales all others in comparison.
Brace up for a pinky workout, as you’ll be using four fingers of your fretting hand here. You’ll need to tune your guitar down to D A D F# A D and then put a capo on the 2nd fret before getting started.
25. Re: Stacks by Bon Iver
|Tabs||View Re: Stacks Tabs Here|
A beloved tune from Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, “Re: Stacks,” instantly transports you to a cabin in the woods. In comparison to other tracks from the album, this song is almost entirely dominated by Justin Vernon’s ethereal vocals. So, while the vocals are tricky, emulating the Open D guitar parts is fairly easy. I’ve put the links to tabs and tutorials to help you get started.
26. Loser by Beck
|Genre||Alt-rock, hip hop|
|Tabs||View Loser Tabs Here|
Loaded with hooks and cryptic lyrics, “Loser” turned once-homeless Beck into a global sensation. It got an independent release, but the song’s surprising prominence on airwaves won fetched Beck a major record label deal.
It’s a delightful blend of folk, hip hop, and delta blues teeming with slide guitar riffs, tremolo, and sitar parts. All the guitar action is sure to make your lesson fun. To play along with the original, make sure you tune your guitar to D A D F# A D.
27. How You Can Mend a Broken Heart by Bee Gees
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The iconic Disco group’s first chart-topping hit in the U.S. is a great tune to level up playing in Open D tuning. With soulful lyrics and a folky acoustic-led rhythm, “How You Can Mend a Broken Heart” has all the trappings of a timeless hit. It puts the spotlight on instruments instead of Robin Gibb’s famous falsetto vocals. As a guitarist, I am not complaining!
28. Girl in the Forest by Calexico
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Chances are you may not have heard of this indie rock band, but if you want to explore Calexico’s diverse discography, I suggest starting with this one. “Girl in the Forest” features in the band’s soul-stirring ninth album, The Thread That Keeps us Together.
Lyrically, the entire album is focused on border politics and immigrant woes, while sonically, it aims for a rockier-than-usual sound. The track we’re talking about has a soft, folky sound and a hard-hitting message about preserving the environment.
29. What He Wrote by Laura Marling
|Genre||Acoustic Folk Moods|
|Tabs||View What He Wrote Tabs Here|
Here’s a lesser-known gem for those who are always on the lookout to expand their musical horizons. Inspired by wartime love letters, Laura Marling’s “What He Wrote” details a riveting self-discovery journey about a soldier’s wife left behind.
In this song, Marling’s smooth, calming voice shines over spare instrumentation. She plays delicate fingerpicking patterns on a guitar tuned to an Open D. You’ll sound closer to the original by placing a capo on the 2nd fret. Check out the tabs and tutorials to learn the tune from scratch. If you haven’t heard the song before, listening to it a few times will help you get in the groove.
30. Agape by Bear’s Den
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“Agape” is an excellent example of how chirpy Open D tuning can be if you want it to sound that way. Strummed acoustic guitars accompanied by banjos make the melody an absolute joy to the ears. The band behind this soulful piece is a well-known British folk-rock group, Bear’s Den, who came from the same musical circles as Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons.
This song is from the band’s debut Islands album and is among their most essential tracks. The lyrics revolve around a lost love and are powerful enough to stay with you long after the song is over. Once you’ve tuned your guitar to an Open D, put a capo on the 2nd fret to play in the key of the original. The chords you’ll be working with are E, C#m, B, and A.
31. Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes
|Tabs||View Helplessness Blues Tabs Here|
The release of Fleet Foxes’ eponymous debut album earned them a surprising amount of stardom for an indie folk band. That their success was no fluke was firmly established with their second album, more specifically, the crowd-favorite “Helplessness Blues.” The title track can be tackled by even beginning-level guitarists.
It’s got fast but straightforward with easy chord shapes. The tricky part is that you start with an Open D tuning with a capo on the first fret but need to switch to a standard tuning and ¾ time somewhere in the middle of the track.
32. A Life of Illusion by Joe Walsh
|Tabs||View A Life of Illusion Tabs Here|
This was the first song Joe Walsh released in his post-Eagles career. “A Life of Illusion” is a catchy blend of thought-provoking poetry and classic rock riffage on electric guitars that turned out to be a dream solo debut for Walsh.
It’s great for beginners, as the chords you use here can help you add plenty of rock tunes. The chords you’ll use here are D, G, and A after tuning your guitar to an Open D.
33. Wasteland, Baby by Hozier
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You won’t find “Wasteland, Baby” among Hozier’s most definitive singles, but it is pretty awesome. The title track in the Irish singer-songwriter’s second album came six years after the breakout single “Take Me to Church” in 2013.
The soft acoustic ballad talks about finding love in a dying world. As with most songs by Hozier, this is a fingerstyle gem where the thumb alternates between the sixth and fourth strings in the eighth-notes pattern through the strong.
34. Taro by Alt-J
|Tabs||View Taro by Alt-J Tabs Here|
Alt-J is one of today’s popular bands formed in Leeds by their lead vocalist and guitarist Joe Newman. The band consists of Joe Newman, Thom Sonny Green (drums), Gus Unger-Hamilton (keyboards/vocals), and Gwilym Sainsbury (guitar/bass).
One of my favorite songs for them is Taro, which you can play in Open D tuning! This song was written about the life of Gerda Taro and her partner Robert Capa. Gerda was the first female war photojournalist who covered wars in the mid 20th century and her partner was also a war journalist at the time. They both died while they were out working and the song describes how they reunited in the afterlife!
To play this song you should be following the structure of a typical song similar to ABAB however, there is no chorus but a repetitive recurring theme or “feeling”, if that makes sense. This is a fun song to play in Open D using mainly a fingerpicking style.
35. Crippled Inside by John Lennon
|Tabs||View Crippled Inside Tabs Here|
This rockabilly tune from John Lennon’s enduring Imagine solo album will make a great addition to your Open D repertoire. The barre chords in this alternate tuning make it a popular pick for fingerstyle and slide guitar. I believe the song’s slide guitar parts might have played a role in Lennon picking an open tuning.
Lyrically, “Crippled Inside” is another example of the former Beatle’s deeply reflective songwriting that became a mainstay of his solo career. Remember to place a capo on the 2nd fret after changing the tuning to D A D F# A D.
36. Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell
|Tabs||View Both Sides Now Tabs Here|
Joni Mitchell’s fascination with open tunings is no secret; her catalog is home to many masterpieces in Open D tuning. In 1969, Mitchell released Clouds album – a heart-stopping collection of masterpieces documenting her personal experiences.
“Both Sides Now,” a folky mid-tempo guitar-led ballad from the album, became a big hit for Mitchell, getting the trailblazing musician every bit of attention she deserved. Mitchell utilizes a unique version of the I-IV-V chord progression with a capo on the fourth fret to play this tune.
37. Mountains By Message to the Bears
|Tabs||View Mountains Tabs Here|
I’d be really impressed if you’ve heard this song because it’s one of the hidden masterpieces that deserve more audience. Bristol-born composer and multi-instrumentalist Jerome Alexander is better known by his musical alias, Message to the Bears.
The beautiful “Mountains” is a result of Alexander’s signature formula of blending acoustics, electronics, strings, and soft vocals. In fact, this is one of the very few of his tracks, possibly the only one, that has any vocals at all. The guitar parts, including the arpeggiated riffs, are tuned to an Open D with capo on the 4th fret.
38. Oxford Town by Bob Dylan
|Tabs||View Oxford Town Tabs Here|
“Oxford Town” is yet another Open D Dylan track to impress your audience with. The song has everything Dylan is hailed for hard-hitting poetry about the racial divide, gorgeous acoustic melody, and his signature harmonica.
The track from 1963 Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is a commentary on the Ole Miss riot triggered by the admission of a black student at the University of Mississippi. It’s a three-chord song with an acoustic strumming pattern that pretty much stays the same throughout. After you retune your guitar to Open D, put a capo on the 6th fret to play along with the original.
39. Your Love is Forever by George Harrison
|Tabs||View Your Love is Forever Tabs Here|
After John Lennon, another ex-Beatles makes an appearance on this list. The original idea behind “Your Love is Forever” was to compose a guitar-led instrumental in Open D tuning. But somewhere along the way, it became a full-blown rock song with beautifully mysterious lyrics true to Harrison’s trademark songwriting style.
The song is brimming with lovely arpeggios with a jaw-dropping slide guitar solo. You can learn it from start to finish by checking out the tabs and tutorials above.
40. 1999 by beabadoobee
|Tabs||View 1999 Tabs Here|
22-year-old Filipino-British artist Bea Kristi, aka beabadoobee, taps into the sounds of various genres to create dreamy, languid soundscapes. The charming “1999” is one of her early works where Kristi is heard singing about heartbreak over a backdrop of soft acoustic strumming.
There are quite a few chord variations, but they are simple and repetitive. The strumming pattern is also straightforward and stays the same throughout. You’ll need to tune your guitar to D A D F# A D before you begin. No capo is necessary here.
41. Acadian Driftwood by The Band
|Tabs||View Acadian Driftwood Tabs Here|
Before venturing on their own, The Band performed as a backup group for the likes of Bob Dylan and Ronnie Hawkins. Their music, a laid-back mix of country, folk, blues, and rock, makes for a great playlist on a rainy day.
“Acadian Driftwood” happens to be one of the most recognizable tunes from their 1975 album Northern Lights – Southern Cross. This folk-rock tune chronicles the ‘Acadian Migration’ during the 18th-century Anglo-Mi’kmaq War. All the chord progressions and the riffs are played on acoustics in Open D tuning.
42. Graduate by Third Eye Blind
|Tabs||View Graduate Tabs Here|
With “Graduate,” we go back to the late ‘90s. The energetic record comes from American pop-rock group Third Eye Blind’s self-titled album and documents their experience with a major record label.
All those familiar with pop-punk would find their sound somewhere between Green Day and Busted. The guitar work in “Graduate” kicks off with a clean, smooth intro before bringing in angsty distorted riffs. There’s also a killer wah solo for those up for a challenge.
43. Santa Monica Dream by Angus & Julia Stone
|Genre||Folk and indie pop|
|Tabs||View Santa Monica Dream Tabs Here|
Aussie siblings Angus and Julia Stone have produced an array of quaint, minimally-arranged folk pieces that’ll have you coming back for more. On the face of it, “Santa Monica Dream” by the duo sounds a mesmerizing tone to listen to on a lazy day. But on a closer listen, you come to know they’re singing about loss and regret.
The Stone siblings are known for alternating the vocal duties, but in this track, you hear harmonizing vocals from both over a sparse acoustic-led melody in Open D. You’ll need a capo on the 3rd fret to play this. To know more, check out the tabs and video lesson above.
44. Fitzpleasure by alt-J
|Tabs||View Fitzpleasure Tabs Here|
You’ll find tons of great tracks in the Open D tuning in alt-J’s discography. The alternative indie pop group is known to push the envelope with its experimental sound. In the incredibly edgy “Fitzpleasure,” you’ll find tra-la-la chants with elements of dubstep and electronica. Musically, it’s a ridiculously catchy tune with hooks that’ll make your head their home.
The track opens with chants, with the guitar joining it at one minute mark. The guitar parts are driven by simple, beginner-friendly riffs. You can learn how to play the riffs and guitar melody by exploring the tabs above.
45. Oceans by Pearl Jam
|Tabs||View Oceans Tabs Here|
“Oceans” stands out in Pearl Jam’s Ten album in terms of sonic elements. In fact, I would go as far as to say it’s unlike any other track in the grunge pioneers’ vault. The lyrics were inspired by band vocalist Eddie Vedder’s love for surfing and a person named Beth. Meanwhile, the music was jointly written by guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament.
Gossard’s choice of Open D tuning is beautifully explained by him in a Q&A session with the Scottish Tabloid Daily Record. According to him, the art of songwriting is similar to Open D tuning, where simple chords and aesthetic chords come together to create something beautiful. This is also a perfect tune to bust out during campfire sesh and easy to nail, too!
46. Chelsea Morning by Joni Mitchell
|Tabs||View Chelsea Morning Tabs Here|
“Chelsea Morning” appears in the same album as the other Open D tune, “Both Sides Now.” With her vivid use of imagery, Mitchell describes her life in a Chelsea neighborhood.
For some reason, Mitchell doesn’t consider the track among some of her best work. Regardless, the sweet, honest song creates a strong impression on the listeners – so much so that Hillary and Bill Clinton named their daughter Chelsea after listening to a cover version during a stroll.
47. Magnolia by Gang of Youths
|Tabs||View Magnolia Tabs Here|
Formed in Sydney and now based out of London, Gang of Youths is an electrifying, anthemic, catchy rock act capable of driving the crowd into a frenzy. Released in 2014, “Magnolia” proved a career-defining point for the band. It circles Dave Le’aupepe’s survival through tough times.
The breakout track is mostly made up of easy chord progressions played in Open D with capo on the 4th fret. The intro part, however, takes place without a capo. If you haven’t heard the song, play it on a loop a few times before attempting it.
48. The Thrash Particle by Modern Baseball
|Tabs||View The Thrash Particle Tabs Here|
Modern Baseball’s “Thrash Particle” is a fantastic power chord Open D tune that’s perfect for guitarists of all skill levels. There are two guitars in this song, one of which is tuned to Open D while the other is in D-standard. The video above shows you how the two differently-tuned guitars sound together.
For those unfamiliar with Modern Baseball, the Philadalphia-based group is known for blending emo, indie rock, punk-pop, and pop. This track is their attempt at writing a relatable song about what jealousy and bitterness can do to the best of us.
49. Sunshine Road by Owen Campbell
|Tabs||View Sunshine Road Tabs Here|
Open D is a favorite tuning of Bottleneck-style slide guitar players, and this Owen Campbell song is another example of that love affair. Campbell’s tryst with fame began with his much-talked-about appearances in Australia’s Got Talent, where his lack of reverence rubbed a few of the judges the wrong way. The fact that he was an extremely talented musician was established at the time he was in the running.
In his bluesy “Sunshine Road,” from the album of the same name, Campbell pairs slide guitar with captivating vocals. It’s one of the lesser-known songs on the list, but a great one. To play the slide parts, Campbell relies on a shot glass. You can either do that or go for a standard slider.
50. Broken Crown by Mumford & Sons
|Tabs||View Broken Crown Tabs Here|
“Broken Crown” may have missed cracking the top 20s on the Billboard charts, but it managed to make its way into fans and critics’ hearts. The song conveys uncertainty, anger, and grace through the heavy use of biblical references. It has a soft banjo intro, and acoustic guitars, with the vocals and instrumental arrangement intensifying as the song progresses.
What is Open D Tuning?
Open D tuning is one type of “alternate tunings” or “open tunings” which means it’s not the standard way of tuning your guitar. There are many types of alternate tunings but the Open D is one of the most popular ones and a favorite of many guitarists. It is especially popular amongst blues guitarists and guitarists who play slide guitar, but you will find that you use it to play whichever type of songs you prefer. Well, what does it sound like you ask? It sounds exactly like you are playing the D chord when you strum on the open strings (without pressing down any strings on the frets).
You will find that many of your favorite songs and songs from this list are played in open E-tuning. Well, it’s the relative tuning, however, in this case, it is much easier and safer to tune down your guitar to Open D tuning and then put a capo on the second fret to make it in the key of E. Is this confusing? It shouldn’t be, many artists prefer this method because tuning up to open E creates tension on your guitar strings which may cause them to break if you’re strumming powerfully. With Open D tuning, you get a well-balanced sound because the strings are relaxed!
How Do You Tune Your Guitar in Open D Tuning?
Alright, so now how do you actually tune your guitar to Open D? I will briefly explain how you can do that, then I’ll get into a list of fun cover songs that you can learn in this tuning! First, make sure to be using a reliable tuner, there are countless free apps that you can download for that to make sure you get accurate tuning. So the basic rule to tune your guitar to Open D tuning, you have to tune the strings to D A D F# A D.
When I first started I was always intimidated by that, but when I tried it on my guitar I found that it’s actually really simple and not complex at all! So, to do that, just lower the low E string a whole step down to D, keep the A and D strings as they are, lower the G string a half-step down to F#, lower the B a whole step down to A, and lower the high E a whole step down as well to D. And there you have it, your guitar is now tuned in Open D tuning!
A Quick tip is, don’t forget to go back and check the tuning a couple of times as the tension on the neck of the guitar adjusts. Now that you have finished tuning your guitar in Open D tuning, here are some songs with videos that you can learn right away and play along with!
So this concludes our list of songs in Open D! I really hope you enjoyed this article and learned more about the specifics of alternate tunings. I hope you also managed to discover a few songs and artists here and there. Good luck!
My name is Malak and I have extensive experience singing, songwriting, and vocal recording. I have been a professional singer, songwriter, recording artist, and audio editor for over years now, working on many challenging projects.
My tracks were featured on the biggest Spotify playlists like New Music Friday, Fresh Finds, and Pop Rising. My music was also reviewed on Rolling Stone, and featured on Notion, Elle, and other big magazines!