If you’ve never played in Open G tuning before, this article has everything you need to get started! I will cover everything from how to tune your guitar to Open G tuning, lesson tips on what to keep in mind when playing this tuning, and 17 awesome songs in open G tuning with video lessons and tabs included.
We’ll start by getting our guitars into tune using the visual guide above. Start with your guitar tuned to standard tuning, EADGBE, and then drop your low E string, A string, and your high E string each down 1 whole step resulting in DGDGBD tuning, aka “Open G”. If you’d like to watch a video on how to do this, check out this video lesson.
Now that we are in tune, let’s jump into 17 great songs to learn, but if you need additional help on understanding Open G, step by step instructions on getting in tune, or tips and tricks to keep in mind when playing, be sure to check out my comprehensive guide to open G tuning below.
List of Songs in Open G Tuning (Video Lessons and Tabs)
1. Twice As Hard by The Black Crowes
Anytime someone plays or even mentions The Black Crowes it is hard to not hear the driving straight 8th note rhythm section with the crunched up guitars of this song in your head and you find yourself head bobbing to the chorus. Kings of blues-rock, The Black Crowes, a southern rock band from Georgia are often compared to the rolling stones for their use of open G tuning. Having sold over 30 million records and being voted the best new American band in the year 1990 the comparison is not unfair, but all for the good really!
This one focuses on the 5th string tuned to a low G and the 4th string mostly, it sounds heavier than you’d expect due to the dropped tuning and lots of the Open string usage. Another song where you could just clip off the Low 6th string if you wanted to. The chord changes involve the rocking chord part which in standard tuning it would look like a Dmin7 chord shape on the 5th fret but here it would be a Csus4 sound with which you can rock out in proper Black Crowes/Keith Richard fashion!
2. Bad to the Bone by George Thorogood
Based on the classic blues riff that is also featured on the Bo Diddley Blues songs such as “I’m A Man, this song has a driving shuffle rhythm with tons of attitude to it. The song is a classic early 80s blues-rock sound stage with great use of the slide. The tune mostly stays on just one chord, the G chord, and pedals the same riff throughout making it perfect for beginners looking to rock out with the slide.
The riff moves between the open, 3rd, and 5th fret, so it is fairly easy to get going with. There are a few nuances to it which you can bring in string 3rd and the 5th string to make it heavier and dirtier. You can slide between the 3rd and the 5th fret or bend the power chords a bit if you are not using the slide. Before you dive in and start riffing on this tune, keep in mind that it is the 2nd note of the riff that lands on the downbeat so you really need to start playing the “pick up” first note before beat 1 to get the rhythm right! Eventually, once you get the riff down with a flow, try adding in some melodic bluesy licks with the open G tuning higher up on the fretboard making for a great call and response between the riff and the licks for the interludes! So are you really b-b-b-b-bad to the bone?
Bad to the bone features in several movies including Terminator 2, Problem Child, The color of money, if you have seen plenty of bar fight scenes from the movies of the 80s until the 2000’s you have heard this tune before!
3. Start Me Up by the Rolling Stones
Peaking at the #2 spot on the billboards charts this single from the stones album “Tattoo You” was originally intended to be arranged as a reggae tune by Keith Richards. Legend says that the stones recorded about 38 takes of the reggae version of “start me up” but it was shelved for five years before it was turned into the rocker that you hear today.
The song uses the classic Keith Richard’s open G tuning with the low 6th string clipped off with the bridge saddle removed and everything! The guitar tablature contains notation for just the top five strings. The rights to the tune were bought for 3 million$ by Microsoft in 1995 and the song was used for the launch of the Windows 95 advertisement. The Stones opened with this tune for their 1989 Steel Wheels tour and the song is often used at the start of sports events to this date, making it a staple at sporting events.
The infectious “thump” to the song was achieved using mixer Bob Clearmountain’s famed “bathroom reverb”, a process involving the recording of some of the song’s vocal and drum tracks with a miked speaker in the bathroom of the Power Station recording studio in New York City. It was at the studio that Mick changed the opening lyrics from “start it up to” to “start me up” and the rest as they say is history.
4. Daughter by Pearl Jam
Using an alternate version of the classic open G tuning, this song needs you to tune your low E 6th string up by 3 semitones to a G instead of dropping it down to the usual D. Tune-up slowly and carefully when you are trying this! The 5th i.e. the A string drops down a semitone to G as well, putting the 6th and the 5th string into a unison.
The song starts with an ever so pretty C add9 arpeggio (played in a power chord shape on the 5th fret of the 5th string) this intro add9 melody like arp is played just one time through the song in the intro before the drums kick in and the tune takes off. The chord changes mostly move between the 5fret and 7th fret power chord shapes for the intro using the other open strings to bring a lush open song so feel free to strum all the strings to make a big sound as you go about the rhythmic strumming of the guitar part.
5. Fearless by Pink Floyd
Written by Roger Waters and David Gilmour together, Fearless featured as the third song of what would be one of my favorite Pink Floyd albums, “Meddle”. Coming from one of Floyd’s most experimental albums this song is often overlooked but holds incredible depth and meaning to it.
Using an interesting variation on the regular open G tuning, this song uses the GGDGBB tuning which needs you to the high E down to a B note putting it in unison with the 2nd open B string and you’d need to tune low 6th string up 3 semitones to a G as well, putting that in into a unison tuning with the low 5th string. This alternate tuning gives the first open upwards strum its unique vibey character that you hear in the intro of the song.
Once you get the tuning right, the song is fairly easy to play. Just keep in mind that Roger Waters and David Gilmour used about 4 guitars layered up while recording this song so if you are trying to play this song alone on a single guitar then you’d probably need to come up with a hybrid version that works as a stand-alone part, which is actually quite workable for this tune. This is one of my favorite open G tuning songs to play.
6. Rain Song Led Zeppelin
A song that clearly defies classification, according to rock producer Rick Rubin this song is strong and mood and sad all at the same time. It’s one of those songs that’s bound to give you goosebumps throughout and every time you hear it. Jimmy Page uses his dan electro electric guitar and John Paul Jones plays a mellotron which sounds almost like an epic violin section morphed into a steel orchestra.
This emotional song with a grand arrangement was written as a response to George Harrison’s comment to John Bonham where he mentioned that Led Zepplin never seems to write any ballads which made Jimmy quote the Beatles “something” in the intro for the Rain song.
Using another interesting variation on the open G tuning, this one is tuned to a Gsus4 tuning making it DGCGCD where you tune the 2nd string up a half step from a standard B to a pitched up C note, and drop the 4th open standard D down by a whole tone to a C as well. Straight off the bat, this “Gsus4” tuning helps the song get its very moody vibe that is supported very well by Robert Plant’s melancholic and haunting vocals.
7. Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits
This classic love song uses the Open G tuning with a capo on the third fret. In a famous documentary, Mark Knopfler explained that he stumbled upon the opening arpeggio lines while experimenting with the open G tuning and used his resonator O guitar on this song! It’s those opening lines and the unique tone of the National Style “O” resonator guitar that gives this song a very memorable sound right from the start.
The arrangement of the song stays quite simple with the arpeggiated lines for the intro, chords, and strumming to support the vocals but eventually develops into a full-blown rock arrangement as the song progresses. The tom fill brings in the band from the lines “Juliet, the dice was loaded from the start..” the lyrics of this song are written in a very clever way. In classic dire straits fashion the song does not seem to have a classic “verse-chorus” structure to it yet the lines are easy to remember and you find yourself singing along to the words as naturally as it gets.
If you were anywhere around your teens or twenties between the 80s and the 90s you might have felt like this was “your song”! Technically this song is mostly shifting between F, Bb, C, and Dmin chords but it is using the open G tuning with the capo on the 3rd fret.
If you are trying to play this song, try the shape of the Bmin7 with the little finger on the 1st string 4th fret which actually plays a straight Fmaj chord in this shape. It is also one of those songs that is simpler to play than it sounds so give it a shot.
8. Honky Tonk Women by The Rolling Stones
Released as a B-side single on July 4th, 1969 this tune hit the top of the charts around the globe within the first week of its launch. In classic Keith Richard’s fashion, this song uses the open G tuning ignoring the lowest string on the guitar to come up with this tasty riff. The opening riff hammers on plenty of upbeats to come up with the jumpy rhythm and uses the 3rd & the 4th string with a tele like bridge pickup sound for the “honky” tone.
The song was originally written as “country honk” (released later on the album let it bleed) but eventually morphed into Honky Tonk Women as we know it now. Based on an idea from a Hank Williams/Jimmie Rodgers tune, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote this tune while vacationing in Brazil.
Inspired by the countryside, the cowboys, and the ranch they were living out of, the tune was originally written with a country rhythm and evolved into a slinkier, funkier version in the hands of the band when recording for the single release. “It’s one of those tunes that you knew it was a no.1 the moment we finished it”.
9. Remedy by The Black Crowes
Sticking true to their blues-rock sound “Remedy” was released as the first single and the 2nd song of the Black Crowes album called, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. What could almost be a fusion of the sounds of the Allman Brothers Band and the Led Zepp sound, this song presented itself as a remedy for the ears of a rock starved, gangsta rap saturated music scene of the states back in 1992.
With the guitar tuned to a chord (G) here, you can play chords with one finger, this song mostly focuses on the middle 2 strings, and adding the 3rd string for the lower 5th note barred with one finger makes for a thick power-chord which lends itself to the Keith Richard vibe some more. Just keep the rocky strumming pattern going as you shift through the single-finger-barred chords and add the box shape to it on and off for the chord variations! This is one of the more popular open G tuning songs.
10. Watch Over You by AlterBridge
While working on the album “Blackbird” the album’s producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette asked the band if they had any ballads for the album, that’s when Myles Kennedy brought up this tune he had written before his AlterBridge days using an open G tuning. The band’s guitarist Mark Tremonti had a bridge that fits perfectly into Myles’ verse-chorus and it fit like a sonic puzzle and thus came about “Watch over you”. It was released as the second single of the album and is often considered to be one of the best songs from Blackbird.
The ballad has a much slower, lighter, softer tone than the rest of the songs in the album and speaks about dealing with addiction and being unable to help someone who refuses to help themselves. An alternate version of the tune was later re-released featuring additional vocals by Lacuna Coil singer Cristina Scabbia.
11. Walkin Blues by Eric Clapton/Robert Johnson
Eric’s tribute to his hero, the OG blues guitarist Robert Johnson, walking blues can be a great workout for the slide enthusiasts. The tune uses tons of vibrato to get the mojo blues to vibe going and chromatics movements through the notes aplenty. Eric’s version from his “Unplugged” album is a single take recording of this beloved blues standard where you can hear him sing and play and also hear his foot tapping keeping the downbeat on the rhythm.
The original recording by Robert Johnson has a more uptempo feel and a tighter almost a “staccato” strum for the rhythm, he speeds up on the tempo as he goes through the changes and the verses featuring a variety of articulations while juggling between a melodic and a chordal style of playing. A great tune to pick up the resonator guitar for!
12. I Can’t be Satisfied by Muddy Waters
Another classic delta blues in open G tuning by the legend Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield) also known as the father of the Chicago blues. This song was written and recorded way back in 1948. It’s often said that the Rolling Stones got their name from the lyrics of this song. The Stones later covered this song and their cover version was released as the ninth song on the stones album “The Rolling Stones No. 2”
The intro of the tune uses the top 3 strings around the 12th fret sliding from the 10th into the 12th and jumps back to the 5th low string to go back to the root G. The whole essence of the guitar part lies in the call and response nature of the blues which plays between the vocals and the guitar, and also between the lead and rhythm guitar parts of the song.
13. Little Red Rooster by the Howlin’ Wolf/Rolling Stones
Howlin Wolf was born in the Mississippi delta and was later known as one of the most formidable Chiaco bluesmen with his formidable voice forming a rivalry with fellow Chicago blues master muddy waters. Little Red Rooster was originally written by Willie Dixon and quickly became a blues standard and was later recorded by artists like Howlin Wolf and the Rolling Stones. The Howlin Wolf record of the little red rooster is listed in the hall of fame as one of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll”
A much slower blues tune in open G tuning by the wolf’ is again a great tune for beginners to get started with the blues shuffle and with the slide. If you are trying to play this song. Do remember that with the slide, it’s best to place the glass slide over the fret unlike when you’re pressing down behind the fret usually without a slide. So when you’re right over the fretwire, use wide vibrato go back and forth on the fret making a significant pitch shift which brings on the classic blues slide. Also, slide into every note you play and you will have the feel down right away. With this tune, the dirtier and the sloppier the better it sounds.
Playing more than one string at a time keeps the sound bluesy and thick, remember you are always playing straight open position bar chords mostly. This one isn’t’ really a standard 12 bar blues. It’s more like a “blues bridge” starting straight from the IV chord and going back to the I like the last 8 bars of a standard 12 bar blues. This is one of those classic songs in open G tuning that I’ve always enjoyed playing.
14. Death Letter by The White Stripes
Originally known as the signature song of the delta bluesman Eddie “Son” House, Death letter has been covered and adapted by Grateful Dead, John Mellencamp, Chris Thomas King, David Johansen, Tony McPhee, the Derek Trucks Band, and more.
The White Stripes version has Jack White tuning his guitar to the open G tuning and playing on a slightly overdriven electric guitar accompanied by Meg White on drums. It was released on June 20, 2000, as the sixth song of their 2nd album “De Stijl”. It is a standard 12 bar blues arranged with heavy use of an almost broken sounding kick and tambourine groove by Meg, breaking into a sort of cymbal frenzy for the interludes. White’s tormented vocals and dirty slide guitar playing with Meg’s heavy groove turn this blues standard into a thunderstorm splattered with raw bluesy tune into an emotional rocker.
15. Nextdoor Neighbor Blues by Gary Clark Jr
One might easily assume that there aren’t too many good blues records being made nowadays, especially in the age of Spotify and streaming media but soon as you check out artists like Gary Clark Jr you’d be turned into a whole world newly recorded but authentic sounding blues and blues-rock music.
Released as the last track (no. 13) on his 2012 debut album, Gary splatters and spews a story about being cheated on and robbed by his girl with grungy blues voice and an old resonator acoustic guitar tuned to the open G tuning in a standard 12 bar G blues accompanied by a foot-stomping downbeat on what sounds like a hardwood floor. There exists a live version accompanied by fuzz guitar, heavy drums, and roaring bass which makes for a biz fuzzy blues rock soundscape, a treat for the blues starved ears in the digital age.
16. Can’t You Hear Me Knocking By Rolling Stones
Arguably one of the best Stones tunes ever, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking is well over 7 minutes in length. It is really two songs in one, a rock’n’roll tune followed by an extended jam. The tune features a killer rock’n’roll guitar riff by Keith Richards, the song has two guitar players, Keith (tuned to open G and heard on the Right Channel) and Mick Taylor (tuned Standard and panned left on the record). With Bobby Keys on sax and Billy Preston on keys, this lineup is often considered to be of the best that Stones had. As you dig into this tune you can definitely hear what a great rhythm guitarist Keith really is. It’s hard to tell if it is Tele or a Les Paul but it is a delightfully gritty guitar tone that he is going for here.
According to Mick Tayol and Keith, the jam at the end of the tune was not really planned. Apparently, everyone ended the tune together but Mick Taylor felt like he should keep playing and jam for a bit so everyone joined back in and the engineers kept the tape rolling. The boys took turns soloing for a bit each and initially thought they’d fade it out but ended up keeping the entire jam as a part of the song.
17. Troubles Will Be Gone by Tallest Man on Earth
Here’s a great example of open G by written by Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson, or as he’s known by his stage name “The Tallest Man on Earth”. This one is more of an advanced fingerpicking tune, but give it a shot and I think you might be surprised how quickly you can pick up on each part.
Comprehensive Guide To Open G Tuning On Guitar
What is Open G Tuning? Simply put, the Open G tuning is an alternate tuning that lets guitarists play an Open G chord without having to press any frets or use a capo. The reason this alternate tuning is called an Open G is that it requires you to tune the 6 strings of your instrument to the notes of the G chord, which are G, D, and B notes.
So, in an Open G tuning, you can play the G chord simply by strumming all your guitar strings, without having to press any fret whatsoever!
Open G tuning has an enjoyable bluesy tone that can potentially open up a whole new world of sonic and songwriting possibilities for you as a musician. This tuning makes it especially great for playing and composing tracks in the blues and folk genres. Several notes blues and folk musicians have made generous use of the Open G tuning such as Joni Mitchell, Robert Johnson, as well as legendary rock bands like The Rolling Stones and The Black Crowes.
As you can see in the diagram shared below, the standard E tuning of your guitar has the 6 strings tuned to the following notes:
- 6th (fattest) string: E
- 5th string: A
- 4th string: D
- 3rd string: G
- 2nd string: B
- 1st (thinnest) string: E
However, once you tune your guitar from the standard tuning to the Open G tuning, the tuning of each string will be the following:
- 6th (fattest) string: D
- 5th string: G
- 4th string: D
- 3rd string: G
- 2nd string: B
- 1st (thinnest) string: D
How Do You Tune Your Guitar To Open G? Step-By-Step Tuning Guide
If you want to tune your guitar to an Open G tuning, here’s a quick diagram that explains how to go from a standard E to an Open G tuning:
If you’d like step-by-step tuning instructions, here’s a detailed guide to follow:
- 6th (E) string (lowest string): Pluck your 6th string, and slowly tune it from E to a full step down, till you reach the D note. Keep plucking the note and tuning down slowly till you reach the D note.
- 5th (A) string: Next, pluck your 5th string, and begin tuning it down from its original A to a G – that is tuning it down by a whole step.
- 4th (D) string: The 4th, or the D string, stays exactly as it is. No retuning needed.
- 3rd (G) string: The 3rd, or the G string, stays in its original tuning – no changes needed.
- 2nd (B) string: The 2nd string, or the B string, also stays in its original tuning – no retuning needed.
- 1st (E) string (highest string): Finally, pluck your thinnest E string, or the 1st string – and slowly tune down the string from an E to a D note. This means tuning your 1st string by a whole step down.
Tuning your guitar to an Open G tuning is easier in comparison to other alternate tunings since you only have to adjust the tuning of three out of your six guitar strings. This is because the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd strings of your guitar are already tuned to the notes that feature in the G chord, ie., D, G, and B!
Pro tip: We suggest keeping a tuner handy when changing the tuning of your guitar. This could either be a physical tuner or even an online tuner app, depending on your comfort. This way, you will be able to tune your guitar more quickly and accurately, especially if you are a beginner that’s starting out on the guitar.
Common Major Chord Shapes In Open G
The best thing about playing the Open G tuning is that it lets you play several common chords by barring a single fret with a single finger! Here is a list of the most common major chord shapes when played in an Open G tuning.
Note: The ‘X’ refers to the string that should either be mute or not played, while the numbers refer to the fret number.
- G Major: X 0 0 0 0 0
- A Major: X 2 2 2 2 2
- B Major: X 4 4 4 4 4
- C Major: X 5 5 5 5 5
- D Major: X 7 7 7 7 7
- E Major: X 9 9 9 9 9
- F Major: X 10 10 10 10 10
Why Should You Learn Open G?
There are several reasons for guitarists of all skill levels to learn how to tune to an Open G tuning and learn how to play it. Let us list a few of those here:
Versatile Blues Tone: The Open G tuning has an enjoyable bluesy tone that’s difficult to replicate in Standard tuning. Its resonant sound goes perfectly with the folk and blues genre.
Easy To Play Single-Finger Barre Chords: Open G tuning allows you to play several different chords very easily. Not only can you play the G chord without fretting, but you can also play many other chords with a simple single finger barring all across the fretboard!
Chord Voicings: Moreover, the typical chord shapes that you’re familiar with on a standard tuning become very interesting chord voicing when played in the Open G tuning. We suggest trying out the E minor open chord, an Open D chord shape as well as an open C chord shape, and move it across the fretboard. You’ll notice some gorgeous sounding voicings unlocking before your very eyes!
Fingerstyle Guitar: Because of the nature of the Open G tuning, it lends itself to effortless fingerstyle playing with open notes, since the open notes already are tuned to the G chord.
Iconic Songs: As you will shortly explore in the list shared below, several iconic musicians and bands have used the Open G tuning in their songs. This means that playing in Open G will unlock all those songs for you to learn and play.
Ideal For Slide Guitar: The ease of playing various chords with a single finger fretting makes the Open G a great thing for slide guitarists since they can use their slides to play various chords effortlessly. It’s also a bonus since slide guitar is often used in blues music.
As you can see, playing around with alternate tunings is a great way to not only push your creative and sonic boundaries but also learn some of the most popular tracks written by other iconic musicians from across genres. We hope this article gave you everything you needed to start experimenting with the Open G tuning and produce melodious results.
If you’re curious about learning other alternate tunings, check out our comprehensive guides and song lists in our Open E tuning resource as well as the Drop C tuning resource and song guide. Both these guides will you detailed, step-by-step guides on how to tune your guitar to these alternate tunings, as well as 20+ songs by famous bands and musicians that have used the tunings in their tracks. Happy playing!
My name is Chris and I’ve had a passion for music and guitars for as long as I can remember. I started this website with some of my friends who are musicians, music teachers, gear heads, and music enthusiasts so we could provide high-quality guitar and music-related content.
I’ve been playing guitar since I was 13 years old and am an avid collector. Amps, pedals, guitars, bass, drums, microphones, studio, and recording gear, I love it all.
I was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania. My background is in Electrical Engineering, earning a Bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University. With my engineering experience, I’ve developed as a designer of guitar amplifiers and effects. A true passion of mine, I’ve designed, built, and repaired a wide range of guitar amps and electronics. Here at the Guitar Lobby, our aim is to share our passion for Music and gear with the rest of the music community.