How to Tune Your Guitar to Open G

open G tuning

Keith Richards has always loved open G tuning and has written many classic Rolling Stones riffs in open G. Although Keef actually removes his lowest sixth string so that he's got a G as his bottom note, you can easily play Rolling Stones riffs by simply avoiding the low sixth string.

Many slide players also prefer open G, because it sounds like a G major chord when strummed open. By laying the slide flat across all strings and moving it up the neck of the guitar, you can play any major chord.

Tuning Tips

  • Start by tuning your sixth string down a tone to D (check the tuning against the open fourth string - also a D)
  • Next, tune your fifth string down a tone to G (check the tuning against the open third G string)
  • Your fourth string can remain unchanged - it's already a D
  • Your third string doesn't need changing - it's a G
  • Your second string can also be left alone - it's a B
  • Lastly, tune your first string down a tone to D (check the tuning against the open fourth D string)

If you're struggling to get the guitar in tune, check your guitar against this recording of my guitar tuned to open G.

Playing in Open G Tuning

Once you've tuned up, you'll want to play the classic Keith Richards open G riff - strike the bottom five strings of the guitar, then hammer your second finger onto the second fret of the fourth string, and your first finger on to the first fret of the second string. This is a sound Keith uses on dozens of Rolling Stones songs. For more insight, read this lesson on how Keith Richards plays in open G tuning.

For some more visual help, Marty Shwartz has created a simple straightforward YouTube video lesson on playing in open G tuning. Marty covers tuning the guitar, playing a basic blues in open G, and some more simple chord progressions that sound great in this tuning.

One of the challenges of playing in different tunings is the need to learn a bunch of new shapes to play chords you already know how to play in standard tuning. For help here, check out Alan Horvath's list of chord shapes in open G.

Songs in Open G Tuning

The following is a list of tabs you'll find in open G tuning.

Start Me Up - Classic Rolling Stones riff played in open G tuning. Note that Keith Richards removed the lowest string from his telecaster for this song (and many others), so the notation only includes notes on the top five strings.

Honkytonk Women - More open G tuning from the Rolling Stones. There are three guitar parts shown here - two of which are in standard tuning - so concentrate on guitar part number one while tuned to open G.

Little Green - Joni Mitchell track from her album Blue. Lots of fingerpicking in this one.

Nathan LaFraneer -Another Joni Mitchell song from her self-titled 1968 album. More fingerpicking here.