How to Tune Your Guitar to Open E

The strings of a guitar closeup view

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A close relative of open D tuning, this is a guitar tuning which makes your guitar sound like an E major chord when all strings are strummed open. Slide guitar players in particular favor open E tuning, as it makes common slide licks easier to play while allowing guitarists around them to stay in "regular" E tuning.

E B E G# B E Alternate Tuning

Whereas most other common guitar tunings involve dropping the pitch of some strings, open E tuning actually requires guitarists to tune a few of their strings up. This may cause a bit of trepidation, but the most you'll need to tune a string up is two semitones... so rest easy. Follow the notes below for string-by-string instruction on tuning to open E.

Open E Tuning Tips

  • Your open sixth (E) string is fine as-is.
  • Tune your fifth string (A) up a tone to B. Check tuning against the seventh fret of your sixth string - the notes should be the same.
  • Tune your fourth string (D) up a tone to E. Check tuning against your open sixth string - the notes should be one octave apart.
  • Tune your third string (G) up a semitone to G#. Check the tuning with the fourth fret of your (already tuned) fourth string - the notes should now be the same.
  • Your open second (B) string is fine as-is.
  • Your open first (E) string is fine as-is.

Because the strings are tuned the same as open D - only two semitones higher - some guitarists opt to tune their instrument to open D, then place a capo on the second fret. The resulting sound is the same as it would be had they tuned their guitar to open E.

Playing major chords all over the neck in open E tuning is a snap - just lay your first finger flat across all six strings on any fret and strum. This is where the benefits of open E will become apparent - since the sixth string is still an E, any memorization of the notes on the sixth string you've done still applies. Whatever fret you're holding down will be the major chord you're playing in open E tuning. If you're barring the third fret while tuned to open E, for example, you're playing a G major chord.

Where You'll Hear Open E Tuning

As previously mentioned, this is a favored tuning of many slide guitarists, as it makes common slide licks easier to play while allowing guitarists around them to stay in "regular" E tuning. Duane Allman used E tuning a lot - listen for his slide playing on "Statesboro Blues" for a sample. For more on Duane's use of open tunings in his slide playing, read Arlen Roth's article in Guitar Player (features tabs and other helpful instruction).

More Open E Lessons

Simple Chords in Open E Tuning - courtesy of, here are three new chord shapes you can use in open position while playing in open E.

VIDEO: Tuning to Open E - quick tutorial from Justin Sandercoe showing you how to tune your guitar to open E. Use this if you're having trouble using the instruction above for getting tuned up.

VIDEO: Blues Slide Guitar Licks in Open E - for more advanced players looking to play slide guitar, here is a collection of licks you can play using your slide in open E tuning.

Learning Songs in Open E Tuning

She Talks to Angels (Black Crowes) - in the YouTube video, the guitar is tuned to open D, witha capo on the 2nd fret effectively making the tuning open E. You can mimic this tuning, or use a straight open E.