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The Power and Possibility of Open and Alternate Tunings

Dave Hunter
|
11.25.2008

Great guitarists have often gotten themselves heard by busting out past the norms, and one way to do this involves looking past "standard tuning" (EADGBE) to explore alternate and open tunings. These tunings, which include some time-tested along with some more radical and original configurations, have helped plenty of great artists stand out from the crowd over the years, and can be a quick way for new players to catch the ears of their listeners too. Frequently, alternate tunings provide easier access to unusual melodic structures or self-accompanied parts that can be extremely difficult to achieve in standard tuning. As such they are real attention grabbers, and have contributed to making a number of major rock, blues, jazz, and country hits over the years-many of which you might not have realized were accomplished in anything other than good old standard tuning, until you tried to play them.

Here are a few examples of the power and possibility of open and alternate tunings.

Robert Johnson Robert Johnson
"Come On In My Kitchen" - Open A, with capo on first
"Cross Road Blues" - Open A, with capo on second fret
"Walkin' Blues" - Open A, with capo on second fret
"Love In Vain" - Open G
"Hellhound On My Trail" - E B G E B E

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Muddy Waters Muddy Waters
"Can't Be Satisfied" - Open G
"Rollin' and Tumblin'" - Open G

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Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin
"Kashmir" - DADGAD
"Bron-Y-Aur" - CACGCE
"The Rain Song" - DGCGCD
"When the Levee Breaks" - CFCFAC
"Friends" and "That s the Way" -- CGCGCE
"Black Mountain Side" - BADGAD
"In My Time of Dying" - DGDGBD
"Going to California" - Drop D

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Albert King Albert King
"Born Under A Bad Sign" - CFCFAD or CBEGBE
"Don't Throw Your Love On Me So Strong" - CFCFAD or CBEGBE

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The Rolling Stones The Rolling Stones
"Honky Tonk Woman" - Open G
"Brown Sugar" - Open G
"Tumbling Dice" - Open G, with capo on fourth
"Street Fighting Man" - Open D
"Start Me Up" - DGDGBD
"You Can't Always Get What You Want" - Open E, with capo on eighth

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Eric Clapton Eric Clapton
"Rollin' and Tumblin'" - DGDGBD
"Running On Faith" - DGDGBD
"Motherless Child" - DGDGBD

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George Thorogood George Thorogood
"Move It On Over" - Open G
"Bad to the Bone" - Open G

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The Black Crowes The Black Crowes
"Twice as Hard - Open G
"She Talks to Angels " - Open D

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Jimi Hendrix Jimi Hendrix
"Hey Joe" - Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb
"Little Wing" - Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb
"Voodoo Child" - Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb

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The Replacements The Replacements
"Sixteen Blue" - Open E, with capo on third
"Answering Machine" - Open A, with capo on second
"Valentine" - Open G
"Merry Go Round" - Open E

 

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Joni Mitchell Joni Mitchell
"The Circle Game" - DGDGBD
"Little Green" - DGDGBD

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Son Volt Son Volt
"Driving The View" - CGCGCD
"Carry You Down" - DGDGBC

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Soundgarden Soundgarden
"Burden In My Hand" - CGCGGE
"Pretty Noose" - CGCGGE

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Metallica Metallica
"Invisible Kid" - G# C# F# B D# G#
"St. Anger" - CGCFAG

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Neil Young Neil Young
"Cinnamon Girl" - Double Drop-D
"Ride My Llama" - Double Drop-D
"War Of Man" - Double Drop-D

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Bob Dylan Bob Dylan
"Meet Me in the Morning" - Open E
"It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" - Drop C, with capo on fourth

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Other Songs:

Drop-D - DADGBE
"Can't Find My Way Home" - Blind Faith
"Mobile" - the Who
"Dear Prudence" - The Beatles


Double Drop-D - DADGBD
"Black Water" - Doobie Brothers
"Ohio" - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
"You Don't Have to Cry" - Crosby, Stills & Nash
Open G - DGDGBD
"Easy to Slip" - Little Feat
"Squeezebox" - the Who
"Fearless" - Pink Floyd
"Twice As Hard"

GGDGBD
"Daughter" - Pearl Jam

 

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