Open G tuning is something a lot of guitarists want to learn so that they can play a lot of today’s popular music. In our guide to songs in open G, we are giving you a full list of songs that use this type of tuning. At the beginning of our article, you will find out how to tune your guitar top open G which will work on electric and acoustic guitar. What are we waiting for – let’s get started!
How to Achieve Open G Tuning
We’re going to start by telling you how to tune your guitar from standard tuning to an open G tuning so that you can play the songs we’ll be mentioning below. Here are the step by step instructions to achieve this G tuning:
- Sixth E string (lowest) – Pluck your sixth string and tune it from an E down a full step to a D note. Keep on plucking the string and tune it down until you achieve that D note sound.
- Fifth A string – Pluck your fifth string and take the tuning down from the standard A to a G which means you will tune it down a full step.
- Fourth D string – This one will stay exactly the same so no tuning is needed.
- Third G string – This one also stays in its original tuning.
- Second B string – Another one that stays in its original form with no tuning needed.
- First E string (highest) – Pluck your thinnest E string and tune it down slowly from the E to a D. You will tune your first string down by a whole step.
Tuning your guitar to open G is much easier than a lot of other alternate tunings because you only have to change the tuning of three of the six guitar strings. We would always recommend that you keep a tuner nearby or an app on your phone to help you with tuning like this. You’ll be able to tune your guitar a lot more quickly and accurately using these, especially if you’re not experienced in tuning guitar strings.
Why Should I Learn Songs in Open G Tuning?
There are many different reasons why you will want to learn songs that use open G tuning. We’re going to list some of the benefits of this style below.
- Gives a versatile blues tone – Open G tuning is very bluesy in tone and this is a hard tone to replicate in standard tuning. It produces a sound that resonates perfectly with both blues and folk genres.
- Single finger barre chords are easier – There are several chords that are easier to play with open G tuning. You can play a G chord without having to use your fret, and other single finger barre chords are much more achievable without using the fretboard as well.
- New chord voicings – All of the chord shapes you know from standard tuning become a lot more interesting when using open G tuning. Try playing an open D chord shape, an E minor open chord and an open C chord shape. You will notice some new voicings here which can give your music a lot more variety.
- Effortless fingerstyling – Fingerstyle guitar lends itself to open G tuning as you are already playing with open notes so it’s easier to use this technique.
- Play iconic songs – As you will see shortly in the list we have provided below, there are a lot of iconic bands and musicians who use open G tuning for their songs. Knowing how to play in this tuning means that these songs are opened up for you to play and learn from.
- The right tuning for slide guitar – Because you can play single finger fret chords with open G tuning, it means you can use a slide to play the guitar effortlessly. This is a bonus for blues musicians as the slide guitar technique is something that features regularly in this genre.
Songs in Open G
1. Start Me Up – Rolling Stones
We’re kicking off our list of open G tuning songs with one of the best Rolling Stones songs out there that reached the number two spot on the billboard charts. Featured on the album titled Tattoo You, this track was originally intended to be a reggae song that was arranged by Keith Richards. The story goes that the band recorded around 38 takes of the version with the reggae feel to it before the band decided to shelve it. Five years later they bought it out again and turned it into the rock song we know and love today.
Keith Richards from the iconic band is known for his open G tuning and he would have his lower sixth string clipped off and remove the bridge saddle from his guitar. When you look at the guitar tab for the song you will see that it only has notations for the top five strings. Back in 1995 Microsoft bought the rights to the band’s track for a whopping $3 million so they could use it as part of the launching advertisements for Windows 95. The band would open with this song for their Steel Wheels tour in 1989 and it’s still used at sports events even now.
You will hear a thump in the song which was done using ‘bathroom reverb’ made famous by Bob Clearmountain. They would take the drums and vocals and record them in the bathroom of their recording studio which was in New York City. It was at the Power Station studio where Mick decided to change the opening lyrics from start it up to start me up.
2. Honky Tonk Women – Rolling Stones
We may as well go in with our other Rolling Stones song next in our open G tuning songs list. Honky Tonk Women was a B-side single that was released in 1969 and it turned out to be a top hit within its first week after launch. As Keith Richards often did the song uses open G tuning but ignores the lowest string of the guitar. The opening riff comes with lots of upbeats using a tele-bridge pickup which gives it that honky tone.
The track was inspired by the countryside and cowboys and it originally had a country rhythm before the band evolved it into something funkier. When it was released the band said “It’s one of those tunes that you knew it was a number one the moment we finished it”.
3. Walkin Blues – Eric Clapton and Robert Johnson
Eric Clapton did Walkin Blues as a tribute to his blues idol Robert Johnson. Anyone who loves to play slide guitar will want to learn this track. The tune uses a lot of vibrato techniques to get you into that blues vibe. You’ll be using a lot of chromatic movements to get through the notes. Eric’s version of the song was featured on his Unplugged album and he recorded it in one take. if you listen carefully you can hear him tapping his feat to keep up with the downbeat rhythms of this blues standard tuning.
The song was originally written and recorded by Robert Johnson and it differs from Clapton’s in that it has an uptempo feel and the staccato strumming and rhythm is tighter. The tempo speeds up as he changes from verse to verse and there’s a lot of articulations to get used to while juggling melody and chords. It’s still a great blues music track, even if it is a challenge to play.
4. Daughter – Pearl Jam
You will be using an alternate tuning with the open G for this Pearl Jam track. To play it you will have to tune the low sixth string up by three semitones to a G instead of dropping it down to the D note. Take this slowly and carefully. The fifth string drops down a semitone so it’s a G which means your sixth and fifth strings will be playing in unison.
Daughter starts out with a pretty Cadd9 arpeggio which plays out in a power chord shape on the fifth string and fifth fret. You’ll work through chord changes that move between the fifth and seventh frets while playing the other open strings that make a big sound when you strum everything together.
5. Rain Song – Led Zeppelin
This emotional song was a change for Led Zeppelin as it’s a ballad that was written in response to George Harrison saying that the band never wrote any ballads. Jimmy quotes the Beatles in the intro for the Rain Song.
It’s another of the soft guitar compositions that gives us some variation on open G tuning and playing guitar. You will have to tune to a Gsus4 tuning which makes the notes DGCGCD. It’s this tuning that gives the song a moodier feel which go very well with Robert Plant’s haunting vocals.
6. Twice As Hard – The Black Crowes
The Black Crowes are known as the kings of blues rock as they hail from Georgia. They are often compared to the Rolling Stones for the use of the open G tuning. Twice As Hard sold over 30 million records and were voted the best new American band in 1990.
The song focuses on the fifth string which is tuned to a low G with the fourth string thrown in for good measure. It’s a lot heavier than you would expect when you get into it. You could even pull a Keith Richards and clip the low sixth string if you really wanted to. The chord changes involved a Dmin7 chord if the guitar was in standard tuning but because you are in open G it has a Csus4 tone instead.
7. Bad to the Bone – George Thorogood
Bad to the Bone has a classic blues riff that featured in some Bo Diddley songs as well. The rhythm punches with a lot of attitude as a classic blues-rock song with some slide guitar techniques thrown in. The tune is mostly just one chord which is the G and the riff stays mainly the same throughout the track which makes it ideal for a beginner guitarist to learn.
You will be moving around the fretboard during the riff with a few parts where you bring in the third and fifth strings to make the sound a bit heavier. The slide comes in on the third and fifth frets and you can try to bend your power chords as well if you don’t want to use the slide.
Be mindful that it’s the second note in the riff that lands on the downbeat so you want to start playing the first note before the first beat to nail the rhythm perfectly. Once you have the right flow you can add in the blues licks for the interludes.
8. Fearless – Pink Floyd
Fearless is a song that was written by both Roger Waters and David Gilmour and it was featured as the third song from the album titled Meddle. It’s known to be Pink Floyd’s more experimental albums and this song is often overlooked but it has a lot of meaning and depth to it.
You’ll be using a different variation to the regular open G tuning we have been using so far and the notes on your strings will be GGDGBB. Because this is an alternate tuning you will notice that it gives the upwards strum more character for the intro to the track.
Once all of your tuning is right the song itself is actually easy to play. Your high E string goes down to a B note which will then be in unison with the second open B string. The low sixth string has to come up three semitones to become a G which will be in unison with your low fifth string.
What guitarists need to keep in mind is that Waters and Gilmour used a multitude of guitars and then layered them up for the recording. If you wanting to play this song as a solo then you will have to play a bubrid version of all of the parts to make one, stand-alone riff. It can be done and you will see this in the video tutorial we included above.
9. Romeo and Juliet – Dire Straits
This classic love story gave inspiration for a great love song in open G tuning with your capo placed on the third fret. Mark Knopfler during a famous documentary said that he stumbled on the opening arpeggio of the song while he was experimenting with open G tuning on a resonator guitar. It’s those few opening lines that give the song it’s unique tone and makes it incredibly memorable right from the get go.
If you look at the arrangement for the song you will see that it stays quite simple with arpeggiated lines in the intro, some chords and then a strumming pattern which supports the vocals. It then develops into a fill on rock song when the song kicks in. Pay attention to the lyrics as they are written in classic Dire Straits style that doesn’t follow your standard verse and chorus structure. However, the lyrics are easy to remember and you’ll find yourself singing along in no time.
The song mostly shifts between F, Bb, C and Dmin chords in the open G tuning with a capo place on your third fret. When you attempt to play this song and are playing the Bmin7 shape place your little finger on the first string and fourth fret. It’s a lot easier to play than it first seems so it’s definitely worth a go.
10. Remedy – The Black Crowes
The Black Crowes are known for their bluesy rock sound and Remedy is a strong example of that. The single was the first one to be released off The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. It sounds almost as if it could be a fusion of the music of the Allman Brothers Band and Led Zeppelin. The track was a welcome relief to the gangster rap saturated music scene in 1992.
You will have your guitar tuned to a G chord shape and you can play the chords with one finger. The middle two strings are the focus of the song and sometimes you will add in the third string for a lower fifth barred note for a thick power-chord. Just make sure to keep the rock beat strumming pattern steady as you go through all of the barre chords.
11. Watch Over You – Alter Bridge
When the band was working on the Blackbird album their producer, Michael ‘Elvis’ Baskette, asked them if they planned to add any albums to the track list. This is when Myles Kennedy came forward with a tune that he had written before joining Alter Bridge and used open G tuning. Mark Tremonti then came up with a bridge that fitted perfectly into the song and thi is how Watch Over You came into being. It was released as the second single from the album and is considered to be one of the best tracks.
If you listen to the full album you will notice that this album is slower, softer and lighter in tone than the rest of the tracks they included. The lyrics speak about dealing with an addiction and how you can’t help someone who won’t help themself first. Another version of the song was later released that featured vocals from Cristina Scabbia, the singer from Lacuna Coil.
12. I Can’t Be Satisfied – Muddy Waters
Another classic blues genre track that uses open G tuning comes from the legend that is Muddy Waters (real name McKinley Morganfield) who is still known as the father of Chicago blues. The song was both written and recorded in 1948 and it’s often said that the Stones got their name from the lyrics included in this track. They even went on to cover it on their album The Rolling Stones No.2.
In the intro you will be using the top three strings and the twelfth fret sliding around both the frets and the strings. Blues music is all about call and response and this is the essence of the guitar part here.
13. Little Red Rooster – Howlin’ Wolf/Rolling Stones
Howlin’ Wold was born in Mississippi and became known as one of the most formidable Chcago blues players thanks to the power of his voice. He formed a rivalry with his fellow Chicago blues mater, Muddy Waters. Little Red Rooster is a song that was originally written by Willie Dixon and it quickly become a standard for blues music. Many musicians went on to do covers of it, with the Howlin’ Wolf version being listed as one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll in the hall of fame.
Because this is a slower blues track using the open G tuning it is ideal for beginners who want to get to grips with the blues slide and shuffle. If you are trying out this song with a slide then place it over your fret and use a wide vibrato backwards and forwards so that you canmake those significant shifts in pitch. This is known as a classic blues slide. Slide into each note that you are playing so that you get the right amount of dirt into the tune.
14. Death Letter – The White Stripes
Death letter was originally known to be the signature song of Eddie ‘Son’ House. It has gone on to be covered and adapted by a lot of different artists including Chris Thomas King, the Grateful Dead, David Johansen, John Mellencamp, the Derek Trucks Band, Tony McPhee and many more.
In this version by The White Stripes Jack white tunes his guitar to open G and turns it into overdrive. It was released on their second album titled De Stijl which was released in the June of 2000. The track uses a standard 12 bar blues arrangement and a heavy part played by Meg on the drums.
15. Nextdoor Neighbor Blues – Gary Clark Jr
Many people assume that the age of blues music is over and that good blues songs aren’t being made anymore. But artists like Gary Clark Jr prove that theory wrong with his new music to hit the scene that combines both blues and rock genres.
Nextdoor Neighbor Blues was the final track to feature on his debut album in 2012. It talks about his story about being cheated on by a girl and then she robbed him to add salt to the wound. His grungy sort of vocal style coupled with the blues and a resonator acoustic guitar playing the 12 bar blues in open G tuning is what makes this song. There’s even some stomping on a hardwood floor there for good measure. If you listen to the live version there are even more additions to the blues rock song which is a welcome relief in our digital age of Spotify and YouTube.
16. Can’t You Hear Me Knocking – Rolling Stones
This is another amazing tunes from the Stones and it comes in at a whopping seven minutes in length. It is actually two songs in one as it starts out as a classic rock and roll tune which then extends into a bit of a jam session. Keith Richards shows off his killer riffing skills as he tunes his guitar to open G. Mick Taylor is also playing his guitar in standard tuning. Billy Preston comes in on piano and Bobby Keys plays the sax and this is considered to be the best lineup for the band. As you get into the tune you will really appreciate how great a rhythm guitarist Richards truly is.
The story according to Keith and Mick Tayol was that the amming session at the end was ot planned. Everyone ended the tune together but Taylor felt like he should carry on so the rest of the band joined back in and the tape kept rolling. Each band member took a turn to play a solo and it was initially thought they’d fade this section out but ended up keeping it as part of the song.
17. Troubles Will Be Gone – Tallest Man on Earth
A great example of a open G tuning songs is Troubles Will Be Gone which was written by Kristian Matsson – a Swedish singer-songwriter who is better known by the stage name the Tallest Man on Earth. You’ll have to be more of an advanced player to do this one as the fingerpicking technique is quite intricate. Give it a try and you might be surprised by how quickly you can learn each section of the song.
Playing around with different tunings on your guitar is a brilliant way of pushing your creative boundaries. You can learn a lot of new skills from the popular tracks that feature open G tuning. We hope that we have been able to give you everything you need to explore open G tuning and some of the most famous songs that use this type of tuning. Enjoy!
What songs are played in open G?
All of the songs we have mentioned in the list above are played using open G tuning. We have lots of other guides here on our website including easy indie songs on guitar that use this type of tuning which you can learn right here.
What guitar tuning does Keith Richards use?
Of course, this is a guide about open G tuning songs so of course Keith Richards uses this type of tuning. He played a lot of open G guitar riffs during his career on the electric guitar and it was this tuning that gave him his signature sound.