Open G Tuning (Guitar Lesson)

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Jim Deeming

Open G Tuning

Jim Deeming teaches the basics of open G tuning. He also teaches a song entitled "Spanish Fandango" to show how the tuning can be used.

Taught by Jim Deeming in Fingerstyle Guitar seriesLength: 39:58Difficulty: 3.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (01:23) Musical Introduction Welcome back to the Phase 2 Fingerstyle Guitar Series with Jim Deeming. Jim kicks off lesson 10 with a performance of the piece "Spanish Fandango." This piece is typically played in open G tuning. In the scenes that follow, Jim will break down the key aspects of this tuning and apply them to a slightly more basic arrangement of "Spanish Fandango."
Chapter 2: (04:00) Lesson Introduction: Open G Tuning Tuning to Open G

When learning a new tuning, it is absolutely necessary that you start with the most basic concepts regardless of your ability level. You must first learn how to tune the guitar to this tuning. If you have a floating tremolo system installed on your guitar, you will encounter several difficulties. When one string is tuned down, the strings on the opposite side of the bridge will go sharp to maintain an equal balance of tension. Consequently, you must tune each string multiple times to ensure that all of the strings are tuned to the correct pitch.

In open G, the strings are tuned to the following pitches. These notes comprise a G major triad.

6th: D
5th: G
4th: D
3rd: G
2nd: B
1st: D

Many alternate tunings involve tightening a string to a higher pitch. In open G however, every string that is altered is tuned down.

1. Tune your guitar to standard tuning.

2. Lower the pitch of the sixth string to match the pitch of the open 4th string. This string produces the note D. You may find it helpful to match the open D string to the harmonic played at the 12th fret of the 6th string. This puts both D notes in the same octave.

3. Match the pitch of the 1st string to the pitch of the open 4th string. Use the harmonic played at the 12th fret of the fourth string to keep the notes in the same octave. You can also use the pitch of the note D at the third fret of the 2nd string as a reference point when tuning the first string down.

4. Next, match the pitch of the 5th string to the pitch of the open 3rd string. Once again, you may want to match the harmonic at the 12th fret of the 5th string to the open G string so that both are played in the same octave.

5. Leave the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd strings in the tuning that they are in (D, G, B). These notes are part of the G major triad.

6. Strum an open G major chord across all six strings to ensure that your guitar is in tune. If your guitar sounds out of tune, check back through each individual string to see if you made any errors.

Note: Since several of the strings are tuned down, you may find that chords are harder to keep in tune as you ascend higher on the fretboard.

When matching the pitch of one string to another follow this process:

1. Pluck the string that is already in tune.

2. Pluck the string you want to tune. ONLY pluck it once.

3. Use large turns of the tuning key to adjust the pitch. Tuning in smaller increments makes tuning much more difficult.

4.Use an electronic tuner to check your accuracy.

5. Stretch the strings out and tune again. By tuning three strings down a full step each, the tension on the neck is significantly reduced. The guitar needs some time to adjust to this new tuning. Strings have memory and will want to return to the pitch that they were previously tuned to. Stretch them out and re-tune them to give them a new memory.

6. Always tune up to pitch. Never tune down to it. Refer to Jim's 20th Phase 1 lesson for more information on this topic.
Chapter 3: (04:11) Understanding G Tuning and Chords Advantages of Open G Tuning

When the guitar is tuned to open G, the open strings form a G major chord. This feature provides several advantages. This tuning allows you to play many chord voicings that are not possible or practical in standard tuning. Also, familiar chords produce a different tone when played in another tuning. Open tunings can also help you bust out of a rut. Playing in an alternate tuning will essentially force you to re-learn how to play the instrument. This will hopefully generate some new inspiration and a new outlook on the instrument.

In addition, open tunings are much more conducive to playing slide guitar. All of the notes that comprise a major chord align themselves along a single fret in an open tuning. Check out Hawkeye Herman's Phase 2 Blues series for more information about playing slide guitar in open tunings.

Open G Chord

By strumming all of the open strings together, an "open" G major triad is produced. It should be noted that this chord is played in second inversion. An inversion occurs when a chord tone other than the root is played as the lowest bass note. In this case, the fifth of the chord, D, is played as the lowest note. When the third of the chord is played in the bass, the chord is in first inversion. When the fifth is the lowest note, the chord is in second inversion.


When learning a new tuning, you must also learn how familiar scale patterns must be fingered. Jim explains how to play a movable major scale pattern in this scene. He applies the pattern to the key of G major.

Note: Tablature and notation to this scale pattern in G major can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab. Remember to shift open string notes to the proper fretboard location when transposing the pattern to a new key.
Chapter 4: (02:12) Playing the I, IV, V Chords The next logical step is to determine where the I, IV, and V chords can be played in this tuning. This will enable you to play some basic chord progressions and songs. You already know how to play the I chord, G major.

Movable Barre Chord Shape

The open G major chord can easily be converted into a movable major barre chord shape. The IV chord, C can be played as a barre across the 5th fret. Then, the V chord D can be played as a barre chord up two frets from C at the 7th fret. Simply barre the first finger across all six strings to create this barre chord shape. You may want to use the second finger as a clamp to help the first finger hold all six strings down under the barre.

In order to transpose this chord anywhere on the fretboard, you must know where the half steps and whole steps occur within the musical alphabet. The root note fretted by the first finger determines the name of each barre chord. This root note is located on the fifth string.

Alternating Bass / Accompaniment Patterns

When performing an alternating bass line with an "open" G voicing, switch between the root note on the fifth string and the fifth of the chord, D, on the open sixth string. At 01:55, Jim demonstrates how this alternating bass pattern can be applied to the familiar "boom-tick" accompaniment pattern. This same pattern can be applied to the C and D barre chords.
Chapter 5: (03:26) Spanish Fandango A. Fandango Definition

A fandango is a Spanish dance song played in a moderately fast triple meter. Typically, the fandango is danced by a couple with castanets and accompanied on guitar. This dance form first appeared in the early 18th century.

B. Accompaniment Pattern

Like most fandangos, this piece is played in 3/4 time. Remember how accompaniment patterns must be adjusted when playing in this meter. The bass note changes on the downbeat of each measure within the alternating bass line. The chords are plucked on beats 2 and 3 of each measure.

You can also play an arpeggio as an accompaniment pattern. Jim demonstrates this accompaniment at 02:35. Play the root note on beat one of the first measure. Play the next highest string on beat 2. Then, play the next highest string on beat three. In the following measure, the bass note changes on beat 1. Beats 2 and 3 remain the same.

C. Melody

The melody begins with a descending segment that features notes from the G major scale. These notes are played on the first string. It is relatively easy to remember the melody, since all notes are all played at frets with dot inlays. If you are playing a classical guitar, follow the dots on the top of the fretboard.
Chapter 6: (04:13) Next Part of the Song and a New Chord Open D7 chord

Within this voicing, the sixth and fourth strings are played open. The open fifth string is omitted. This voicing is really only practical for fingerstyle playing due to this feature. Since the first string is tuned down a full step, the F# note must be played two frets higher. Play this note with the pinkie finger at the 4th fret of the first string.

Note: The first string can be played open. However, this produces an ambiguous sound since the third of the chord is missing. Consequently, this voicing could be used for a D7 chord or a Dm7 chord.

When playing this chord, the accompaniment pattern must change. Simply use a D bass note for the downbeat of measures 5 and 6. Since the fifth string is not part of this chord, it cannot be used in the bass pattern. On beat 2 of the accompaniment figure, play the open fourth string. The A note on the third string is played on beat three. Or, as Jim demonstrates at 02:50, the accompaniment figure can be shifted up one octave. When this occurs, the lowest bass note in the pattern is played on the open fourth string.

Practice Time

The melody is played out of this chord shape in measures 5, 6, and 8. A tonic G chord is used in measure 7. Play up to measure 8 along with Jim at 01:47 in the lesson video.

Measures 9-13

Measures 9-13 are the same as 1-5.

Measures 14-16

These measures provide a simple conclusion to the piece. Over the course of these measures, the melody ascends to a tonic G note played on the first string.
Chapter 7: (01:08) Which Fingers to Use Left Hand

There are no hard and fast fingerings to follow when playing this piece. However, you will want to use a fingering that requires a minimal amount of left hand movement. For example, Jim starts the melody line with the pinkie finger. He frets the B note at the 9th fret with the first finger. Notice how he frets the G note in measure 3 with the pinkie as well. This sets up his left hand for the D7 chord that occurs in measure 5. Remember that economy of movement is key to proper left hand technique.
Chapter 8: (07:13) The Second or B Part Note: Open "Spanish Fandango (Variations)" listed under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

Using Barre Chords

The B section begins in measure 17. During measures 17 and 18 as well as 27-28, the melody is played out of the C barre chord shape that Jim explained earlier in the lesson. Leave the barre planted as you play these measures.

Similarly, the melody is played out of a seventh position D chord voicing in measures 21 and 22. Later, a B major barre chord voicing is utilized in measures 25 and 26.

Accompaniment Pattern

Notice how Jim does not use an alternating bass line during this section. When a chord is played for two measures, he simply plays the root note on each downbeat. This provides some contrast with the A section. However, you can alternate between the root and fifth of each chord if you prefer. Compare both versions to determine which you like best.

Adding Variety

Jim has already explained how an alternating bass line can be applied to the progression to add extra interest. Several additional variations can be added to the accompaniment pattern to create a stronger overall arrangement.

The G and B strings can be plucked together on beats 2 and 3 to give the accompaniment pattern a fuller sound. Use the first and second fingers of the right hand to pluck these notes. Watch at 05:35 as Jim demonstrates this accompaniment variation. Within this variation, the thumb plucks the root note on beat 1. On beats 2 and 3, the thumb plucks the note on the fourth string.

Also, some light syncopation can be added to increase the interest level of the accompaniment. The note located on the second string of each chord can be plucked on the "and" beat of 2. Jim demonstrates this variation at 02:43 in the lesson video. Unfortunately, this variation will not work when melody notes must be played on the second string.

Note: The alternating bass line can be combined with the syncopated pattern.

Make a note of where Jim chooses to add these subtle variations in the score of "Spanish Fandango." Also, experiment with your own set of variations.
Chapter 9: (07:44) Left Hand Variations A Section Embellishments

The melody to "Spanish Fandango" is extremely simple. This leaves ample room for the performer to interpret and embellish the melody. For example, in measures 3-4, a stepwise scalar pattern can be used to embellish the melody. Jim demonstrates this at 00:30. He also demonstrates a sample way of embellishing the melody in measures 6-8.

B Section Embellishments

The melody in this section can be harmonized to create a fuller sound. The melody notes are harmonized in diatonic thirds. Refer to the notation to see the fretboard locations of the harmony notes. Jim typically harmonizes melody notes when the melody is played out of a barre chord voicing. Since the first finger is the only finger used to fret the chord, the other fingers are free to embellish the melody.

Jim also embellishes the melody in the B section by using some upper neighbor tones. Watch at 03:52 as he demonstrates this idea. The embellishing neighbor tones can be harmonized in diatonic thirds as well. This is demonstrated at 04:46. Notice how Jim doesn't always pick the embellishing notes. These notes are often sounded with hammer-ons.

Bass Walks

To break up the monotony of the alternating bass pattern, some scalar bass walks can be added at various points in the piece. Try the bass walk notated in measure 16 when moving from a G chord to a C chord. Another bass walk is written in measure 24. This walk up creates an effective bass transition from a G chord to a B chord.

Note: Jim provides a performance of the piece with the inclusion of these embellishments at 06:06 in the lesson video.
Chapter 10: (01:03) Playing the Fancy Version Jim provides a performance example of the full arrangement in this scene. Feel free to play the basic arrangement or the full version along with him.
Chapter 11: (03:16) Practicing and Final Thoughts Practice Tips

-Isolate the bass line and melody at first.

-Begin with the most basic version of the accompaniment pattern. First, work on the most basic right hand arpeggio accompaniment in 3/4. Then, add an alternating bass line. Next, add in the syncopated patterns and bass walks.

-Essentially, add one new element at a time as you are learning the piece. Even if you are an advanced player, do not play the full arrangement at once. Working through each individual step will force you to learn the thought process that Jim went through as he developed this arrangement. These arrangement ideas can be applied to your own fingerstyle arrangements of classic melodies.

Additional Chords in Open G Tuning

Jim demonstrates how to play a movable minor chord voicing in this tuning. The proper fingering for Am is listed below. This movable shape can be transposed anywhere on the fretboard. The root note is fretted by the second finger on the fifth string.

6th string: Omitted
5th string: 2nd finger, 2nd fret
4th string: 3rd finger, 2nd fret
3rd string: 4th finger, 2nd fret
2nd string: 1st finger, 1st fret
1st string: Omitted

Note: Fretboard diagrams to all chords discussed in the lesson can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

Phase 3

Jim will teach several songs in open G in JamPlay's Phase 3 section. A lesson detailing "Red Wing" by Kerry Mills is currently available in this section.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

rwverborwverbo replied

Video 3 freezes too please fix

rwverborwverbo replied

8 and 9 freeze up too

Jason.MounceJason.Mounce replied

HI there, I'm sorry to hear you are having trouble. I've checked all quality settings of each scene you've listed and was not able to replicate the issue. The first thing I would do on your end is to clear your browser's cache and make sure that the browser you are using is up to date. If the video is buffering, you may want to lower the quality setting by clicking on the "HD" button in the lower right hand corner of the video. This will make the video easier to stream. If you continue to experience any trouble, please contact us at [email protected] and provide specifics about what you are encountering. We can continue to help troubleshoot with you there.

GravelRoadGravelRoad replied

The video in part 2 freezes after a few seconds. Please correct.

dcquandcquan replied

Jim, The fancy version which you have demonstrated in the video is beautiful and I really want to learn it. Unfortunately, the tab sheets provided in the supplemental does not match the video. Can you please post the correct version for us to use? Thanks!!

chuck99chuck99 replied

Jim, you have a great teaching style. Well explained and demonstrated and I never feel that you are talking down to a fumble-fingers like myself. Fingerstyle is a wonderfully meditative way to find the music inside us all.

aquiguillermoaquiguillermo replied

Enjoying this lesson. Not that difficult for me now, after more than a year and a half learning. Thank you.

dewhonourdewhonour replied

You could also use a spider capo and fret the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th string at the first fret. This achieves an open A tuning, but all the chord shapes for open G would be the same. I love my spider capo...

dewhonourdewhonour replied

Excuse me... Fret the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th string on the second fret to achieve the above results. ;-) Sorry...

dewhonourdewhonour replied

I apologize again... lol Apparently I didn't know what I was talking about. It achieves open A tuning, but you can't play it the same way as Jim does. I guess I should try stuff out before I leave a comment next time.

fnjamplayfnjamplay replied

A great lesson. Thank you.

bluezzybluezzy replied

Pretty nice song and most usefull tips ... Thanks for the teachings Jim ... but sad it's too short a teaching, I like your style ?

dash rendardash rendar replied

Awesome. And, as a bonus, I suddenly find I can play "Last Goodbye!" :)

pepper dawgpepper dawg replied

Awesome lesson.....I love Doc Watson's finger picking style but couldn't figure it out. Learning to play Spanish Fandango in the Open G tuning has helped me a lot! Keep it coming!!!

mga623mga623 replied

I enjoyed this lesson. I'm having fun with the open G tuning. I found an old Robert Johnson tune (Love in Vain) that's played with the same tuning. The only part bumming me out is when you said even a baby can play this tune .... Whaaaaaa Whaaaa

wolfpack21643wolfpack21643 replied

Finally a new Deeming lesson I hope they will come alittle faster in the future.

Fingerstyle Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Fingerstyle guitar allows you to play the bass, harmony, and melody of a song all within the context of a single guitar part.

Intro to FingerstyleLesson 1

Intro to Fingerstyle

This lesson serves as an introduction for Fingerstyle Guitar with Jim Deeming. Come on in and get started!

Length: 24:32 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Basic FingerstyleLesson 2

Basic Fingerstyle

Jim demonstrates a basic fingerstyle exercise that you can use with any of the chords you know.

Length: 16:05 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
More Picking PatternsLesson 3

More Picking Patterns

Jim expands on lesson 2 and teaches several different picking patterns. He also covers the basics of muting.

Length: 14:23 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Using SyncopationLesson 4

Using Syncopation

Jim Deeming explains how to integrate basic syncopation into your rhythm playing.

Length: 17:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Picking Melody NotesLesson 5

Picking Melody Notes

This lesson is all about picking melody notes. Fingerstyle guitar really gets interesting when you combine bass, harmony, and melody.

Length: 33:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Aura LeeLesson 6

Aura Lee

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle version of the classic Civil War era song "Aura Lee."

Length: 43:23 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Chet Atkins StyleLesson 7

Chet Atkins Style

Jim explains key components of Chet Atkins' guitar style.

Length: 18:12 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
3/4 Time and a SongLesson 8

3/4 Time and a Song

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle arrangement of "Bicycle Built for Two." He uses this piece as an example of 3/4 or waltz timing.

Length: 37:34 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Two Songs at OnceLesson 9

Two Songs at Once

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle arrangement of "Yankee Doodle" and "Dixie." Both songs are played simultaneously!

Length: 30:03 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Open G TuningLesson 10

Open G Tuning

Jim Deeming teaches the basics of open G tuning. He also teaches a song entitled "Spanish Fandango" to show how the tuning can be used.

Length: 39:58 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Carter Family StyleLesson 11

Carter Family Style

Jim Deeming introduces a playing style called "Carter Family Style." The technique is also referred to as "Frailing" or "Clawhammer" style.

Length: 13:07 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
DADGAD TuningLesson 12


Jim Deeming teaches the many wonders of DADGAD tuning.

Length: 32:25 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Thumb Independence Lesson 13

Thumb Independence

Jim Deeming tackles the topic of thumb independence.

Length: 31:51 Difficulty: 1.5 FREE
The JamPlay SongLesson 14

The JamPlay Song

Jim Deeming teaches a more advanced version of the aptly named "JamPlay Song."

Length: 7:24 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
The Wayfaring StrangerLesson 15

The Wayfaring Stranger

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle version of the classic song "The Wayfaring Stranger."

Length: 31:27 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
The Official Thumbpick GuideLesson 16

The Official Thumbpick Guide

Jim Deeming answers one of the most common fingerstyle questions, "which thumbpick should I use?"

Length: 13:03 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Fingernail GuideLesson 17

Fingernail Guide

Jim Deeming presents his thoughts on how to properly grow and groom your fingernails.

Length: 7:07 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
The EntertainerLesson 18

The Entertainer

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle arrangement of "The Entertainer," a classic piano song ported over to the guitar.

Length: 20:40 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Arranging Fingerstyle SongsLesson 19

Arranging Fingerstyle Songs

Jim Deeming teaches the skills necessary to transform any song into a solo fingerstyle masterpiece.

Length: 37:04 Difficulty: 4.0 Members Only
Arranging Fingerstyle Songs Pt. 2Lesson 20

Arranging Fingerstyle Songs Pt. 2

Jim talks more about arranging fingerstyle songs. This time around he discusses harmonization and chord inversions.

Length: 13:35 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Arranging Fingerstyle Songs Pt. 3Lesson 21

Arranging Fingerstyle Songs Pt. 3

Jim Deeming demonstrates alternate ways to play the CAGED chords that can be very useful when playing melody and accompaniment simultaneously.

Length: 30:38 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Arranging Fingerstyle Songs Pt. 4Lesson 22

Arranging Fingerstyle Songs Pt. 4

In this lesson Jim Deeming talks about a simple way to add harmony notes to the melody section of fingerstyle songs. This technique is quite simple and can add a whole new dimension to your playing.

Length: 5:51 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Jim Deeming

About Jim Deeming View Full Biography Jim Deeming got his first guitar when he was only six years old. His Dad was taking fingerpicking lessons, and Jim wanted to be just like him. The Mel Bay books didn't last very long before he strapped on a thumb pick and added the Chet part to Red River Valley so it sounded better.

Most of Jim's early learning was by ear. With unlimited access to his Dad's collection of Chet Atkins albums, he spent countless hours decoding his favorite songs. They were never "right" until they sounded just like Chet. Around the age of 12, Jim heard Jerry Reed for the first time and just knew he had to be able to make that "Alabama Wild Man" sound. The styles of Chet & Jerry always have been a big influence on his playing.

More recently he has pursued arrangements by Tommy Emmanuel and Doyle Dykes, in addition to creating some of his own and writing originals.

Jim has performed in front of a variety of audiences, including concerts, competitions, weddings and the like, but playing at church has always been a mainstay. Whether playing in worship bands or guitar solos, gospel music is deep in his roots and is also the driving theme behind his debut CD release, titled "First Fruits".

Jim has been playing for about 38 years. He also has taught private lessons in the past but believes is an exciting and better venue with many advantages over the traditional method of weekly 30 minute sessions.

Jim lives in Berthoud, Colorado with his wife, Linda, and their four children. Although he still has a "day job", he is actively performing and is already back in the studio working on the next CD. If you wonder how he finds time, look no further than the back seat of his truck where he keeps a "travel guitar" to take advantage of any practice or song-writing opportunities he can get.

The opening song you hear in Jim's introductory JamPlay video is called, "A Pick In My Pocket". It's an original tune, written in memory of Jim's father who told him early on he should always keep a pick in his pocket in case he ever met Chet Atkins and got the chance to play for him. That song is slated to be the title track for his next CD, which will feature several more originals plus some of his favorite covers of Chet and Jerry arrangements.

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Mike H.

"I feel like a 12 year old kid with a new guitar!"

I am 66 years young and I still got it! I would have never known this if it had not been for Jamplay! I feel like a 12 year old kid with a new guitar! Ha! I cannot express enough how great you're website is! It is for beginners and advanced pickers! I am an advanced picker and thought I had lost it but thanks to you all, I found it again! Even though I only play by ear, I have been a member a whopping whole two weeks now and have already got Brent's country shuffle and country blues down and of course with embellishments. Thank you all for your wonderful program!

Greg J.

"With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace"

I'm a fifty eight year old newbie who owns a guitar which has been sitting untouched in a corner for about seven years now. Last weekend I got inspired to pick it up and finally learn how to play after watching an amazing Spanish guitarist on TV. So, here I am. I'm starting at the beginning with Steve Eulberg and I couldn't be happier (except for the sore fingers :) Some day I'm going to play like Steve! I'm self employed with a hectic schedule. With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace, rewinding and replaying the videos until I get it. This is a very enjoyable diversion from my work yet I still feel like I'm accomplishing something worthwhile. Thanks a lot, Greg


"I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students."

I am commenting here to tell you and everyone at JamPlay that I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students. I truly enjoy learning to play the guitar on Yes, I said the words, ""enjoy learning."" It is by far the best deal for the money.

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