Open G Tuning (Guitar Lesson)

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Brad Henecke

Open G Tuning

Brad Henecke introduces open G tuning. First, he explains how to tune the guitar to open G. Next, he teaches some chord shapes and progressions in open G.

Taught by Brad Henecke in Rock Guitar with Brad Henecke seriesLength: 23:50Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (00:58) Lesson Introduction In this lesson, Brad Henecke introduces you to open G tuning. You may already be familiar with this tuning if you have been following along with Mark Nelson's Hawaiian slack key lessons.

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.

Many rock, blues, bluegrass, and folk players frequently play in open tunings such as open G, open D, and open E. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards frequently employs open G tuning. As a result, learning this tuning will potentially allow you to play some of your favorite songs.
Chapter 2: (03:15) Tuning to Open G When learning a new tuning, it is absolutely necessary that you start with the basics 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.

Your next step is to learn other fundamental guitar skills in the new tuning. You must learn how to play basic chords, chord progressions, and scales in the new tuning. Brad will get you started on the path to learning all of these skills in open G tuning.

Tuning the Guitar

Here is how each string is tuned in open G:

6th string: tuned down to D
5th string: tuned down to G
4th string: remains the same
3rd string: remains the same
2nd string: remains the same
1st string: remains the same

A specific process must be followed when switching to this tuning to ensure the best and most accurate results. This is also the least frustrating process to follow when tuning your guitar to open G.

Brad assumes that you are using standard tuning as a starting point.

1. Tune your guitar to standard tuning if not already there. Make sure you are tuned perfectly to A=440.

2. Lower the pitch of the sixth string to match the pitch of the 4th string. This note is 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 will put both D notes in the same octave.

3. Next, match the pitch of the 5th string to the pitch of the open 3rd string. This note is G. Once again, you may want to match the pitch of the 12th fret of the 5th string to the open G string so that both notes that you are comparing are played in the same octave. Pluck both of these notes simultaneously like Brad does as you are tuning.

4. 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.

5. Finally, 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 D 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.

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 that you tuned 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.
Chapter 3: (01:50) Chords in Open G Note: Make sure that your guitar is perfectly in tune with Brad's before advancing to the remaining scenes in this lesson.

Brad demonstrates your first chord shapes in open G tuning in this scene.

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.

Converting to a Barre Chord

The open G major chord can easily be converted into a movable major barre chord shape. 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.

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. Since we’re playing in open G tuning, the most logical key to start with is the key of G major. You already know how to play the I chord, G major. The IV chord, C is played as a barre across the fifth fret. Then, the V chord D is played as a barre chord up two frets from C at the seventh fret.

I IV V in Other Keys

At this point, determine where the I, IV, and V chords can be played in the remaining 12 keys. This will enhance your knowledge of where notes and chords can be found in this new tuning.
Chapter 4: (01:33) Chord Shapes in Open G Needless to say, it will get boring rather quickly if you use the exact same chord shape for all of the major chords. Therefore, you must learn a wide variety of chord voicings in this tuning. You must take the same process of learning chords that you have taken with standard tuning and apply it to Open G.

Brad will run through the major, minor, and dominant chords for A, B, C, D, E, F, and G in order. This gives you a total of 21 new chords to learn. That's a lot to practice! Consequently, you must take your time and learn these chords over the span of a couple weeks of practice. It is easiest to learn and remember chords if you can apply them to a musical context. Make sure that you practice these chords within a progression. Otherwise, you run the risk of forgetting them.

Do not be scared off by the process of learning a bunch of new chords in a strange new tuning. As you will notice, may of the chord shapes in open G are very similar to their standard tuning counterparts. Most of the chords in open G tuning typically feature one note that must be fingered differently.
Chapter 5: (02:11) A chords in Open G A Major

This chord can be played as a full barre across all six strings at the second fret. This barre is performed with the first finger. These barre chords in Open G are a little bit more difficult than barre chords played in standard tuning since one finger must fret all of the notes in the chord.

A Minor

The chord voicing that Brad demonstrates looks very similar to its standard tuning counterpart from a visual standpoint. However, the fifth string is omitted from this chord. Also, the pinkie must fret the note E at the second fret of the first string since this string is now tuned to an open D. Due to the fact that this shape contains no open strings, it can be transposed anywhere on the fretboard. The third finger frets the root note on the third string. This note names the chord.
Chapter 6: (01:34) A7 Chord This chord is very similar to its standard tuning counterpart as well. Once again, the note E must be fretted at the second fret by the pinkie finger. Similar to Am, the two low strings are once again omitted. However, you can add your first finger to the second fret of the 5th string to add the low root note A to the chord.

This chord features an open string. Consequently, if the chord is slid up the neck, the name of the chord will change. For example, if you slide this shape up one fret, a Bb6 chord is produced. You must analyze how the note G functions in relation to each chord to determine the proper name of each chord. For more information about this subject, please refer to lesson 15 from this series, entitled Colorful Chord Tension.
Chapter 7: (01:43) Chords in Open G B Major

This major chord can be played as a simple one finger barre across all six strings at the third fret.

B Minor

This chord uses the same shape as Am. Slide the Am chord shape up two frets to form a Bm chord.


The B7 shape is very similar to A7. The first finger must stretch back to fret the note that was once an open string. This note is the b7 of the dominant seventh chord. You cannot add the low root note of this chord, since the first finger must be used to fret the b7 of the chord. The first string is also omitted from this chord. Since this chord shape contains no open strings, it can be transposed anywhere on the fretboard.
Chapter 8: (02:18) C and D Chords in Open G C Major

The note E must be fretted at the 2nd fret of the 1st string in this tuning when playing a C major chord. Also, the bass note of this chord is changed to the open fifth string. This note, G, is the fifth of the C major chord. Similar to the open G chord, this version of C major is played in second inversion.

C Minor

Cm utilizes the same shape as the Am chord.


C7 uses the same shape as the B7 chord.

D Major and D7

The root note of these chords is the open 4th string just like in standard tuning. The voicings that Brad demonstrates for D and D7 omit the third of the chord. As a result, the chord demonstrated for D major is technically a D5 power chord that can be substituted for either D major or D minor. However, the third of the chord can be added by fretting the note F# at the 4th fret of the first string.

The Dm chord requires that you fret the third of the chord (b3) at the third fret of the 1st string with the pinkie finger. Otherwise, this chord is the same in standard tuning.
Chapter 9: (02:07) More Open G Chords E Major

The E chord no longer uses the two lowest strings. Also, you must fret the high root note at the 2nd fret of the 1st string with the third finger.

E Minor

To switch from E to Em, simply lift up the first finger to lower the major third of the chord by a half step.


To switch from E to E7, simply lift up the third finger. The pitch of the open first string is D in this tuning. This note is the b7 of the E7 chord.
Chapter 10: (02:39) F Chords in Open G F Major

The F chord shape in open G is a movable voicing with the root note located on the 4th string. Notice how the pinkie finger must fret the high root note at the 3rd fret of the 1st string. Otherwise, this chord shape is very similar in standard tuning.

F Minor

The shape used for Fm is pretty strange. It only involves the three treble strings. You can think of this chord by comparing it to the shape of the open Dm chord in standard tuning. However, the third of the chord, which is located on the first string, must be moved up by two frets. Consequently, the pinkie finger frets this note. This is a movable voicing. The root note is fretted on the second string.


The voicing for F7 is completely different in this tuning. It features a barre from the fifth string down. This is a movable voicing. Keith Richards uses this shape very frequently when playing dominant chords in open G tuning.
Chapter 11: (02:15) G Chords in Open G G Major

You've already learned the basic open G chord in this tuning. This chord is played by strumming all of the open strings.

G Minor

Gm is fairly unusual from a visual standpoint. The third and fifth of the chord are fretted at the third fret on the 3rd and 2nd strings.


By adding the note F to an "open" G major chord, a G7 chord is formed. The note F is located at the 3rd fret of the D string as well as the third fret of the first string. Adding either of these notes or both of them will convert G major to G7.
Chapter 12: (01:18) Open G Chord Progression Brad teaches you a chord progression and strumming pattern that can be applied to this tuning. Remember that it is easiest to remember new chords if you apply them to a musical, practical context.

The progression begins with an open G chord. The next chord is Em. Then, the progression moves to B minor and finally back to Em. Use straight quarter notes as you first begin to strum this progression. A D7 chord enters after several repeats of this chord progression to serve as a strong transition back to the tonic chord of G major.

Note: Tablature and notation to this chord progression can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Supplemental Learning Material



Member Comments about this Lesson

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

bunkybunky replied

2009 was a long time ago. fix the chord diagrams

lancegentilelancegentile replied

interesting, but kinda useless, as it means relearning the guitar. I'm still trying to learn the basic tuning.

juliancbyrdjuliancbyrd replied

Why not show some Keith Richards songs, the king of modern open G? Almost all his greatest riffs haven been in open G since he started using it in about 67 , Honkytonk Woman, Brown Sugar, Tumbling Dice, Start me up and on and on.

scpilgrimscpilgrim replied

Question: why is the B on the 3rd and not 4th?

dash rendardash rendar replied

Yeah, I reckon you're right there. In the Supplemental, the B major chord is a barre of the third fret, whereas it should be the 4th. The other B shapes look okay.

dash rendardash rendar replied

Just a few more observations about the supplemental content... For the B7, the 1st string should also be muted (or not played). For the open D and D minor shapes, these should be moved up a fret, such that the D note on the 2nd string is on the 3rd fret, not the 4th. (The D7 is okay.) For the F minor chord shape, would it not be better to also fret the F note on the 3rd fret of the 4th string, just as has been indicated for the other two F chords? This would still be moveable, and would not require the 4th string to be muted / not played.

jboothjbooth replied

I'll update these when I get a chance today or tomorrow, thanks for pointing it out!

Rock Guitar with Brad Henecke

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

In this Phase 2 series Brad Henecke will school you in the art of rock guitar. You will not only learn how to play some of your favorite songs in this series, but you will also learn how to create your own.

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Length: 52:09 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
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Length: 42:30 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Barre Chords and MoreLesson 3

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Brad Henecke introduces common strumming patterns and barre chords.

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Tricks and LeadLesson 6

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Message in a BottleLesson 13

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Third PatternLesson 14

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Colorful Chord TensionLesson 15

Colorful Chord Tension

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The Fourth PatternLesson 16

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The Fifth PatternLesson 18

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Lesson 19

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PhrasingLesson 20


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The Lydian ModeLesson 28

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Mixolydian ModeLesson 29

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The Aeolian ModeLesson 30

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The Locrian ModeLesson 31

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A Different ViewLesson 36

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Octave ScalesLesson 40

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Using OctavesLesson 41

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Harmonic Minor ScaleLesson 42

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Brad Henecke

About Brad Henecke View Full Biography Brad Henecke was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on May 5th of 1963. He has been a fan of music for as long as he & his family can remember. You could always find him running around the farm wailing on his cardboard guitar, pretending to be a member of the rock band KISS. Additional inspiration came during his first concert when he got the chance to see Boston & Sammy Hagar in the early 1970's.

This opened up a whole new world of rock and roll music for him; his parents noticed his growing interest in music and enrolled him into guitar lessons when he was 13.

From there he jumped into two years of lessons at a local music store in Cedar Rapids. After discovering Eddie Van Halen, Brad knew that the guitar would always be a part of his life. He took his love throughout the city as he played as a pit musician & jammed at parties for friends.

This made him thirsty for more. He enrolled classes at Kirkwood Community College & also took lessons from the one & only Craig-Erickson (

His love for music landed him a gig opening for Molly Hatchet in Cedar Rapids with a band called "Slap & Tickle". He has also played in the Greeley Stampede show for quite a few years with "True North".

Brad is currently playing in Greeley, Colorado with a rock band titled "Ragged Doll". They play a wide variety of music with an emphasis on classic rock from the 60's to present, with Brad playing electric guitar in the five piece lineup.

He currently jams on his all-time favorite guitar: a Paul Reed Smith Custom 24. Beyond guitar, he plays also plays drums & bass guitar. He has also been known to thrash a banjo from time to time. He is still actively playing & passing his 31 years of playing experience on to others (you!).

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Our software allows you to document your progress for any lesson, including notes and percent of the lesson completed. This gives you the ability to document what you need to work on, and where you left off.

Custom Chord Sheets

At JamPlay, not only can you reference our Chord Library, but you can also select any variety of chords you need to work on, and generate your own printable chord sheet.

Backing Tracks

Jam-along backing tracks give the guitarist a platform for improvising and soloing. Our backing tracks provide a wide variety of tracks from different genres of music, and serves as a great learning tool.

Interactive Games

We have teachers covering beginner lessons, rock, classic rock, jazz, bluegrass, fingerstyle, slack key and more. Learn how to play the guitar from experienced players, in a casual environment.

Beginners Welcome.. and Up

Unlike a lot of guitar websites and DVDs, we start our Beginner Lessons at the VERY start of the learning process, as if you just picked up a guitar for the first time.Our teaching is structured for all players.

Take a minute to compare JamPlay to other traditional and new methods of learning guitar. Our estimates for "In-Person" lessons below are based on a weekly face-to-face lesson for $40 per hour.

Price Per Lesson < $0.01 $4 - $5 $30 - $50 Free
Money Back Guarantee Sometimes n/a
Number of Instructors 127 1 – 3 1 Zillions
Interaction with Instructors Daily Webcam Sessions Weekly
Professional Instructors Luck of the Draw Luck of the Draw
New Lessons Daily Weekly Minutely
Structured Lessons
Learn Any Style Sorta
Track Progress
HD Video - Sometimes
Multiple Camera Angles Sometimes - Sometimes
Accurate Tabs Maybe Maybe
Scale/Chord Libraries
Custom JamTracks
Interactive Games
Learn in Sweatpants Socially Unacceptable
Gasoline Needed $0.00 $0.00 ~$4 / gallon! $0.00
Get Started

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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