Ultimate Guide to Open G Tuning – Chords, Scales, Tab and Songs

If you’re a blues and rock fan, you’re likely to have stumbled upon a song that had a guitar tuned in Open G.

This is a tuning that allows you to play a G Major chord by strumming all the open strings. This would sound rather awkward in standard tuning, but in open tunings you get a full major chord with almost no effort.

Open tunings such as this one make it easier to play chords by barring only one fret (in a similar way as Drop tunings do, but with all 6 strings).

They’re especially great choices for playing slide guitar.

The overall sound of Open G tends to lean on the bluesy side of things, thus it has been embraced by many musicians of this style, such as Robert Johnson, Keith Richards, and George Thorogood.

If you’re all about challenging yourself on the guitar or finding new ways to approach the guitar, be sure to check out our full guide to alternative tunings, as well as our guides to open D, open E and drop c tuning.

Want to learn more about music theory?
Check out our ultimate guide to music theory to find more jumping off points.

How to Tune Your Guitar in Open G Tuning

A guitar tuned in Open G will have its open strings spelling out a G Major chord.

The notes in the G Major triad are G, B and D (Root, Major 3rd, Perfect 5th).

Instead of having your strings tuned to EADGBE, in this tuning you’ll have the following (starting from the lowest string):

  • D
  • G
  • D
  • G
  • B
  • D

At first glance, we can draw a few quick conclusions:

  • The 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings don’t change if you’re coming from standard tuning.
  • The E strings are tuned down a whole step to D.
  • The A string is tuned a whole step down, to G.

When you’re tuning from standard to open G, you should take into consideration the fact that you’ll loosen your strings. If this causes discomfort, you can try a higher string gauge to compensate.

After you finish tuning all strings, make sure to check them all again. As you’ve changed the overall tension the strings apply to the guitar’s neck, it’s expected that you’ll need to fine-tune until it is stable.

If you don’t have a tuner, you could tune the following way:

  • Play the 4th string (D) and then drop the low E string until their pitches match.
  • Drop the high E string to match the 4th and 6th strings, to a D.
  • Play the 3rd string (G) and then drop the 4th string (A) to match its pitch.

You should now have your strings tuned DGDGBD.

How to Play Chords in Open G Tuning

Major Chords in Open G Tuning

Major chords (Root, Major 3rd, Perfect 5th) are especially easy to play when you’re in Open G.

You can play them by simply barring a fret with one finger. If you learn all the notes on the A string, you can easily play any major chord. Check the diagrams below for some examples.

G Major Chord
D Major Chord
Ultimate Guide to Open G Tuning – D Major Chord

One important detail to take into account: if you play all 6 strings, the lowest note won’t be the root, it will be the 5th. So strumming them all would technically produce a major chord in its second inversion.

However, this is solved easily by simply not playing the lowest string. Some guitarists, such as Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones, remove that string completely.

By doing this, playing clean chords becomes easier. Although you miss out on some potential chord voicings, what you gain in practicality might outweigh the notes you lose.

When soloing, most guitarists don’t tend to use the 6th string as much as the others.

That being said, this goes for all other chords, not just for major.

Minor Chords in Open G Tuning

Minor chords (Root, Minor 3rd, Perfect 5th) are quite similar to major chords in terms of fingerings. You only need to drop the third a semitone.

You won’t be able to play them with a one finger barre shape anymore, as you’ll need to shift your fingers in order to hit that minor third.

C Minor Chord
Ultimate Guide to Open G Tuning – C Minor Chord
A Minor Chord
Ultimate Guide to Open G Tuning – A Minor Chord

Seventh Chords in Open G Tuning

Seventh, or dominant seventh chords, are composed of a root, major third, perfect fifth and a minor seventh. It comes from the 5th degree of the major scale.

Blues harmony is generally a I-IV-V in which all chords are dominant. For example in C, the chords would be C7, F7 and G7.

Since Open G works so well in a blues context, these chords are definitely a must know.

D7 Chord
Ultimate Guide to Open G Tuning – D7 Chord
E7 Chord
Ultimate Guide to Open G Tuning – E7 Chord

Keep in mind that you can easily go from a dominant 7th chord to a Maj7 chord by simply moving your 3rd finger up a fret.

Open Chords in Open G Tuning

Open chords shine with open tunings because you can take advantage of the fact you have several strings tuned to the same note. So you get that full, beautiful ringing sound.

Here’s a few examples of what you could use:

G Minor Chord
Ultimate Guide to Open G Tuning – G Minor Chord
D Major Chord
E Minor Chord

Sus4 Chords in Open G Tuning

Sus4 chords are composed of a root, perfect fourth and a perfect fifth (if you’re not sure about perfect fifths, check out the good old circle of fifths).

They are great to add a little tension to the chord progression you’re playing, and they’re very easy to play in Open G with a movable shape, similar to the major chords.

Gsus4 Chord
Bsus4 Chord

Scales in Open G Tuning

Since you’re tuning almost all strings to different notes, your scale patterns will also change. If you’ve already memorized the fretboard, you’ll have to throw that knowledge out the window and start over! Even the good old CAGED system can’t help you now!

Check below for some of the most common scales, including the minor pentatonic and blues scales. This should come in very handy in the many situations where Open G tuning is used.

G Major Scale

The major scale’s formula is 1 2 3 4 5 6 7. 

In G Major, that translates to having all natural notes except for the F#, so that we have a 7 instead of a b7 on our scale.

The following guitar tab shows where you’ll find the notes which correspond to the G Major Scale in Open G tuning.

G Major Scale

G Natural Minor Scale

The natural minor scale’s formula is 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7.

In G, this means you must flatten B and E (b3 and b6).

The minor scale and its variants are widely used in improvisation, so keep track of where you can find notes such as the b3 and the b7.

G Natural Minor Scale

G Minor Pentatonic Scale

The minor pentatonic scale is a 5-note scale. Start with the natural minor scale and remove the 2nd and 6th degrees.

In G, that leaves us with G, Bb, C, D, F, or 1, b3, 4, 5, b7.

Pentatonic scales can be used in almost infinite harmonic contexts with several objectives, making this a must-know scale.

G Minor Pentatonic Scale

G Major Blues Scale

As the name implies, the blues scale is a staple in the blues genre. Although its major scale might not be used as often as its minor counterpart, it’s still a sound you can definitely take advantage of and should incorporate in your playing.

Its formula is 1 2 b3 3 5 6. It is basically the major pentatonic scale with an added b3, or the “blue note”. Make sure you play it, since it’s the note that characterizes this scale the most.

G Major Blues Scale

G Minor Blues Scale

Arguably the most widely used scale in a classic blues context, this is a scale that you’ve heard countless times in a million records. If you’ve learned any blues solos, they most likely incorporate this scale at some point.

Its formula is 1 b3 4 b5 5 b7. In other words, it is the minor pentatonic with a b5 (blue note).

G Minor Blues Scale

Them Crooked Vultures – Elephants

A fast guitar riff based mostly on pull-offs very fun to play with the use of open strings.

Them Crooked Vultures - Elephants Tab

The White Stripes – Death Letter

This is actually a cover of the band Son House. Regardless, it is a great song to practice slide playing and some of the bluesy licks you can play in Open G.

The White Stripes – Death Letter Tab

The Rolling Stones – Jumpin’ Jack Flash

Keith Richards is one of the most well-known guitarists that mostly plays in Open G. He is also known for removing the 6th string of the guitar so he doesn’t have to worry about it while playing chords.

The Rolling Stones – Jumpin’ Jack Flash Tab

Pink Floyd – Fearless

Although most of Pink Floyd’s music was played in standard tuning, they also used Open G for songs such as Fearless, where the acoustic guitar is one of the main elements of the song.

Pink Floyd - Fearless Tab

The Black Crowes – Twice As Hard

The Black Crowes are known for using Open G in many of their songs. They have many slide oriented riffs too, which work great with this tuning. 

The Black Crowes – Twice As Hard Tab

More Songs in Open G Tuning

  • The Rolling Stones – Start Me Up
  • Robert Johnson – Crossroad Blues
  • Led Zeppelin – In My Time of Dyin’
  • George Thorogood – Bad to the Bone
  • ZZ Top – Tush
  • Dire Straits – Romeo and Juliet (capo on the 3rd fret)
  • The Doobie Brothers – South City Midnight Lady


Open G is an excellent choice if you’re adding the slide to your arsenal of techniques, and a good way to play chords that sound a bit different. Experiment with different string gauges, slightly higher action, and perhaps try removing the 6th string as some players choose to do.

  • Gustavo Pereira

    Gustavo is a Portuguese musician based in Barcelona, where he’s studying jazz and modern music interpretation on the electric guitar. While not writing for KGR, Gustavo busies himself giving online guitar lessons, writing for Guitar Space and other online guitar sites, and travelling to watch his jazz favorites.

2 thoughts on “Ultimate Guide to Open G Tuning – Chords, Scales, Tab and Songs

  • Here mentioning fearless. What does anyone think of the open g tuning in the original? Is the low e tuned up to g instead of down to d.? It sounds like it but I don’t know if the extra pressure on the neck is good so won’t try it. Thoughts anyone.

  • I like tuning up the E string in unison with the A string tuned down to G.
    Gives it a twin prop small aircraft sound.
    Of course, you bring it in and take it away. Great little dynamic toy.
    If the tension flips out your neck setup, use a lighter gauge string.
    Or, become a king of the five-string boogie..
    Snatch it off LIVE and proclaim your Kinghood.
    Snatch off another, become a king of the four string boogie! And so on, until there ARNO more, or the show is over. Whichever comes first.
    Thanks for your rockin contribution.
    Keep rockin’ it!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.