Open D tuning

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Open D tuning.

Open D tuning is an open tuning for the acoustic or electric guitar. The open string notes in this tuning are: D A D F♯ A D. It uses the three notes that form the triad of a D major chord: D, the root note; A, the perfect fifth; and F♯, the major third. The six guitar strings, from lowest pitch to highest, are tuned as follows: D A D F♯ A D.[1]

In this tuning, when the guitar is strummed without fretting any of the strings, a D major chord is sounded. This means that any major chord can be easily created using one finger, fretting all the strings at once (also known as barring); for example, fretting all the strings at the second fret will produce an E major, at the third fret an F major, and so on up the neck.

Open D tuning is very popular with slide guitar (or 'bottleneck') players, as it allows them to play complete chords using the slide. This tuning is also used in regular (non-slide) guitar playing. The full and vibrant sound it produces - particularly on an acoustic guitar - also makes it ideal for fingerstyle playing.[2]

Many new chord shapes and sounds are available with open D tuning. It can offer a strong compositional element that produces tonal qualities markedly different from standard tuning. The full range of major and minor chords, with all their extensions, are available to the player. Many well-known guitarists have used this tuning at some point in their career. For example, Bob Dylan's album Blood on the Tracks was first recorded entirely in open D tuning. Neil Young, Richie Havens, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Cockburn, Barry Gibb, and Jason Swain have all released recordings featuring this tuning as well. Elmore James used this tuning heavily. Stone Gossard from Pearl Jam uses this tuning when playing the rhythm guitar on "Even Flow" and "Oceans", from their Ten album. Mumford & Sons also uses this tuning on their tracks "The Cave", "Awake My Soul" and "Roll Away Your Stone" from their album Sigh No More. Needtobreathe used it on some of their songs, most notably "Something Beautiful" from The Outsiders. Laura Marling uses the tuning on the title track of her 2010 album, I Speak Because I Can.

Variations[edit]

D-A-D-F♯-A-C♯, Open Dmaj7 tuning[edit]

This variant is achieved lowering the high D string a half step to C♯ when tuned to open D. C♯ is the major seventh of the D major scale, hence the name. It also can be used for both fingerstyle and slide guitar work.

D-A-D-F-A-D, Open Dm tuning[edit]

This variant uses an F natural, the minor third.

Red Label Catharsis performs and records entirely in this tuning. More recently, Niko Wenner of Oxbow used the tuning on the songs "Angel," "Cat and Mouse," and others. Among many others, the tuning has also been used as well by Ian Thornley of Big Wreck on "Ladylike" and "Overemphasizing."


DADFAD tuning is ideal for guitarists who are accompanying instruments that are tuned to minor scales, such as the Native American flute.[3]

D-A-D-F-A-E, Open Dmadd9 tuning[edit]

This tuning was used by the progressive metal band Opeth on their album Ghost Reveries.

D-A-D-A-D-D[edit]

This variant, called the "Open D5 tuning", is used by Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge and Creed. Six of the songs in which it is used are "Are You Ready?", "Faceless Man", "My Sacrifice", Fortress, "Ghost of Days Gone By" (half-step down), and "Open Your Eyes" as well as "Rain", "Brains", and "New Way Out" all tuned down 1 and a half steps (BF#BF#BB). This tuning is also used in the Alter Bridge song 'Life Must Go On'. Mark has mentioned in his instructional DVD that this tuning is one of his favorites because of its simplicity. It is also used by the Goo Goo Dolls in their song "Black Balloon", which was tuned down a half step on the album but played live in Open D5. "Without You", "Emotion Sickness" and "Paint Pastel Princess" by Australian band Silverchair also uses the Open D5 tuning but down half a step. Fair to Midland use this tuning tuned down 1 full step (CGCGCC) and 1 1/2 steps (BF#BF#BB).

D-A-D-A-A-D[edit]

This tuning was used by Dave Wakeling of The Beat (known in North America as The English Beat) on the track "Save It For Later" from Special Beat Service.[4] It was also used by Alex Lifeson of Canadian rock band Rush on the track "Hope" from Snakes & Arrows as well as Stone Gossard of American Rock Band Pearl Jam on the track "Let the Records Play".[5] The DADAAD tuning has also been extensively used by Allen Maslen, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist with the British folk-rock band Meet On The Ledge. Tracks with this tuning include Only Angels, Gas Street Shuffle, Freeze, The Litten Tree and One For His Nob.

References[edit]