Standard Tuning vs. Open G

By: Brian Quick
By: Brian Quick

For all you guitar nuts out there, had an interesting conversation with photog Blake about standard tuning vs. open G tuning. For those who don't know, standard tuning is how a guitar is tuned for most songs. Open G tuning was made famous by Keith Richards (though he didn't pioneer it). The strings are tuned that when played open, it is a G chord.

You obviously can play a wide variety in standard tuning...most songs are played this way. Open G has a very specific sound. Here are a couple of songs played in this tuning: (Rolling Stones songs...fair warning, could have bad language):

http://youtube.com/watch?v=9aiG4GQ4fkc

http://youtube.com/watch?v=2M5-RirLbvI

http://youtube.com/watch?v=5FDBBzp7bdg

http://youtube.com/watch?v=M_frm4N-Kbo

The difference is, in open tuning every chord is played with a different finger configuration. In open G, you only need to bar the strings with one finger to play a chord. Typically you can hammer on and off with your other fingers to give a hard sound, specifically when playing rhythm guitar.

I can play in open tuning (i've been playing since I was a kid), but have been teaching myself the intricacies of open G. Blake says it is lazy, because it is so easy to play the chords. I say it is a completely different sound (honestly, play any of those Stones songs in regular tuning -- not the same at all).

What do you think? Open G = lazy? Or a cool, different sound? Let me know!!!

p.s. Interesting fact -- usually when Keith Richards is playing rhythm in open G, Ronnie Wood plays the lead/fills in standard tuning. Have a great weekend!

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