Open G is one of the most versatile and easy-to-learn tunings for the 3-string and 4-string guitar. An open tuning is when a guitar’s open strings are tuned to a chord, therefore “Open G” tuning refers to tuning the open strings to a G major chord (G-D-G for 3-String) & (G-D-G-B for 4-String).
Open G tuning makes many riffs, scales, chords shapes, and chord progressions very easy to play when you are in the key of G, since your open strings make a G major chord. I was recently asked this question: “I am comfortable playing songs in the key of G on my 3- & 4-string, but is there a way I can use the same patterns to play in different keys by re-tuning the guitar?” The answer is yes! It’s very easy to change keys (or transpose) by simply changing the notes you are tuning your open strings to.
Below are two guides to transposing Open G tuning to different keys. The column on the left tells you what key to tune to. The middle column tells you what notes to tune each string to (bass note on the left, high pitched note on the right). The column on the right tells you which string gauges work best for each particular tuning. For example, if you know a song on the 3-string guitar in Open G tuning, but you want to play it lower, in the key of D, then you would tune the guitar to D-A-D and use the bass strings (E-A-D) from a 6-string guitar pack.
NOTE: Be careful not to put too much tension on a string, or it may break. With certain tunings, the stings may seem too loose or too tight for your specific preferences. This differs depending on your personal taste, string gauge, and the scale length of your guitar. The general rule is that if your strings feel too loose once tuned, try heavier gauge strings; if your strings feel too tight, try lighter gauge strings.
To really dig into the chord and scale patterns that will help you master Open G tuning on the 3-String & 4-String, check out my Chords and Scales Book HERE.
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