“It’s A G Thang” . . : Keith Richards and Open G Tuning

As a guitarist, I’ve was never that much into open tunings. I had enough of a time understanding the guitar in standard tuning to be bothered with learning a different one (What is an open tuning? It’s when you tune the guitar in such a way that the guitar plays a major chord when all the open stings are strummed.). That was before I took up the dobro (see my previous post https://roymusicusa.com/2020/09/03/wire-wood-steel-an-new-acoustic-music-project/). The dobro is tuned in what is referred to as “dobro open G” tuning (low to high G-B-D-G-B-D). The open G tuning that is commonly used for guitar is slightly different (low to high D-G-D-G-B-D) due to the guitar neck not being strong enough to handle the extra tension on the low strings. Despite the differences with standard guitar tuning, I was able to adjust quicker that I expected. The second, third and fourth string are identical in both tunings so that provided a base to work off of.

Open tunings are commonly used with slide guitar but the guitarist who is most identified with using open tunings in the context of rock guitar must be Keith Richards. Using a open G tuning with the sixth string removed, Keith came up with some of the most iconic riffs in rock music. We’re talking songs like ‘Start Me Up,’ ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,’ and ‘Honky Tonk Women’.

The videos below delve into Keith Richards and his take on open G tuning. Exploring a new tuning can really unlock some new ideas if you’re feeling like your playing has become stuck in a rut. Definitely worth the effort to check it out.

Keith Richards Demonstrates his 5-String Technique

Riffs in the Key of Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones on Guitar (Open G)


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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

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