Much like other open tunings, Open D is one of the most popular picks for slide playing, a bluesy flavor and a lot of open strings ringing throughout songs.
In this tuning, strumming all strings without fretting any notes produces a D Major chord.
This will make major chords super accessible to play, since you only need to play a barre chord over the fretboard to get any major chord you want.
Slide playing also becomes easier in comparison to standard tuning, since all of the intervals across a given fret are consonant and will sound “right”.
Some players such as Warren Haynes still play slide in standard tuning, but it becomes a lot more challenging to use some of the typical vocabulary we’ve grown used to from players such as Dwayne Allman, Derek Trucks, and other players who favor open tunings for slide.
Since you’re loosening your strings by down tuning some of them, it might be sensible to put on a heavier set of strings.
This makes even more sense if you’re going to be playing with a slide, in which case you could even raise the action slightly.
That way you can apply a little bit more pressure and still not touch the frets with the slide, which is unwanted.
By the way, make sure to check out our guides to open G and open E tuning.
How to Tune Your Guitar in Open D tuning
The notes played by the open strings in this tuning spell out a D Major chord.
The D Major triad has the following notes: D (root); F# (major 3rd) and A (perfect 5th).
This means that instead of having EADGBE, you’ll have these notes (starting from the lowest string):
Notice that only the 4th string stays the same in comparison to standard tuning. All other strings are dropped either by a whole tone or a semitone. However, memorizing where the notes are isn’t so bad, since you have three D strings and an A string. It is almost as if you only need to memorize 3 strings in total.
If you don’t have a tuner nearby, here’s how you could tune to Open D by ear:
- Play the 4th string (D), and then drop the 6th and 1st strings until their pitches match.
- Play the 4th string (A), and then drop the 2nd string until their pitches match.
- Lastly, the trickiest part, is to play the 3rd string (which is now a D), and then drop the second string until you can hear a major third interval.
If you can’t identify a major third interval by ear yet, you can also play the 4th string on the 4th fret, which gives you the F# you want on the second string.
Also, make sure you check all strings again after tuning. It is expected that the tuning isn’t extremely stable as you’ve just changed the string tension significantly.
Always tune from a lower pitch up until the pitch you want, and not the opposite. This will help you maintain tuning stability more efficiently.
How to play chords in Open D tuning
Major chords in Open D tuning
Open D is basically built around a major chord shape, so these will be a piece of cake to play. The only thing you must acquire is a good awareness of where the notes are on the 6th string.
In comparison to standard tuning, you’ll find every note 2 frets higher than it used to be, since you’ve dropped your low E to a D.
Below are diagrams that illustrate how to play major chords in this tuning:
Minor chords in Open D tuning
Minor chords have a root, minor third and a perfect fifth. Unfortunately, you can’t play them with just barre shapes like the major chords, but they aren’t that hard anyways.
Here are a few examples of what you could use:
Seventh chords in Open D tuning
Seventh, or dominant seventh chords have a root, major third, perfect fifth and a minor seventh.
They are built upon the 5th degree of the major scale and they’re frequently used in order to resolve to a major or minor chord, such as in II V I cadences.
Here’s a few voicings available to play in Open D:
Open chords in Open D tuning
Like in any open tuning, taking advantage of your open chords is a guaranteed way to make the most out of the guitar’s open strings, especially when some of them repeat themselves.
Scales in Open D tuning
In Open D, scale shapes are certainly different from standard tuning, because of the different intervals you have between strings. In this section, you’ll be able to learn where to find the notes that belong to scales used in all genres of music.
D Major Scale
The major scale’s formula is: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7.
In D Major, we have all natural notes except for F# and C# (third and seventh, respectively).
Here’s where you’ll find all the notes belonging to the D Major scale in Open D:
D Natural Minor Scale
The natural minor scale is built upon the sixth degree of the major scale. It is the same as the Aeolian mode.
Its formula is: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7.
In D minor, this means we have all natural notes except for Bb (the b6 of the scale).
The notes from this scale can be found in the following locations on the fretboard:
D Minor Pentatonic Scale
The minor pentatonic has always been a favorite scale among many guitarists, and the truth is that you can do a lot with very little.
Its formula is: 1 b3 4 5 b7.
Pentatonic licks and riffs sound great and it is definitely worth spending some time getting used to the new patterns!
D Minor Blues Scale
The Minor Blues Scale is another favorite when soloing. This one is basically the minor pentatonic with an added note, the b5, or “blue note”, which sounds great when used in an appropriate context.
This means that its formula is: 1 b3 4 b5 5 b7.
D Major Blues Scale
The major blues scale is similar to the major pentatonic scale, except it has a b3.
Its formula is: 1 2 b3 3 5 6.
Here’s where you’ll find the corresponding notes on the fretboard when you’re tuned in Open D:
Popular Songs In Open D Tuning
Boys Like Girls Thunder
This song is a good example of how easy it is to use this tuning when you’re accompanying yourself with an acoustic guitar.
There are voicings that are easy to switch in between, and the chords sound very full from the open strings and repeated notes.
Allman Brothers Band – Little Martha
Open tunings can be heard throughout all of the Allman Brothers Band’s discography. They played with slide a lot, which must have been one of the reasons for them to embrace these tunings the way they did.
Little Martha is a great acoustic guitar song to show off your skills in Open D!
Reo Speedwagon – Time For Me To Fly
A very accessible tune to start off with Open D, you can play it by using barre chords throughout the entire songs.
Take advantage of that to help you memorize the notes on the 6th string and get to know where your root notes are!
The Rolling Stones – Street Fighting Man
There are certainly more The Rolling Stones songs written in Open G, but they have also experimented with other tunings, as they did on Street Fighting Man.
Learning this tune is recommended since it teaches you the kind of voicings that are used the most in this type of context!
Mumford and Sons – The Cave
A simple riff that uses a lot of open strings, this is also a nice choice if you’re trying to get used to Open D tuning.
Pay attention, you must use a capo on the second fret if you want to play along with the original recording of this song.
More Songs In Open D Tuning
- The Tallest Man on Earth – The Gardener
- My Bloody Valentine – Sometimes
- Lonnie Johnson Got The Blues For Murder Only
- Bon Iver – re: Stacks
- Pearl Jam – Even Flow
- Bob Dylan – Shelter From The Storm
- The Black Crowes – She Talks to Angels
- Elmore James – Dust My Broom
- Joe Walsh – The Confessor
Like most open tunings, Open D has a particularly pleasant sound for bluesy riffs and slide licks, but it has found its place in other genres of music as well.
Experiment with heavier string gauges, try out different types of slides and learn a couple of songs that have been written in Open D.
You might end up being inspired by this new approach to the guitar and write something that you probably wouldn’t come up with if you were playing in standard tuning!
Open D Tuning [3 Easy Steps Chords!]
Open D tuning is an unforgettable and practical alternate tuning. In general, alternate tunings can do wonders for your creativity on the guitar. That’s why I’m showing you how to play in open D tuning.
Open D tuning can be difficult to play in, especially if you’re new to guitar. I’m going to address three major issues when it comes to open D tuning:
- How to tune your guitar to open D tuning
- What to play once you’re there
- Chords for open D tuning
By the end of this lesson, you’ll know exactly what you need to practice to be able to play in open D tuning.
If you need some more guidance on how to make a practice plan or stick to a practice routine, I want you to check out this website. I’ll talk about it at the end of the lesson, but I figured I’d give you a quick sneak-peak.
How to Tune to Open D Tuning
Before I show you any chords, licks, or tricks to playing in open D tuning…we have to get there first.
You want your guitar to start in standard tuning, which is — from low string to high string — E A D G B E. You can use a clip-on tuner to get to standard tuning, but if you don’t have one of those, check out this lesson on standard tuning here.
Open D tuning has your guitar tuned in this order — from low string to high string — D A D F# A D. The “pound” or “hashtag” sign indicates that the F is an F sharp, meaning it is a half-step higher than an F natural.
To get to open D tuning, the first thing you’re going to do is tune your low E string (the thickest string) to a low D. I covered a bunch of different ways of tuning to a low D in my drop D tuning lesson.
For now, use your open D string to tune your low E string down to a low D (if none of this is making sense, check out this lesson!).
After tuning the low D string, you’ll leave the A and D strings untouched.
The next string you’ll tune down is the G string. In open D tuning, your G string is tuned one half-step down to an F#. You can use a tuner or match the pitch of my guitar in the video lesson to get an F#.
Your B string is going to be tuned down to an A note. The quickest way to get your B string to an A is by checking it against your open A string (the second thickest string).
Finally, your high E string (the thinnest string) will be tuned down to a D. You can check this against both the low D string or your open D string.
You’ll know that your guitar is in drop D tuning when you can strum all six strings and it creates a full, humongous D chord. If anything is off, individually check each string again.
Familiarize Yourself on the Fretboard
Drop D tuning can be incredibly disorienting the first time you play a major scale. In alternate tunings, it often feels like you have to relearn the fretboard all over again.
What if you can shorten the time it takes to relearn the fretboard?
One of the quickest ways to start moving around on the fretboard in open D tuning is by playing the major scale on just one string.
In this example, we’re going to just play the D major scale on the high D string.
- Start by playing the open high D string.
- Place your index on the 2nd fret and pick only the high D string.
- Index on the 4th fret.
- 5th fret.
- 7th fret.
- 9th fret.
- 11th fret.
- And finally, the 12th fret.
Congratulations! You just played a major scale in open D tuning! I know you were just going up and down the neck, rather than across the neck, but what if I told you there’s a way to make this scale a more musical exercise?
Fortunately, there is!
Just by playing all six strings as you play the scale, you can create a more musical exercise.
Additionally, you can play around with different strumming patterns, different orders in which you play the scale, and even write your own song! The opportunities are seemingly endless in open D tuning!
2 Open D Chord Shapes
Before I dive into specific chords for open D tuning, I want you to play around with open D tuning.
“But Tony…I want to start playing some chords right away!”
Look, I hear you, but I want you to just let the creativity flow at this point. That’s why I’m going to show you two chord shapes, rather than a handful of specific chords.
The great thing about these chord shapes is that they can be applied up and down the fretboard, without having to change the shape — similar to power chords!
The Staggered Shape
If you’ve seen my open G tuning lesson then you’re somewhat familiar with the staggered shape.
To make the staggered shape, fret the 2nd fret of the A string with your middle finger. From there, fret the 1st fret of the F# string with your index finger.
The great thing about the staggered shape is that you can move this shape up and down the fretboard — just make sure to maintain the shape! Some frets may not sound as good as others, so just try exploring on your own.
The Inline Shape
The inline shape will use the same strings at the staggered shape. However, the inline shape will have both fingers on the same frets.
Start by placing your middle finger on the 5th fret of the A string. From there, place your ring finger on the 5th fret of the F# string.
Just like the staggered shape, the inline shape can be moved up and down the fretboard.
Combining the Staggered and Inline Shape
After you’ve explored both the staggered and inline chord shapes for open D tuning, you might have noticed that one chord shape sounds better than the other on a specific fret.
I’m going to show you a super cool chord progression you can use for these different shapes.
- Start by playing all of the open strings.
- Make the staggered shape with your middle finger on the second fret of the A string.
- Move the staggered shape up the neck by two frets so your middle finger is on the 4th fret of the A string.
- Make the inline shape on the 5th fret (like the example earlier).
- Move the inline shape up two frets to the 7th fret.
- Place your middle finger on the 9th fret of the A string to create the staggered shape.
- Move the staggered shape up another two frets so your middle finger is on the 11th fret.
- Finally, make the inline shape on the 12th fret.
The great thing about this sequence of staggered and inline chord shapes is that you can play around with the order.
For example, you can play just back and forth on the 5th and 7th frets. You can even throw in the staggered shape down on the 4th fret.
What YOU can do in Open D Tuning
Now that you’ve gone through this lesson, I want to recap how you can practice and improve on your open D tuning guitar playing.
Remember to start by tuning your guitar to open D tuning
From there, be sure to play the major scales on all of the open D strings. You have a high, middle, and low D that you can play that scale on. As you play the scale, make sure you strum all the strings to get a more musical exercise.
Finally, practice the staggered and inline shapes. I know all of this seems like a lot to worry about, especially on top of practicing in standard tuning.
I’m not going to go super in-depth about this topic here, but I want you to know that you can spend just 10 minutes a day doing super-focused practicing, and you will see results.
One way to make sure you practice at least 10 minutes a day, is by joining Tony’s Acoustic Challenge. Built by guitar geeks for guitar geeks, my online guitar lesson platform will help you develop a lesson plan and hold you accountable for your playing.
In addition, I have tons of daily exercises, as well as plenty of lessons on everything from slide guitar to banjo techniques for the guitar.
If you’re ready to take the next step in your guitar journey, visit Tony’s Acoustic Challenge today to learn more and request an invite!
Guitar Chords in Open D Tuning
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Open D Tuning
If you are looking for guitar chords and guitar chord charts in Open D tuning, you have come to the right place. Simply select the chord family.
Chord Charts in Open D Tuning
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Open D tuning
The open D tuning is especially popular among guitar players who uses a slide, but it is also related to the folk genre. (Open D Tuning is not to be confused with Drop D tuning.)
When you retune your guitar, it is important that you turn the tuning pegs in a direction that decrease the string tension and not the opposite.
To get the open D tuning on your guitar you tune it like this: D A D F# A D.
Blues chords for 12 Bar
D7: you can also play on the 5th and the 6th string (). And you can play with the 1st and 3rd strings open as well ().
G7: an alternative is to include the 6th open string and in that case mute the 5th. The correct name of the chord is in both cases G7//D.
A7: this is to be correct an A7no3, meaning that the third note (C#) is missing.
These are some of the chords you can play in open position when using this particular tuning. You could in some cases skip the 6th string, for example, without playing on the six string the presented diagram with C/D would be C.
Because of the way the tones are configurated, there are few good alternatives for F# minor chords. A suggestion is to play F#m7 as xx.
A regular E minor can't be to play in open position since neither E, G or B can be played on an open string. One way to play it in closed position is xx.
Movable one-finger (or slide) shapes
All you have to do is to lay your fingers over the four highest strings. You can also play on all six strings. As the pictures illustrate, the D chord can be played with all open strings.
The shapes are movable, so if you move the fingers two steps up the fretboard from G major you will get an A major.
All common major chords in open D:
E: XX /
F: XX /
G: XX /
A: XX /
B: XX /
C: X X 10 10 10 10 / 10 10 10 10 10 10
Movable slash chords, some examples:
Slash chords with A or D as bass note:
In the style of Keith Richard
Keith Richard uses open tunings including Open D. If you're interested in typical chords, here are some (all used in "Street Fighting Man"):
C: 10 10 10 10 10 10
Fadd9/C: 10 12 10 11 10 10
If you want to go more into depth of this particular guitar tuning, see the Essential Chords in Open D Tuning ebook with over chord diagrams.
This was an introduction to chords in Open D tuning, see also Open E tuning and Open G tuning.
Chart chord open d
Open D Tuning is possibly the most popular open tuning due to the massive number of songs in Open D. This open tuning is popular with blues guitarists and is great fun to use with a guitar slide.
In this guide, you will learn
- How to tune your guitar in Open D
- Easy chord shapes you can play in Open D Tuning
- A printable PDF with chord charts
- Scale diagrams for Open D
- Great songs in Open D tuning with Guitar TAB
Once you read through this guide, check out my Ultimate Guide to Alternate Tunings to learn about other popular open tunings as well as some weird alternate tunings worth trying out.
If you want to try and use a guitar slide in Open D tuning, check out this lesson for some tips on how to get started.
How to Tune Your Guitar in Open D Tuning
To tune your guitar into Open D, you need to change your strings to D A D F# A D.
First, you need to lower the low sixth string to D. Leave the A and D strings, then lower the G string down to F#. Lower the B string to A and the high E string down to D.
Use a good tuner and once you get through all six strings, go back and check the tuning again. Changing into an alternate tuning like Open D Tuning changes the tension on the neck, so you may need to make a few adjustments in tuning as the guitar neck settles to the new tension.
If you enjoy playing in Open D tuning and want to keep your guitar in Open D, you may want to consider using a slightly heavier gauge set of strings. The lower tuning loosens the strings, so to overcome this, use a heavier set.
Check out this guide to learn more about string tension and gauges.
The lower string tension may also reduce the action height on your guitar. This might be good or bad, depending on your playing style. If you start to notice buzzing as you play, you may need to adjust the action height. Check out this guide to learn more about action height.
Open D Tuning Chords
What makes open tunings like Open D fun to play is how easy some chord shapes are. You can play full chords with one finger, or you can slide back and forth between chords with a guitar slide.
Major chords in Open D Tuning
Here is how you play Major chords in Open D tuning:
This is why Open D is such a fun tuning – you can easily play any major chord with one finger.
Simply move your first finger up or down the fretboard. The note on the sixth string will tell you what chord you are playing (eg: 5th fret on the sixth string is G, so the chord would be G Major).
If you have already memorized the notes on the D string in standard tuning, then you’ll find it easy to remember the notes on the sixth string (also tuned to D).
If you’re playing with a guitar slide, this is great fun to play around with. Find out how to play with a guitar slide in this lesson.
Minor chords in Open D Tuning
While Major chords are simple in Open D, there are still a few easy chord shapes for minor chords. Here are a few examples of minor chord shapes in Open D tuning:
The Em and F#m examples are moveable shapes, so you can use these two shapes to play any minor chord you want in Open D tuning. The bottom note in each chord shape is the root note, so simply line up the chord shape to match the root note you want.
For example, if you want to play F minor, take the E minor chord shape and move it up one fret.
Seventh chords in Open D Tuning
To play a seventh chord in Open D tuning, simply start with the Major chord shape and raise the second string by three frets as shown below:
If you use your first finger to bar across the fret, use your fourth finger to play the high note. Now you can move the chord shape up or down to play any seventh chord you want.
Sus2 and Sus4 chord shapes in Open D Tuning
Here are two easy moveable chord shapes for suspended chords in Open D tuning:
It should be clear by now how useful barre chords are in Open tunings. If you’re not confident with playing barre chords, I recommend working on them so you can get the most out of an open tuning like Open D.
Open chords in Open D Tuning
Here are some other easy chord shapes for Open D Tuning. Try coming up with chord progressions using a combination of the below chords and the chords covered above.
Some of the above chord shapes are moveable, while others aren’t. Once you feel comfortable with the note positions in Open D tuning, you can gradually figure out new chord shapes to use.
Open D Tuning Chords PDF
Here is a printable PDF with all of the above chord shapes in Open D Tuning.
Download Open D Chords PDF here
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Open D Tuning Scales
If you enjoy strumming chords in Open D Tuning, learning the note positions on the fretboard will allow you to also start playing licks and riffs.
Read through this lesson for the best methods to memorize the fretboard. While the lesson talks about memorizing the notes with standard tuning, the same methods can be used with open tunings.
Here are the notes of the C Major scale in Open D Tuning:
This is an easy tuning to memorize if you already know the notes in standard tuning because you will already know the note positions on the A and D strings.
All you need to do is learn the note positions on the F# string (just mentally shift everything on that string up one fret) and get used to the order of the strings.
If this is the first time you’ve tried to memorize an alternate tuning, you might be surprised by how quickly you can memorize it. The repeated strings make the job quick and easy.
Open D tuning is clearly based on the D Major chord, so it’s a perfect fit for the D Major scale. Here are the notes in the D Major scale in Open D Tuning:
It should be no surprise that a lot of songs written in Open D Tuning use the D Major scale. So memorizing the note positions in D Major is worth the effort.
This scale also makes it clear which chords you can easily combine in chord progressions. Try coming up with a chord progression using the chord shapes from earlier and if all of the notes match the above scale, you’ll be writing the chord progression in the key of D.
Open D Tuning Songs
While it’s fun to strum with some chord shapes, you can only really learn what makes open tuning special by learning songs.
There are countless songs in Open D tuning. For an easy starting point, try playing the below songs in Open D tuning.
Even Flow by Pearl Jam
Even Flow is a great example of how opening tunings aren’t just for strumming acoustic ballads. You can use an open tuning to create some hard-hitting riffs and Even Flow makes great use of the open tuning.
This below riff uses a distorted electric guitar in Open D tuning. Listen to the song to get an idea of the rhythm and focus on your timing.
The chorus in the song makes good use of simple chords possible in Open D as you can see below:
Check out the song Oceans on the same album for another Pearl Jam song in Open D tuning.
The Cave by Mumford & Sons
If you’re looking for an easy song to feel comfortable with Open D tuning, The Cave is as easy as it can get.
The song makes good use of the easy open chords possible in Open D tuning and uses a very basic strumming pattern.
This song is played with a Capo on the 2nd fret.
Here’s the intro riff to The Cave:
Here’s the next section of the song that uses some simple chords and a very easy strumming pattern:
For more Mumford & Sons songs in Open D tuning, check out Awake My Soul and Roll Away Your Stone.
More Songs in Open D Tuning
Here are some popular songs in Open D tuning:
- The Gardener by The Tallest Man on Earth
- The Cave by Mumford & Sons
- Even Flow by Pearl Jam
- Thunder by Boys Like Girls
- Dust My Broom by Elmore James
- Re:Stacks by Bon Iver
- Street Fighting Man by The Rolling Stones
- Sometimes by My Bloody Valentine
- Ghost of Perdition by Opeth
- Over Now by Alice in Chains
- Ghost of Days Gone By by Alter Bridge
To learn about other alternate tunings, check out my Ultimate Guide to Alternate Tunings here.
Here are some other open tunings to try out:
I’ll be creating more useful resources like this guide over time. Subscribe for email updates to be notified of new guides and resources.
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