Alternate tunings are a nice way to add variety to your playing and to break out of your typical patterns. When I’m talking about alternate tuning, I’m not talking about drop tuning. We’ll talk about that another time. For our purposes, alternate tunings will be tunings that require you to re-think and re-structure the fingering for chords and scales that would otherwise be familiar to you. Bands that are known to use alternate tunings are Black Crowes, The Rolling Stones, Goo Goo Dolls, Soundgarden, and Led Zeppelin.
Here’s a couple of common open tunings – Open G tuning from low string to high is D, G, D, G, B, D. Open D is D, A, D, F#, A, D. Notice that these tunings create an open chord if you strum all of the open strings (gee, maybe that’s why they call them open tunings!). These tunings are great for slide players since when you bar across one fret, you still have the sound of an open chord. Consider starting off simple if you are new to these tunings. Let’s take simple progression ideas to start with. If you use an open tuning, strumming the open strings will sound the I (one) chord. Strumming a one-finger bar across the fifth fret will produce the IV (four) chord, and a bar across the seventh fret will give you the V (five) chord. Now to add a couple of cool changes – a bar across the third fret will give you the III (three) chord from the parallel minor key, a tenth fret bar will give you the VII (seven) chord from either mixolydian or minor, depending on how you want to look at it.
One last thing to keep in mind – it would be best to have a fixed bridge when altering your tuning. If you have a vibrato bar or a floating bridge, it will be tough to go back and forth between alternate tunings. Those type of bridges work best in the tuning they are set up for.
Ok, time to get to work! Have fun creating some new riffs or chord progressions using some alternate tunings!