How to Tune Your Guitar to Open D

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D A D F# A D Alternate Tuning

open D tuning

Although not as popular as open G, it's still a popular tuning many blues and bluegrass guitarists. Open D tuning was also used extensively by many folk guitarists in the 1960s and '70s - Bob Dylan's 1975 album Blood on the Tracks was recorded entirely in open D.

Like many other open tunings, one of the benefits of playing in open D tuning is the guitar sounds like a D major chord when strummed open. When you barre the strings at specific frets up the fretboard, the chord changes.

Listen to an mp3 of this tuning

Tuning Tips

  • Tune your sixth string down a tone to D. Check the tuning with the fourth (D) string.
  • Your fifth string (A) is fine as-is.
  • Your fourth string (D) is fine as-is.
  • Tune your third string down a semitone to F#. Check the tuning with the fourth fret of your fourth string.
  • Tune your second string down a tone to A. Check the tuning with the fifth (A) string - it should be an octave above.
  • Tune your first string down a tone to D. Check the tuning with the fourth (D) string.

Note - as you'll see in some of the example songs below, many guitarists like to actually tune to open E instead of open D tuning. Open E tuning mimics open D, but everything is tuned two frets higher. To get an open E sound without actually tuning your guitar this way, tune to open D and then put a capo on the second fret.

Learn Songs in Open D Tuning

She Talks to Angels - This Black Crowes song uses open D tuning to create some interesting riffs that would be much harder in standard tuning. The song actually sounds like open E tuning - tune to the open D shown above and put your capo on the second fret.

Chelsea Morning - A somewhat intricate Joni Mitchell song in open D tuning. You'll have to learn a lot of unfamiliar chord shapes to play this one.

Big Yellow Taxi - Another Joni Mitchell song in open D. Like "She Talks to Angels", this sounds like open E tuning. Tune your guitar to open D and put a capo on the second fret.

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes - This CSN tab may or may not be correct, and it's certainly confusing, but for those who want to take on the task, this song works very nicely in open D tuning.

Simple Twist of Fate - Not a complete tab, but this shows the basic chord shapes for playing the classic Bob Dylan song.

Other Resources

YouTube Lesson - Statesboro Blues - A basics of fingerpicking tutorial in open D tuning.

Open D Guitar Lesson - A nice lesson on using open D tuning, that includes chord shapes, video clips, basic theory and some songs to try and play.

Richie Havens Lesson - The guitarist who was introduced to millions through Woodstock shares his guitar technique, one which finds the guitarist using open D tuning constantly.

Open D Chord Charts - Alan Horvath provides a not fully complete, but still informative listing of chords available for use in open D tuning.