Alternate tunings are a great way to explore the guitar – but they can be frustrating.
I remember feeling stuck in a rut with every new tuning I tried. It was like having to learn the guitar all over again. Each tuning had different chord shapes, scale shapes, and unique sounds.
But then I made a discovery, a breakthrough, a realization:
Alternate tunings don’t have to be intimidating, frustrating, or discouraging. Instead, I started focusing on how much they changed the sound of my guitar.
I want to pass along some helpful tips for playing in ANY tuning…yes, any alternate tuning.
In addition, I want to tell you about an online guitar lesson program that has helped thousands of guitar geeks. It’s called Tony’s Acoustic Challenge — but let’s get to those helpful tips first.
Check out these 3 tips to play guitar in any alternate tuning!
Originally published on July 16, 2019, this post was republished on September 08, 2022.
3 Tips to Learn How to Play in Alternate Tunings
I’m showing you a 3-step method to get you into any alternate tuning, figure out what chords to play, and get comfortable with the scales in that alternate tuning.
1. Find the Critical Notes for the Alternative Tuning Scale
Whatever tuning you’re in the first thing you need to do is find the 1st, 3rd, and 5th scale degrees. It works the same for open D Minor tuning, open C tuning, open D tuning, half-step lower tuning, or any other.
Once you find these notes in the scale, you’ll be able to find the other scale degrees. It’s crucial that you feel comfortable finding these notes in any tuning.
After you find them, you’ll be more comfortable playing scales and figuring out a scale pattern that works for you.
2. Identify Your Chords
You might feel lost or confused trying to find chords to play in an alternate tuning.
To remedy this feeling, just remember that most tunings are tuned to an open chord.
For example, in open G tuning (DGDGBD), you’re creating a G chord.
Now…what happens when you fret all six strings at once?
You create a new chord!
Transform Your Guitar Playing in 10 Minutes a Day
Remember, the secret to a fulfilling guitar journey is consistency, not laborious practice.
Snag your FREE TAC Progress Tracker today and build the skills to learn songs faster in just 10 minutes a day!
There are two important things to keep in mind with this concept.
If you are in a major open tuning — and you want to play a major chord — barre all six strings. For minor chord, find out which string is the third scale degree, and play one fret below where you’re barring.
For a minor open tuning and you want to play a major chord, find the third scale degree string and fret one fret above your barre.
3. Identify the Scales
Do you remember identifying the scale degrees for your open tuning? It’s time to put that to good use.
In an alternate tuning, you need to identify the open string that the tuning is based on. So for open D tuning, that would be the D string.
From there, try to figure out the difference between that D string and the string up. This will help you make the necessary adjustments to your scale patterns.
Learn More Fun Ways to Practice in Alternate Tunings
What if I told you there was a way you could (1) practice every day, (2) learn alternate tunings, and (3) have tons of fun learning the guitar?
That way is through Tony’s Acoustic Challenge.
Want to take your practice to the next level? Then check out this FREE guitar class, where I show you the three secrets to accelerate your guitar learning in just 10 minutes a day.