Learning to play guitar is filled with wonderful surprises. One of the biggest discoveries players make is learning to play in open tunings. Perhaps one of the most versatile open tunings is open C tuning on the guitar.
The open C tuning on the guitar is a wonderful way to explore the sonic range of the guitar. In addition, you can develop new melodies, strumming patterns, and chord shapes through the open C tuning on the guitar.
One of the biggest frustrations with any open tuning is the expectation. How can you play open tuning guitar if you haven’t fully mastered standard tuning? Isn’t opening tuning harder than regular tuning? Fortunately, we have years of experience to help you navigate open tunings.
At Acoustic Life, we like to view learning the guitar as non-linear. On any given day, you may decide to learn a few chords in standard tuning, while the next you experiment with open tunings. What matters is that you learned something.
We know learning the guitar is difficult, especially navigating open tunings like the open C tuning. Tony Polecastro has years of experience helping plenty of guitar players unlock their inner potential. Today, we’re focusing on open C tuning. Fortunately for you, Tony has years of experience under his belt helping thousands of guitar players through Tony’s Acoustic Challenge.
Open C Tuning on Guitar
The first step to playing in open C tuning on your guitar is to tune it correctly. Start by tuning your low E string to a low C. Then, tune your A string to a G. From their, the D string drops down to a C note. The G string remains the same, while your B string moves up a half step to a C note. Finally, the high E string remains the same.
At the end of the tuning, you want your strings to play a bright, lush C chord:
This is the basic tuning for the open C tuning on guitar. There are some slight variations, but this is the most standard approach. Now that you have the open C tuning on your guitar, you might be wondering what good it is.
Open C Tuning Exercise
The best way to understand the open C tuning on the guitar is by playing a major scale. We know it sounds simple, but playing the scale on one string while strumming all the other strings is incredibly beneficial. This will teach you where the major scale notes are on the fretboard while letting you hear the relations between all the notes.
Start playing a C major scale in open C tuning, start by strumming all of the strings open. Then, place your first finger on the second fret of any of the C strings in this open tuning. From there, it’s just a simple major scale progression up the frets. If you need a refresher, check out our lesson that has helped thousands of other guitarists here. The scale pattern is also covered in the video above.
One of the opportunities open C tuning affords us is the ability to strum all strings at the same time while only fretting one string. Try experimenting with different strumming patterns and major scale orders on the guitar.
Open C Tuning Chords [Stacked and Staggered Shapes]
There are two chord shapes for Open C tuning on guitar. The first one is a stacked shape, while the second one is a staggered shape. Both of these shapes will be useful for playing guitar in open C tuning.
The stacked shape is the simpler of the two shapes.
- Start by placing your ring finger on the fifth fret of the high E string.
- Place your middle finger on the fifth fret of the G string.
This simple stacked shape will allow you to play chords in Open C tuning. The stacked shape will work best on the fifth frets, the seventh frets, and the 12th frets. This is because these are the major triads of the chord, and the stacked shape represents a major chord.
The staggered shape is slightly more complicated, but it is still doable.
- Place your middle finger on the fourth fret of the G string.
- Place your index finger on the third fret of the high E string.
This is the basis of the staggered shape. The staggered shape represents minor chords in the open C tuning. This shape works best on the second, third, sixth, and seventh scale degrees. Be sure to check out the video for the full explanation of the chord shapes and their relational scale degrees!
While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, this will give you a framework for exploring open C tunings on guitar.
Learn more with Tony’s Acoustic Challenge
If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to request an invite to Tony’s Acoustic Challenge. An online guitar lesson like no other, Tony’s Acoustic Challenge has helped thousands of guitar players. Just by watching this video and following along with the lesson, you’re on your way to learning the guitar.
If you decide not to join Tony’s Acoustic Challenge, you may find yourself in a guitar rut — something other online guitar lessons don’t address. You may be more stressed out in trying to find an online guitar lesson website that works for you. But remember, Tony’s Acoustic Challenge is here to help you formulate your own personalized practice routine for you.
It’s time to go from zero to guitar hero. If you are ready to start living your best guitar life and dispel the confusion around learning the guitar online, request an invite today to Tony’s Acoustic Challenge. See you there!