At various points throughout our time as guitar players, whether we are beginners or experienced players, we hit walls. Maybe we have hit a limit with our theoretical knowledge or maybe we are in an inspirational rut. I’ve discovered that changing your tuning can help. By transferring your preexisting guitar skills and knowledge over to something like an open tuning you can be challenged at just the right level to reignite the passion for guitar.
Open tunings have that effect with popular musicians as well. Many artists gain their following for having a certain “sound”. This can be a double edged sword because although it helps them carve out their ideal target audience, it also can get them “pigeonholed” to one genre or even worse, have their fans get tired of the repetition. Sometimes small subtle changes can help an artist stay true to their message and image while simultaneously letting them break out with a song that captivates everyone – even people beyond the average fan or casual listener. The following are songs that have done just that by the use of open guitar tunings. If you find that you like one or more of these songs, go ahead and try your hand at learning it!
In no particular order we have:
Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
Like it or not, Jack White has become the current generation’s guitar legend. The White Stripes are a polarizing group, you seem to either love them or hate them. Their simplicity, minimalism and avant-garde approach set them apart from much of the popular music of the early 2000’s and their early work was far from “radio friendly“.
This changed in 2003 when Jack White tuned his guitar to open A tuning and recorded one of the simplest, most infectious rock tunes to date. The power and tone that resulted from that deep tuning was much different than the band’s previous lo-fi garage sound. However, it still allowed for the simplicity and Jack’s famous slide work to show through. This song helped The White Stripes become something of a household name and it is played at sporting events world wide.
Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell
Many of us might have a message, but no way of getting it out there. Joni Mitchell certainly did so with “Big Yellow Taxi”. This anti-pollution song was famous for it’s lyrics yes, but don’t forget about that catchy guitar rhythm. This song was popular but it may not have gotten the same recognition that the others on our list did when they first came out. However, this song has been highly influential. Countless people have covered it and making it a favorite of people who may not even know about the original version!
She Talks To Angels – The Black Crowes
Unlike the previous songs, when The Black Crowes released their debut album it was most certainly this song that helped get them to where they are today. Although they had a couple of other big hits on the album, one was an Otis Redding cover. Relying on a cover to gain your identity and build your following can be risky business. “She Talks to Angels” allowed people to see the character and depth of the group and certainly helped them carve out their fan base. An acoustic guitar tuned to open G helped this song stand out. The opening strumming is instantly recognizable.
Hopefully I’ve piqued your interest and you are interested in learning one of these songs, or simply experimenting around with an open tuning. If so, check out opendtuning.com for some beginner tips and resources for playing in open d – one of the most popular open tunings.