Watch the Essentials: Open Tunings online guitar lesson by Vicki Genfan from Essentials: Open Tunings
This course is an in-depth introduction to 11 open tunings that have been specially chosen for the guitarist who is hungry for new sounds, new sonic and rhythmic possibilities, and is downright curious about all this 'open tuning' stuff! While open tunings have been used by guitarists of all musical genres, acoustic and electric players alike, they are just now becoming of greater interest to the mainstream guitar world. Artists such as Nick Drake, Jimmy Page, Richie Havens, David Crosby, Keith Richards, and Joni Mitchell have been using open tunings in popular folk and rock music of the 60's and forward, while many know Michael Hedges for his extended techniques and pioneering contributions to the world of solo fingerstyle guitar in the 70's and 80's. In the singer songwriter world, Jonatha Brooke and Shawn Colvin are just 2 artists whose open tuning guitar playing often goes under-appreciated in favor of their great lyrical content and amazing vocals. Other artists you may have heard such as Pierre Bensusan, Preston Reed, Don Ross, Al Petteway, Don Alder and in the younger generation, Justin King, Kaki King (no relation), Petteri Sariola and Andy McKee are all using open tunings to go beyond the traditional techniques of guitar playing. The music being composed and arranged by these and countless other artists is simply fantastic and deserves our attention and great appreciation. I hope to demystify open tunings for you and open the door into this exciting playground!
Note: Hawaiian musicians refer to open tunings as 'Slack Key' because when tuning the strings lower (you can also tune them higher), the strings become a bit loose or slack. You will also hear people talk about alternate or alternative tunings and they are basically referring to the same thing. Some will say the difference is that an open tuning sounds like a chord when strumming all the open strings together, while an alternate or alternative tuning doesn't particularly sound like a harmonious chord. For our purposes I will refer to open tunings throughout this course meaning any variation from standard guitar tuning (E A D G B E).
I’ve written 11 new teaching compositions, or etudes, which serve as introductions to each of the tunings. Each one has something special to offer. Close your eyes, and open your heart and ears when you listen to me play them. Some will move you more than others. There’s no need to go in order - start where you are most excited and work your way through them all. You’ll soon realize that it’s not that difficult to re-tune your guitar, and Wow - what a small price to pay for the payoff of creative juice that will flow as a result!
I hope you’ll also spend time exploring each tuning on your own. Refer to the PDF, "Exploring New Tunings" for a bunch of ideas about how to do this.
And don’t be afraid to try your hand at creating your very own tunings. Again, I’ve provided a PDF called "Creating a New Tuning" to give you some guidelines. With 6 strings and a range of at least 6 notes that we can tune each string to, there are 46,656 possibilities! Get busy people!
My approach to this course overall is very much from a creative angle. This is how I've always worked. I'll talk about the tunings in terms of special features and cool things I've discovered you can do with them, not from a highly technical or theoretical standpoint. Those of you who think that way may come up with your own deductions and theories as you go along - and I encourage you to do so, but not at the expense of your creative self who just wants to make awesome music and get lost in the jingle jangle droney modal world that awaits! ** Note about naming these tunings: I wanted to name the tunings after the chords the open strings played. In the world of music theory, there are varying opinions about the correct names of some of the more complex chords. For this reason, I've made a special *Note in some of the following text when I think it's important that you see alternative naming possibilities!