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Open D Guitar Tuning Guide

Open D Guitar Tuning Guide

Out of all the alternate tunings out there, one of my absolute favorites would have to be Open D. Tons of my favorite musicians use this tuning, and I’m constantly coming across songs that are written with it, so I’ve decided to put together the following Open D guitar tuning guide on the tuning. Whether you’ve already used it or you’re new to tunings, read on to find out more about Open D!

There are tons of things to love about the guitar – it’s one of the coolest looking instruments out there, it’s a ton of fun to play, and there are so many awesome techniques to master. However, after mastering the guitar for over 15 years, there’s one thing that I have always been incredibly passionate about, and that’s the versatility that guitars provide due to their alternate guitar tunings.

Whilst a lot of instruments require musicians to have them tuned to standard tuning, guitars (particularly electric guitars) are a lot more flexible in this regard. Sure, many people choose to use the standard tuning, but people have been detuning and writing songs in alternative tunings ever since the instrument first became popular.

Bottom Line Up Front: Anyone can tune their guitar to Open D as long as they do it slowly, tune down first, and use the appropriate strings. However, the experience is greatly enhanced through the use of an excellent tuner such as the BOSS TU-2 and a solid Open D guitar book such as 101 Blues Riffs & Solos by Brent C Robitaille!

How to Tune your Guitar to Open D

Open D Guitar Tuning

Learning songs in a new guitar tuning can be incredibly exciting – the first time I learned about this phenomenon, it very much felt like I had unlocked a parallel universe. All the scales and chords were different and it pumped new life into my hobby, I loved it and started retuning my guitar like no tomorrow.

This was quite a big mistake – I had no idea about the complications that alternate tunings could cause. I thought that you could simply retune guitars however you wanted, but it wasn’t until I learned that this was wrong. After just a few minutes of experimenting with tunings, strings started snapping.

That’s right – your guitar strings produce the gorgeous tones that they do because of the tension created between them, the neck, and the bridge. If you keep on tuning those guitar strings up and down, it’s only natural that they are going to struggle and ultimately snap.

This isn’t the end of the world, so don’t panic if you’re reading this after snapping a string. It happens to the best of us and your guitar is going to be fine, but it’s not exactly ideal. It can damage the guitar neck if strings are snapped regularly, and the snapping process will also cause other strings to go out of tune.

Thankfully, there are ways to ensure that your guitar strings are tuned safely. Let’s take a look at some of those now.

Learning the Tuning

This first heading might seem a little bit obvious, but you would not believe how many beginner guitarists do not follow this first step. Learning about a new tuning can be super exciting, and without knowing exactly how it works, it can often seem like a piece of cake. To be honest, retuning a guitar is a piece of cake once you know what you are doing, but there’s no guesswork involved, the steps to success are very specific.

I cannot count the number of times that I’ve been in a practice room and told my bandmates that I want to jam in a specific tuning, only to have them start randomly tuning their guitars up, aimlessly guessing as to which strings are supposed to be tuned to which notes. Like, come on – it doesn’t take long to Google it, how do you expect to guess the tuning exactly?!

As you can imagine, this results in one of two things happening – either the guitar ends up sounding brutally out of tune, or the strings end up snapping because the guitarist tuned them too high. Both of these scenarios are 100% avoidable simply by following the tuning below:

  • The sixth string (usually low E) should be tuned down a full step to D.
  • The fifth string should remain at the standard tuning of A
  • The fourth string should remain at the standard tuning of D
  • The third-string (usually G) should be tuned down half a step to F#
  • The second string (usually B) should be tuned down a full step to A
  • The first string (usually high E) should be tuned down a full step to D

It is as simple as that, but how are you supposed to know whether you’ve turned to the correct notes? Do you need a perfect pitch? Let me answer that for you in this next section.

Using a Tuner

Open D Guitar Tuner

We’ve all come across that overconfident guitarist in the band practice room who claims that he has perfect pitch and therefore can play any note in any tuning, without needing to check for a reference note. I’m not saying that there aren’t some rare virtuosos out there that can do this, but it’s incredibly rare, and your friend is probably full of ****!

99% of the best guitarists in the world – that’s including Herman Li, David Grohl, and Slash – use a guitar tuner. It’s just stupid not to, tuners these days are incredibly accurate, much more accurate than the human ear could ever be. Therefore, even if you did have perfect pitch, what’s the harm of double-checking it with a tuner?

In terms of which tuners to choose, I would highly recommend purchasing an electric tuning pedal or plug-in device, as opposed to a clip-on analog tuner. These can be inaccurate at times, whereas digital tuners which take a direct signal are significantly more accurate. You can get them super cheap too for around $50, it’s an absolute no-brainer!

Tuning Down, Then Up

A lot of guitarists believe that tuning a guitar is simply about applying a tuner and learning the tuning, but it isn’t that simple. I can always remember when I first started messing around with tunings – I finally had a proper tuner and knew what notes I was aiming for, yet for some reason, my strings simply would not stay in tune. Not only this but a couple of times they snapped, even though I was only tuning them up a step or two!

After asking my guitar teacher, it turned out that this was all because I was tuning my strings directly down, instead of tuning them lower first. This might sound a bit confusing at first, but it’s pretty simple really.

Let’s say that you are going to tune your E string to D#. You should first tune the string down to D (which is half a step lower than intended), and only then should you tune it back up to D#.

Why exactly am I telling you to do this? It’s all to do with the flexibility and tension of your guitar strings. If you tune your guitar strings directly down to the desired notes, you will find that this will have a wonky effect on your tension leading to the strings rapidly falling out of tune again. It could even result in you snapping them on the way up, so just gradually raise the tuning, there’s no rush.

My Top 3 Recommendations for Guitar Tuners

So, you now know that if you’re going to learn Open D, you’re going to need a tuner. So which tuner should you choose? This is a great question, and luckily, I have tried out absolutely tons.

From clip-on tuners to tuner pedals, I have tried all sorts across my career as a guitarist, so I’ve put together the following three recommendations for you. I hope you’ll like them as much as I do!

Crescendo ZenTuner


If you prefer acoustic guitars over electrics, you might be a bit concerned about your limited options when it comes to tuners – after all, don’t you need to plug your instrument into a tuner with a cable to tune it properly? This isn’t true – clip-on tuners such as the Crescendo ZenTuner allow you to tune your guitar without any pickups or cables being involved, it simply uses the resonance of the frequencies on the instrument.

I’m particularly fond of this clip-on tuner since it can be used in five different modes – guitar, bass, violin, ukulele, and best of all chromatic. The first four modes are perfectly optimized to tune a specific instrument, but the chromatic mode works for literally any instrument that needs to be tuned, meaning you can try Open D tunings on any other instrument that you own.


  • Five different modes – guitar, bass, violin, ukulele, and chromatic
  • Super cheap
  • Light-weight and small, ideal for carrying around


  • It’s undeniable that clip-on tuners simply are not as accurate as plug-in alternatives
  • Sometimes it can be a bit frustrating to clip this device on and off in the middle of a cool guitar performance
  • Doesn’t work very well with electric guitars

KORG GA-2 Pocket Digital Tuner


One of the most popular options for guitar tuners is the KORG GA-2, a plug-in device that presents itself as a significant improvement over clip-on tuners. The main reason for this is the fact that they directly receive the signal from the guitar’s pickups, as opposed to relying on the frequency vibration.

Some people assume that the plug-in nature of this device means that it can’t be used with electric guitars, but it actually can. It has a built-in microphone meaning that if your instrument doesn’t have an electric output, you can still tune it with relative accuracy. It’s a best of both worlds situation, and it even has separate modes for 7 string guitars.


  • Super light-weight and compact
  • Plug-in style provides optimum accuracy when tuning
  • Includes an in-built microphone for tuning acoustic guitars
  • KORG is a very well respected brand


  • Doesn’t look particularly cool
  • Requires two AAA batteries to operate



Plug-in and clip-on tuners are OK, but in my books, there is just nothing that compares to the precision and accessibility of a guitar tuner pedal, and my favorite choice would have to be the BOSS TU-2. Anyone who has used BOSS products before will already know that this is going to do the job, they just have such a great reputation for consistently high-quality products.

From the sleek design and helpful visual interface to the reasonable price and the satisfying click of the pedal, this tuner rocks. Some people think that whilst it’s a cheap pedal, it’s still too much money to spend on a tuner, but I couldn’t disagree more. Trust me – when you’re playing concerts and you realize that you never have to worry about an out of tune guitar again, you’re going to be super happy with this pedal


  • Far better than standard plug-in and clip-on tuners
  • Sleek and detailed yet simple user interface
  • Fits perfectly within a pedalboard


  • Somewhat expensive for a guitar tuner, but it’s worth it.

My Top 3 Recommendations for Open D Music Books

I bet you can’t wait to purchase a guitar tuner and practice your new tuning technique! It truly is an exciting moment when you first successfully tune a guitar to a new tuning, especially when it’s Open D. However, I will always remember the disappointment I felt after trying the tuning for myself for the first time, only to get stuck when I realized I didn’t know any songs in Open D.

Luckily, there were tons of Open D guitar books available in my local Guitar Center, so I headed over there and bought a ton – they kept me going for ages! To prevent you from having the same problem that I had, I’ve put together the following list of my three favorite Open D guitar music books. I hope you love them as much as I did!

Classical Guitar Book in Open D Tuning, by Brent C Robitaille

Brent C

The first open D guitar book that I wanted to mention is the Classical Guitar Book in Open D Tuning by Brent C Robitaille. When I first headed into that Guitar Center to buy an Open D guitar book, I was looking for something with banging metal riffs and heavy blues tunes, so I didn’t exactly expect to walk out with a classic guitar book. However, I did have a classical guitar knocking around so I thought I’d give it a go – what a fantastic decision that was!

Pretty much every song on this song is an absolute classic. I had so much fun learning these and performing them to my friends, and it was a truly beautiful way to get to grips with the genre. Brent C Robitaille – if you’re reading this, thanks for everything man!


  • Contains a whopping 162 pages
  • Songs are written in both tablature and western notation
  • Purchasable in paperback, hardback, and as an eBook


  • It’s not much use if you’re not a fan of classical guitar!

Open D Tuning, by Bill Noel

Bill Noel

When you think of music books, it’s common to assume that every book will simply include the tablature, notation, or chords required to play specific songs. This is how 90% of guitar books are presented, but it’s not always the case. In fact, some of them cover a much wider range of information, such as Open D Tuning by Bill Noel.

I would personally recommend that you grab this book and a traditional open D book that will list some songs. The main reason for this is that Bill Noel’s book exclusively covers tips on how to make the most out of this tuning.

From playing comfortably and optimizing the Open D tone to providing an extensive list of Open D chords, literally everything you need to get started with this tuning is included in this book. Heck, it even includes demonstration videos!


  • Includes tons of tips on how to make the most out of Open D
  • Includes some super engaging demonstration videos
  • Contains a huge list of chords to play in Open D


  • Doesn’t include any songs to play in Open D
  • Only available as an eBook

101 Blues Riffs & Solos in Open D Guitar Tuning, by Brent C Robitaille

101 blues

That’s right, the legend himself is back – it’s; Brent C Robitaille. You might remember him for my recommendation of the classical guitar book earlier, this dude had a ton of books available when I checked out that Guitar Center, and I’m not surprised they kept so many in stock. I’ve come across a ton of guitar books throughout my years as a guitarist, and Robitaille has a great way of compiling only the best of the best.

My top recommendation would have to be 101 Blues Riffs & Solos in Open D Guitar Tuning – like c’mon, who doesn’t like blues riffs and solos? It doesn’t matter if you prefer the acoustic, electric or even classical guitar, any instrument can handle a bit of 12-bar blues.

Best of all, the fact that it includes both riffs and solos means that if you have a guitarist friend, you can team up to form the ultimate blues duo. Trust me, it’s a heck of a lot of fun!


  • Written by Brent C Robitaille, a true legend in the guitar book scene
  • Includes both riffs and solos for easy collaborations with friends
  • The front cover is stunning
  • Over 100 parts to learn
  • Blues is an incredibly versatile genre, and therefore this book can be enjoyed by just about any guitarist


I’ve covered just about everything that anyone could want to know about the amazing guitar tuning of Open D, but before we finish things up, let’s take a quick pause to answer some frequently asked questions!

Question: Can Open D Be Tuned on Any Guitar?

Answer: It doesn’t matter if you’re using an electric, acoustic, or classical guitar – you can still tune it to Open D as long as you use appropriate strings.

Question: What Genres Sound Best in Open D?

Answer: You can write and perform songs in any style when your guitar is tuned to Open D, but it must be said that it sounds particularly great in the style of Blues and Classical!

Question: What Do You Need to Tune Your Guitar to Open D?

Answer: To tune your guitar to Open D, all you are going to need is a guitar tuner… don’t forget to bring your ears too!

Question: How Can You Learn Songs in Open D?

Answer: There are tons of resources online for learning songs in Open D, but it’s undeniable that there’s something special about grabbing yourself a guitar book.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it. From learning how to tune your guitar into Open D and the basics of tuning guitars safely, to the best guitar tuners and Open D guitar books on the market, I’ve covered just about everything I can imagine anyone wanting to know about this beautiful genre.

In my opinion, there’s no better combination than the BOSS TU-2 guitar pedal and Brent C Robitaille’s book 101 Blues Riffs & Solos book. Together, these purchases will give you everything you need to get started.

So, what are you waiting for? Prepare your ears and go grab your tuner – I’m sure you’re going to fall in love with this tuning just like I did many years ago.

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