Playing Blues Guitar With Open Tunings
Guitar tunings assign pitches to the open strings of guitars, including acoustic guitars, electric guitars and classical guitars, among others. Playing blues guitar tunings can be described by the particular pitches that are denoted by notes in Western music and are used in a lot of blues music. By convention, the notes are ordered from lowest-pitched string (i.e., the deepest bass note) to the highest-pitched (thickest string to the thinnest).
The phrase “guitar tuning” also refers to the adjusting of the string-pitches to their desired tuning to a reference pitch–often a note from a piano or Hammond organ and/or tuning the guitar strings so that the strings are in tune relative to each other. Tuning is described in how-to manuals for guitarists.
Playing blues guitar in standard tuning defines the string pitches as E, A, D, G, B, and E, from lowest (low E2) to highest (high E4). Standard tuning is used by most guitarists, and frequently used tunings can be understood as variations on standard tuning. “Nonstandard” tunings are also called “alternative” or “alternate”. Some tunings are used for particular songs by professional musicians, and may be called after the song’s title. There are hundreds of such tunings, which are often minor variants of established tunings. Communities of guitarists who share a musical tradition often use the same or similar tunings.
The hundreds of alternative tunings of playing blues guitar have been classified into a smaller number of categories: “open”, both major and minor (“crossnote”), and “modal”; “dropped” (in which the pitch of one or more strings is lowered); “instrumental” (based on other stringed instruments); and “regular”. Modal, dropped, and many other tunings are mentioned in the supplementary list of guitar tunings.
Joni Mitchell developed a shorthand descriptive method of noting guitar tuning wherein the first letter documents the note of the lowest string and is followed by the relative fret (half step) offsets required to obtain the pitch of the next [higher] string This scheme highlights pitch relationships and simplifies the process of comparing different tuning schemes.
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