Are you stuck in a rut and frustrated with your guitar playing? Does it feel like your creativity has been completely drained?
In these instances, playing around in alternate tunings can really open some doors. One of the best tunings for this is open G, which tunes everything to a G chord.
The following songs make for a great entryway into learning how the tuning can be used.
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“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones have quite the collection of hits, and believe it or not, many are actually in open G. Keith Richards absolutely loved to use this tuning due to its simplicity and its blues roots.
Jumpin’ Jack Flash is a very popular song utilizing the open G tuning. You’ll want to put a capo on the 4th fret if you want to match the live recorded performances.
This song was used in Martin Scorsese’s film Mean Streets during a scene very famous for its creative camera work. It remains one of the best scenes ever shot, but it wouldn’t be the same without this song.
“Running On Empty” by Jackson Browne
Jackson Browne is definitely one of the most celebrated songwriters of the last 50 years. Ever since he was a teenager, he’s been consistently writing hits, both for himself and for other groups.
While you’re probably familiar with a few of his songs, his most well-known track is Running On Empty. This 1977 track helped to elevate the album of the same title high on the charts for an entire year.
If you want to match the recording of live videos, you’ll need to employ a capo on the 1st fret. For the most part, Running On Empty is pretty simple to play and doesn’t have too many complex chord shapes.
“She” by Green Day
Green Day catapulted to extreme fame in the mid-1990s, propelled by their classic album, Dookie. This album was not only chock full of hits, it helped popularize punk music and made it mainstream.
It is this album that is responsible for paving the way for so many other punk bands to become mainstream. Almost every single song on the album could have been used as a single and performed well on the charts.
The song, She, comes from Dookie and features some excellent dynamic work. You’ll find that the verses are quiet and intimate, with the choruses erupting both instrumentally and vocally.
As far as open G songs go, this track is extremely easy to play and only consists of 3 chords.
“Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones weren’t only known for their unique brand of blues-influenced pop-rock. Much of their catalog is diverse, with quite a few powerful ballads waiting to be found.
Wild Horses, from the classic album, Sticky Fingers, is one of the band’s most potent ballads. Both the lyrics and musicality convey a deeper message that really hits the listener’s core.
Again, this is another Stones track that utilizes open G in the recording, played by a 12-string guitar. You can still adopt the same tuning to a standard 6-string for the same effect.
“Sting Me” by The Black Crowes
The Black Crowes is another band that has a massive collection of songs in alternate tunings. This sort of makes sense, as the band does have some bluesy influences at play.
Sting Me comes from the group’s 2nd album and became a hit, topping the charts at the number 1 spot. This is a song that you’ll have fun with, particularly because of the rhythm and lead blended into one part.
“That’s The Way” by Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin is probably best-known for its sprawling riff-heavy rock music. However, the band did have a soft side that, in some cases, rivals the weight of their electrified songs.
It was around the band’s 3rd album that the world heard them exploring a more stripped-down and folk-inspired sound. The song, That’s The Way, comes from that album and remains a touching song to listen to today.
This is a song that seems to touch on the innocence of childhood, and the musicality certainly matches. When you’re feeling nostalgic, it certainly can’t hurt to bust this tune out.
“Brown Sugar” by The Rolling Stones
Another song to emerge from the iconic Sticky Fingers album is the track, Brown Sugar. This was the song chosen for the single to promote the album, and it’s safe to say it excelled.
In a way, Brown Sugar shows hints of that distinct bar-room blues-rock sound that The Rolling Stones would embrace. It’s loose and tight, all at the same time.
This track utilizes guitars tuned both in E standard and open G. If you have some guitarist friends, see if you can pool together an effort to make this song come alive.
“Walkin’ Blues” by Eric Clapton
It’s no secret that Eric Clapton was heavily influenced by the mysterious Robert Johnson. For years, Clapton had been regularly playing Johnson’s material on stage.
During the resurgence of Clapton’s career in the 90s, he began to incorporate Walkin’ Blues into his sets. You can hear a classic rendition of this on his monolithic MTV Unplugged album.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to play slide guitar, this makes for a great starting point. You’ll learn some classic licks that you can incorporate into your own songs.
“Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones
If it wasn’t for the massive hits, The Rolling Stones probably wouldn’t be mentioned as much as they have been. But, because that isn’t the case, we must give credence to the song, Start Me Up.
Compared to the other songs in the band’s catalog, this is, by far, one of the most famous. It’s been used time and again in commercials, TV shows, and films.
For the most part, this is a pretty easy song to get under your fingers. Most of the fingerings rely on simple barring and vaguely familiar chord shapes.
“Elephants” by Them Crooked Vultures
Supergroups are always fun, though few often live up to the hype given to them. Who wouldn’t want to see a unique combination of superstars create music together?
Them Crooked Vultures is one of these supergroups that was relatively short-lived. Most notably, the band featured Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, and John Paul Jones.
In a way, the band’s sound is pretty much in line with how you might imagine them to sound. The song Elephants is a classic open G track that exemplifies the band’s distinct sound.
“Romeo And Juliet” by Dire Straits
Dire Straits is perhaps best known for their song, Sultans Of Swing. However, the band had a bit of a soft side and produced many quality ballads that became massive hits.
The song, Romeo And Juliet, is a prime example of this. To play this song correctly, you’ll need to put a capo on the 3rd fret.
This song will definitely challenge you in all of the right ways. You’ll certainly feel more comfortable in open G tuning after learning this track.
“In My Time Of Dying” by Led Zeppelin
In My Time Of Dying is a track that comes from the later period of Zeppelin’s career. The song employs heavy slide guitar action which allowed Jimmy Page to make the most of an open G tuning.
As far as the band’s catalog goes, this is one of their most famous tracks to feature slide guitar. Because of that, you’ll want to add this to your list if you’re getting started learning slide guitar.
This song has it all, and you’ll be playing chords, riffs, and solos while utilizing slide guitar techniques. It might not be for the faint of heart, but it is relatively simple in most areas.
“Hand Of Fate” by The Rolling Stones
You shouldn’t be too surprised by now at seeing another inclusion of a song by The Rolling Stones. This one comes from the 1976 album, Black And Blue, and harkens back to the bar-room blues sound.
For the most part, this is a pretty straightforward song that any intermediate guitarist will find easy to play. Simple barring and chord shapes are used throughout, making this a relatively low-effort song to add to your repertoire.
“Black Moon Creeping” by The Black Crowes
If you listen to The Black Crowes beyond their hits, you’re probably familiar with Black Moon Creeping. It comes off of the same album as Sting Me, and Remedy, both of which were massive hits.
Black Moon Creeping has a very swampy rhythm to it, utilizing heavy blues riffing throughout. You’ll have fun with this, especially because you can’t help but crack a smile with the rhythm used throughout.
“Daughter” by Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam was one of the biggest successes to emerge from the 90s grunge and alternative rock scene. In many ways, they helped to epitomize the characteristics associated with the Seattle sound.
Many of the group’s songs have an edge, but Daughter had a softer touch that won massive acclaim. Indeed, it seemed to be a genre-breaking song that just about any radio station could reasonably play.
While it was primarily an acoustic song, the track still displays everything that makes Pearl Jam great. It was also a great platform for the world to discover the creative relationship between Eddie Vedder and Stone Gossard.
Daughter is a fun song to play and is simple enough for just about anyone to be able to learn. The guitar part utilizes a moving power chord shape throughout to provide the song’s distinct movement.
“The Rain Song” by Led Zeppelin
When it comes to Zeppelin’s softer side, The Rain Song doesn’t get quite as much love as Stairway To Heaven. However, this sprawling epic ballad has dynamics that always make the song worth listening to.
Make sure to take your time with this one as there are quite a few subtle touches throughout. You’ll be happy you learned this one, especially because it isn’t a popular selection.
If you’re really feeling brave, be sure to take a crack at learning the song’s guitar solo. It’s fairly simple but conveying the same amount of emotion as Page delivers is a feat in its own category.
“South City Midnight Lady” by The Doobie Brothers
Are you only familiar with the bonafide hit songs of The Doobie Brothers that play on the radio? If so, you might not be too familiar with the song South City Midnight Lady.
However, the song is actually on the same album as China Grove, one of the band’s biggest hits. It’s a fairly mellow tune by most measures and features some excellent pedal steel work by Steely Dan’s Jeff Baxter.
This makes for a great strumming song as most of the song is based around chords. There are a few little riffs to keep things interesting.
“Honky Tonk Women” by The Rolling Stones
If there was any song that epitomized the unique bar-room blues sound of The Rolling Stones, it’s Honky Tonk Women. The song is so simple, yet so very effective with its building of dynamics.
Honky Tonk Women is a great song to learn if you’re new to the open G tuning. The song eases you in, gradually becoming more complex as it goes on.
Plus, songs like this make for a great song to play with a band. Every band member gets time to shine and an audience can easily sing along with the chorus.
“Evergreen” by The Black Crowes
Most of the songs from The Black Crowes mentioned so far have been from early in their career. The song, Evergreen, comes from their 2008 album, Warpaint.
This track sees the band adopting a sort of psychedelic rock sound similar to Dead Meadow. You’ll be playing a combination of catchy riffs that will have you commanding open G tuning in no time.
“Black Door” by The Black Keys
When The Black Keys came on the scene, they took the music world by storm. This duo out of Akron, Ohio, showed the world how powerful music could be by infusing blues influences with pop-rock.
Seeing this band on the stage during the early 2000s was definitely a sight to behold. It is still baffling how 2 people could have such a large sound rivaling that of any major rock band.
The song, Black Door, from the 2006 album, Magic Potion, is a perfect song to play in open G. If you’ve ever wanted to play some riff-heavy blues-rock music, this song will be right up your alley.
“Bad To The Bone” by George Thorogood & The Destroyers
Almost every living person in today’s modern world is familiar with the song, Bad To The Bone. The song is instantly recognizable from its blues-steeped guitar introduction.
If you play the blues, you’re definitely going to want to add this to your repertoire. This should be a staple standard to have in your catalog, especially if you play in a blues-rock band.
Bad To The Bone transcends the era it came from and remains a culturally significant piece of art. It’s also a prime example of how George’s voice seems to be mismatched coming from such a wiry-built guy.
“Little Red Rooster” by Howlin’ Wolf
When blues music really started being produced as a viable commercial endeavor, Howlin’ Wolf was one of the originals. He eventually became a recording artist for the famed Chicago-based label, Chess Records.
Howlin’ Wolf was a rare musician who always operated from a standpoint of honesty and integrity. He never succumbed to excess and paid his employees fairly, even providing them insurance.
The song Little Red Rooster is just one of his most famous songs. It’s been covered time and again by many artists, with some versions even being banned in certain countries.
To play this song, you’ll need to be in open G tuning with a capo on the 2nd fret. There are plenty of iconic blues licks to be learned here!
“Bobcaygeon” by The Tragically Hip
If you're unfamiliar with The Tragically Hip, it’s time that you get in the know. This is one of the biggest Canadian bands in the entire history of the country.
The Tragically Hip had a unique blend of rock, bordering on an indie-rock sound, mixed with potent, poetic lyrics. Many consider singer Gord Downie to be one of the greatest songwriters to ever contribute music to the world.
Unfortunately, Downie succumbed to terminal brain cancer but remained very active until his death. The band’s last performance was even broadcast on national television, receiving widespread critical acclaim.
One of the band’s most famous tracks is a song called, Bobcaygeon. This is a song that has grown to have cultural significance amongst Canadians and has been covered numerous times.
Bobcaygeon is a relatively easy song to play in open G tuning. There are only a few chords to worry about and the song is compositionally straightforward.
“Misunderstood” by Wilco
With a career spanning nearly 30 years, Wilco has become a seriously accomplished rock group. Despite not being an ultra-famous group, Wilco has played a vital role in modernizing the music industry.
Wilco was one of the first bands to allow an album to be streamed on the internet through their website. But, before that, Wilco was only just starting to seriously make waves amongst music fans.
The 1996 double album, Being There, opens up with a track called Misunderstood. This song embodies all of the things that Wilco would become known for.
One of the best parts is that the song is played in open G tuning. The album version does seem to be in standard, but it’s performed in the alternate tuning when being performed live.
Any aspiring singer-songwriter should really add this to their repertoire of songs. Jeff Tweedy is one of the most prolific and outstanding songwriters of the modern music era.
“Down Down” by Status Quo
If you’re not from the UK, you might not be too familiar with Status Quo. However, this band was one of the most successful bands in the UK, with a sprawling catalog to match.
One of the band’s most famous is the track, Down Down. It came out in the mid-’70s, reaching the very top of the chart.
“Perfect” by Simple Plan
The early 2000s were dominated by a few bands, but Simple Plan might have been the biggest of all. Their career was littered with smash hits, with the song Perfect being the best ranking overall.
If you lived in this era and have a nostalgic thing for Simple Plan, you’ll want to learn this track. It’s actually quite simple, consisting of only a few different chords that any beginner can find easy.
“I Can’t Be Satisfied” by Muddy Waters
With the inclusion of so many blues and blues-influenced music, it’d be a crime not to mention Muddy Waters. He played such an influential role as a bluesman, particularly to Europeans (such as The Rolling Stones).
In fact, The Rolling Stones actually came to the US to play with Muddy Waters. This was a huge deal for both groups, as this was something unlikely to happen.
Muddy’s career is filled with classic songs that have become traditional staples in blues guitar circles. One of these songs is, I Can’t Be Satisfied, which dates back to 1948.
This is another track that is especially great for learning how to play slide guitar. The entire song is filled with classic licks and turnarounds.
Best Open G Tuning Songs, Final Thoughts
If you don’t have more than 1 guitar, it’s in your best interest to learn multiple songs in open G. That way, you don’t have to tune your guitar just to play 1 song.
Learning all of these songs will definitely help you navigate the possibilities inherent in this beautiful tuning. Plus, you’ll be equipped with more than enough songs to fill a performance night at a local establishment near you.
Side note, do you want to learn to play guitar songs the easy way? Learn how here – results are guaranteed!