Fingerstyle guitar players know that one of the best ways to keep things fresh is by experimenting with different tunings. Standard tuning is all well and good, but it can begin to feel limiting after a while. Fingerstyle guitarists, in particular, have a lot to gain by branching out and exploring alternate tunings. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best alternate tunings for fingerstyle guitar. These tunings can be used to create unique sounds that will resonate with listeners and keep your playing fresh.
Perhaps the most popular alternate tuning for fingerstyle guitarists, DADGAD is known for its unique harmonic structure. In DADGAD, the guitar is tuned to a Dsus4 chord (D A D G A D), which allows for the creation of lush, open chords and interesting harmonies. Because of its popularity, there are plenty of instructional resources available for using DADGAD, so even if you haven’t experimented with alternate tunings before, you should be able to get up to speed relatively quickly.
Pierre Bensusan’s DADGAD Masterclass
Drop D tuning (D A D G B E) isn’t technically an alternate tuning since it only affects one string, but it’s worth including on this list because of its popularity among fingerstyle players. By lowering the low E string to D, you create a thicker, more powerful sound that’s perfect for playing heavier chords or riff-based material. This tuning is particularly popular in folk and acoustic music.
Open G tuning (D G D G B D) is a favorite of slide guitarists, but it’s also a great option for fingerstyle players. In open G, the guitar is tuned to a G major chord, which creates an instant sense of brightness and openness. This tuning is also great for creating interesting chord shapes, and because it’s so popular, there are many resources available for fingerstyle players. To get a deeper look at Open G, check out Don Ross’s excellent video course.
The Complete Book of Alternate Tunings (The Complete Guitar Player Series)
CGCGCE is a variant of open C tuning, and it’s great for fingerstyle guitarists who are looking for a slightly more dissonant, complex sound. In CGCGCE, the guitar is tuned to a C minor chord (C G C G C E), which means that you have access to a wider range of minor chords than you would in open C. This tuning is great for creating interesting chord progressions and dissonant textures.
Dropped C (C G C F A D) is another variant of standard tuning, similar to drop D. In dropped C, the low E string is dropped to C, giving the guitar a heavier, more powerful sound. It’s a popular tuning in heavier genres such as metal or punk, but it can also be adapted for fingerstyle playing by using the power chords and melodic lines that make up the core of this sound.
By experimenting with these alternate tunings, you’ll be opening up a whole new world of sounds and textures for your fingerstyle playing. These tunings all have unique harmonic structures that you can use to create interesting chord progressions and textures. Whether you’re a seasoned fingerstyle guitarist or you’re just starting out, incorporating these tunings into your playing will help you keep things fresh and exciting. So go ahead and try them out – you might be surprised at what you find!