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5 Tips for Inventing Your Own Open Tunings

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

My son, Shane Jr. (pictured above on drums) is a budding musician who is exploring as many instruments as possible.

Yesterday, he came downstairs holding his acoustic guitar with an excitement in his face that is indescribable. If he was a dog, his tail would be wagging off his butt! "I just invented a new tuning on my guitar," he said and proceeded to show me a variation of an E7th open tuning.

He told me that new song ideas were coming forth on this tuning and he showed me a few riffs. As a guitarist who has been exploring open tunings for decades, I knew the power of new tunings on an old guitar. It's a great way to spur new ideas.

Five Tips for Inventing Open Guitar Tunings:

1. Spend time fiddling with the guitar (or cigar box guitar), twisting the knobs until you find a tuning that sounds interesting to you. There are no rules. You're allowed to change the tuning on a guitar that you own! Go for weird chords or string combinations. Try to tune DOWN from the original pitch or you may be tightening the strings too much for the neck to handle.

2. Keep extra strings on hand because you'll inevitably break a few strings.

3. If you somehow invent (or unconsciously reinvent) a cool tuning, grab a guitar tuner and a piece of paper. Document the tuning on paper, carefully double checking teach open note on the tuner and writing them down. If you don't, you'll forget it.

4. NAME THAT TUNING!!! If the tuning reminds you of some emotion or sound, give that tuning a special name. I've named my invented tunings "Church Worship Idea," "The Cool Jazz Tuning," "Hawaiian Tuning" and "Dirty Low E Tuning." You get the idea. Give the tuning a name! 5. Notate which instrument for which you made the tuning. Sometimes, I take that piece of paper and tape it to the guitar so I never lose the tuning idea. Other times, I keep the tuning documentation on my music stand.

If you don't document the new tuning, you're going to forget it. Trust me!

Good luck!

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