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Alternate Open-G Guitar Tuning

for Disabled Players


V.T. Migliore July 4, 2018

Overview

This Open-G guitar tuning system was designed to help disabled players to create a
variety of chords with very simple-to-form positions on the fret board. It uses a
straight edge or slider to create the chords. One position of the slider enables the
creation of three chords, depending on which strings are strummed.

With open strings, strumming strings 4, 3, and 2 creates the G chord. Strumming
strings 4, 3, 2, and 1 creates the G7 chord, and strumming strings 4, 5, and 6,
creates the Gm chord. Likewise, with the slider on the 2nd fret the same sequence
of strums creates the A, A7, and Am chords, respectively. You can create any of
these chords for all notes, G through A# simply by moving the slider.

This 'one-stop-for-3-chords' tuning makes it easy to play any major, seventh, or


minor chord. Another advantage is that by using a slider, the musician can create a
wider variety of sounds, such as sliding into a chord or adding vibrato.

In the technique described here, we use the G chord as the open-string base, but of
course any chord can be chosen for the starting position.
Alternate Tuning

Standard guitar string tuning appears in Table 1. This provides a broad range of
tones over several octaves. The tuning recommended here, also in Table 1, uses
open-G tuning for strings 4, 3, and 2, to form the G-chord triad in root position;
that is, G-B-D in ascending frequency. The first string is tuned to the 7th note for
each chord, again providing a preferred root position sequence chord (Figure 1).

The 5th string is tuned to the flat-third of each chord to form the minor chord. The
6th string is tuned to the 5th note of the chord, the same as the 2nd string. This
permits the player to strum strings downward, or away from the body, to form the
major and 7th chords, and upward, or towards the body, to form the minor chords.

If you’re not a technical person, and you don’t know about chord structure, then
simply study Figure 1. This will help you understand the strumming or plucking
sequence required to form each chord. You can easily create any major, 7th, or
minor chord from G with open strings to G on the 12th fret.

Table 1. Standard and Alternate Open-G guitar tuning.


Figure 1.
Strumming
Chords

Start at the
bottom of the
image. If you
strum open
strings 4, 3,
and 2, you’ll
get a G
chord, G-B-
D.

If you strum
open strings
4, 3, 2, and 1,
you’ll get a
G7 chord.
If you strum
open strings
4, 5, and 6
(upwards)
you’ll get a
Gm chord.
With the
slide at the
7th fret, you’ll
get the D,
D7, and Dm
chords,
respectively.
Pros and Cons

The system described here allows players with limited mobility to play major,
minor, and 7th chords by simply holding the slide over one position on the fret
board. A handicapped player might not be able to form standard chords on a
regular guitar, but if he or she can grasp the single slide, this will allow a more
varied chord pool to select from. Similarly, someone with physical challenges can
often use a prop or an oral tool to strum the strings.

As with any slide guitar, notes and chords can be varied by starting at a position
lower in pitch and rising to the desired chord. Likewise, the slide can be oscillated
to create a vibrato sound. This method also makes it easier for the beginning slide
guitarist to learn and play chords without needing to press strings on frets different
from the main slide position.

Standard guitar string tuning appears in Table 1. This standard tuning means that
each individual chord has an abundance of notes (up to 6) stretching over several
octaves, which provides a richer, more robust sound than what can be achieved
with the limited spectrum (just 3 or 4 notes) for the alternate tuning suggested here.

Although this alternate Open-G tuning provides a broader spectrum of simple-to-


form chords, it does not include less common chords, such as augmented,
diminished, or suspended chords.

Variations

The slide guitar tuning shown here uses modified open-G tuning for demonstration
purposes. Of course, you can use open A tuning, open D, or any other note as the
base condition. You might also tune the 5th and 6th strings an octave higher or
lower to provide more variation in sound for the minor notes.
This discussion focuses on just three chords, the major, minor and 7th. You can,
with a little bit of practice, also make a minor 7th chord by playing strings 4, 5, and
6, followed by the 7th note on the first string. Of course, other variations are
possible.
Stringing the guitar

For string 1, highest pitch, use a standard E string tuned up slightly higher to F.
For string 2, use a standard E string (normally the 1st string) and tune it down to D.
For string 3, use a standard B string (normally the 2nd string) tuned to B.
For string 4, use a standard G string (normally the 3rd string) tuned to G.
For string 5, use a standard B string (normally the 2nd string) tuned down to B♭.
For string 6, use a standard E string (normally the 1st string) tuned down to D.

The 2nd and 6th strings are tuned the same. You will need three standard (high) E
strings for this tuning.

Conclusion

The technique shown here allows players to form major, minor, and 7th notes on an
open tuned guitar. The method only allows for 3- and 4-note chords, but it makes
the slide guitar much easier to play and more versatile. With just one position on
the fret board for the slider, the selection of chords is simple and straight-forward,
allowing players with physical challenges to play a wider spectrum of chords.

~ ~ ~

Dedicated to my brother, Robert “Eagle Heart” Migliore who was confined to a


wheelchair due to cerebral palsy. He taught all of us how to be productive and happy
while wrestling with a major handicap. Thanks, Rob!
This document is licensed as Public Domain with Accreditation, meaning you can copy
all or part of it simply by mentioning the author. Example: “Reprinted with permission of
the author, V.T. Migliore, Folsom, California.”
Contact: V.T. Migliore, BlossomHillBooks@aol.com