Open E Guitar Tuning

Learn how to play everything in open E guitar tuning! From major and minor chord shapes to scales and riffs. You will learn all of this in this completely free guitar tuning lesson!

This lesson is completely devoted to the open E guitar tuning. By now you probably know a couple chord and scale shapes in standard tuning.

This is great! You should know how to play anything you want in standard tuning since it is the most common tuning and probably the one you will use the most.

Although, there are guitarists who only use alternate guitar tunings when they play. Some artists that use alternate tunings are...

Andy McKee, Eric Mongrain, and Justin King. These guys are pretty amazing. Personally these are my favorites, but you will find some other players you like other than these guys because there are so many different ones out there.

Now when it comes to playing in an alternate tuning such as open e tuning you probably don’t have much knowledge of the fretboard. Especially if this is the first time playing in this tuning.

This is completely normal and expected. You don’t have to relearn everything about guitar to master an alternate tuning. As long as you know your theory you will be good to go.

The chord shapes are completely different and so are the scales. But with this lesson you will know the chord shapes so you can start playing music NOW!

Let’s start this lesson with a frequently asked question...

What Is An Open Tuning?

An open tuning is easy to understand. In an open tuning, when you strum all the open strings (without fretting a note on the fretboard) it will be the notes of a chord.

So, in this open E guitar tuning when you strum all the open strings they are only the notes of the E major chord. Making this an E major chord when strummed open.

The notes in order from the top string or the biggest string down are...

  • E
  • B
  • E
  • G#
  • B
  • E

These are the 1, 3, and 5 of the E major chord.

E - (1), G# - (3), B - (5)

Now, make sure you are in tune and let’s get started.

Open E Guitar Tuning ~ Notes Of The Strings

Now that you have an idea of what an open tuning is let’s start this lesson by learning all the notes on the fretboard.

If you already know the notes on a standard tuned guitar then this wont be too difficult. There are 3 strings that are the same as standard tuning. So, all you really have to learn are the 3 strings that are tuned differently.

Here are all the notes on the low E string...

Next I will show you all the notes on the B string. In standard tuning this is your A string. It is right under your low E string on the guitar. If you already know the notes on the A string then think of it like this...

When you play a note just move that note down 2 frets and it will be the same note.

For example, when you play the 3rd fret of the B string, which is your A string in standard, you will be playing a D note. Normally this is a C note in standard tuning. So if you know that in standard tuning that the 3rd fret of the A string is a C then when you play this string as a B all you have to do is move two frets down to find that note.

The 1st fret of the B string in open E tuning is a C note. That is two frets down from the 3rd fret, which in standard is normally the C note.

I know this may be a bit confusing but you will get it believe me!

Here are the notes of the B string.

Next is the E string which is the third string down. In standard tuning this is your D string.

This should be really easy because the first string that we learned was also an E string.

If you know the notes of your low E string then you already know all the notes on 3 different strings in this open E guitar tuning.

Here are the notes of your E string...

Now, we have a string that is a little odd. Most of your guitar strings are tuned to natural notes. This string is tuned to a G#. The best way to learn this is to just memorize the notes.

Here are all the notes on the G# string.

If you already know the notes on a standard tuned guitar then you should have no problem with these next two strings because they are the same tuning.

The example below is the notes of the B string.

Like I said before I you know the notes on the E string then you already have 3 of the six strings memorized. This is the same tuning as your low E and third string down E.

Here are the notes of you high E string.

This is the perfect starting place for learning a new tuning. When you play around with a new tuning be sure and take a little time to figure out the notes, chords, and scale shapes.

This will save you so much time and boost your creativity.

Since you have all the notes down we can move on to learning all the major and minor chord shapes in each key.

Open E Guitar Tuning ~ Chords

You know that there are movable chord shapes in standard tuning. Well, that also applies to alternate tunings. I will show you 4 movable major and minor chords in each key.

This way all you have to do is memorize the 4 chord shapes rather than memorize 48 different chords.

Try each of these chord shapes and see which ones you like. There are way more than 4 ways to play a major chord. I only show you 4 ways so you can get the satisfaction of actually finding chords.

Below are four major chords in every key.

The D major chord below starts on the 10th fret.

The D sharp major chord below starts on the 11th fret.

Pretty simple huh? These next chords are 4 minor chords in each key and they are just as easy.

Open E Guitar Chords ~ Minor

Now that you have the basic chords down try learning some of your favorite chord songs in this open E guitar tuning.

You don’t have to stick to playing these types of chords. Playing in a different tuning will bring out a new sound and creativity when you first play it. Always have fun when you play or learn a new tuning.

Sometimes shapes you play in standard sound awful in different tunings. Then again sometimes they sound even better than the standard tuning.

If you want to write music in a different tuning then knowing a short major scale will help you easily write melodies and leads.

I will show you a simple major scale for each key so you aren’t left in the dark about what notes you can or cannot play.

Below are sheet music and tab for a major scale in each of the 12 keys.

Open E Guitar Tuning ~ Scales












Open E Guitar Tuning ~ Riffs

By now you have a great foundation for playing in this open E guitar tuning.

Why not learn some open E guitar riffs and licks to enhance and build your creativity?

Here are 5 riffs for you to try out. You can use these in your own music or put your own spin to them and make them yours!

This first open e guitar lick is simple and really creative. Try to play this lick completely legato. This means you don't have to pick every single note. Pick the first note of the string and use hammer ons and pull offs to play this.

You will soon find out that you can get some real speed going when you use legato.

Also, try picking every note. This gives you two different sounds and styles.

This next riff is really great for chords.

The lick below is really simple, but because of the different tuning it makes this sound really open and beautiful sounding.

Try to let all the notes ring out instead of playing note by note. Find the chord shape that is being played and hold that so you don't have to move your fingers around as much.

Here you will use a double stop to create a unique sound. This has some jazz sound to it. Try to play the timing like it is written.

The timing is as important as the riff itself.

You will be using slides in this lick. I really enjoy this one. Here you have a cool sounding melody line then it ends with creative sounding chords.

Here is a great lick using natural harmonics. A harmonic is when you gently hover your finger over the actual fret and pluck the string. This will make a harp sounding note.

This whole lick is using natural harmonics. Harmonics are a great way to make music. After learning this lick try to incorporate harmonics into your own licks.

There are endless riffs and licks to learn! Have fun and enjoy learning these new tunings. I hope that this lesson has helped you in mastering the open E guitar tuning.

If you want to learn anything else or have a question please leave me a Comment!


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