The Keith Richards guitar tuning

Learn how to tune to Open G... like a Rolling Stone

keith richards open G tuningKeith Richards is unquestionably a rock icon. Along with Mick Jagger, he is a founding member of The Rolling Stones, and has written some of the top 200 Greatest Rock Songs of all-time, according to Rolling Stone Magazine.

Richards was originally an English Art School student, who washed out soon after meeting Mick Jagger on a bus. They discovered they shared a love of music, and both decided to pursue a full-time music career. So was born...The Rolling Stones.

Unlike a lot of other rock guitarist, Keith was never concerned with speed. He often said it was never his intention to be, "the fastest gun". Instead, he preferred to blend guitars in what he described as, "the ancient art of weaving", which gave the Stones their unique sound. His great work on original songs such as Honky Tonk Woman, Satisfaction, Brown Sugar, and the hauntingly beautiful Angie, speak for themselves. Keith is also very fond of acoustic guitars, and has used them on several releases. He has a collection of 3000+ guitars….probably more than Guitar Center has in its' inventory. He won't be running out of guitars any time soon…

If you listen to a lot of The Rolling Stones, it will become obvious that Keith’s style is focused much more on rhythm and chords, rather than screaming leads, which were the norm at that time. This creates a soulful, bluesy sound that meshes well with rock and roll. Richards music is solid, direct, and unpretentious.

The Open G tuning

Contrary to popular belief, Keith Richards did not always play in an Open G tuning, and when he did, he favored a 5-string tuning. He kept a few of his Telecasters tuned that way, and also had a custom-made, 5-string guitar, made by luthier Tony Zemaltis, and nicknamed, “Macabre”. This guitar was destroyed in a fire in 1973, but Keith eventually found a Japanese copy of it years later, and replaced it. You can duplicate the sound by tuning to Open G and avoiding the low E string as much as possible.

Here's how to tune to Open G:

  • First, make sure your guitar is in tune with standard tuning (440)
  • Then, tune down the low E string to match the D string
  • Next, tune down the A string to match the G string
  • And lastly, tune down the high E string to the D string
  • When you strum it open, now, it should make a nice, clear, ringing G chord. If not, make any necessary adjustments, or retune to standard and start over

To retune to standard, it’s not that hard. Your D, G, and B strings are still in standard, so you can retune the other strings to them. To get your 1-4-5 progression, it is a simple matter to strum the open strings for G, then a full bar at the 5th fret for the C, and then a full bar at the 7th fret for the D. Other chords are a little trickier. You can go to many websites that have the fingerings for Am, Em, Bm, and other chords you may need for this tuning. But for Keith Richards-style, you’ll mostly just be doing bars. His music places a lot of emphasis on the flat 3 (Bb), the flat 6 (Eb), and the flat 7 (F).

The video below shows you how to tune your guitar to Open G tuning:

Open G popular songs

If you want to hear what all this sounds like, listen to the Rolling Stones Brown Sugar. You can clearly hear the barred chords, the flat 3, 6 and 7 chords, as well as some easy embellishments. Another Open G song that Keith is famous for is Start Me Up. Notice, at no time does he ever hit the E string.

Believe it or not, this is not nearly as hard as it sounds. Once you start, you’ll be thinking, "Wow! This is a piece of cake...". Things don't always have to be complicated to sound good. Just ask Keith... Keep on rocking!

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