Open D is one of the most popular alternate tunings for the guitar. It is the top choice for slide playing. Even if you don’t play slides, you can still use this tuning. Besides, songs with open D tuning are not limited to any music genre. You can find them in every type of music.
Do you want to learn the open D tuning? A good place to start is by listening to open D tuning songs. In this article, we will round up some of the top open D tuning songs.
First, let’s take a look at what open D tuning is.
What Is Open D Tuning?
To start with, open D tuning is an alternate type of tuning. That is, it is not the standard way of tuning the guitar. There are different types of alternate tunings, but open D is one of the most liked by guitarists. Although it is popular for playing blues and slide, you can use it to play other styles.
So, how does open D tuning sound? Here it goes! It sounds just like you’re playing the D chord (without pressing down any strings on the frets). The Open D has a bright and full sound that seems to fit in many settings. This is why it’s used in a variety of music genres.
Now, let’s take a look at the top 20 songs with open D tuning.
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20 Open D Tuning Songs
Here’s our roundup of the top 20 open D tuning songs:
1. Bon Iver – re: Stacks
The first song on the list of open D tuning songs is ‘re: Stacks’ by Bon Iver. If you’re just starting with open D tuning, this is a good song for you! Besides, it’s the second single from Bon Iver’s album, ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’, released in 2007.
The song is simple to learn. But, the vocals are difficult to master. This is because Bon Iver has a unique voice that is hard to copy. It allows you to feel his raw pain, as it does in many of his songs.
2. Boys Like Girls – ‘Thunder’
Here’s another hit song with an open D tuning opening that has a pop-punk feel to it. Unlike the previous track, which brings warmth in the middle of winter, ‘Thunder’ narrates the nostalgia that summer brings.
Moreover, it’s one of the three songs that propelled Boys Like Girls into the Billboard Top 200. The acoustic version of the song shows the song’s effective use of open D tuning even more.
3. The Tallest Man Alive – ‘The Gardener’
This song is about how far you will go to please your lover. Despite the upbeat strumming in every part of the song, ‘The Gardener’ contains disturbing lyrics about staking and murder.
But, it’s all a metaphor. Moreover, it is the most played track on The Tallest Man Alive’s album, Shallow Grave. The storytelling and music are perfect for a hit song. Without a doubt, it is one of the best examples of how effective open D tuning can be.
4. Pearl Jam – ‘Even Flow’
‘Even Flow’ by Pearl Jam, released in 1991, gives off a rock vibe. It is more of a power chord song. The song begins with the famous riffs and then transitions into what we all know and love.
Besides, it is played in open D tuning and uses a combination of one and two fingerpicking. Lastly, Pearl Jam is famous throughout the world for their feats and legendary sound.
5. The Rolling Stones – ‘Street Fighting Man’
Only a few people would guess that the legendary Rolling Stones also used Open D tuning. Their 1968 single ‘Street Fighting Man’ has Keith Richards’ trademark guitar riffs in Open D tuning.
The song is often linked with the May 1968 Paris protests. It has been a fannfavorite for many years due to its simple nature and moderate tempo. Clearly, this is a good example of an open D tuning song that’s loved by many.
6. Mumford and Sons – ‘The Cave’
As you can see, the list is chock-full of lovely-sounding, mellow songs. Mumford & Sons’ song, ‘The Cave’, was released in 2010 as a part of the band’s debut album, Sigh No More.
Since its release, it has been used in many TV shows and movies. The Open D guitar in this country-style setting is simply stunning. While the band suffers a lot of controversies, the song is really catchy and motivating.
7. Alter Bridge – ‘Open Your Eyes’
Alter Bridge gives us a break from the mellow scene. Their first single, ‘Open Your Eyes,’ was released in 2004 as part of their debut album, One Day Remains. Since its release, the song has received a large number of views and listens.
Although the distortion and rock-heavy guitar sounds are well set, the song has a certain twang to it that just catches the listener’s attention. Perhaps, it’s the Open D tuning!
8. Black Crows – ‘She Talks to Angels’
Just by listening to the intro, you should have a good idea of how open D tuning sounds. The song was released as part of Black Crows’ album, Shake Your Money Maker, in 1990. With this song, the band achieved some level of success.
It is simply loved by many for being easy to listen to and enjoy. This is a result of the beautiful acoustic guitar setting, a relatively slow tempo, and mellow vocals.
9. Bear’s Den – ‘Agape’
‘Agape’ is another folk-rock song that uses an open D guitar tuning. The song is a part of the album, Live in Amsterdam, by Bear’s Den. Moreover, it’s a beautiful but lonely love song.
In 2016, this song was nominated for Song of the Year at the UK Americana Music Awards. The peaceful and clean melody is backed by sad lyrics about the fear of losing someone. Not wanting to know yourself apart from the one you love is a form of agape love!
10. Mac DeMarco – ‘Dreamin’
This is a clean and quiet song that uses an open D tuning by Mac DeMarco. Besides, Mac is a Canadian singer-songwriter and producer known for his ‘blue wave’ or ‘slacker rock’ style, which he calls ‘jizz jazz’.
‘Dreamin’ is a short song that serves as the second single from Mac DeMarco’s album, 2. The lovely and simple song depicts the ideal girl who only exists in his dreams.
11. Alt-J – ‘Taro’
Here’s another piece that many people will easily remember! ‘Taro’ by Alt-J was released in 2012. There’s no better word to describe the song than catchy.
It features such amazing sounds that make it stands out from the others. It’s one-of-a-kind in its own right, with accompanying high tones and an open D tuning that’s difficult not to like and enjoy. Also, it has amazing vocals!
12. King Krule – ‘Out Getting Ribs’
Many people may not know King Krule, but his song ‘Out Getting Ribs’ makes the list. The song, released in 2013, has a slow tempo that is easy to follow and enjoy. With his unique vocals, this track quickly captures the hearts of listeners. The guitar is classic open D with a dark twist. Without a doubt, it’s a great example of open D tuning.
13. Owen Campbell – ‘Sunshine Road’
Owen Campbell joins the ranks with his song ‘Sunshine Road.’ The song, released in 2011, is one of the most creative uses of open D tuning. The style of playing and amazing vocals alone are a sight to behold. It’s difficult not like the song because it’s a catchy and captivating tune. Although not widely known, this song earns a place on this list.
14. Elmore James – ‘ Dust My Broom’
This brilliant blues song is about a man’s discontent with his woman. But, what does “dust my broom” actually mean? In the 1800s, the phrase “get up and dust” meant to leave quickly. Robert Johnson created the original title, ‘Dust My Broom,‘ in 1936.
This song has become a blues standard, with many people having their versions. It’s famous for its amazing and rhythmical riff, and it shows what makes blues songs so great.
15. John Newton – ‘Amazing Grace’
This song is one of the most popular hymns of all time. It tells the story of Newton who was a Christian priest. He was a human trafficker involved in the slave trade, but he confessed to God that he had been transformed.
Besides, he wrote the song to describe a sermon delivered on January 1, 1773. It was all about his experience and how God showed mercy to him after he asked for help on a shipwreck in Ireland. After the incident, he stopped looking for slaves and instead began to build his church.
16. Fleetwood Mac – ‘Show-Biz Blues’
Without Fleetwood Mac, this list of open D tuning songs will be incomplete! ‘Show-Biz Blues’, released in 1969, is another prime example of Open D guitar tuning at its finest.
With a country twang, this song provides an enjoyable listening experience. The trademark vocals of Fleetwood Mac, as well as the slide on the guitar, make it even more effective at capturing the listener’s attention.
17. Lucy Rose – ‘Shiver’
The acoustic guitar on this song is strummed so well. ‘Shiver’ is about the love/hate of her previous relationship. The lyrics tell how she wishes to relive the ‘shiver’. Besides, she couldn’t let go of the “shivering” memories they had.
This is why she clings to the past and feels nostalgia and regret. In 2014, the song featured as the opening theme for the anime series, Mushishi. This song is a good example of love’s bittersweet experience.
18. Laura Marling – ‘What He Wrote’
Laura Marling is the master of beautiful folk songs. This song is from her album, I Speak Because I Can. It was inspired by a girl writing a letter to her husband during World War II.
Besides, she’s lost in her situation and how she is expected to stay with him despite her objections. The song was featured in the TV show, Peaky Blinders, where it relayed its emotional message. It’s a songwriting masterpiece that shows everything you need to know about open D tuning.
19. Joni Mitchell – ‘Big Yellow Taxi’
Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ joins the list with a more upbeat tempo and high vocals. The song is a part of his album, Ladies of the Canyon, released in 1970. It is about development, in which developers strip-mine hills or shorelines for residential properties.
The song’s melody is soothing, and the composition is great. Regardless of the backstory, the song is amazing! It has an open D guitar and smooth back vocals.
20. Beck – ’Loser’
Finally, we have ‘Loser’ by Beck on our list of 20 top open D tuning songs. This song is a sensational hit from the 90s. In April of the same year, the song peaked at number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The jumbled thoughts and nonsensical lyrics about monkeys, pigeons, and other random elements piqued the interest of music fans back in the ’90s. This style of songwriting is similar to a freestyle form of poetry. Indeed, it was a big moment for indie rock!
How to Tune Your Guitar in Open D Tuning
In this tuning, the notes played by the open strings spell out a D Major chord. The notes in the D Major chords are: D (root); F# (major 3rd); and A (perfect 5th).
This means that instead of E-A-D-G-B-E, you’ll have the following notes (beginning with the lowest string): D-A-D-F#-A-D
Note that only the 4th string remains the same when compared to standard tuning. Every other string drops by a whole tone or a semitone. However, since you have three D strings and an A string, it shouldn’t be difficult to remember where the notes are. It’s almost as if you only have to remember three strings in total.
If you don’t have a tuner handy, you can tune to open D by ear as follows:
- Play the 4th string (D), then drop the 6th and 1st strings until their pitches match.
- Play the 4th string (A), then the 2nd string until their pitches match.
- Finally, play the third string (which is now a D) and then drop the second string until you hear a major third interval.
What Is Open D Tuning Good for?
Open D tuning is popular among slide guitar (or ‘bottleneck‘) players because it allows them to play full chords with the slide. Besides, you can also use the tuning when playing a regular (non-slide) guitar. Its full and vibrant sound, especially on an acoustic guitar, makes it ideal for fingerpicking.
Are Alternate Tunings Bad for Your Guitar?
No, they aren’t! While changing tunings may affect your guitar strings, it does not damage your guitar. Most alternate tunings have less overall tension than standard tuning. So, there’s no danger of applying more tension than the guitar can handle.
How Does Barry Gibb Tune His Guitar?
Barry Gibb uses open D tuning on his guitar (D, A, D, F#, A, D). When playing in open D, you can play other chords on one or two strings. Some other guitarists who use open D tuning are Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Richie Havens, and Bruce Cockburn.
If you’re looking to explore the open D tuning, you will surely enjoy it. We hope our roundup of open D tuning songs has provided you with enough insights about the tuning. These songs were handpicked from various music genres. Remember that it may take some time to master the open D tuning but it’s well worth your while. Have fun playing!