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Rolling Stones Guitar in Open G

Really like Open G tuning, especially Wild Horses, and Joni Mitchell songs too.

Keith Richards Guitar Chords

What's the all-time best Rolling Stones track? The answer is at the bottom of this page! Personally, I love the guitar style of Keith Richards - if you play it properly in Open G tuning, it is also a lot of fun to play. For a long time, it has been common knowledge that Keef removes string 6, the lowest sounding string.

Really I didn't think this was a great idea because it takes away some options - but I am now converted. Everything in the Keef style becomes much easier with a five-string guitar set - up. It tends to focus the sound and prevent the muddy tone you can get with the detuned 6th string.

  • Most Stones material can be played with this tuning.
  • You can also use it to play slide guitar.
  • The two most important chords shapes are shown: just a straight barre chord on strings 1 to 5, or the same barre with an Am7 shape on top - nearly always using a hammer on or pull off for the added notes. The video by a Youtube guitarist shows this clearly.
Open G chords: Keith Richards style

Open G chords: Keith Richards style

Using Open G Chords

To tune your guitar to Open G tuning:

  • Tune strings 1 and 6 down to D, string five goes down to G
  • You should now be tuned D G D G B D (low to high)
  • For correct Keef tuning, remove string 6
  • Use some amp distortion on a Telecaster if possible, but keep it fairly clean
  • If you use frets 0, 5, 7, 12, this tuning works for slide guitar too.
  • Most of the chord shapes will work for Open D tuning as well, just by moving the whole shape down one string. So if you want to learn Open D, you are not starting from scratch and can use much of the chord vocabulary you have already learned.
  • This tuning is also used by Sheryl Crow for If it Makes You Happy - maybe because she used to sing backing vocals for The Stones.

Chord Diagrams Explanation

  • The first chord pictures show Brown Sugar chords in Open G. Note that these are almost the same as the video example, but there is no string 6, and you start with an open string 5
  • Next line shows boogie or Chuck Berry style chords. Either 0,2,3,2 or 0,2,0,2 patterns on string 5.
  • Sliding 3rds : a favourite fill, playing two notes together, and sliding the shape down the neck.
  • Then the bend for Honky Tonk Blues. String 3 goes up a tone, don't hurt yourself.
  • Finally, riff notes for Jumpin' Jack Flash riff.

More Videos

Youtube is awash with video material for Keith Richards style. Here are some great examples of Rolling Stones songs in Open G:

  • Tumblin' Dice
  • Brown Sugar
  • Honky Tonk Women
  • Jumpin Jack Flash
  • Wild Horses
Wild Horses, Open G Chords

Wild Horses, Open G Chords

Open G Chords in Ballad Style

Keef isn't always the wild man of rock - picture him instead in his library, patiently classifying his exquisite collection of antique books with the Dewey decimal system!

In these quieter and more reflective times he may be found strumming a Martin acoustic, maybe playing Wild Horses in Open G tuning. It's one of the all - time greats of acoustic guitar, combined with a Nashville or high tuned second guitar part on the Sticky Fingers album. For this song you don't really need to remove the 6th string, but it isn't used much.

  • Try raking the strings to bring out all the notes in the chords
  • Some chord names are simplified
  • I've shown the whole harmonised scale for G Open G tuning - this song doesn't use the F sharp m 7b5 chord, or the Em - but it's good to have the whole picture.
  • Intro is G to Am7
  • Verse starts Bm, G
  • Chorus starts with Am7
  • F/C chord is for the guitar break


Brian McKinney on December 28, 2019:

Mark Smith: I double tune 6 and 5 as well. Works great.

Mick Smith on August 09, 2019:

I've been experimenting with putting the 6th string back and tuning it to match the 5th string giving a double bottom sound...

EDWIN aviles on April 06, 2016:

guitaer played

Jon Green (author) from Frome, Somerset, UK on July 08, 2015:

Hi Morten. For me the 5-string version of G tuning makes a lot more sense and it's easier. Getting more attached to the Tele all the time.

Morten on July 07, 2015:

Great page and the chord charts are very useful. I have just finished putting together a telecaster and set it up with 5 strings and plan to have it permanently in open G tuning. I figured out the barred G, C and D shapes plus the Keith Richards style hammer-ons on strings 2 and 4, but it is nice to see how I can play some of the minor chord shapes that belong to the key of G. Thanks a lot for putting up this page and the chord diagrams.

Jon Green (author) from Frome, Somerset, UK on March 29, 2013:

Hi jimmar - JJF is in the key of B, so I would play it in Open G, capo at fret 4. It may also work in Open E though, as you would still have a lot of the ring. A lot of bands have copied the Open G Stones sound - as Sheryl Crow did with If It Makes You Happy. She was a backing singer for them at one time, and probably picked it up then first-hand.

jimmar from Michigan on March 29, 2013:

I thought JJF was open E. I stumbled across a chord the sounded like part of the song when trying to play "Black Crowes - She talks to Angels" in open E. Maybe I'm wrong, I think the Stones and Black Crowes have a lot of similarities. I found just barring the frets in open G, I could get real close to Brown Sugar. My trouble is, I need more guitars and keep them in different tunings, cause I'm too lazy to re-tune. Thanks for continuing to write about chord options.