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Acoustic guitar lesson: learn to play in open D minor tuning

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(Image credit: Future)

Guitar lessons: Whether you’re a glass-half-full or half-empty kind of person, exploring the world of open tunings on acoustic guitar can either be a goldmine of inspiration or a minefield of frustration. 

Many of us have tried a little drop-D, or maybe DADGAD in search of new sounds, and are struck by the realisation that our favourite licks sound fresh and new, simply because the notes have moved. 

Here, however, we take a look at the lesser-used open D minor tuning – surely the saddest of all tunings, right?


(Image credit: Future)

Presumably open D minor would be DADFAD, wouldn’t it?

You presume correctly. It’s closely related to DADGAD, in that only the third string differs. Instead of that ambiguous, modal perfect fourth (G) on the third string, you have the dark, brooding minor third (F) instead.

It sounds very moody…

Indeed. But it’s quite usable in a variety of styles – folk, blues, Americana, even metal, as the tab above attests.

Aren’t I a bit tied to D minor though?

Well, in some ways, that’s the point. However, it’s actually surprisingly easy find D major, with that bluesy minor-to-major third accessed by hammering onto the first fret of the third string. Bukka White used this a lot.

Ooh, very clever!

It’s easier to play major chords in open D minor tuning than vice versa, if that makes sense. Have fun with the examples, and don’t forget to try out some ideas of your own.

Tuning audio 

Click on top right of tab to enlarge

Example 1 

(Image credit: Future)

Here’s a nice harmonic minor progression, with a characteristic A major as the V chord. Notice how easy it is to form major chords, even though we’re in a minor tuning.

Example 2

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By moving one shape up and down the neck, we can create moody fingerpicked soundscapes that could work in an acoustic metal context.

Example 3 

(Image credit: Future)

Here's a moody fingerstyle blues groove to try out. Try to work out some similar licks of your own using this monophonic bassline idea.

DADGAD tuning for beginners: 5 chords to start exploring with