It’s common to use an open tuning to play slide guitar. This allows us to tune so that when we play all the strings open it sounds as a chord. For example, let’s take the open D tuning. Once we’re tuned to open D, a D chord will sound when we play the strings open, no fretted notes needed.
The main reason that we do this is that of the shape of the slide. It’s easier to hit adjacent notes that are in tune. That way we don’t have to slide all over the place in order to hit notes for a lead part and it allows us to form chords. It’d almost be impossible to play full chords without tuning to an open tuning.
Open D tuning, also called ‘Brady Clark Tuning’ is an open tuning for the acoustic or electric guitar.
The open string notes in this tuning are D, A, D, F#, A, D (from low E to high E). It uses the three notes that form the triad of a D major chord:
D, the root note A, the perfect fifth and F#, the major third When the guitar is strummed without fretting any of the strings a D major chord is sounded. This means that any major chord can be easily created using one finger, fretting all the strings at once (also known as barring); for example, fretting all the strings at the second fret will produce an E major, at the third fret an F major, and so on up the neck.
Watch the video to learn how to tune to open D:
Once you’re tuned to open D you’re ready to learn some slide! Here are the basics:
- You can use a metal or glass slide. Metal slides sound great on acoustic because it allows greater sustain.
- Don’t press down very hard. Just gently allow the slide to come into complete contact with the string. Just enough to sound a clean note.
- To ‘fret’ a note you’ll want the slide to rest directly above the fret. Normally when we fret with our fingers we fret the note behind the fret, but to sound the proper pitch with the slide you’ll want it directly above the metal of the fret.
- Good slide guitar is a slide always in motion. Add vibrato or slides to keep the magic going.
- If you hear a lot of dead strings when you pick, you may not be applying enough pressure on the strings.