Learn to Play in Open A

guide to guitar strings

Fans of open guitar tunings are doing themselves a disservice by not playing in Open A tuning. This is especially true if you already like to play in Open G. I like to think of open a tuning as Open G’s “little brother”.

To play open a guitar you must be tuned accordingly: E-A-C#-E-A-E

Open a guitar tuning is great for delta-blues and “bottleneck” or “slide” guitar.

For those of you who already play in Open G, you can easily switch to open a by placing a capo on the second fret. This is because since all of our open tunings are already tuned to a chord, and A is one step higher than G.

  • Note: I bring up using a capo often on this site. String tension has a lot to do with this. Since many of these open tunings use the same string intervals (Open D and E are the same / Open G and A are the same), people will often play the same songs in different keys depending on what guitar they are using and/or how their guitar is setup. Electric guitars generally have, or can at least handle, higher string tension than acoustic guitars. Therefore, it is very common for people to play songs that would typically be in Open D or G in Open E or A respectively.

Considering the fact that Open A is a pretty high tension tuning, it is great for electric guitar (much like Open E). Specifically, this is a tuning that sounds superb when playing with a slide.

If you want a quick pointer for playing slide, take a look at the advice Johnny Winter gave to GuitarWorld

"If you wear the slide on your pinky (like I do), 
lightly rest your index, middle and ring fingers 
across the strings behind the slide 
(toward the headstock). Muting the strings 
behind the slide with your fingers like 
this will help eliminate unwanted string 
noises and overtones."[1]

With that out of the way, lets look at perhaps one of the most famous and notable songs to use open a tuning. Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes. This song went from being a “warm up” to something played at sporting events around the world thanks to this open tuning that is perfectly suited for electric guitar.

e-------------------------------------|
C#------------------------------------|
A-------------------------------------|
E-------------------------------------|
A---7----7----10----7----5----3----2--|
E-------------------------------------|repeat x8

pre-chours :
e-------------------------------------------|
C#-----------------------0-0-0-0--0-0-0-0---|
A------------------------0-0-0-0--0-0-0-0---|
E-0-0--------------------0-0-0-0--0-0-0-0---|
A-0-0--5-5-5-5--5-5-5-5--0-0-0-0--0-0-0-0---|
E-0-0--3-3-3-3--3-3-3-3--0-0-0-0--0-0-0-0---|

chours:
e--------------------------------------|
C#---7--7--/--10--7--5--3--2-----------|
A----7--7--/--10--7--5--3--2-----------|
E----7--7--/--10--7--5--3--2-----------|
A----7--7--/--10--7--5--3--2-----------|
E--------------------------------------|

e-------------------------------------------|
C#--7-7--/--10--7--5--3--/-5-/-3--2--0------|
A---7-7--/--10--7--5--3--/-5-/-3--2--0------|
E---7-7--/--10--7--5--3--/-5-/-3--2--0------|
A---7-7--/--10--7--5--3--/-5-/-3--2--0------|
E-------------------------------------------|

This should be enough to jump start your hopefully newly found Open A addiction. For additional chords and scales in a variety of open tunigns (including Open A), be sure to check out The Essential Book of Open Tuning Chords and Scales.

If you join the mailing list, you’ll not only get a sample of this book but you will also find a discount code off the full version eBook.

Thanks for stopping by and keep checking in for more open tuning info,

TuneMan

open d tuning