I'm beginner in guitar and music theory, here is my open D tuning question.

Open D is tuned (DADF#AD) on a 6 string guitar. I understand you can barre cords along the frets using the low D string frets as the root of cord designation, using all 6 strings.

But . . . if you played only a 3 string barre (6 to 4, DAD) wouldn't you get an implied "power chord" at any fret? And if you played a barre on strings 4 to 1 you would get a 3 note chord over 2 octaves (i.e. DF#AD)? Or also maybe strings 6 to 3 (DADF#) would give you a lower version of that particular chord?

Basically, what I'm asking is if you play less than the 6 string barres, couldn't you also get a triad or power chord partial barres, just with less richness? Would this also be true of some other "open" tunings as well?


I don’t play open tunings, but your assessment makes sense to me for any open tuning. Since the guitar is tuned such that all notes played at the same fret are chord tones, you could play any number of combinations of the strings at a single fret and they would at least be partials or inversions of the same chord.

So in short, yes.


Yes, absolutely. You see Drop-D or similar tunings on, for example, metal songs just so you have one-finger power chords. And yes, you get different voicings from different strings.

Playing a six-string "cowboy" chord will give you multiple roots, fifths and thirds. Sometimes that's great — it's the great folky sound — but you don't need to play more than one root, third or fifth. Depending on genre and context, you might not need more than two of them.

So, absolutely.

  • Is Drop-D considered an "open tuning" the way Open D is? Aug 2 at 16:34
  • It's not, because you get that D power chord, but the whole thing isn't one chord the way DADF#AD is. It's the easiest altered tuning, however. Aug 2 at 18:54
  • 1
    Drop D is actually the only altered tuning I use. Works great on arrangements in they key of D. Many open chords are basically played with the same formation except the ones that are typically played on all 6 strings like E and G. But the only major chord that shows up in key of D is G. Sometimes E minor will show up. But not many new formations to learn for Drop D. I should play around with other altered tunings but I'm too lazy to retune that many strings lol. Drop D just one string. Aug 3 at 20:45

The idea of DADF♯AD is just that. Use the bottom 3, barred wherever, to make a 'power chord'. Use all three notes from a major triad, barred wherever, to make that major chord. Thicken it by doubling any of the notes, particularly on the 6th, 4th and top strings (basically including M3 found on the 3rd string). Any major chord can be played using a simple barre across one fret - the appropriate one, of course!

This tuning is the one that alters the string tension least - except DADGAD, so they are favourites without changing strings.

The concept is of course true for any 'open' tunings, but most will restrict barred chords to one type of chord - major, minor, sevenths, etc. Also favoured by slide players, as the slide is a substitute for that barre finger.


Yes, but it will be true of any tuning provided you can play all six strings.

Even in standard tuning you could play, for example, open E or a barred A at the fifth fret. Both cover all six strings. You could play a variety of string groupings to get partial or full triads in various octaves.

The same will be true even if all six strings are not played. You just have few possibilities for partial voicings. For example, a standard tuning, open D uses only four strings, but you can still get two partial voicings: R 5 R and 5 R 3 on strings 234 and 123 respectively.

Open D tuning may have been the moment you thought about these partial voicings, but I don't think there is a special connection between open tunings and these partial voicings. When you play with open tunings there is a sort of benefit in being able to play a full, six string chord with just a straight barre, or slide, across the neck, and that may have gotten you thinking about the partial voicings for some reason.

FWIW, while you can play a full chord with just a straight barre across the neck in open tunings, I think the more important benefits of open tunings are you get new voicing possibilities that you can't get in other tunings, and for many open tunings strings are lowered giving a different, deeper timbre.


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