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Learn to Play Bob Dylan, Mumford & Sons, and Joni Mitchell in Open E

In Soundfly’s new multi-module course, Alternate Tunings for the Creative Guitarist, we’ve started the series off with an introduction to one of the most popular alternate guitar tunings for songwriters, Open D. In this tuning, you can strum all the strings openly, without touching any frets, to play a brilliant D major chord. And that’s a great place to start when writing new song ideas!

Downtuning from Standard to Open D. Image courtesy of Alt Tunings For the Creative Guitarist.
Downtuning from Standard to Open D. Image courtesy of Alternate Tunings for the Creative Guitarist.

Now if you put your capo on the second fret, you’re then tuned to Open E, one whole step up. This makes the tuning of your strings, from low to high, E B E G# B e. And a ton of songwriters have used this tuning to write some of our favorite, classic ballads!

You’re probably thinking, but wait, why do I need to tune all my strings down to D just to move my key back up to E? Well there’s a good reason, I promise! When you tune to Open E from Standard tuning, you’re tuning up which means adding tension to three of your strings, and that could cause them to break if you strum too hard (which, in the case of the Mumford boys, is a thing that happens). If you tune them down, then you both have an E major chord when you strum open, and the sound is more resonant since your strings are slacked. It’s the best of both worlds, really.

So with that in mind, let’s tune our strings to Open D, put our capo on the 2nd fret, and start learning some tunes! (For a quick guide to tuning, just head to the course. It’s really easy!)

Bob Dylan — Simple Twist of Fate

Learn the chords!bob dylan chordsINTRO
Use verse sequence.

They sat together in the park
As the evening sky grew dark
She looked at him, he felt a spark
Tingle to his bones
Twas then he felt alone
          E                   B6             A         Aadd9
And wished that he’d gone straight
E                                       B9/11           B11   E
And watched out for a simple twist of  fate

Joni Mitchell — Big Yellow Taxi

Learn the chords!joni mitchell chordsINTRO
A   A6  A  A6  A  B  B6  B  B6  B

E  Aadd2/E  E7sus4  Aadd2/E  E  Aadd2/E  E  Aadd2/E

E  Aadd2/E  E7sus4  Aadd2/E  E  Aadd2/E  E

           A         A6                   A                            E  Aadd2/E  E7sus4   Aadd2/E
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
E  Aadd2/E  E
              A      A6            B                       B6
With a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swingin’
E     Aadd2/E   E7sus4   Aadd2/E   E  Aadd2/E   E
hot                       spot

 E5                       Emaj7
Don’t it always seem to go
                   Aadd2/E                                        E
That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone
            A         A6                 B               B6         E
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
E   Aadd2/E   E7sus4   Aadd2/E   E
Shoo                                                   bop bop bop bop
E   Aadd2/E   E7sus4   Aadd2/E   E
Shoo                                                   bop bop bop bop

Mumford & Sons — The Cave

Learn the chords!mumford chordsINTROmumford tab 1 copymumford tab 2VERSE
E                            A6/9               E
It’s empty in the valley of your heart
E                            A6/9               E
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
   E                C#min7
Away from all the fears
                      E            Emaj9          E   A6/9-E
And all the faults you’ve left behind

     E                C#min7              E
The harvest left no food for you to eat
    E                C#min7              E
You cannibal, you meat-eater, you see
E                   C#min7
But I have seen the same
                E       Emaj9      E   A6/9-E
I know the shame in your defeat

        E        A6/9      E
But I will hold on hope
        E        A6/9      E
And I won’t let you choke
A6/9       E       Emaj9
On the noose around your neck
     C#min7     A6/9          E
And I’ll find strength in pain
     C#min7     A6/9        E
And I will change my ways
       A6/9          E                 Emaj9
I’ll know my name as it’s called again.

Stuck in a creative rut? Our free alternate tunings series can help push your guitar playing to inspired new places! Sign up for Alternate Tunings for the Creative Guitarist today.

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Jeremy Young

Jeremy is a music business guru and loves giving advice to young, emerging bands on how to make their tours more effective. He also plays guitar, publishes audiobooks, runs a record label, and is an artist working in sound media. He has performed and released material throughout Europe, Asia, the US, UK and Canada, mostly with his trio Sontag Shogun.