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Gooding tuning his guitar

Welcome back to the weekly blog!

Some of you fine folks have asked me about my tunings at the shows and online. I dug through the guitar cases and studio files this morning and (drum roll, please), here they are all in one place. I’m pulling back the guitar case curtains and giving you every tuning I have ever recorded with or used live. It’s all here for the taking. Send me any tunings you love that are not on this list and let me know if any of these inspire anything new—because I have had more fun with these tunings than I can tell you.

A brand-new tuning can break you out of a rut and kick you into creative action so quickly because it’s instant out-of-the-box thinking. And however much you might think you know or how many songs you have written, by changing the math in front of your hands, you are automatically thrown out into deep space, and you have to relearn everything you know. Childlike wonder. Magic and mystery. Sometimes it’s nice to have to find our way back home again. We get to go on journeys we don’t otherwise go on when we are playing things too safe.

Any time I don’t mention an origin, it’s because I either stumbled upon it myself or stole it from two of my musical heroes, true giants of guitar and songwriting: Ani Difranco and Jimmy Page. These two guitarists are some of the best players who have walked the face of the Earth, but who are also just fiercely creative in terms of finding new chords, voicings, and never being afraid of throwing the whole guitar scheme out of whack to search for something new. May we all be this brave in everything we do.

Up first, the one so many of us took from Keith Richards (and I’m sure he stole from someone else). In our set lists, you can hear this tuning most obviously on “Time To Say Goodbye”: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/buffalo/640146705.

(X means rip off the sixth string—it’s not needed here)

On page 243 of Keith’s brilliant rock bio, he goes into wonderful detail about his love for open tunings and the main one that helped him find the Stones’ biggest hits (“Brown Sugar,” “Honky Tonk Woman,” “Start Me Up,” “Jumpin Jack Flash”). “Keef” (aka The Human Riff) explains how wonderful it is to just move your hands the slightest bit and get certain strings droning on around the slightest of touch. If you are a guitar player or just a fan of rock in general, you owe it to yourself to grab this book. It will make guitar players want to play more and nonguitar players want to buy guitars.

D A D D A D (or 1 5 1 1 5 1)

Tons of cats use this one. It’s so beautifully simple, and you can get outstanding results with very little effort. I have used this on dozens of tracks, including a song called “Little America” and about half the stuff that I ever got a film or TV license for: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/kingdom-2/742457541.

Check out the first track here in “The Language Of Dreams” for the chimey magic: http://kingdom2music.com/catalog/view/111/king-031-the-western-expanse/. 

D A D F# A D (or 1 5 1 3 5 1)

This is open tuning again but with a third smacked right in the middle of the chord. This took me a while to get used to when I started guitar because I was WAAAAY too attached to minor chords, and you can’t just slam bar chords on this without some thought. Someone help me with who originated this one—I have heard Robert Johnson, but it may go back even further.

TONS of blues greats play in this one all the time, and it works perfectly for slide.

Best example from us is “Jesus Comin (and he knows the mess you made)” and most of this record: http://kingdom2music.com/catalog/view/73/king-020-down-home-southern-rock/.

D A D E A D (1 5 1 2 5 1)

I named this tuning after the record of the same name that uses it all over the place. It’s also prevalent in two songs we are playing on this very tour, “Harm’s Way” and “Caught in the Rain” (new video for this song coming out in just a few days). It’s basically the open tuning but with a suspended second right in the middle of the chord. Harmonics played on fifth, seventh, and 12th frets sound like angels trying to save us from all evil in the world. Ohhhh, it’s butter.


This thing is a blast. Once I found it, I was finally able to figure out how Jimmy Page was cracking the heavens open on those first few Zepp records. It’s just killer. It’s blues and world beat music glued together as if they were meant to share DNA.  If you are brand new to guitar, do not pass go, do not collect $200, just go check out everything Jimmy Page recorded with Zeppelin. It’s an acoustic and electric guitar bible full of miracle tunings, chords, and soul. Then come hug me—I’ll hug ya right back, and we will yell out lines from “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” together. Don’t just think “Stairway To Heaven” (abused on classic rock radio or Rigs Of Dad (see Instagram). 🙂 Page was a freaking genius composer. That catalog is a whole other world to which every band owes a debt of gratitude. I get into arguments all the time when people say Beatles or Stones and I say Zeppelin. And thankfully, Pagey, much like Keith Richards, was willing to admit they stole the roots of so much of what they did from the black American blues players who gave us everything. That’s a blog for another time.

G G B F# G C

I don’t remember where this came from, but it is on something inside of the catalog or I wouldn’t have it written above my studio speakers next to Willie Nelson’s perfect wrinkled-up old face.


I believe this one came from the miraculous and incomparable Ani difranco.

X G C G G# D#
(again the X means you just rip off the sixth string or just play around it)

This was me trying to push the bounds of the “KEEF.”  If you can afford it, go to a pawn shop and buy an extra acoustic for $100. Tear a string off and keep it around in these odd tunings. It’s a lot easier to want to experiment if you aren’t restringing or worried about getting back to regular tuning for a session. My studio is filled with cheap guitars, all in different tunings and string sizes so I don’t keep digging in the same fields.

F# A# C# F# A# F#

I just put some craziness with this on Facebook. This tuning is nuts. Curtis Mayfield gave it to us, and like so much of what he did, it’s groundbreaking awesomeness. Playing harmonics on this is more fun than Disneyland (and buddy, I LOVE Disneyland). Those of you who play piano may have noticed the tuning mimics all the black keys of a piano.  Thanks to BMI’s newsletter for this one.


Stole this from a BMI newsletter, too. It’s a lot like the “Tiny Heart Attacks,” only he is using a sus4 on the third string instead of a sus2. Tuning your guitar this low has some cool effects—just keep the strings big and the action high, and you should be all set.


I only used this on one song, a track called (I bet you guessed it) “A Father’s Song” a few months back. I feel like it’s almost one of the other tunings, but at this point, I’ve done confused myself with my own list. Just throw your guitar into this tuning and write something and celebrate that we get to play guitar. 🙂

F# F#C# F# F# C#

Here’s a wildcard. I used this on an angry/conceptual/protest record I did last summer called The Most Fire that I’ve played to almost no one. It’s the most depressing thing I’ve recorded since Factory Blue (I stand by it wholeheartedly, but it ain’t for everyone). I ended up recording over 30 songs for it and haven’t quite pulled the story together in one piece, but this tuning appears during several tunes. The cool thing about this one is you can play a bar chord, then move any finger just a few frets away, and you instantly have weird chords and suspensions since the guitar is only in two notes and two sets of them are right next to each other. Warning: Don’t leave your guitars in high, weird tunings like this for weeks on end, especially if you use thicker strings.

Regular but octave up

I called this the Wallace tuning for a year because I learned it from our insanely wonderful producer Matt Wallace and I didn’t know Nashville cats use it all the time. It’s regular tuning, but you take a pack of 12-string strings and remove all the low strings. Just string the guitar with the octave-up strings. Check out Tom Petty’s “Freefalling” to know instantly what this sounds like.

Last but not least… The MR. ROGERS (with Nashville tuning strings)
D# A# D F A# D#

I have been driving everyone on Facebook crazy with my excitement over this tuning. So simple and fun to work over. Here’s a post I wrote about the movie that inspired this tuning; the song I wrote using it is linked at the end: https://goodingmusic.com/blog/building-the-neighborhood-the-genius-of-fred-rogers/.

This might be my fave tuning ever. It’s hard not to find something cool in this one just by moving one finger around the third or fourth strings and letting all the other strings ring and sing and drone on forever.

This is meant for the Nashville strings—a pack of 12 strings where you string the guitar only with the high strings.


Just for fun, here’s a recording I dug up that I did for film/TV years back that has the weirdest guitars and tunings I’ve ever used in one song. It barely holds together, but it’s fun. I am using a Resonator guitar that my friend Steve Winogradsky lent me. It had all these settings that made the guitar sound like different instruments. Insane. I also used a Tele tuned as low as possible with tons of distortion and a Gold Tone banjo with six strings from McCabe’s guitar shop in Santa Monica (that place is full of magic). This track has regular tuning, opening Mississippi tuning, and whatever tuning the little banjo I found was already in. Sometimes it’s best to just tune a couple strings to whatever sounds closest and get right to recording. The more I think, the less creative I get, or I lose the excitement and don’t want to finish the track at all.

Track six, Resonator: http://kingdom2music.com/catalog/view/132/king-076-junkyard-blues/.

Thanks again for visiting and thanks for your comments and input. Please keep writing and sharing and please subscribe to the RSS feed here below. I will be turning many of these into podcasts with short examples of playing and music soon. See you next week!


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