~ early Americana Blues ~

~ a blues guitar primer in open 'G' tuning ~

~ * G D G B D ~

~ twist the pegs ~

~ easy capture blues ~

~ easy capture Mixolydian ~

~ an ancient shape rides again ~

~ and it's a new dawn for all in open G ~

'examining the historical origins of Americana's own indigenous 'three chords and the truth ...'

In a nutshell / 'open G tuning.' Into the waybac in more ways than one here. Just turns out that some of our near present day rockin' classics roll off our guitars with an ease that can oftentimes be kind of stunning. Sounds crazy yea but working out some blues in open 'G' can be way way , so a 'double way' transformative for a modern guitarist. And if you've already got some git under your fingers, a potential super kaboom awaits with just a slight twisting of the pegs. Once up and running in an open 'delta' styled tuning such as 'open G', add in any sort of workable slide for stopping the strings, and the music of waybac kicks right on in, and off we go back through the history of our guitar sounds towards the origins of the Americana blues.

looks like a very very early model of a homemade AmerAfroLatinEuro Americana Blues Rig

For some, whole musical arts careers happen using guitars with 'open' tunings. And while there's many ways to twist up the pegs and find open tuning coolness, in the following discussions it is the 'open G' pitches that tie it all together for us; early blues and modern harmony. So with just a few twists of the tuning pegs today, we get to go back back in time to when an 'old banjo', like this one pictured, that motored things along at the local bluesy jam sessions :)

wiki ~ Robert Johnson
wiki ~ Bo Diddley

Only need five strings. In moving from standard to open 'G', we only need five string, the low 'E' string goes away. This is cool as it now makes our bass string, the 5th string, the root of the chord, 'G.' This just makes it easier to find our way up the neck, with three of the four traditional fret marker dots essential to the blues built right in. So without a low 6th string, our open 'G' tuning looks like this. Example 1.

Cool? Now, a full strumming of the open strings sounds a big 'G' triad / chord. We get two roots 'G', a major 3rd 'B', and two perfect 5th's, 'D.' Jamm on the open 'G' for a spell, giving your 'motor' hand a bit of a free run of it, maybe find a gallop rhythm or two.

In 'open G tuning', guitar equals banjo. That the same licks discovered on guitar here will also work on near any old banjo is beyond just being a bonus. That we get the one and two finger banjo chords and easy slide potentials, makes it a winning trifecta plus. So all good as the open 'G' tuning in our Americana musics goes back to the very beginnings of our tale.

'Tele' five string. And since banjos usually have four or five strings, our low 6th string on guitars is not really necessary. Make any six sting guitar into five by removing the low 'E' string. Example 1a.

wiki ~ Mr McCawber

Some blues origins history. Luckily in these studies of our blues musics, we've a clear tie to its historical roots through how we tune up the pitches. For back in early days America, we know our blues musical ancestors played four and five string banjos, and while they most likely tuned them various ways, this 'open G' sequence of the pitches was the one most everyone knew so it seems. For even 100 years later, when cats started recording music on wax, the open 'G' pitches come right on through pure, pure and pure blue. Find the recordings ...

Along around the 1800's, the Spanish guitar, with its six strings, made its way up north into Texas and eventually all points USA beyond. Its six strings were tuned in Euro 'concert E', today our cool standard tuning, so enough of a difference to throw banjo players off a bit as to where the pitches are located. Compare the tunings. Example 1.

So maybe we've got an extra string now, that the low 'E' might get in the way? Just figure out your own easy way to deal with it as you'll probably want it back at some point, though maybe not after ya dig the magic to follow. So, take the string off maybe? Or tune it down to 'D', or way loosen it and tape it out of the way. I just way loosen mine and push it around the edge of the bridge. Easy.

So now that we've got our strings tuned up to sound a very bright, tight and oh so cool open chord, what's the benefits of such an earthly arrangements? And what do we lose ? Well first to the gains and all this coolness :)

The 'Muddy' lick. Here's a new beginning for us in open 'G', the handful of pitches that sets the whole Americana blues hue into motion and has now for a couple of hundred years or so. Got these under your fingers yet? Example 5.

wiki ~ Muddy Waters

Reverse 'Muddy' lick. Jumped the line there a bit, here's the flip side of the last idea. Example 6a.

Rote memorize these last two ideas in a couple of keys. Now cliche and deep in our vocabulary, they really strengthen our sense of direction to an event in the music as well as getting everyone on the same page ASAP :)

Mixolydian pops right out. Nice hammer-on right out of the gate sets the Mixolydian mode off and running. Very common riff here in open 'Gasconade idea even more so with some open strings added. Example 7 and 7a.

The ease of which ... ya gotta love it.

Easy core mojo lick. This next idea is pure banjo really, just pulling off on the notes located on the 3rd fret, moving from 3rd fret to open string, on each of the top four strings. Here with a banjo tone. Example 8.

Exact same shapes, strings frets etc., yet on different gitfiddles makes for two unique ideas, now with a guitar tone ... just gotta love it. Example 8a.

Again the ease of which ... gotta love it.

First chords evolve. While there's many ways into this, we'll simply borrow the chord from the last idea to kick this off. Get a banjo book for more chord shapes and ideas. This first riff is an early blues rock cliche. First banjo tone then guitar. Example 9.

Got a pedal to stomp on to bring the big roar ... ? Not that ya need it :) One finger barre ... hmmm ... could that become a slide ya think ?

Make a 12 bar blues. Example 10.

 

Make a 12 bar blues with a slide. Example 11.

Review and more. Cool with open 'G' tuning and the blues? While it's not for everyone, as nothing really is, for those hear the early Americana blues jump out from their git, it can be a super kaboom. As the licks jump out, learn them over on standard tuning to, by ear.

"Music washes away the dust of everyday life." 

wiki ~ Art Blakey

References. References for this page's information comes from school, books and the bandstand and made way easier by the folks along the way.

References academia Alaska. And when you need university level answers to your questions and musings, and especially if you are considering a career in music and looking to continue your formal studies, begin to e-reach out to the Alaska University Music Campus communities and begin a dialogue with some of Alaska's own and finest resident maestros !

'I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well.'

J. S. Bach 1685-1750

'Invest yourself in everything you do. There's fun in being serious.'

John Coltrane 1926-1967