What is Open G Banjo Tuning?

Many banjos are tuned to a standard bluegrass open G tuning, popularized by Flatt and Scruggs with songs such as “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” and “Little Green.”

Drop C Tuning, in which a fourth string is changed from G to C, was popularly employed by Earl Scruggs on songs like “Reuben”.


Open G tuning is a banjo alternative that uses different set of strings than what is typically found. Instead of the standard D, G, and B tuning of D, G, B strings; instead the 5th string is tuned an octave higher at G to facilitate easy major chord formation while opening your fingers up for more hammer-ons and pull-offs.

Open G tuning is widely used in blues and rock music, as well as folk and singer-songwriter tunes. Keith Richards used it with his five string banjo to compose classic rock tunes like Brown Sugar and Jumpin’ Jack Flash; Joni Mitchell has made great use of open G tuning on her album Circle Game by featuring several songs written with this tuning.

Some players choose to forgo having six strings altogether in favor of five strings; this makes major chords much simpler as you avoid always touching the low string. This practice is particularly common among bluegrass musicians as it gives their music a more traditional sound.

However, in addition to Open G, there are also several other banjo tunings. Once popular among banjo string sets was C tuning; you may still encounter this tuning today. Though initially unfamiliar to you, c tuning may help teach fretting strings more efficiently while creating dynamic chord shapes.

Tuners are an essential tool for musicians, particularly banjo players. A chromatic tuner can detect all notes within a banjo’s range – including sharp and flat pitches that alter its tone – which are available at most music stores and online. Beginners might prefer purchasing non-chromatic tuners that only detect standard guitar, bass and ukelele notes instead.

One of the great advantages of open g is its ability to quickly adapt to various keys, simply by moving the fifth string up or down half-steps to change its key of your song. This makes open g great for experimentation with different sounds and finding your own banjo style!


No matter your genre of choice – from bluegrass to other musical forms – open G tuning may be ideal. The open tuning makes many chords and movements simpler to perform while being ideal for slide guitar techniques such as Robert Johnson’s version of Son House’s Walkin’ Blues by Son House as an example.

An important key to open G tuning for guitar is tuning its fifth string two notes lower than its first string, while fretted banjo finger positions for fretted chords mirror those used with guitar – except that open 4th strings can also be played as fifth fingers, with pinkies placed down on same fret as 1st string for fretted chords.

As well as standard 5-string open G tuning, an additional capo is often added at the second fret to give an additional tuning known as Double C Tuning (gCD). This technique works particularly well when playing tunes written in C key and was popular with old time musicians such as Earl Scruggs for Reuben songs.

Other tunings suitable for use with a capo on the second fret include D minor, G modal (sawmill) tuning and G major tuning – these latter two usually used by folk musicians or singer songwriters like Joni Mitchell who uses these tunings extensively on her recordings.

Open G tuning makes chord formation easy by acting as a barre at fret zero; simply play your fingers over the nut with your thumb and index finger for a G major chord; move one finger fret higher for A major; etc.

Downloading a copy of Essential Chord Charts for Banjo in Open G Tuning will allow you to gain more insight into movable chords, voicings and progressions by downloading an essential chord chart is free and contains everything needed for playing bluegrass or any genre that uses this tuning. It will save time when learning more advanced tunings as it provides all of this valuable information about open g tuning as well as other tuning options. This resource can save a great deal of headache when learning this genre of music!


Standard open G tuning for banjos is the standard and most frequently utilized setup, also referred to as “G” tuning or simply a G chord (G, D and B). While most Gold Tone five string banjos use this standard G tuning setting by default, there are variations available including Sawmill tuning which raises the second string half step towards C for clawhammer style playing; Drop C tuning reduces its lowest string by one step towards D which is often utilized in blues and country music styles.

Standard guitar tuning (E, A, D and G) is another tuning often employed, popular among guitarists looking to transition their skills onto the banjo easily. This tuning resembles Open G in that all strings remain tuned as normal except the low E string is tuned down one full step to a low D string; all other strings remain at their regular pitches in this arrangement.

A chromatic tuner is an invaluable tool for tuning a banjo, as it can adjust all its strings to their correct pitches. You can either purchase one online or use one from online resources. Once you own one it’s important to learn how to use it properly: knowing when and how much pressure should be applied on a key of a tuning peg to turn it just enough will take practice; hearing when the string sounds sharp or flat helps as well!

Before turning to a chromatic tuner for banjo tuning, it is wise to gain experience tuning it yourself first. Mistaking pitch can easily result in it sounding off-pitch; additionally it would be best if this device were used solo rather than by multiple musicians who are simultaneously trying to tune their instruments simultaneously – this would prevent confusion from emerging which may cause you all to sound off pitch simultaneously.


Open G tuning alters the fretboard layout of a banjo from its usual 5-string tuning; strings become one step lower while chord shapes remain unchanged. Although initially challenging to work with, it provides an invaluable way of familiarizing oneself with their fretboard while exploring various scale patterns.

Open G tuning is most often associated with bluegrass music. Earl Scruggs was perhaps most well-known for utilizing this style, and many of his songs feature this tuning style. Partly this is due to it being easier for listeners to pick out all the harmonics created when all four strings are tuned a full step lower from standard tuning.

Another advantage of this type of tuning is how effortless it is to play major chords. A capo on the second fret will create a C chord with all of the major triads necessary for most songs; this feature makes playing in time with others much simpler! This type of tuning also works very well when jamming.

It is essential that when playing banjo in open g tuning, an accurate tuner is utilized. A chromatic tuner may work best, though tuning by ear may also work. Start by plucking one string that is below G, such as high E string. Listen closely for when your note matches what it should and adjust your tuning peg accordingly until everything matches up perfectly.

Once your high and low strings are in tune, the next step should be tuning your banjo’s remaining strings. Starting from the 4th string (usually low D), make your way up or down until all sound similar – for instance an A minor in open G is tuned as follows X-2-2-2-1-X which closely resembles standard G minor guitar tuning.