3 stringer tuning advice for complete beginner - standard guitar or open tuning?

Hi everyone, 

I am a complete beginner in music and guitar playing. I got a Loog guitar for my kids but liked it so much that I will build a CBG from the kits sold by CB Gitty. The problem is that I don't know how to play the guitar and I know very little music theory (and practice for that matter).

My question is fairly simple. Tuning a 3 stringer and/or Loog as the first three strings of the guitar GBE has the clear advantage that I can take any existing tablature and just use the bottom half part for chords. I still have to memorize 7 major chords, 7 minor chords, and a few more, and I need some dexterity in my hands which I don't really have :) Sounds doable though.

Now, there are many many open tunings, and correct  if I'm wrong, but GBD seems to be one of the most populars. From what I have read, this open tuning (and seral others, open C with  GCE) allow me to play several important chords by just barring the three strings and moving up and down the fret. This is a BIG advantage, it means very simple finger patterns, easy chord switching, and less costly transitions between chords. But then if I still have to learn several "complex" (i.e., not one finger barring all strings) patterns than I might as well just use standard guitar tuning...

My question is very specific: what are the advantages and disadvantages of one versus the other? There are of course millions of factors to take into account, so I'm asking this from the point of view of an untalented, ungifted, not too dexter, perhaps a little lazy newbie :) 

Thanks everyone!

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Actually, the most common tuning for 3-stringers is GDg. On the Loog ( I have one as well), you can just barely get the E to tune up to G, and barely get the B to tune up to D, but it's doable. You're correct, GBE is easy on the Loog because standard guitar fingerings work for many chords. You can also use GCE, but be aware that what you learn in one tuning will not necessarily translate into another tuning.

A really nice 3-string tuning is ADF#, which you can also do on the Loog. It has similar advantages to GBE, in that there are 3-finger movable chord shapes, and majors and minors are somewhat easier to play than GDg.

There are advantages to GDg, like 1-finger barre chords, and there are also some interesting limitations.

Thanks. My impression is that 1-finger barre chords are THE solution for someone like me. Am I wrong about that? If it's true, any criteria to decide between GBD and GDg?

Criteria for those tunings is primarily what kinda music you wanna play. GBD is essentially a banjo tuning, while GDg lends itself to blues. But you can play almost any style (within some limitations -like 3 strings ;-) ). Pick's vid of Knotlenny (my distant cousin Kevin Sprague) is a great place to start learning. Also have a look at Shane Speal's teaching vids (use the Search, Luke.)

short  , easy  ,  sweet . 

credit to knotlenny

Awesome video, thanks.

By the way, I found this on a 4 year old post by Michael Glenn, uploading it here in case it disappears from the interwebs.

It really convinced me to try GDg - the simplest chord chart I've found, and it shows the simplicity of this open tuning:


This is the equivalent for GBE "stantrd guitar" tuning on a 3 stringer:


And this is for DAd:


It would be great to have the same for GBD and for Keni Lee's devil ADF# Open D tuning.

One more completely newbie question. Is there an open tuning that gives you major chords instead of power chords? I understand that power chords are major and minor, I'm wondering if it's possible to have an open tuning with one finger barre chords with majors and minors separately. Of course, my question probably does not even make sense!

Thanks again


well  ,, so  much  for" simple  ,  short  , easy  , and sweet " ,  lol 

that was  meant   to  be  for  me  too  .   so  ill  let  oily  feild    this  one  .  

Truth is the options are limited to what you want to try. The strings you choose to use with the combination of tunings. 

You mentioned the first three strings. If you start with standard tuning you can play simple cords using the G string as a drone. Incase you don’t know what a drone is. It’s a string ( or note  that is always hit wile a song is played. Think bagpipes but a lot easier to listen to. :). Great for bluegrass and more traditional Appellation style music. 

An easy set of three note drone cords. Standard tuning. Using the G string as the drone. Simple numerical cord names. Major scale.Open G always played.

I First string seventh fret. Second string eighth fret 

II First string eighth fret. Second string tenth fret.

III First string  tenth fret. Second string twelfth fret.

IV First string twelfth. Second string thirteenth. ALSO can be played,

First string open. Second string first fret. 

V First string second fret. Second string third fret.

VI First string third fret. Second string fifth fret.

VII First string fifth fret. Second string seventh fret.

VII = I 

There is really no disadvantages in any tuning. it all depends on you. Your creativity and effort. Music is a hobby that pays 100% back what you put into it. 

Your best bet. Get comfortable with one tuning. Then explore another. Each one is a new learning experience. Each one has new possibilities. 

I know this isn’t the blues. But with any real guitar the music possibilities are endless.

Thanks!! I guess by standard you mean GBE standard guitar, not GDg "standard" cigar box. But never mind, I'll give these a try

I'm pretty sure that's what Cause is talking about.  My advice is don't over think it too much, start with the easy GDG and work from there.  Get used to finding the 5th and 7th frets with that one finger barre chord.  You'll be doing a lot of work at those frets in any open tuning you play.

Something else to think about.  If you are leaning toward the GBE strings/tuning, you can achieve the other tunings you're talking about here. 

Tune that E down to D and you have GBD tuning (135) - you already know this.

Tune the G to F, the B to C and E to F and you have FCF (151 just like GDG or AEA)

Tune the B to C and you have GCE (513 tuning like ADF# or DGB)

4 different tunings to experiment with on the same guitar without changing strings.

My CBG's are 4 string and I use the middle strings of a 6 string guitar A/D/G/B. I can use this tuning for many blues & rock guitar oriented songs and if I tune the low A string to G, then I can do slide or 1 finger chords for G/D/G/B(1-5-1-3) CBG style.


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