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Joni Mitchell pioneered altered tunings in folk, rock and jazz, using open D extensively in her early career. Rod Fogg heads to the canyon…
Joni Mitchell performing Coyote during the filming of The Last Waltz in San Francisco, 1976
© Getty Images

For all the examples in this lesson, we need to be in open D tuning. That’s DADF#AD, from low to high. With a chromatic guitar tuner, you just drop the sixth, fourth, third and first strings down. Without a tuner (starting in standard tuning), it can be quick to tune the two E strings an octave below and above the D. Then drop the B string down to an octave above the open A string. That leaves the G string, which can be tuned to the fourth fret on the D string. If you’ve not tried this tuning before, it can be surprising how deep and resonant it can make a guitar sound. We’re thinking acoustic for the most part, but if an electric is all you have to hand, give it a try. Ideally, you want a guitar with a fixed bridge as retuning can play havoc with floating bridges.

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