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Bluegrass Guitar Lesson: Playing in Open D


An essential element of the bluegrass guitar aesthetic is the strategic use of open strings to craft fluid, tasteful melodic runs. Without the use of a capo or altered tuning, well-versed bluegrass acoustic guitar players frequently utilize open strings within their melodic phrases when playing in both the major and minor key centers of E, A, G, C, and D. Due to the nature of the guitar’s construction and where the notes happen to fall on the fretboard in standard tuning, integrating open string lines within these five key centers is exceptionally natural. That being said, it’s important for aspiring bluegrass guitarists to be intimately familiar with playing in the open position of these five keys, and, as such, it’s critical to invest time into learning them.  


In this online guitar lesson, Punch Brothers co-founder, Grammy Award-winning guitarist, and ArtistWorks bluegrass acoustic guitar instructor, Chris Eldridge, teaches the ins and outs of playing in the open position in the key of D major. To clarify, Chris is not teaching how to play in open D tuning. His guitar is tuned in standard tuning in this lesson. What Chris does provide, however, is detailed guidance on how to craft melodies and improvised lines in the key of D major within the hand position and register of an open D chord.       


LEARN MORE: Want to learn how to play bluegrass guitar from a master musician like Chris Eldridge? Try some free online guitar lessons now!


“Crafting lines around the position of an open D chord is really a beautiful thing on the guitar,” Chris explains. “Below your open D chord, you have all the open strings at your disposal, which allows for so many unique opportunities to create complex and beautiful melodies.”


Chris outlines the entire D major scale at your disposal within the hand position of an open D chord—running all the way from the open E on the lowest string, all the way to the A on the fifth fret of the highest string. Getting this series of notes firmly under your fingers will be critical as you begin crafting your own improvised lines or learning your favorite tunes in open D.


“Playing in the open D position allows you to perform arrangements that feature these low notes that can ring effortlessly,” explains Chris. “The open A string provides a really strong tonality of a 5th that makes this position so unique and powerful.” 


To learn more about playing in the open D position and begin playing, improvising, and writing in this critical register and key center, dive into this online guitar lesson from Chris Eldridge:


Playing in Open D with Chris Eldridge:




Have you always wanted to learn how to play bluegrass guitar? Through our comprehensive guitar lessons online and Video Exchange Learning platform here at ArtistWorks, you can learn from internationally renowned players, like Chris Eldridge, and get personal feedback on your playing.


Chris’ course starts with the basics and teaches everything from beginner guitar to advanced performance techniques, classic bluegrass tunes, and beyond. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, all levels are welcome and all students will grow and improve their skills as guitarists and musicians. 


Sample some free music lessons here and see what makes ArtistWorks courses some of the best online music lessons around!



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