17 Popular Songs in Open E Tuning for Guitarists

songs-in-open-e

Whether it’s for playing slide guitar, strumming the chords, or playing fingerstyle, you can always count on the incredibly versatile, Open E tuning.

While I was looking for topics to write about, I thought why not give you some songs in open e to keep you engaged at home.

So, In this post, I have listed 17 songs in open e tuning that you can easily learn and play on guitar.

Most of the songs mentioned below are pretty easy and will not take much time to learn.

To make your work easier, I have linked each song with its video lessons so that you can easily refer to it without searching for it.

But, before we begin, let’s first tune to open e.

How to tune your guitar to open E?

Tuning your guitar from standard to open E is quite simple. All you have to do is tune your 5th and 4th string up a whole tone and your 3rd string up a semitone. If this sounds confusing then follow the steps below.

  1. Firstly, the low e string will remain the same
  2. Next tune your A (5th) string up a whole tone to B and D (4th) string up a whole tone to E
  3. Finally, tune your G (3rd) string up a semi tone to G#
  4. The B (2nd) and high E (1st) string will remain the same

That’s all. You are all tuned up.

Note: In case you don’t like switching to open e tuning (for any reason), you can always tune your guitar to open d and clip a capo on the second fret to make it open e.

Here are 17 Popular Songs in Open E Tuning


1. She Talks To Angels by The Black Crowes

Written by The Black Crowes, ‘She Talks to Angels’ is probably one of the most beautiful and popular tunes in open e tuning from their “Shake You Money Maker” album. Even more beautiful is the fact that the music of this track was composed by Rich, when he was just 15 years old.

The song was a massive hit and often considered as the music of 90s. It was also covered by many notable musicians including American hard rock band Shinedown and Mark Morton from Lamb of God featuring Lzzy Hale on vocals.

This song has a pretty simple structure. It is in the key of E major and starts with a beautiful intro lick on the B string, followed by three verses, three choruses, one bridge section, and an outro.

Here is the tab for the Opening lick

As you can see in the tab above, the intro lick starts with a hammer-on from the 4th to 5th fret of the b string followed by an open note on the high e string. After that, there is a slide from the 4th fret of the b string to the 2nd fret followed by an open note on the b string and high e string.

Next, there is a hammer-on from the third string’s open note to the first 1st fret of the same string followed by an open note on the b, the high e string, the third string, and ending with a pull-off from the 1st fret of the third string to an open note.

Finally, the lick ends with an open note on the fourth string and a full open strum. This might look confusing but is super easy to play. Here is the video lesson of this song that you can refer to.

Note: You can also play this song in standard tuning using only three chords: E-B-A.

2. Fiddler’s Green by The Tragically Hip

Fiddler’s Green is one more wonderful song in open e tuning that you can consider adding to your learning list. Written by Gord Downie, this is one of the most loved songs by The Tragically Hip’s, 1991 album, Road Apples, but, they never played it live until their last tour in 2006.

There are mainly two parts to this song. One for the strumming and the other for the licks and fillers but one can play both the parts in one guitar by combining the parts.

The good news is, I found a great video lesson where you can learn both the strumming and the fillers step by step. It is by Shutup & Play and below is the link of the lesson for you.

Lesson

3. Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones

Here is one more awesome songs in open e tuning by none other than The Rolling Stones. Released in 1969, ‘Gimme Shelter’ is the opening track from their tenth studio album Let It Bleed. The Stones often play this song live in standard tuning but originally its in open E tuning.

One of the most captivating parts of the song is its intro, which is also considered as one of the most powerful intros ever recorded. 

The song is in the key of C# and it has only three chords: C#-B-A. The complete song revolves around this chord progression.

U2, Paolo Giovanni Nutini, Patti Smith, Stone Sour, and Grand Funk are some of the renowned artists who have covered this song.

Lesson

4. Say it to me now by Glen Hansard 

The multi-talented Glen Hansard’s ‘Say it to me now is yet another great song in open e that you must check out. 

Many of you might know this one as it was featured in the award-winning musical drama film, Once, which starred Glen himself. 

Coming to the point, this song is an emotional banger that is filled with lots of cool open chords, intense strumming, feelings evoking lyrics, and not to forget Glen’s electrifying vocals which will hit you exactly at the right spot. 

While the song was originally recorded by Glen’s band ( The Frames ), in the film you will see him playing an unplugged version (a different version ) of this song on the streets of Dublin which sounds more raw and emotional.

Besides, it is a great sing-along song and I highly suggest adding it to your repertoire. 

5. Stay With Me by The Faces

“Stay With Me” is one great song in open E by English rock band The Faces. It is written by Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood for their 1971 album, “A Nod’s As Good As a Wink… to a Blind Horse“.

It is one of the successful songs by the band that reached the top position in record charts, including Billboard Hot 100 and Cash Box Top 100.

This song will certainly improve your rhythm playing as it is filled with lots of cool rhythm patterns. Like other songs, this one also got some cool cover versions that you must check out.

Some of the popular ones are by the English rock band “Def Leppard”, American rock band “Train” and by American singer “Mary Jane Blige”.

Watch the video lesson of this song by Marty Music.

6. You Can’t Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones

Without a doubt, Rolling Stones is one of the most iconic rock bands in history, and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is one of their masterpieces. It is in open e tuning and has one of the most recognizable opening riffs.

The song is built on only two chords but there are lots of variations in the later parts. To play it right you have to tune your guitar to open E and clip a capo on the 8th fret.

The only thing that is challenging in this song is its strumming pattern that goes like D-D-UDD-DU-DU. This pattern requires playing some single notes while strumming which can be achieved with little practice.

Overall it is a beautiful song in open e that you can add to your learning list. Below is a great lesson by Justin Guitar that you can refer to learn this song step by step.

Lesson

7. Little Martha by The Allman Brothers Band

This one is a great finger picking instrumental in open e tuning that you can learn. Leo Kottke (acoustic guitar virtuoso), once called this the best song ever written on an acoustic guitar.

According to Duane Allman, the song’s inspiration came from a dream in which Jimi Hendrix taught him how to play it.

There are three guitar parts in this song that is played by Duane Allman and Dicky Betts but you can play it in one guitar by combining the parts.

The song is relatively easy to play and provides an opportunity for you to work on your techniques in different sections of the song.

Lesson

8. Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell

Big Yellow Taxi is written by Joni Mitchell for her third studio album Ladies of the Canyon, This iconic and easy-to-play tune is in open e tuning and covered by a variety of artists, from Amy Grant to Bob Dylan.

According to Joni Mitchell, she wrote this song on her first trip to Hawaii. Although it is an open e song, you can play it in standard tuning using the same chords. This song is all about the rhythm, so you have to strum it right to get the actual feel of the song.

Here is an awesome lesson by Jerry’s Guitar that you can refer to learn this song in detail.

Lesson

9. Rocky Mountain Way by Joe Walsh

This iconic classic rock song written by Joe Walsh and his band Barnstorm is a great example of songs in open E.

Released in 1973, this opening track from their second studio album has some really catchy melodies with powerful guitar riffs that will make listeners want to sing along for hours.

This is one of those songs that should be on your playing list.

Lesson

10. Just Got Paid by ZZ Top

This is one more iconic blues rock song in open e tuning that you can learn. Released in 1972, it is the second single from the album “Rio Grande Mud“. Most of the guitar parts, especially the lead parts are played using a slide.

The main highlight of the track is its main riff which is built on the top three strings and hangs around the 3rd and 5th fret. The verse has only two chords: the open E and a slow slide to D. For the chorus the chords used are G and A with lots of slides.

Overall, this is a solid song to practice if you are working on your slide playing. 

Lesson

11. Bread and Water by Ryan Bingham

Bread and Water is a country song in open E tuning by American singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham. Released in 2007, it is the third single from his first studio album “Mescalito“. This song is an insightful glimpse into the life of a struggling singer-songwriter on the road.

In an interview with the Boot, Ryan said, he wrote this song when he was living on the road, wandering from town to town with an acoustic guitar, playing for tips and bread and water.

Even in this song, you will find the use of slides which makes it another great song to work on your techniques.

Lesson

12. Shelter from the Storm by Bob Dylan

Released in 1975 this song is the fourth track from Bob’s fifteenth studio album “Blood on the tracks” which is in open e. Almost all the tracks in this album were recorded in this tuning. This is a pretty easy song with only three chords. It starts on the open e chord then switches to B then A.

Here is a great lesson by Matt Ferrucci where he tuned his guitar in open D tuning and clipped a capo on the second fret to make it open e. It is the only lesson that I have found in open e tuning.

Lesson

13. Prodigal Son by The Rolling Stones 

One more amazing blues-driven tune in open e by The Great Rolling Stones that you want to check out. 

Prodigal Son was originally written by blues singer turned minister, Robert Wilkins, in 1964 which was later covered by The Rolling Stones in 1968 for their Beggars Banquet album. 

This song is a treat for blues enthusiasts as it is filled with beautifully arranged acoustic guitar licks and fillers by Keith Richards and not to forget Mick Jagger’s prodigious vocals, which is the main highlight of this classic.

Not only that, Charlie Watts’ light drumming and the contribution of harmonica by Brian Jones, jell up perfectly well with Richard and Jagger’s performance, and that adds up a lot to this song.  

14. Crawling in the Dark by Hoobastank 

American rock band, Hoobastank’s breakthrough hit ‘Crawling In The Dark’ is one of those never aging songs that still has millions of listeners all over the world and the great thing is, it’s in open e tuning. 

Released in 2002, it is the first single from their eponymous debut studio album ‘Hoobastank’. This song placed their names in numerous charts including US Billboard Hot 100, Modern Rock track Charts, US Mainstream Rock (Billboard), UK Rock and Metal Charts, and many more. 

The song has one of the catchiest guitar intros that will hook you to the end of the song for sure. This intro uses a delay effect which makes it sound more fascinating.

Not to miss, the song has some serious change in time signature during the chorus which perfectly sets the mood towards the second verse and the breakdown that comes later.

Everything is great about this track from Doug Robb’s flawless vocals to energetic riffing by Dan Estrin. Each of the instruments in this song perfectly compliments each other. 

Lesson

15. No Expectations by The Rolling Stones

Here is another tune in open e by The Rolling Stones from their 1968, Beggars Banquet album that you can’t miss out on.

Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, this is a slow bluesy ballad where one can experience some of the best and mesmerizing slide guitar by Brian Jones and true guitar artistry by Keith Richards.

Not only that, Mick’s vocals in this song are right on and Nicky Hopkins’s piano playing towards the end is simply great, assisting perfectly to that lonely ambiance of the song.

Although the whole song is worth learning and I highly recommend you to do so, but the slide works by Brian Jones is what you should watch out for. This was Brian’s last significant contribution before leaving the band and sadly passing away later in 1969.

Here is a great lesson of the slide part that you can refer to.

16. The Headmaster Ritual by The Smiths 

From ‘The Smiths’ most popular album ‘Meat Is Murder’, Headmaster Ritual is another epic song in open e that can easily get a place in your learning list. This is one of their most beautifully written songs that features some of the band’s best work to date.

With Johnny Marr’s incredible guitars, Morrissey’s scathing lyrics, Andy Rourke’s perfect bassline, and Mike Joyce’s drums that hold everything together, this song has an oddly mysterious sound that is hard to emulate.

During an interview with Guitar Magazine, Johnny Marr said, it took him two years to write the guitar parts of this song. He added, ‘the bridge and the chorus part were originally for another song, but I put them together with the first part’.

Later in 2007, Radiohead covered this song, to which Marr responded “they do a better job than anyone else I’ve heard.”

Undoubtedly, this song has some brilliant progressions, riffs, arpeggios, and melodies that can be tricky to learn but the good news is, in this video lesson you watch Johnny Marr himself go through all the parts step by step.

17. Hurts Like Heaven by Coldplay

The band, Coldplay, which has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide definitely has songs under their belt that use alternate tunings. One of those songs is Hurt Like Heaven from their fifth studio album ‘Mylo Xyloto‘.

Backed by some tone bending and delay drenched guitars by Jonny Buckland, ‘Hurt Like Heaven’ is a pop ditty in open e tuning that will surely get your foot tapping to its uplifting and heart-pounding beats.

Apart from the dreamy synths and Guy Berryman’s melodic bass, this song has some really cool acoustic strumming and racing riffs that can be a treat for guitarists as they are all easy to pull off.

Here is a video lesson of ‘Hurts Like Heaven’ by Charlie Edmonds where he shows an easy way of playing this song on an acoustic guitar.

I hope you liked these songs in open as much as I enjoyed writing them for you. Do let me know in the comments what’s your favorite one.

Also read - 9 Best Blues Rock Songs to Learn on Guitar

Bonus Songs

  • Jumpin’ Jack Flash by The Rolling Stones – Tabs
  • Midnight in Harlem by Tedeschi Trucks Band – Tabs
  • Statesboro Blues by The Allman Brothers Band – Tabs
  • Headlong Flight by Rush – Tabs