The Essential Tenor Guitar Chords Guide

The Essential Tenor Guitar Chords Guide

Guest blogger Emily Harris from the Get Offset podcast contributes again, with an this guide to the essential Tenor Guitar chords you need to know...

Tenor Guitar Chords

One of the best things about the tenor guitar is the vast array of versatile tunings it can accomodate. It makes it easier for people who started on everything from six-string guitars to mandolins to violins to pick up a new instrument.

Whether you already play a stringed instrument or if a tenor guitar is your first, we wanted to put together a resource to help you explore new tunings or get your bearings on the tenor guitar. Below we’ll go over some of the most popular tenor guitar tunings and the different chord shapes in each.

Credit where credit is due: the fretboard charts were made at

With all of the following tunings, the first step to learning chords is learning where the root notes are. Once you know the root notes on a fretboard, you can take any chord shape and move it along the fretboard with ease.

For each batch of chords, we’re focusing on three root notes:

  • A
  • D
  • E

The chords shapes we’re covering are:

  • Major
  • Minor
  • Seventh
  • Major Seventh
  • Minor Seventh

The red dot on each chord chart shows where the root note for the chord is. For some chords, the root note is in the same place for each set of shapes. For others, especially the open chords, the position of the root note changes. That means it’s important to truly commit the notes in a fretboard to memory.

Fourths: DGBE

This tuning is exactly like the top four strings of a standard six-string guitar (the four highest strings). It’s also commonly used for baritone ukuleles. That makes it an excellent tuning for those who are transitioning to tenor guitar from either the six-string guitar or the baritone ukulele.

Tenor Guitar DGBE tuning: Know the Notes

Tenor Guitar DGBE

Tenor Guitar DGBE tuning: Know the Tenor Chords

DGBE Teneor Tuning Chords


Fifths: GDAE

This tuning should be familiar to anyone who plays a mandolin, and it’s the tuning Warren Ellis uses on songs like “Jubilee Street” with Nick Cave. it’s a great tuning for those who are looking for a wide tonal range.

Tenor Guitar GDAE tuning: Know the Notes

Tenor guitar fifths tuning notes


Tenor Guitar GDAE tuning: Know the Chords

 GDAE Tenor guitar chords

Open D: DADF#

The open D tuning is a great starting point for alternative tunings. It’s also a great tuning for those who are looking to play slide guitar, as barring any fret straight across creates a major chord. Of course, you can play a lot more than major chords with an open tuning!

Tenor Guitar DADF# tuning: Know the Notes

Tenor Guitar DADF# Tuning notes

Tenor Guitar DADF# tuning: Know the Chords

Tenor Guitar DADF# tuning chords

Open G: GDGB

Where are our Rolling Stones fans? Keith Richards is a fan of this tuning which, as you’ll see below, uses essentially the same chord shapes as the Open D tuning.

Tenor Guitar GDGB tuning: Know the Notes

Tenor Guitar GDGB tuning string notes

Tenor Guitar GDGB tuning: Know the Chords

 tenor Guitar GDGB tuning chords

Guitar Tuning: EADG

This tuning is just like the lower four strings of a guitar. You can play p ower chords with this tuning, but that’s not all you can do. Below, you’ll find simplified versions of major, minor, and seventh chords.

Tenor Guitar EADG tuning: Know the Notes

Tenor guitar EADG tuning string notes


Tenor Guitar EADG tuning: Know the Chords

Tenor guitar EADG tuning chord guide


  • glenn

    where are the essential normal tunings for CGDA ?what’s up ? if you want to play alt. why not just adj. an retune your 6 string?

  • Steve

    The heading Fourths Tuning is inaccurate. The interval G to B is not a perfect fourth but a major third, but yes it is like the tuning of the top four strings of the guitar.
    Cheers Steve

  • Julie

    The chart and details made the whole article easier to understand and practice, the chords guide picture is a big help! I’m grateful I run into your page, such an awesome one!


  • Jason

    Would really like to see standard CGDA tuning added to this post, please.

  • Kim

    I’m with Anthony. Why doesn’t this article discuss CGDA tuning?

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