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