Rolling Stones Songs In Standard Tuning: A Simple Guide

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If you’re looking for a list of Rolling Stones songs in standard tuning, you’ve come to the right post!

The Rolling Stones Songs That Are Originally in E Standard

They have a bunch of classics that are originally in E standard. Some of these songs are:

  • Angie
  • Anybody Seen My Baby
  • Paint It, Black
  • (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
  • Sympathy for the Devil

What’s the Deal With Rolling Stone Tunings?

The Rolling Stones are usually considered to have fairly simple songs. But at the same time, some may have trouble performing them. If you look at the concert footage and at chord charts, something doesn’t add up. Keith Richards is playing something completely different, right?

Well, if you’re having a hard time with this, you’re not alone. The issue here is that a lot of The Rolling Stones’ songs are originally performed in open tunings.

But what is open tuning? Well, it refers to a tuning that features notes of a major or minor chord. But it’s usually a major one. This allows you to play a major chord by using a simple barre chord fingering. It makes things easier for certain songs. It’s also popular among slide players.

As far as The Rolling Stones go, a lot of their songs are in the open G tuning. From the bottom to the top string, it goes D-G-D-G-B-D. Some examples include Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Honky Tonk Women, and Brown Sugar.

However, some of the songs are in the open E tuning. This one requires you to tune up your guitar’s 3rd, 4th, and 5th strings. It goes E-B-E-G#-B-E. Essentially, open strings are the same notes as with the E major chord in the open position in standard tuning.

Some of the band’s songs, of course, are in the standard tuning. But most of their classic stuff is in open tunings.

How Do You Play Rolling Stones in Standard Tuning?

This, however, doesn’t mean that you can’t play Rolling Stones songs in the E standard tuning. If you hit the right notes, things are pretty much the same, right?

Things Might Be Tricky for Beginners and Even Intermediate Players

Well, that might be true. However, it’s not that simple. Although you can play the chords, things won’t be the same.

If it’s open E, you could technically hit the same notes. However, the fingerings will be completely different. And this can be a challenge. Essentially, your whole fingerboard has a completely different distribution of notes.

What’s even trickier with open G is that you might potentially have some lower notes as well. The bottom 6th string goes one whole step below the low E.

This Goes Beyond Just The Rolling Stones: Learn to Transpose and Adapt

But this issue goes well beyond The Rolling Stones songs. If you aim to be an experienced guitar player, you need to break away from the basics that you learn as a beginner.

Don’t think about the guitar in terms of tablatures. They’re useful if you want to learn how to play mechanically. But that’s not how pro musicians do it.

You should always know how to transpose any song. This means that you can play any song in any key. Additionally, it also means that you can adapt a song that’s traditionally played in one tuning to a different tuning. In our case, we need to figure out how to translate open G and open E songs to E standard.

Sure, it might be difficult for some very specific examples. But overall, this will help you understand guitar, or any other instrument, better. And The Rolling Stones are a great way to start.

This might be a bit of an unpopular opinion, although I stand by it firmly. Tabs shouldn’t be the way you learn how to play guitar. You should learn music theory and use your ears. This is the only way to actually understand what’s going on with the music that you’re playing. And you’ll be able to transpose whichever song you want.

This doesn’t mean that tabs are a no-go zone. However, you shouldn’t always rely on them. Regard them as a sort of cheat sheet thing that will help you along the way.

How to Play The Rolling Stones Songs in Standard Tuning

This is all easier said than done. Going from those unusual open tunings to E standard comes with its challenges. But, of course, it’s not impossible.

To understand this better, here are a few songs by The Rolling Stones adapted to E standard. Here’s a very straightforward one for Gimme Shelter. The song is originally in open E. But overall, you have basic chords in the song, which shouldn’t make it too hard to adapt to E standard.

Rolling Stones - Gimme Shelter (in standard tuning) - Guitar lesson / tutorial / cover with tab

Then we have Honky Tonk Women. The tune is originally in open G tuning. However, the song has a fairly simple structure and it shouldn’t be that hard to figure out. What’s great about this one is that it isn’t difficult to pull off in E standard either.

Honky Tonk Women (Stones) - Standard Tuning Guitar Lesson

Jumpin’ Jack Flash is another example that can easily work in E standard. There are, of course, different ways to perform it. But this example below uses the 7th position on the fretboard. But although it’s, overall, a simple song, you should really take care of all the in-between notes. This is what makes it sound right.

Rolling Stones - Jumping Jack Flash (in standard tuning) - Guitar lesson / tutorial / cover with tab

Start Me Up is another one in open G. This one might get just a little tricky in some parts. However, it’s far from an impossible task to pull it off in E standard. In particular, I find it a bit annoying to have to play all those major chords with regular fingerings.

Rolling Stones - Start Me Up (in standard tuning) - Guitar lesson / tutorial / cover with tab

Getting Used to All Tunings

Open tunings are here for a reason. And playing guitar cannot be reduced to tablatures, despite them being useful. Although helpful, you shouldn’t learn music mechanically.

So you should get accustomed to transposing, as well as different tunings. In my opinion, The Rolling Stones’ songs are a great way to learn this.  

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