Joni Mitchell’s Alternative Tunings

by Frederik Nielsen, Aug 8, 2018 . 3 min read

Joni Mitchell’s Alternative Tunings

Musicians like Joni Mitchell are a dying breed. Although I’m not big on folk myself, I have a soft spot for Joni. Don’t even come here with Counting Crows’ cover of ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ with Vanessa Carlton giving her best Hanson impression. No, I want the real thing:

Why Joni Mitchell is awesome

There’s many reasons to love Joni. She wrote catchy songs with thoughtful lyrics, was an excellent guitarist, produced her own albums, and released 17 of them before retiring. I could go on at length about her album Blue, as could any other music reviewer. But we’re here to look at some of the alternate tunings Joni has used during her career.

Joni Mitchell has used over 50 different alternative tunings spread across her catalogue of music, so it would be unfair to define her by one. There is one alternate tuning you need to master in order to get the Joni sound, however. That is Open D:

Open D is a good start, as it will allow you to get straight into playing “Big Yellow Taxi” mentioned above, as well as some of her other songs like “Chelsea Morning” and “Both Sides Now”.

How to get the Joni Mitchell tuning with your Roadie 2

To get the Joni sound, you will need to add the Open D tuning to your Roadie 2. In order to do that, open the Roadie app and tap where it says Tunings. Here, you’ll select your six-string guitar and then Create New Tuning. Add in the Open D like this: D A D F♯ A D. Once that’s done, name the tuning Open D and then save it by hitting Sync. Hello Joni!

Variety is the spice of life as a musician

If you watch footage of her live performances, you’ll find that she likes to make life a bit difficult for those trying to imitate her. You think you’ve learned one of her songs, just to discover that she’s changed the key on the live version. She also liked to change the keys with her capo, and the position of that has also changed a lot over the years.

Joni has described how the use of alternate tunings as the key to her songwriting. By changing up the tuning and playing with some new chord progressions, she kept evolving her style and technique. She even invented her own tuning notation system, where Open D was notated as D75435. This method was used to indicate the tuning of a string relative to the one below it.

You can check out her website for more in-depth explanation of her approach to songwriting and tuning — something I’d highly recommend! I’d also recommend listening to the album “Blue”, if you haven’t already:

While you’re here, check out our new & improved Complete Guide to Guitar Tuning and let us know what you think!



Get our free Alternate Tunings Guide!
Submit

Check out some other similar articles

Although women by no means are under-represented in the music industry, female instrumentalists are not quite as common as we’d like them to be –

Frederik Nielsen
Mar 8, 2020 . 4 min read

A list of musicians who died before the age of 30 would be too long to write. Even going through all of the members of the infamous “27 Club” would take ages.

Frederik Nielsen
Mar 4, 2020 . 3 min read

While most people are not sure if they have one genuine talent, some people are much luckier. 

Tamara Habchi
Mar 3, 2020 . 4 min read

In most cases, parents are proud when their kids reach a developmental milestone ahead of their peers.

Tamara Habchi
Mar 2, 2020 . 4 min read

There are enough obstacles to making it in the music industry. Succeeding with a disability is nothing short of a miracle. But it’s not impossible.

Frederik Nielsen
Feb 25, 2020 . 4 min read

People who speak more than one language are impressive to all of us. And musicians that play more than one instrument are even more impressive.

Frederik Nielsen
Feb 25, 2020 . 4 min read

Despite what many people will tell you, you can earn more than decent money as a relatively unknown, professional guitarist. There are many ways to make money:

Frederik Nielsen
Feb 24, 2020 . 3 min read

When you think of the ukulele, you probably think about a tropical, Hawaiian beach with lots of sunlight. But people from all over the world have fallen in love with ukulele.

Frederik Nielsen
Feb 18, 2020 . 5 min read

The second month of the year comes with a lot of celebrations. We have the Presidents’ Day, there’s also Valentine’s Day, plus all of the birthdays of amazing people we look up to.

Frederik Nielsen
Feb 17, 2020 . 3 min read

What do our 5 most popular articles of 2019 have in common? Nothing. That’s because we work really hard on making sure the content we develop for our readers is as diverse as the music world is.

Tamara Habchi
Jan 28, 2020 . 3 min read

New year, New reviews? But wait, before we officially welcome 2020, let’s look back at some of our favorite reviews of 2019.

Tamara Habchi
Jan 8, 2020 . 4 min read

The term guitar tunings may refer to pitch sets other than standard tuning, also called nonstandard, alternative, or alternate.

Alain Abou Atmeh
Jan 6, 2020 . 5 min read

In this edition of Roadie Spotlight, we’re checking out the Japanese guitar virtuoso ichika [sic] who has taken the Internet by storm with his amazing skills.

Frederik Nielsen
Dec 31, 2019 . 3 min read

Not all stars are plastered across social media. Some manage to create a buzz without resorting to self-aggrandizing promotion techniques. 

Frederik Nielsen
Dec 24, 2019 . 3 min read

We’re almost at the end of 2019 and thought we’d round off the year with more spotlights on great guitarists that we come across online.

Frederik Nielsen
Dec 20, 2019 . 3 min read

Annie Plays Guitar is a name that has popped up on social media for the past few years. We’ve had a listen to Annie Wagstaff’s music and also looked at her new project HANNIE in this edition of Roadie Spotlight.

Frederik Nielsen
Dec 16, 2019 . 3 min read

15 years ago, the guitar world lost a legend. On December 8th 2004, a crazed fan killed Dimebag Darrell onstage.

Alec Plowman
Dec 8, 2019 . 4 min read

We’re once more putting the spotlight of some of our favorite artists here on the Roadie blog. Some of them are famous, others are emerging — but all of them are amazing.

Frederik Nielsen
Dec 5, 2019 . 2 min read

One of the most difficult elements of being a musician is finding your sound. As guitarists, we tend to wear our influences on our sleeves.

Frederik Nielsen
Nov 8, 2019 . 4 min read

Ever wondered what equipment some of the greatest guitarists of all time used?

Then look no further.

Frederik Nielsen
Oct 30, 2019 . 4 min read
We'll be bringing you recommended tabs and plenty of interesting quotes from guitar legends along the way!