An open tuning allows a chord to be played by strumming the strings when "open", or while fretting no strings. The base chord consists of at least three notes and may include all the strings or a subset. The tuning is named for the base chord when played open, typically a major triad, and each major-triad can be played by barring exactly one fret. Open tunings are common in blues and folk music, and they are used in the playing of slide and lap-slide ("Hawaiian") guitars. Ry Cooder uses open tunings when he plays slide guitar.
You can tell whether or not strings are of a thin or thick gauge based on the numbers on the package. The smallest number, which is the gauge of thinnest string, will usually be .9 or lower on thin gauge strings. On thick gauge strings this number will be .12 or higher. Strings that are .10 or .11 are generally considered to be “mediums”, and produce a tone and feel which is the middle ground between these two extremes.
In acoustic guitars, string vibration is transmitted through the bridge and saddle to the body via sound board. The sound board is typically made of tone woods such as spruce or cedar. Timbers for tone woods are chosen for both strength and ability to transfer mechanical energy from the strings to the air within the guitar body. Sound is further shaped by the characteristics of the guitar body's resonant cavity. In expensive instruments, the entire body is made of wood. In inexpensive instruments, the back may be made of plastic.
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If you know how to play an E major chord, then you know how to play an A minor chord—just move the chord whole shape over a string. Make sure your first finger is curled, so the open first string rings clearly. Avoid playing the open sixth string when strumming the A minor chord. There are situations when it makes sense to reverse your second and third fingers when playing the A minor chord.
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