Drop D tuning

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Drop D tuning

Drop D tuning is an alternative form of guitar tuning in which the lowest (sixth) string is tuned down from the usual E of standard tuning by one whole step to D. [1] Drop D tuning, as well as other lowered altered tunings, are often used with the electric guitar in heavy metal music. It is also used in blues, country, folk (often with acoustic guitar), and classical guitar.

Electric guitar electrified guitar; fretted stringed instrument with a neck and body that uses a pickup to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals

An electric guitar is a guitar that uses one or more pickups to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals. The vibration occurs when a guitar player strums, plucks, fingerpicks, slaps or taps the strings. The pickup generally uses electromagnetic induction to create this signal, which being relatively weak is fed into a guitar amplifier before being sent to the speaker(s), which converts it into audible sound.

Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom. With roots in blues rock, psychedelic rock, and acid rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. The genre's lyrics and performance styles are sometimes associated with aggression and machismo.

Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1870s by African Americans from roots in African musical traditions, African-American work songs, and spirituals. Blues incorporated spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts, chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The blues form, ubiquitous in jazz, rhythm and blues and rock and roll, is characterized by the call-and-response pattern, the blues scale and specific chord progressions, of which the twelve-bar blues is the most common. Blue notes, usually thirds, fifths or sevenths flattened in pitch are also an essential part of the sound. Blues shuffles or walking bass reinforce the trance-like rhythm and form a repetitive effect known as the groove.



In drop D, the three open bass strings form a D5 power chord. Other fifth chords are made when barred with the index finger of the fretting hand shifted up the fretboard. Drop D tuning is frequently used in heavy metal and its various subgenres, as guitarists in these styles often need fast transitions between power chords. Drop D is also used in metal because it adds two lower semitones to the bass range of the rhythm guitar, which adds two more low-range power chords (Eb and D) and enables a "heavier", deeper sound. The tuning has also been used in many other styles of music, including blues, country, folk, and classical. Due to its similarity to standard tuning, drop D is recognised as a useful introduction to alternative tunings, leading logically to an exploration of DADGAD, open D and drop D drop G (in which both the 5th and 6th strings are dropped a tone) tunings.

A power chordPlay  is a colloquial name for a chord in guitar music, especially electric guitar, that consists of the root note and the fifth. Power chords are commonly played on amplified guitars, especially on electric guitar with distortion. Power chords are a key element of many styles of rock and especially in heavy metal, and punk rock.

Rhythm guitar guitar technique; part of the rhythmic pulse in conjunction with other instruments from the rhythm section

In music performances, rhythm guitar is a technique and role that performs a combination of two functions: to provide all or part of the rhythmic pulse in conjunction with other instruments from the rhythm section ; and to provide all or part of the harmony, i.e. the chords from a song's chord progression, where a chord is a group of notes played together. Therefore, the basic technique of rhythm guitar is to hold down a series of chords with the fretting hand while strumming or fingerpicking rhythmically with the other hand. More developed rhythm techniques include arpeggios, damping, riffs, chord solos, and complex strums.

Country music, also known as country and western, and hillbilly music, is a genre of popular music that originated in the southern United States in the early 1920s. It takes its roots from genres such as American folk music and blues.

The tuning allows for chords with a root or bass note of D to be played with a D an octave lower than with standard tuning. It also allows the playing of open D chords that include the fifth and sixth strings, letting the full sonority of the guitar be heard. This can be especially useful for songs in the keys of D major or minor and is particularly effective on acoustic guitar. Drop D also allows fingerpickers to play chord shapes higher up the neck while maintaining an alternating bass. The bottom three strings, if left open, will vibrate sympathetically and, using chord shapes limited to the top three strings, a drone effect can easily be achieved.

Sympathetic resonance or sympathetic vibration is a harmonic phenomenon wherein a formerly passive string or vibratory body responds to external vibrations to which it has a harmonic likeness. The classic example is demonstrated with two similar tuning-forks of which one is mounted on a wooden box. If the other one is struck and then placed on the box, then muted, the un-struck mounted fork will be heard. In similar fashion, strings will respond to the external vibrations of a tuning-fork when sufficient harmonic relations exist between the respective vibratory modes. A unison or octave will provoke the largest response as there is maximum likeness in vibratory motion. Other links through shared resonances occur at the fifth and, though with much less effect, at the major third. The principle of sympathetic resonance has been applied in musical instruments from many cultures and times. Apart from the basic principle at work on instruments with many undamped strings, such as harps, guitars and pianos with the dampers raised, other instruments are fitted with extra choirs of sympathetic strings, which respond with a silvery halo to the tones played on the main strings.

In music, a drone is a harmonic or monophonic effect or accompaniment where a note or chord is continuously sounded throughout most or all of a piece. The word drone is also any part of a musical instrument that is used to produce such an effect, as is the archaic term burden such as a "drone [pipe] of a bagpipe", the pedal point in an organ, or the lowest course of a lute. Α burden is also part of a song that is repeated at the end of each stanza, such as the chorus or refrain.

The trade-off is the loss of the open bass E note in chords or fingerings, which the player can adjust to include fretting the sixth string at the second fret (now E).[ dubious ]

In rock and metal

Tabulature of main riff of "Flower" by Soundgarden. It is played in drop d tuning. It is almost impossible to play in a D tuning. Soundgarden-Flower guitar tab.JPG
Tabulature of main riff of “Flower” by Soundgarden. It is played in drop d tuning. It is almost impossible to play in a D tuning.

Although the drop D tuning was introduced and developed by blues and classical guitarists, it is well known from its usage in contemporary heavy metal and hard rock bands. Early hard rock songs tuned in drop D include The Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" and Led Zeppelin's "Moby Dick", both first released in 1969. [2] Tuning the lowest string one tone down, from E to D allowed these musicians to acquire a heavier and darker sound than in standard tuning. Without needing to tune all strings (Standard D tuning), they could tune just one, in order to lower the key. Drop D is also a convenient tuning, because it expands the scale of an instrument by two semitones: D and D.

Classical music broad tradition of Western art music

Classical music is art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western culture, including both liturgical (religious) and secular music. While a more precise term is also used to refer to the period from 1750 to 1820, this article is about the broad span of time from before the 6th century AD to the present day, which includes the Classical period and various other periods. The central norms of this tradition became codified between 1550 and 1900, which is known as the common-practice period.

Hard rock is a loosely defined subgenre of rock music that began in the mid-1960s, with the garage, psychedelic and blues rock movements. It is typified by a heavy use of aggressive vocals, distorted electric guitars, bass guitar, drums, and often accompanied with keyboards.

The Beatles English rock band

The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. The line-up of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr led them to be regarded as the most influential band of all time. With a sound rooted in skiffle, beat and 1950s rock and roll, the group were integral to the evolution of pop music into an art form, and to the development of the counterculture of the 1960s. They often incorporated elements of classical music, older pop, and unconventional recording techniques in innovative ways, and they experimented with a number of musical styles in later years, ranging from pop ballads and Indian music to psychedelia and hard rock. As they continued to draw influences from a variety of cultural sources, their musical and lyrical sophistication grew, and they came to be seen as embodying the era's socio-cultural movements.

In the mid 1980s, three alternative rock bands, King's X, Soundgarden and Melvins, influenced by Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, made extensive use of drop D tuning. [3] While playing power chords (a chord that includes the prime, fifth and octave) in standard tuning requires a player to use two or three fingers, drop D tuning needs just one, similar in technique to playing barre chords. [4] It allowed them to use different methods of articulating power chords (legato for example) and more importantly, it allowed guitarist to change chords faster. This new technique of playing power chords introduced by these early grunge bands was a great influence on many artists, such as Rage Against the Machine and Tool, making by the same drop D tuning common practice among alternative metal acts such as the band Helmet, who used the tuning a great deal throughout their career and would later influence many alternative metal and nu metal bands. [5]

Alternative rock is a style of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1970s and became widely popular in the 1980s. In this instance, the word "alternative" refers to the genre's distinction from mainstream rock music. The term's original meaning was broader, referring to a generation of musicians unified by their collective debt to either the musical style or simply the independent, DIY ethos of punk rock, which in the late 1970s laid the groundwork for alternative music. At times, "alternative" has been used as a catch-all description for music from underground rock artists that receives mainstream recognition, or for any music, whether rock or not, that is seen to be descended from punk rock. Although the genre evolved in the late 1970s and 1980s, music anticipating the sound of the genre can be found as early as the 1960s, with bands such as The Velvet Underground.

Kings X band

King's X is an American rock band that combines progressive metal, funk and soul with vocal arrangements influenced by gospel, blues, and British Invasion rock groups. Despite a largely underground reputation as the "musician's musicians", King's X was pivotal in the early development of progressive metal, and produced a series of early records considered essential within the genre. The band's lyrics are largely based on the members' struggles with religion and self-acceptance. King's X was ranked No. 83 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.

Soundgarden American grunge rock band

Soundgarden was an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1984 by singer and rhythm guitarist Chris Cornell, lead guitarist Kim Thayil, and bassist Hiro Yamamoto. Matt Cameron became the band's full-time drummer in 1986, while bassist Ben Shepherd became a permanent replacement for Yamamoto in 1990. The band dissolved in 1997 and re-formed in 2010. Following Cornell's suicide in 2017 and a year of uncertainty of the band's future, Thayil declared in an October 2018 interview with Seattle Times that they would not continue as Soundgarden; they did, however, reunite in January 2019 for a one-off concert in tribute to Cornell.

Nu metal bands including Deftones and Slipknot went one step further and decided to tune “drop” tuning even lower. By lowering the 6th string one whole step in E tuning to C, they created a heavier and grittier sound. Even lower tunings such as Drop C, Drop C, Drop B, Drop A, and Drop A were also utilized. These tunings are very popular among metalcore and deathcore acts like Trivium, Emmure, August Burns Red, and Suicide Silence, where fast chord changes are an essential part of the sound. Progressive metal acts such as Pain of Salvation, Opeth, Fates Warning and Dream Theater use these tunings in some of their E-tuned songs.

Chords in drop D tuning

D chord in drop D tuning
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. D chord in drop D tuning.png
D chord in drop D tuning Loudspeaker.svg Play  .

Chords in drop D tuning are formed as they are in standard tuning, with the exception of the sixth string, which is either omitted or fretted one whole step higher:


Note that these chords are not the power chords commonly played in drop D tuning. Power chords generally mute the higher notes rather than the lower notes.

For purposes of making the table easier to read, spaces are provided between each number when the fret number becomes a double digit. Additionally, the highest note in any 5th chord is an octave from the root note so it is not necessary to play it to achieve a 5th chord.

C510 10 10xxxx355xx
C511 11 11xxxx466xx
F5333xxxx8 10 10xx
F5444xxxx9 11 11xx
G5555xxxx10 12 12xx
G5666xxxx11 13 13xx

Relation to other tunings

Drop D tuning is the most basic type of "drop 1" tuning, where the 6th string is tuned down a whole step (a tone). A large number of other "drop 1" tunings can be obtained simply by tuning a guitar to drop D tuning and then tuning all strings down some fixed amount. Examples are Drop C, Drop C, Drop B, Drop A, and Drop A tunings. All of these use the same fingerings as for drop D tuning.

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The bass guitar is a plucked string instrument similar in appearance and construction to an electric or an acoustic guitar, except with a longer neck and scale length, and typically four to six strings or courses.

Guitar fretted string instrument

The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that usually has six strings. It is typically played with both hands by strumming or plucking the strings with either a guitar pick or the finger(s)/fingernails of one hand, while simultaneously fretting with the fingers of the other hand. The sound of the vibrating strings is projected either acoustically, by means of the hollow chamber of the guitar, or through an electrical amplifier and a speaker.

Fret musical instrument part

A fret is a raised element on the neck of a stringed instrument. Frets usually extend across the full width of the neck. On most modern western fretted instruments, frets are metal strips inserted into the fingerboard. On some historical instruments and non-European instruments, frets are made of pieces of string tied around the neck.

Capo musical string instrument part

A capo is a device a musician uses on the neck of a stringed instrument to shorten the playable length of the strings—hence raising the pitch. It is a common tool for players of guitars, mandolins, mandolas, banjos, ukuleles and bouzoukis. The word derives from the Italian capotasto, which means the nut of a stringed instrument. The earliest known use of capotasto is by Giovanni Battista Doni who, in his Annotazioni of 1640, uses it to describe the nut of a viola da gamba. The first patented capo was designed by James Ashborn of Wolcottville, Connecticut.

Scordatura[skordaˈtuːra], is a tuning of a stringed instrument different from the normal, standard tuning. It typically attempts to allow special effects or unusual chords or timbre, or to make certain passages easier to play. It is common to notate the finger position as if played in regular tuning, while the actual pitch resulting is altered. When all the strings are tuned by the same interval up or down, as in the case of the viola in Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra, the part is transposed as a whole.

Lap steel guitar type of steel guitar which is typically played with the instrument in a horizontal position on the performer’s lap or otherwise supported

The lap steel guitar is a type of steel guitar which is typically played with the instrument in a horizontal position on the performer's lap or otherwise supported. The performer changes pitch by pressing a metal or glass bar against the strings as opposed to a traditional guitar where the performer's fingertips press the strings against frets. The bar placed against the strings is called a "steel" or "tone bar".

Quarter tone Musical interval

A quarter tone is a pitch halfway between the usual notes of a chromatic scale or an interval about half as wide as a semitone, which itself is half a whole tone. Quarter tone divides the octave by 50 cents each, and has 24 different pitches.

Barre chord

In music, a barre chord is a type of chord on a guitar or other stringed instrument, that the musician plays by using one or more fingers to press down multiple strings across a single fret of the fingerboard.

Guitar chord set of notes played on a guitar

In music, a guitar chord is a set of notes played on a guitar. A chord's notes are often played simultaneously, but they can be played sequentially in an arpeggio. The implementation of guitar chords depends on the guitar tuning. Most guitars used in popular music have six strings with the "standard" tuning of the Spanish classical guitar, namely E-A-D-G-B-E' ; in standard tuning, the intervals present among adjacent strings are perfect fourths except for the major third (G,B). Standard tuning requires four chord-shapes for the major triads.

Guitar tunings the assigning of pitches to open strings of guitars

Guitar tunings assign pitches to the open strings of guitars, including acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and classical guitars. Tunings are described by the particular pitches denoted by notes in Western music. By convention, the notes are ordered from lowest-pitched string to highest-pitched.

Open D tuning

Open D tuning is an open tuning for the acoustic or electric guitar. The open string notes in this tuning are : D A D F A D. It uses the three notes that form the triad of a D major chord: D, the root note; A, the perfect fifth; and F, the major third.

An extended-range bass is an electric bass guitar with a wider frequency range than a standard-tuned four-string bass guitar.

Among alternative tunings for the guitar, an open G tuning is an open tuning that features the G-major chord; its open notes are selected from the notes of a G-major chord, such as the G-major triad (G,B,D). For example, a popular open-G tuning is

Chuck Wayne American jazz guitarist

Chuck Wayne was a jazz guitarist. He came to prominence in the 1940s, and was among the earliest jazz guitarists to play in the bebop style. Wayne was a member of Woody Herman's First Herd, the first guitarist in the George Shearing quintet, and Tony Bennett's music director and accompanist. He developed a systematic method for playing jazz guitar.

Double drop D tuning: DADGBD, also known simply as double drop D, is an alternative guitar tuning: E strings are tuned down ("dropped") one whole step to D rather than E as in standard tuning (EADGBE).

Major thirds tuning

Among alternative tunings for guitar, a major-thirds tuning is a regular tuning in which each interval between successive open strings is a major third. Other names for major-thirds tuning include major-third tuning, M3 tuning, all-thirds tuning, and augmented tuning. By definition, a major-third interval separates two notes that differ by exactly four semitones.

Regular tuning

Among alternative guitar-tunings, regular tunings have equal musical intervals between the paired notes of their successive open strings.

Overtones tuning

Among alternative tunings for the guitar, an overtones tuning selects its open-string notes from the overtone sequence of a fundamental note. An example is the open tuning constituted by the first six overtones of the fundamental note C, namely C2-C3-G3-C4-E4-G4.


  1. https://www.justinguitar.com/guitar-lessons/drop-d-tuning-es-021 "How to tune to Drop D. Justinguitar.com Retreieved 16 July 2018
  2. Ben Long. "Drop D Tuning".
  3. Teraz Rock (November 2010). "Soundgarden Na 12 Stronach!".
  4. MrHardguitar (13 April 2012). "What Is Drop D Tuning Guitar Lesson (how to Tune Guitar to Drop D Tutorial)".
  5. http://www.bluecricket.com/helmet/interviews/gw994.html