You may have heard of Drop D tuning before but have not ever played around with it before. We know, alternate tunings can be intimidating, especially when standard tuning presents enough challenges on it’s own. The best way to become acquainted with this tuning is to learn some Drop D songs.
Let’s get to the lesson!
Drop D Songs And Tuning
What is Drop D Tuning?
Drop D tuning on guitar is a fairly simple and straightforward alternate tuning. It takes your standard tuning of E – A – D – G – B – e and drops the low E to a D. Making the new tuning D – A – D – G – B – e.
How To Tune Your Guitar To Drop D
- low E dropped down a whole step to D
Why Use This Tuning?
Drop D is a great way to give your music a little more bottom end. It takes the low E string and drops it down a whole step to D, hence the name ‘Drop D’.
Drop D is a really great entry point into the world of alternate tunings. You should explore this and then drop out some others like Open G or Open C.
Here are a few more reasons to try it out.
Boost your creativity
Sometimes we can get a little bored when playing the same things over and over. By switching up the tuning on your guitar, even by just one string, the relationship between those strings changes a little.
You are forced to go beyond mere muscle memory and start thinking of what you are playing. It forces you to start looking at the guitar fret board with a fresh set of eyes, so to speak. This can naturally lead to a burst of creativity in your playing.
It’s fun and simple
One of the great things you find when playing in Drop D is you can play a whole array of single finger power chords. Fretting the low E, now a D, string and the A string on the same fret is a simple V, or 5, chord.
On the flipside of the above point, this let’s you play around and explore chord progressions without worrying about finger positioning or funky chord shapes. Just fret two strings, crank up your distortion, and go to town on the neck.
Drop D Chords
We touched on this a little above already but we can go into a little more detail. For single finger chords, the low D will act as the I note while the A string, fretted on the same fret as the low D, will act as the V note.
When you use the I – V formula and omit the III from the standard chord triad, you end up with a 5 chord (we cover this in more detail in our E5 Chord lesson). 5 chords are also known as power chords and work well in any genre of music, but is mostly associated with various versions of rock.
You can also fret the 3rd string, as well. It is just going to repeat the I note but in a higher voicing which can add even more depth to your progression.
Since Drop D only involves altering the tuning of the top string, the bottom five strings remain unchanged. That means you can use pretty much any chord shape from standard tuning you like. You just need to mute the low E string in cases where the chord does not contain a D note.
But, with chords that do have a D note, you can leave the 6th string open and get a little more bottom end with a thicker tone that sounds really nice. Some of those chords are:
Drop D Chord Shapes
As we mentioned already, for the most part you can use the chord shapes you already know. But, for the exceptions that utilize the low D string, we have made a couple Drop D chord charts for you to use as a reference.
Drop D I-V Power Chords
These power chords just use the I and V notes. They are known as 5 or power chords. Only play the top 2 strings while muting the bottom 4 strings.
Drop D I-V-I Power Chords
These power chords are very similar to the chords above. The exception is the I note is repeated on the 4th, or D, string. This duplication of the root will add some extra body to your chords.
Drop D Moveable Major Barre Chords
This is a moveable barre chord shape. You can use this up and down the neck to make any chord you want. It uses a shape similar to an open F chords. Its easy to play, you just barre the bottom 2 strings with your index finger.
Drop D Moveable Minor Barre Chords
We use a similar chord shape as the one above for the minor moveable barre chord. The only difference is the III note, is flattened on the 3rd, or G, string. So instead of just barring the bottom 2 strings with your index finger, you will barre the bottom 3 strings instead.
Songs That Use Drop D Tuning
Typically you will see Drop D tuning, like Drop B, associated with heavier styles of music. For instance, you can see from this list that bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Foo Fighters, Lamb of God, Metallica, Pantera, Soundgarden, and Trivium appear multiple times and lean toward heavier styles of music.
But, that is not always the case. This tuning is also versatile and capable of being used in different genres effectively. Musicians like Iron & Wine and Neil Young are usually associated with a more mellow sound. While Rage Against The Machine blends elements of funk, hip-hop, and hard rock.
- The Sound of Truth by As I Lay Dying
- Bat Country by Avenged Sevenfold
- Unholy Confessions by Avenged Sevenfold
- Walk by Avenged Sevenfold
- I’m Made of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made of? by A Day to Remember
- Touch, Peel and Stand by Days Of The New
- Growing on Me by The Darkness
- My Own Summer (Shove It) by Deftones
- Hey Man Nice Shot (Nickel Bag) by Filter
- Everlong by Foo Fighters
- Monkey Wrench by Foo Fighters
- Lips of an Angel by Hinder
- Naked as We Came by Iron & Wine
- Laid to Rest by Lamb Of God
- Redneck by Lamb Of God
- Going to California by Led Zeppelin
- Moby Dick by Led Zeppelin
- The Beautiful People by Marilyn Manson
- All Nightmare Long by Metallica
- The Thing That Should Not Be by Metallica
- Heart-Shaped Box by Nirvana
- Demon of the Fall by Opeth
- A New Level by Pantera
- Walk by Pantera
- Last Resort by Papa Roach
- Against The Machine by Rage Against the Machine
- Born of a Broken Man by Rage Against the Machine
- Take the Power Back by Rage Against the Machine
- Wake Up by Rage Against the Machine
- Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden
- Outshined by Soundgarden
- Spoonman by Soundgarden
- You Are My Sunshine by Chris Stapleton
- Hooch by Sum 41
- Pieces by Sum 41
- Meant to Live by Switchfoot
- When The Spell Is Broken by Richard Thompson
- Never Too Late by Three Days Grace
- The Forgotten One by Times of Grace
- A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation by Trivium
- The Deceived (Flavus) by Trivium
- Dying in Your Arms by Trivium
- Unchained by Van Halen
- Slither by Velvet Revolver
- Joker and the Thief by Wolfmother
- Ohio by Neil Young
Drop D is a fun tuning to just jam around with. Hopefully, after this lesson you will feel more comfortable exploring this, and other, alternate tunings.