How to Tune Your Guitar to Drop D

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D A D G B E Alternate Tuning

drop d tuning

Drop D tuning is often the first alternate tuning most guitarists learn - primarily because of the overall ease of changing the tuning. While many other alternate tunings require string by string adjustment, drop D requires only that you lower the sixth string of your guitar by a whole tone, from the note E to the note D.

This tuning is used extensively by heavy metal guitarists, as the lowered sixth string provides an extremely easy way to play power chords. Additionally, the lower notes provide a thicker, richer bottom end which suits the style well.

Drop D tuning also gets used in other styles of music - most often when guitarists are playing songs in the key of D. The low D in the bass allows guitarists to hold a traditional D major chord while strumming all six strings. The resulting chord sounds much more full than a D major played in standard tuning.

Drop D Tuning Tips

  • Tune your sixth string down a tone to D. Check the tuning with the fourth (D) string - they should sound an octave apart.
  • Leave your first, second, third, fourth and fifth strings as is.

Learn to Play Songs in Drop D Tuning

  1. Dear Prudence (VIDEO) - this great Beatles tune isn't for beginners, but also isn't as challenging as it first sounds. This is a nice example of drop D tuning used in an acoustic guitar setting.
  2. Optimistic (VIDEO) - This Radiohead track from 2000's Kid A uses all open strings, including the lowered sixth, to great effect. Warren shows people how to play the song on his YouTube channel. The trick with this one is learning the quirky strumming patterns used throughout.
  3. Higher - This Creed song in the key of D takes advantage of the detuned open sixth string to make the guitar sound very big and full.
  4. Moby Dick (VIDEO) - Marty Schwartz provides an instructional designed to teach this Led Zeppelin tune based on a single note riff using the lowered sixth string in drop D tuning.
  5. Heart Shaped Box (VIDEO) - One of the many tunes written by Nirvana (and dozens of other grunge bands) that use drop D tuning. In another of his great YouTube videos, Marty Schwartz shows you how to play this one.
  6. Spoonman (VIDEO) - This Soundgarden tune illustrates how you can use one finger to play power chords in drop D tuning. Learn to play the song via an instructional video from Andy from proguitarshop.com.

Other Resources for Playing in Drop D Tuning

  1. Chords in Drop D - Dansm's guitar site offers explanations on how to play many common chords in drop D tuning.
  2. Using Drop D Tuning to Write Heavy Riffs - A simple page that explains a little more about drop D tuning, and provides audio for a riff to play in drop D.
  3. Guitarlessons.com: Drop D Tuning (VIDEO) - This video lesson is designed to teach you not only how to tune to open D, but to play power chord shapes in that tuning. This lesson has a metal focus.
  4. Acoustic Guitar Drop D Lesson (VIDEO) - for acoustic guitarists less interested in just learning power chords, this lesson shows some interesting chord shapes that can be performed using open D tuning.
  5. Acousticguitar.com Drop D Tuning Lesson - Here is another quick but solid lesson that focuses on chord shapes in open D.