Drop D tuning

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Drop D tuning.

Drop D tuning, also known as DADGBE, is an alternate, or scordatura, form of guitar tuning — specifically, a dropped tuning — in which the lowest (sixth) string is tuned down ("dropped") from the usual E of standard tuning by one whole step / a tone (2 frets) to D.

A D5 power chord played in Drop D tuning

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Uses of drop D tuning[edit]

In drop D the three bass strings form a D5 power chord, which can be shifted up or down the fretboard with a single finger to produce a power chord.

Drop D tuning is frequently used in heavy metal and its various incarnations, as guitarists in these styles often need extremely fast transitions between power chords. 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.

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, and allows playing of open D chords that include the fifth and sixth strings to allow the full sonority of the guitar to 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.

The trade-off is the loss of the bass E note in chords or fingerings which the player cannot adjust to include fretting the sixth string at the second fret.

Drop D Tuning in Heavy Metal/Hard Rock[edit]

Tabulature of main riff of “Flower” by Soundgarden. Played in drop d tuning, almost impossible to play in a standard 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.[1] 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 necessity of tuning all strings (Standard D tuning), they could tune just one, in order to lower the key. Drop d was considerable also as convenient tuning, because it expands the scale of an instrument with two semitones: D and D#.

In the mid 1980-s, three alternative rock bands one from Houston and two from Seattle, King's X, Soundgarden and Melvins, influenced by Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, dropped their lowest strings and they found new usage for this tuning.[2] While playing power chords (chord that includes prime, fifth and octave) in standard tuning requires a player to use three fingers, each for every string, drop D tuning need just one, where most often, forefinger presses three strings, similar in technique used while playing barre chords.[3] It allowed them to acquire different methods of articulation power chords (legato for example) and more importantly, it allowed guitarist to change chords faster. 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 typical practice among alternative metal acts the band Helmet used the tuning a great deal throughout their career which would later be influential to many Alternative metal and Nu Metal bands.[4]

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 Eb tuning to C#, they create heavier and dirtier sound, this goes even lower with different tunings such as: Drop C, Drop B, Drop A#, and Drop A. These tunings are very popular among Metalcore and Deathcore acts like Trivium, Emmure, All That Remains, and Suicide Silence. All of them made fast chords changing crucial and essential for their sound.

Drop D tuning in Irish Music[edit]

John Doyle of the band Solas uses drop D tuning on an acoustic guitar to back up traditional Irish tunes and songs. This is not an uncommon approach to this style of music.

Examples of chords in dropped D tuning[edit]

D chord in drop D tuning About this sound Play .

Chords in dropped 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:

Chord Tab
A x02220
Am x02210
B x24442
Bm x24432
C x32010
D 000232
Dm 000231
E 222100
Em 222000
F 333211
F♯ 444322
F♯m 444222
G 520033

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.

Chord Tabs
A5 777xxx x022xx
Bb5 888xxx x133xx
B5 999xxx x244xx
C5 10 10 10xxx x355xx
C♯5 11 11 11xxx x466xx
D5 000xxx x577xx
Eb5 111xxx x688xx
E5 222xxx x799xx
F5 333xxx x8 10 10xx
F♯5 444xxx x9 11 11xx
G5 555xxx x10 12 12xx
G♯5 666xxx x11 13 13xx

Relation to other tunings[edit]

Drop D tuning is the most basic type of "drop 1" tuning, where 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.

References[edit]

External links[edit]