What is Drop D Tuning and How Can it be Used?

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Drop D tuning is among the simplest forms of guitar tunings that you can find out there. When the guitar is in Drop D one can easily form the power chord just by barring his/her finger across the three fattest strings of any fret. This may be shifted around instead of quickly shifting up and down the fretboard which always forms a power chord.

The only major difference between Drop D tuning and Standard Tuning is that the fattest string is normally tuned down an entire tone to a D instead of an E. below is a simple step by step guide that will help you switch into Drop D tuning.

Step 1: Get into the Standard Tuning

You will have to start over in Standard Tuning; E-A-D-g-b-e. Once you are there, you will only have to make modifications to one string.

Step 2: The 6th String – D

Since you are already in the Standard Tuning, all that you will have to do is to pluck the D string down (4th string) and the fattest string (low E string) together before loosening the tuning peg so that it lowers the pitch of the string from E to D. Fiddle with this tuning peg till the pitches become similar.

That is all there’s to do. Bar the bottom three strings with the index finger and you will be free to play the instant power chord.

Uses of Drop D tuning

Drop D tuning is mostly used in heavy metal, and its subgenres since guitarists in these music styles often require fast transitions between the power chords. Drop D tuning is also used in metal as it adds two lower semitones to the bass range of a rhythm guitar. This, in turn, adds two more low-range power chords (D and Eb) and enables a heavy and deep sound. Furthermore, Drop D tuning has been used in several other music styles including blues, classical, country and folk.

Due to its wide range of similarity to the standard tuning, drop D tuning is viewed as a very useful introduction to the alternative tunings. This has led to the exploration of open D, DADGAD and drop D drop G (where both the 6th and 5th strings are dropped together) tunings.

Drop D tuning allows for the chords with a bass or root note of D to be played with the D; an octave that’s lower than the standard tuning. It also allows one to play the open D chords which include the 5th and 6th strings. This enables the full sonority of your guitar to be heard. This is especially useful for the songs within the keys of D minor and major and it’s particularly effective on an acoustic guitar.

Drop D tuning also allows the finger pickers to play different chord shapes that are higher up the neck while still maintaining the alternating bass. If left open, the bottom three strings will vibrate sympathetically. As such, using the chord shapes that are limited to the top 3 strings will easily achieve a drone effect.

The trade-off with Drop D tuning is the loss of E bass note in fingerings or chords which a player can adjust by including fretting the 6th string at the 2nd fret (now E)

Relation to other Tunings

Drop D tuning is simply the most basic type of the “drop 1” tunings where the sixth string is tuned down a tone (a whole step). Several of other types of “drop 1” tuning can be obtained just by tuning the guitar to a drop D tuning and then tune all strings down to some fixed amount. Examples of these tunings are Drop C♯, Drop B, Drop C, Drop A♯ and the Drop A tunings. All of the above tunings use similar fingerings as that for drop D tuning.

As always, for the visual people out there, watch this video below for more info…

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