Drop D tuning is one of the most basic and easy to learn alternative guitar tunings. Guitarists from all different genres of music use drop D tuning for its unique sound and playability. If you haven’t experimented with alternative tunings before, Drop D tuning is a great beginner alternative tuning to introduce you to the world of open tunings. Here is how it works.
How to Tune Your Guitar in Drop D
Drop D tuning is probably the simplest drop tuning. All you have to do is tune your guitar to standard tuning, EADGBe, and lower the sixth string one full step to a D. Now you can see why people call this tuning, DADGBe, drop D tuning. You are effectively “dropping” the low E to a D. If you don’t have a tuner, an easy way to tune your guitar in Drop D is to pluck the 4th and the 6th strings at the same time. Now lower the 6th string until it is an octave above the 4th string. Now you are in drop D tuning! You should also check the other strings to make sure nothing else went out of tune as you were dropping the E string.
If you have a Floyd Rose bridge on your electric guitar, retuning your guitar might be a little more work. You will have to unlock the nut with an allen wrench and retune the guitar a few times. Once the lower E string is dropped to a D, the entire guitar will go out of tune. You will have to retune it a few times to get the Floyd Rose bridge to flow right again. It’s a bit of a pain, but it is easy to do. Then you can lock the nut again. Check out the alternative tuning set up page for more info.
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Drop D tuning is not only easy to tune, it is also a lot of fun to play. Many alternative tunings are so different that you have to learn a whole new set of chord patterns–not drop D tuning. All of the standard guitar chord patterns stay the same except the notes on the sixth string. Drop D moves the sixth string position in the standard chord patterns up two frets. It might sound complicated at first, but now you can play power chords with a straight bar chord across the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings. In this tuning, an A power chord or A5 is simply the 7th fret on the bottom three strings–pretty awesome, huh!
Drop D tuning is used by all kinds of guitarists from country players to heavy metal shredders. Heavy metal guitarists and rock guitarists use drop D tuning for its lower, darker sound. The lower D string not only makes the overall sound of the guitar more intense, it also allows metal guitars to “chug” a palm-muted open D power chord without using their fretting hand. This tuning so popular that many guitar companies have made “quick tune” features on their guitars allowing guitarists to flip a level and drop their guitar tuning. Fingerstyle guitars like drop D for the same reason that rock players do. Many fingerpickers like Chet Atkins and Tommy Emmanuel play bass lines with the lower guitar strings as they play melodies with the top strings. The lower D string allows them to make more and different chords in their alternating bass lines.
This tuning is a great way to experiment with your guitar and your sound. Try it out and have fun with it. If you can’t get your guitar to sound right with this tuning, you might have a setup issue. Take a look at my altered tunings page for more information about how to set up your guitar for different drop tunings.