How to Tune Your Guitar To Drop D Tuning - Guitar Lesson [ES-021]
How to Tune a Guitar to Drop D
Drop D is an easy-to-master alternative tuning for guitar in which only one string is changed from standard EADGBE tuning. In Drop D, the sixth string (normally tuned to low E) is instead tuned a whole step down to D. In recent decades, Drop D has become popular in modern rock and metal for its deeper, darker sound and because it makes power chords easier to play (though the tuning has always had a place in blues, country, and traditional folk music).
Tuning With a Tuner
Start in standard EADGBE tuning.Regardless of whether or not you get your guitar into Drop D with a tuner, it's usually easiest to start from ordinary EADGBE tuning. This is because only one note is different between the tunings — change this note, and you're ready to play. This guide assumes that you're familiar with the notes in standard tuning; as a reminder, here are the notes you'll want each string tuned to (reference tones for these notes are readily available from tuner programs online):
- Sixth (thickest) string:E
- Fifth string:A
- Fourth string:D
- Third string:G
- Second string:B
- First (thinnest) string:E(two octaves up from the sixth string E)
Tune the sixth string to a D reference tone.Next, use your tuner to play a D. In a pinch, you can use the D note that's normally used for the fourth string — if you do this, don't forget that your sixth string will be exactly one octave below this tone. Some tuners, however, can be adjusted to give you the proper drop D tone (this tone is technically called "D3").
- If your tuner can't be adjusted to play D3, note that this reference tone can easily be accessed with any number of adjustable online tuner programs.
Tune the rest of your strings as normal.Since the only note that is different between standard tuning and Drop D tuning is the sixth string, your guitar should now technically be in tune. However, it's a very good habit to give the rest of your strings a quick tuning anyway just to ensure that they're perfectly in tune with your new bass note — even a minor inconsistency can produce ugly-sounding chords.
- Keep in mind that, since your sixth string is now tuned to D, you'll use its seventh fret (not its fifth) to tune the fifth string. The rest of the strings can be tuned as normal for standard tuning.
Play!Congratulations! Your guitar is now tuned to Drop D and is ready to play. As a reminder, its strings should now be tuned to the following tones:
- Sixth (thickest) string:D
- Fifth string:A
- Fourth string:D
- Third string:G
- Second string:B
- First (thinnest) string:E
Tuning Without a Tuner
Start in standard EADGBE tuning.If you don't have a tuner or any reference tones handy, it's still possible to get your guitar into Drop D tuning, provided that it's already well-tuned to standard tuning. For this reason, you'll once again want to begin with your guitar in standard tuning.
Tune the seventh fret of the sixth string to the open fifth string.Next, begin to lower the pitch of your sixth string (currently tuned to low E). As you do this, play its seventh fret with along with the fifth string (open). If your guitar was already well-tuned, your sixth string should be tuned to D as soon as the tone of its seventh fret perfectly matches the tone of the open fifth string (which is A).
Alternatively, tune to the open fourth string.You can also tune your sixth string so that it matches the tone of the fourth string (currently tuned to D). However, if you do this, you'll need to keep in mind that your sixth string's tone will be exactly one octave beneath your fourth string's. Some guitarists find it a little more difficult to judge the difference between these two tones than it is to use the fifth string (A) to tune the sixth string.
- Note that you don't have to commit to this method or the one above — it's perfectly acceptable to use both the fourth and fifth string to get the sixth tuned to D.
Exploring Drop D
Add the low D note to your playing.Now that your sixth string is tuned to low D, the range of your guitar is slightly greater. You have two new notes at your disposal: low D, played by strumming the sixth string in the open position, and Eb, played at the first fret of the sixth string. Being able to play these new low notes opens up several exciting possibilities for your playing.
- The most obvious of these is perhaps the fact that you can now play chords and scales with a root note of low D or Eb. This is especially useful for songs that rely heavily on these chords.
- Another less obvious benefit is that you now have new bass notes for finger-picking playing styles (which are commonly used in folk music). This gives you the opportunity to use these low notes as bass tones, pedal tones, and so on. It's even possible to use the low D note as a drone note.
Familiarize yourself with Drop D power chords.One of the biggest advantages of Drop D tuning is that it can make power chords on the thickest strings very easy to play. Specifically, because the sixth string is a whole step lower than in standard tuning, a power chord is played in the same fret for all three lower-pitched strings. This means that, rather than requiring three fingers to play, power chords can be played with just a single finger. Simply lay your finger across the D, A, and D strings similar to how you would barre a chord to fret a power chord in Drop D.
- It's worth noting that Drop D also makes it easier to switch between power chords quickly. This is used to great effect in hard rock and metal music — some songs would be very difficult or impossible to play in anything but Drop D.
Learn Songs that use Drop D.The best way to start getting the hang of Drop D is to start using it in songs! Below is a short selection of songs that use Drop D tuning — some are easy, some are hard, but all of them should have tabs readily available online to help you learn them:
- "Dear Prudence" by The Beatles
- "Everlong" by The Foo Fighters
- "Moby Dick" by Led Zeppelin
- "Never Going Back Again" by Fleetwood Mac
- "Blackhole Sun" by Soundgarden
QuestionDo 9-gauge strings work for drop D?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThey will be rather loose, but should still work. 9's are usually reserved for electrics.Thanks!
If you want to tune your guitar into Drop D, start with your guitar in standard tuning. Next, use your tuner to tune the sixth string to a D reference tone before making sure all other strings are tuned to the standard tone. If you don't have a tuner, tune the seventh fret of the sixth string to the open fifth string. Alternatively, tune your sixth string so it matches the open tone of the fourth string.
- When tuning a guitar string, first turn the tuning head until the string is slightly below the pitch you're aiming for, then raise it up to the correct pitch. This tightening action will help keep the string from slipping back out of tune.
- Your 4th and 6th strings should now be the same pitch, one octave apart.
- If you own a distortion, fuzz, or overdrive pedal (or have a good ear): play the 6th and 5th string together. While the two strings are ringing, slowly tune the 6th string down. You will notice a fast vibration in sound (which is caused by conflicting phase shifting in the harmonics) as the 6th string moves out of E and towards D. If you drop the pitch slowly, you will notice the vibration slow down, then stop as you reach D on the 6th string.
- Some people might tell you that this is cheating, or it's the easy way out. Do not take this to heart. Some things just cannot be played without Drop D tuning.
- This is not to be confused with Standard D tuning, which is all strings on the guitar tuned down a whole step, making it tuned to DGCFAD
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Video: How to Tune a Guitar : Drop D Tuning for Guitar
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