Drop D Tuning For Beginner Guitarists
By Ryan Duke
If you are a beginner guitarist, you will play in standard tuning most of the time. You might even know there are other ways to tune the guitar or wonder why people use different tunings. Alternate tunings give different possibilities for playing and/or songwriting that can’t be achieved in standard tuning. The first one you should get familiar with is Drop D tuning. It is the easiest to learn and is also very common, especially in rock and rock related styles. This doesn’t mean it isn’t also very useful in other styles, it just hasn’t been done much.
Learning alternate tunings will help you understand the guitar and fretboard a lot better, plus it gives you the ability to do these other very cool sounding and unique things on guitar.
How To Tune To Drop D
This is actually really easy. First get your tuner out and make sure you are tuned in standard tuning. Next located the 6th string. This is the thickest string and is normally tuned to E. You will tune this string down to D. What happens is all of the notes on that string move up by 2 frets or semitones. The E is now on the second fret, the F which is normally the first fret is now the 3rd, G which is normally the 3rd fret is now that 5th, and so on.
That’s all you have to do. Another easy way of tuning to Drop D without a tuner is to pick the 6th and 4th(D) strings. Then tune the 6th down until the pitch is in sync with the D string. No wavering of pitch. This is great practice for your ear as well.
How To Use Drop D Tuning
The simplest way to use this is with power chords. Normally a power chord requires 2 or 3 fingers to execute. With Drop D tuning you only need 1 finger to fret a 2 or 3 string power chords. That’s right, only 1 finger!
To play a Drop D power chord, use your first finger to press down all 3 strings(strings 6, 5, and 4), then strum only those 3 strings. Here is a simple example on the left you can try playing. To achieve this in standard tuning you would have to play it in the second example to the right.
Keep in mind this only effects things on the 6th string. Everything else you play will still require the same fingerings you have always done in standard tuning.
Another example of how this tuning can be used for some really cool stuff is to let the open strings ring out while play notes much higher up the fretboard. Try this third example. You only have to use 1 finger, but this time it will move up and down the 3rd string while strings 6, 5, and 4 ring out. Strum these 4 strings only.
This is one of my favorite ways to use Drop D because you can now get different sounds and make different chords you wouldn’t normally be able to execute in standard tuning.
There are many more uses and really fun things you can do with this tuning and I highly encourage you to experiment. Also try learning some famous some in Drop D to see how others have utilized Drop D in creative ways and find new ways you can use this tuning.
About The Author: Ryan Duke is a professional songwriter, musician, and music mentor who teaches guitar lessons seattle.