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Guitar - Dropped or drop D tuning chords

Updated on January 18, 2013

Guitar tunings overview

My new hub Guitar Tunings looks at the most useful tunings, and contains more info on Dropped - D tuning.

Drop D tuning

I've noticed that guitarists, especially beginners, are very reluctant to change the tuning of their guitars, mainly because they are not confident about getting it back in tune, or maybe breaking strings. So, Drop D tuning is a good first step, and it has some good applications anyway.

Starting from standard tuning as shown in the diagram, lower the 6th string down to D - you can use the open 4th string as a reference for this.

  • Some good songs that use this tuning include some James Taylor songs, like Country Road and Machine Gun Kelly.
  • John Martyn used it for some songs too, Fine Lines is a good example. The first two chord grids show the voicings used in this song, which is not as well known as it deserves to be. Other songs in this tuning probably include Spencer The Rover, and May You Never. They certainly sound right in this tuning.
  • Shawn Colvin uses drop D on Polaroids - see my hub Guitar songs - Shawn Colvin for the chord shapes and a video. If you don't know her material, she's a great guitarist, singer and writer.
  • Beatles songs - whether or not they originally used Drop D - some did - many songs such as Norwegian Wood, Dear Prudence, Here comes the Sun sound better with Dropped D.

As the tuning is almost the same as standard, you can play any of the chord shapes that you would normally use, but raising the low 6th string by two frets. It makes sense to use the key of D, and what was once a weedy chord becomes a mighty champ with the low D added, with much better bass response, especially on an acoustic guitar.

Although it's not shown here, the dropped D tuning is also good for songs in Dm.

The other chords are all from the key of D, apart from the C add9, which is also frequently used in a Drop D context.

Dropped D tuning

John Martyn

Other guitar tunings

I've got several hubs dealing with guitar tunings. It's one of the cheapest and easiest ways of getting new sounds out of your guitar. Here are the most useful:

Open G

Open D


The first two are very good for slide playing, the last one is associated with Irish and Celtic music.


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    • Jon Green profile image

      Jon Green 5 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK

      It really adds bass which is great for solo playing.

    • noiseyfly profile image

      Craig Bruebaker 5 years ago from Spokane Washington

      I knew about drop d but never tried it on an acoustic guitar. Thanks for the teach.

    • Jon Green profile image

      Jon Green 7 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK

      Hi Russ - I saw JM live many times, and it was usually with Danny Thompson on bass. I learned a lot from his style of playing, and the drop D tuning is very much a part of it. Cheers, Jon

    • Russ Baleson profile image

      Russ Baleson 7 years ago from Sandhurst, United Kingdom

      Thanks again Jon, this looks great. I'm a fan of John Martyn and always loved his acoustic style. I'm going to try this. Regards, Russ