Guitar Lesson, Playing in Drop D
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. Don't worry about breaking strings, with the low 6th string it'll never happen, and you can use a Snark tuner to make life easier.
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. Check out the clip below, and it's easy to find other songs on Youtube.
- 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 note by two frets, compensating for the tuning change. 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, Drop D song
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: Used by The Rolling Stones, Joni Mitchell, Ry Cooder
Open D: Joni, Ry Cooder
DADGAD: Irish music and Irish-influenced music.
The first two are very good for slide playing, the last one is associated with Irish and Celtic music, but is also widely used for solo guitar.