Alternate tuning might not seem like an easy task, but “Drop D” tuning is both easy and widely used. Modern rock, metal, and even jazz has used this tuning to make an easier playing method that gives a darker tone to music. A large number of songs, such as “Spoonman” by Soundgarden, take full advantage of the Drop D tuning method- allowing all power chords to be played with one finger!
Figure 1 – Drop D tuning is popular among many music types- such as grunge. Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” used Drop D Tuning.
Why drop D tuning?
The only requirement necessary before starting is to tune the guitar in standard tuning. Once standard tuning is in check, we can get started on going to Drop D. The easy part about Drop D tuning is that we are only modifying one string- the sixth to be exact (the thickest gauge string). The fourth string in standard tune is a D string, so it can be used as a reference. Simply pluck the fourth string, while plucking the sixth string. In standard tuning, this will make two distinct notes. Adjust the sixth string until these notes are virtually the same.
This can be done more quickly with a tuner, but when one isn’t handy this is a great solution. With this type of tuning, power chords are incredibly simple. Try holding down and strumming the bottom three strings- simple isn’t it? This position can be moved all the way up and down the fret board and still sound great. Normally, this would sound horrible in standard tuning- not to mention there is less strain on the hand- making Drop D tuning ideal for fast players.
Figure 2 – The lowered octave on the 6th string makes a perfect chord when strumming the three bottom strings in-line!
Reverting back to standard tuning is almost as simple. This usually requires ear training, or the help of a guitar tuner. Tuning to Drop D was simpler, because we could easily pluck the fourth string as a reference. Aside from the need of a little experience in tuning or the presence of a tuner, going back to standard tuning is just as simple- only one string needs to be modified.
Songs that are dependent upon power chords will most likely require Drop D tuning. A lot of rhythm guitarists in bands have this tuning, as it makes chord progression incredibly easy and less prone to error. The best part is, switching between Drop D and standard tuning is as easy as modifying one simple string. To test Drop D tuning out for the first time, it is recommended that you play “Spoonman” by Soundgarden with standard tuning, and then again in Drop D- to see just how easier it really is, and how great it sounds.