Still have your guitar in the standard EADGBE tune? It’s time to mix things up! Alternate guitar tunings like drop D tuning broadens your guitar playing horizon to riffs and power chords so you can play covers of songs from Kurt Cobain, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and other rock bands!
But how do you tune your acoustic or electric guitar to these alternate tunings? Stick around because we’ll teach you how.
Drop D Tuning
First on our list is the drop D tuning. This alternate guitar tuning is perfect for playing songs with lower notes and pitch than those in a standard guitar tuning.
Drop D: What Is It?
With drop D tuning or DADGBE, you will be basically lowering the sixth string to one whole step or two frets down. In simpler terms, your guitar’s usual E string will become a D. You can expect a lower octave since you’re lowering the E string. Keep in mind that the D chord and D minor differ from drop D.
Genres that commonly use this kind of tuning include grunge, rock, and heavy metal. More specifically, these songs were played using a drop D guitar:
- Dear Prudence by the Beatles
- Moby Dick by Led Zeppelin
- Never Going Back by Fleetwood Mac
- Heart-Shaped Box by Nirvana
- Everlong by Foo Fighters
- Du Hast by Rammstein
- Decode by Paramore
- Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden
- Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine
- Walk by Pantera
How Do You Tune Your Guitar to Drop D?
Experienced guitarists usually tune their acoustic guitars to drop D by ear. If you are a beginner, using the best guitar tuner can simplify drop D tuning.
- Locate the E string or 6th string of your guitar.
- Find the correct tuning peg for the said string. You can run your finger on the 6th string from the fretboard all the way to the headstock.
- Once you have the peg, unwind it to loosen the string.
- Pluck the string and keep adjusting the tuning peg until your guitar tuner registers that it is in D.
Fun fact: There’s another version of drop D tuning, and it is aptly called Double Drop D, which requires you to lower both the high E string and the low E string.
Drop C Tuning
Like drop D tuning, tuning in drop C helps you reach the lower range of your acoustic guitar. This alternate tuning is also standard in metal and rock genres.
What is Drop C Tuning?
If you haven’t had the chance to look into drop C tuning, you probably wonder how it differs from drop D and other alternate guitar tunings. Well, this tuning requires you not to adjust one string but all six strings!
More specifically, your E string will be lowered to C, while the rest (ADGBE) are dropped to a whole step down. This will give you a tuning of CGCFAD.
As mentioned earlier, genres that utilize tuning in drop C include heavy rock and metal music. This is because you can achieve deep tones with your guitar with this method. Singers in rock bands often have lower voices as well, which sound excellent when the guitar is tuned using drop C.
Songs that are tuned in drop C:
- Chop Suey! By System Of A Down
- Blew by Nirvana
- Frantic by Metallica
- Happy Song by Bring Me the Horizon
- My Curse by Killswitch
- Oblivion by Mastodon
- Marigold by Periphery
- Isolation by Alter Bridge
How Do You Tune Your Guitar to Drop C?
Tuning your guitar to drop C tuning is also straightforward. You can either use a clip-on guitar tuner app or a smartphone tuner app. Here’s how to tune to drop C.
- Pluck your low E string while turning the peg towards you.
- Once you get the correct note for the low E string, proceed to lowering the other five strings of your guitar. Remember, these strings are lowered to a whole step down or two frets down, while the low E string is two whole steps down.
The sound may sound a little off, but remember, you’re loosening all six strings of your guitar. A heavier set of guitar strings can make the string buzzing less noticeable.
Drop B Tuning
Guitarists also use drop B tuning for a darker and heavier rich sound. This alternate tuning requires precision since each string will be lowered to either 2-1/2 or 1-1/2 steps down.
What is Drop B Tuning?
From the standard EADGBE, your strings will become B-Gb-B-E-Ab-Db. You will drop your E strings two-and-a-half steps down, while the rest (ADGBE) will be 1-1/2 steps down.
Similar to drop C tuning, you will hear odd string buzzing while strumming. You can mitigate or lessen the buzzing sound by dialing back your strumming. Or, in other words, switch to light strumming when your guitar is in drop B tuning. Alternatively, you can invest in heavier gauge strings.
Tuning in drop B is also widely popular in rock and metal music. The fact that you can lower the guitar’s tone in half increments makes it a good pick for this kind of music.
Songs that use a drop B tuning guitar:
- Duality by Slipknot
- Before I Forget by Slipknot
- Bad Company by Five Finger Death Punch
- Whispers in the Dark by Skillet
- Carrion by Parkway Drive
- All I Want by A Day to Remember
- Halo by Machine Head
- Don’t Stay by Linkin Park
How Do You Tune Your Guitar to Drop B?
Tuning your guitar to drop B is more complex than the previous drop tunings. And, as mentioned, precision is key to ensuring your guitar is in the correct drop D tune. Here’s how:
- Pluck your low E string.
- As you pluck it, turn the peg towards you until it is 2-1/2 steps down.
- Proceed to lowering the other strings (ADGBE) to 1-1/2 steps down by adjusting their respective tuning pegs.
If you are having a hard time tuning by ear, we highly recommend using a guitar tuner. Not only does this clip-on device is easy to use, but it also more accurate in tuning your instrument.
Other Alternate Guitar Tunings
If you’ve already mastered drop D, drop C, and drop B tunings, there are other alternate guitar tunings that you can try. These methods take a lot more effort to master. Moreover, you have to think about string tension.
The first alternative tuning method you may want to consider is DADGAD tuning. This tuning is groundbreaking because it makes your guitar sound exceptionally different from other ones. While it has some similarities to standard tuning, it involves different strings. Two frets in DADGAD are formed by the 6th, 2nd, and 1st strings.
Another alternative tuning method worth mentioning is open D tuning. Like drop B, you will lower the E string and the other strings. The only difference is A and D will still be the same.
Open E tuning is easier to tune compared to other alternate guitar tunings. As a matter of fact, it is very similar to the standard tuning; you’re just going to tune the strings ADG one whole step up.
The last alternative tuning method is open G tuning, which is popular in blues and folk songs. In this tuning, you are going to drop the low and high E strings, as well as the A string. This will give you a tuning of DGDGBD.
Creating Harmonious Tunes for Your Music
Learning alternate guitar tuning is a must if you are transitioning to power chords and riffs! More so if you love covering rock and heavy metal songs. Remember, there are two ways that you can get the correct tuning – by ear or with a tuner. The latter is highly recommended for beginners.