What is Drop D tuning for guitar and how does it work?

Hello my friendly friends! Tyler Preston here, coming back at you with another lesson. In this video we’re going to talk about drop D tuning: What is it? And what is it good for? So let’s get into it.

What is drop D tuning?

In short, drop D tuning is when we take the low E string of our guitar and lower it’s pitch to D, which is a whole step down (equal to two frets).

The quick and easy way to do that is to pluck your low E string alongside of your D string, and and then lower the pitch of your low E string until it matches the D.

Why would I use drop D tuning?

Well, there’s a lot of ways to use drop D, and I’m not going to get into all the intricacies in this lesson. But the basic advantage this tuning gives us is that it helps our D chord (major or minor) sound massive.

Drop D tuning essentially shifts the root of the D chord down two strings to the string 6, the string we typically call low E.

Remember the basic D major chord you learned in your early lessons? Remember how it only has four strings?

Well, when we tune the guitar to drop D, we’ve adjusted the tuning such that the D chord now has all six strings in play, which gives the chord a bassier tone and a much bigger sound.

How is drop D tuning useful?

Well for starters, you heard that riff that I played there at the beginning of the video— that was a driving delta blues in D. Drop D is great for blues tunes.

It’s also really good for rock music. 

Tons of grunge, industrial, hard rock, and metal bands use drop D tuning, and as a result those are the genres where most folks learn about drop D initially. This is because drop D effectively makes the lowest three strings of your guitar into a one finger power chord, or what I will term a V (five) chord.

So now you have a one finger power chord that you can move around to create all kinds of riffs and licks. Pretty cool!

Drop D is also good for bluegrass and other genres, depending on the song that you’re playing— it tends to get used in pieces where you’re going to be rooted strongly in one chord… typically D, though with a capo you can transpose this tuning to several other keys effectively

For instance, the song ‘I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow’ from Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? uses drop D tuning, and there are many other songs that use the same essential framework that rely on it as well.

So there’s a quick rundown on drop D tuning and a few things that you can use it for. We’ll talk about it more as it comes up in future lessons.

As always, if you enjoyed this post, please share it with a friend. And if you have any questions or comments, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @MrTyler Preston, or shoot me an email at tyler@tylerpreston.com .

And until next time my friendly friends: good luck, have fun, and happy strumming!

Tyler Preston

Tyler Preston

National touring singer-songwriter & music teacher. I'm a country boy at heart, but I paid my dues singin' the blues. Find me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.