Drop D Tuning – Let’s Have Some Fun

Drop D tuning is a great place to start if you’re looking to learn or try something a bit different on your guitar. Experimenting with alternate guitar tunings can be a great place to generate new ideas. It’s amazing, but by changing the tuning of just one string (let alone more), you can dramatically change the possibilities and the sounds that come out of your guitar.

This lesson is on Drop D tuning – as opposed to Open D. Drop D tuning is when you simply tune the 6th string (low E) down a whole tone to D.

In open D, you actually change more than just one string… but we’ll save that for a different day!

The trick here is that you can’t play any of the chords you’re normally used to playing that use the 6th string. For instance an open G is out… you have to find a new way to play the G chord.

Keys that revolve around the D chord are great for this tuning, as you can use the D drone in most of your chords that way. So D, or even the fourth or fifth of D (G and A) work well too… and if you wanted, you could even use some minor keys.

Anyways, without further rambling, here’s the lesson! Let me know in the comments at the bottom of the page if you’d like to learn more on alternate tunings…

Video Problems? Watch directly on YouTube

Related Lessons: Checkout the lesson on D form triads.

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  1. I enjoyed your exhibition with drop d– I had forgotten it,except it is also used on the banjo I believe– I now will have some fun using it . Ron Towle

  2. I would love to see more on alternative tunings if you wouldn’t mind. I get so confused with it and want to learn this.
    Thanks alot.

  3. I have a question Jonathan. It is simple but I have never really heard it yet, but then again the memory doesn’t work like it used to lolol.
    When you are tuning basically, does that fall under the G chord, or C chord tuning? Like tuning to the key of E, but for just basic tuning what would it fall under?

    Thanks for all your efforts.

    1. Hi Jesse, standard tuning isn’t technically in any particular key, if that’s what you’re asking.

      Some of the open tunings will put you in a particular CHORD, when strummed open, however that chord could still be used in multiple keys… for instance an open G major tuning would give you a G major chord, which could be in the key of G, C, and D and more… hope that helps!

      1. Thank you for your response, but I have a question that needs clarifying here.
        So am I understanding this properly? If I tune it to the open G major, then could I get away with not even using my chording hand to play the G chord, but only use the chording hand to play the D, or C if I am tuned to the open G, and if I am playing in the key of G.

        Thanks For your patience

      2. Sorry to be a pain in the whatever. But to tune it in G chord, does this mean I can strum without using my chording fingers for the G chord, and only use the chording fingers for the complimentary chords?

        I hope I ain’t driving you crazy in this, but this has really grabbed me at this point as it is something I haven’t been involved with yet, or had any explanation in it. Yet, this tuner I got you can tune it to any chord pretty well.
        Thanks ever so much for all your help.

    2. when ya tune the rest of the guitar is tuned in e, from lowest to highest ur strings should be, D,A,D,G,B,E, tune your bottom e down a whole step to D

  4. really enjoyed the drop d exercise, i’ve been fooling with alternate tunings for years, a song i can think of right off the top of my head in drop d would be arkansas traveler, and that bass drone really resonates throughout the song,

  5. Jonathan
    Thanks for directing me to that video. It makes things clearer to me now about this tuning area.
    You help so many people in this, and I really appreciate it big time.

  6. I wouldn’t really know how to modify a chord in different tuning. Not real big on theory. But everything sounded great to me in drop d.
    Maybe you might want to do a video on drop c tuning. I’ve tried that using the “standard” chord formations and it sounded great. I really enjoyed it. However, the proper way to make chord fingerings in drop c is probably really complicated.
    thanks for the video
    God bless!!

  7. yeah!drop D like tool songs,my fav band!this tuning is awesome,& 4 those who find metal riffs on standard tuning a bit hard,use this tuning cuz just by holding the same fret on the 4th,5th & 6th strings,u get the sound of the power chords of the standard tuning.but sadly there aren’t alot of scales u can use with this tune,just D & B,& sometimes E.but fun tuning

  8. Thanks Jonathan I’ve been working on Colin’s blues course that he gave me about scales, but I really needed some help on chords. Trying to figure all this stuff out by ones self is very difficult. So I really appreciate all the help I get from your videos, wither you are teaching us new things or just showing us different things to try.

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