Guitarists can tune their instruments in multiple ways. One of the most popular alternatives to the standard setup is called Drop-D tuning.If you’ve never tried an alternative tuning option before, this one is the first to learn. It’s perfect for anyone playing in the rock, punk, or grunge genres.Any guitar tuner can help you get your instrument ready for this playing style. Once you’ve made the adjustments, you can experiment with the different songs and chords to see what you like.
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Classic Rock, Punk, and Grunge Songs in Drop-D TuningDrop-D tuning is popular because it’s much easier to hit power chords with the D-A-D-G-B-E tuning pattern. Instead of needing multiple fingers, some popular combinations only require one to create a robust playing style. A song like “Everlong” by the Foo Fighters is an excellent example.When guitarists use Drop-D tuning for their songs, it opens more possibilities for them.It can help blues, country, folk, and classical music stand out because of the warmer, slightly darker sounds that come from the instrument.Instead of using the regular power cord shape when playing in the standard tuning, guitarists can hit the low three strings on any fret to deliver high-quality results.This structure creates more opportunities to develop jazz-like riffs within a classic rock, punk, or grunge setting.The musician’s finger work on the neck can quickly shift through scales and sequences to add personality and depth to any composition.Several songs have risen up the charts over the years that use Drop-D tuning to perfection.Although they are numbered below, these compositions are not listed in any particular order.
List of the Best Rock, Punk, and Grunge Songs That Use Drop-D TuningAlthough not everyone is a fan of Drop-D tuning, you’ll find that several bands have scored some big hits by using this musical concept.If you want to get to know more of what it is like to use Drop-D tuning for a song as a guitarist, here are some of the compositions you’ll want to study.
1. Everlong by the Foo FightersThis song was initially released in 1997. It became an instant hit for the band, often chosen as the best title released by the group over the years.Although Dave Grohl has been a part of several iconic numbers, this one is his trademark piece.What makes it stand out as a composition is the altered sixth string with the bass.By using the Drop-D structure, the Foo Fighters have a more potent sound that accompanies the various power chords and melodies heard throughout the number.Grohl says he never intended to create the song. He was fiddling around with an instrument one day, got a vibe, and had a rough draft for the composition before the end of the day.You’ll find several other songs from this band that employ a similar strategy.
2. Heart-Shaped Box by NirvanaKurt Cobain’s legacy in rock, grunge, and music overall continues to live on with the ingenuity found in this song, even though it came out in 1993.Although the lyrics are graphic, you can also hear an artist pouring their hearts to the audience.Cobain said that he created the piece thinking about children with cancer. The Drop-D tuning in the work builds up the emotional movement that lets the listener focus on the music.It might be a sad song in some ways, but it is also one that has some hope to it upon reflection.When we hold people close to us, it’s important to remember our expressions of love.
3. Slither by Velvet RevolverThis 2004 song opens on a sixth-string D. You get a massive rhythm with the bottom half of the tuning structure, and the riff is one of those things that gets stuck in your head permanently.All of the power chords that you’ll hear are possible because the band went away from the standard tuning.If you’re trying to learn how to play cover songs, “Slither” could be a tough ask for anyone.It uses an intricate fingerstyle that even pros don’t always manage to get right. You’ll need a lot of shaping dexterity and muscle memory to get it right.Once you get the song right, it’s one of those pieces you’ll want to keep playing. It has one of the best hooks that you’ll find in any song recorded.
4. Moby Dick by Led ZeppelinWhat makes this song unique is the blues riff that incorporates the Drop-D tuning for the guitar.Although a drum solo composes almost the entire piece, Page, Jones, and Bonham offer an instrumental composition that’s practically guaranteed to generate cheers.Since the guitar sections are somewhat shorter on this piece, it’s an excellent song to use when learning the Drop-D tuning. You’ll appreciate the slide that serves as the intro for the composition’s riff.Even though it was created in 1969, those punchy bass rhythms are remarkably memorable.You will need to know how to do some fingerpicking to produce the results you want with this musical number.
5. Killing in the Name by Rage Against the MachineIf you want to hear a traditional heavy metal song that uses Drop-D tuning, you won’t find a better example than this one. Even the lyrics hit the right tones when you listen to the composition.It’s filled with call-outs about the abuses made by those in power. The songwriters use this opportunity to challenge racism while calling people to rise up and claim their freedom.If you’ve ever heard Rage Against the Machine play, it was probably this piece. It is their signature number.Although the entire piece is a little tricky to learn as a beginner, the Drop-D riff isn’t too difficult. As long as you know the essentials fingerstyle playing, you’ll be able to figure out the rest with some guitar tabs or playing by ear.
6. Harvest Moon by Neil YoungAlthough this song has some religious undertones that can make it unpopular, you can still take away a message about the benefits of forming and maintaining a relationship.It takes work to get the best things in life, which means instant gratification won’t provide the same satisfaction as what you work to earn by yourself.There’s also the guy dancing with the broom in the front of the bar in the music video. How can you not love that?With the Drop-D tuning, the music works well with Young’s voice to maximize his range.When you get the extra depth with the chords working alongside the steel guitar, you’ve got a musical masterpiece to enjoy.
7. Schism by ToolWhat makes this song such a unique piece is that it has numerous time signature changes.The design is almost similar to what you’d find in some of the classical Baroque symphonies from several centuries ago.Although it won a Grammy in 2002, what brings everything to life is the Drop-D tuning and the uniqueness of the music video.The song enters on something closer to an acoustic riff, followed by some bass working with a repetitive melody.Without the alternative tuning, the vocals wouldn’t be as influential in the composition.When the guitar starts building with the base power chords and melodic riffs, it allows the artist to let things loose.
8. Animal I Have Become by Three Days GraceThis song opens with the bass and some percussion. After the first sequence, you start building up with some Drop-D power chords.As the vocals enter, the guitar shifts toward providing the melody while keeping the alternative tuning.Although the band is singing about what drugs can do to you if you allow them to take control of your life, it’s also a powerful lesson on Drop-D simplicity.If you know how to read guitar tabs, it’s not that difficult to master the tune.On the chorus, you have an open chord with a sixth-string focus. It almost feels like you’re playing the bass when striking the notes.When you hit it right with the amp powered toward the lower EQ, you’ll get the entire stage vibrating.
9. Meant to Live by SwitchfootAlthough this song is on the Spiderman soundtrack from 2010, this Christian band developed a reputation before reaching the mainstream for its Drop-D songs.
Their song “Stars” is an excellent example of what is achievable with this tuning option.When you hear this band’s music, you can also pick up on the dangers that happen when using Drop-D tuning almost exclusively.All of the songs start to feel the same because the register doesn’t have the same movement.You’ll get a lot of bass in the EQ, but the songs often rely on the vocals to put sounds into the upper register.This band is successful with it most of the time, but there are a few that don’t always make the grade.
10. You Are My Sunshine by Morgane and Chris StapletonMost people have heard this song, especially if you grew up below the Mason-Dixie Line.What makes it stand out as a Drop-D example is that the musicians use a callback design to the composition.As the artists sing, the bass and guitar reply with the tune. You’ll still hit the other chords as the song progresses, but the build is very different.Not only does the alternate tuning bring out Morgane’s incredible vocals, but it also keeps the movement in the piece from feeling boring. It makes you want to start singing along with the composition.After you add in the bluegrass harmonies from the vocals in the chorus, you’ll be humming along for the rest of the day.
11. Blackwater Park by OpethThis heavy metal epic is over 12 minutes long, and it gives you a fantastic Drop-D start with the various riffs that take you toward the intro. You’ll be over a minute into the song before realizing what is happening!That’s when more variation starts hitting your ears. You can hear more riffs and plays while a fair amount of distortion works to tickle the eardrums.Then everything stops around the 1:50 mark to give you an almost acoustic feeling while maintaining the Drop-D tuning. Once the vocals start, an entirely different element enters the composition.In total, you’ll find 11 different riffs that all work well within the composition. You’ll find more in this song than some bands put onto an entire record.
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12. Home by Dream TheaterHere’s an epic heavy metal Drop-D song that takes a different approach to the environments it creates. It delivers an Asian feel to it with the sitar used prominently. As the intro continues to build, you can hear triplicate beats infuse themselves into the song, creating something close to what you’d expect from EDM artists today.What makes this song unique is that it also pushes the musical time to 7-8 while incorporating the Phrygian scale to develop a unique sound.Most bands and artists use the alternative tuning because it lends more power to the vocals. This song doesn’t need that support.The vocalist is on the higher end of the tenor range, which means the guitars serve as depth and harmony. It’s a unique sound that you’ll undoubtedly appreciate!
What Is Drop-D Tuning on Guitar?Drop-D tuning on the guitar is an alternative way to produce a series of different chords.It occurs when the lowest note of the sixth gets tuned two semitones (one whole step) from the standard notation. That means the first note becomes a D instead of an E.You will see other forms of drop tuning notated in a similar way.If you have Drop-C listed as the need in the guitar tabs, you will change the E to a C on the sixth string instead. That means your guitar in Drop-D will have the following notes tuned to the strings: D-A-D-G-B-E.This option is used a lot in folk, country, and blues music. When the grunge movement took over in the 1990s, you saw virtually every band hitting using this option because of how easy it is to play a D5 power chord.
A Final Thought About Using Drop-D Tuning for GuitarAlthough you don’t need to play Drop-D tuning to create results, it’s often easier to leave your guitar in this alternative option.Since you’re dropping two semitones, you can restore the standard configuration by using a capo on the second fret.That means you can quickly change between different songs while taking advantage of the Drop-D in certain areas.Some guitarists look at the Drop-D tuning as a way to widen their instrumental skills.Since the fingering is similar to most of the notes on the standard register, this option is more about adding variety or supporting a vocalist’s range.If you have a baritone as the lead vocalist, the Drop-D supports the singer’s natural range with better depth and consistency.I also hope you had fun listening to these songs that were recorded with this alternative tuning. Which one of these is your favorite one of the bunch?
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