Jim Bruce Guitar Lessons
Jim Bruce Guitar Lessons

How To Tune A Guitar To Drop D Tuning

As guitar newbies, we usually are presented with the most typical guitar tuning E-A-D-G-B-E. It's very helpful because everybody knows it throughout all musical styles and a substantial amount of chords have actually been developed over the last 100 years approximately. Dropped and open tunings open up a whole brand-new flavor for all guitar techniques. You can play drop D songs acoustic style in many categories such as of folk, blues and ragtime.

That stated, some pro artists use numerous other tunings, in which they might re-tune one or more strings up or down. Sometimes the tuning leads to a pleasant chord when all the open strings are strummed, and often not. A common feature of these tunings is that regular chords simply don't work, so we have to learn various structures.

Open D is a common tuning for playing many blues and folk tunes, and a great way to get into it is to first off try out drop D. The bass E string is merely tuned down two steps so that it plays a D note when chosen. It's a beautiful low note, however not too low that the string ringings against the frets, for instance. Now if the thumb alternates between the Bass E string and the regular D strings, a drone impact is set up which is really enticing when combined with the tune on the trebles.

Blues pickers would alter the tuning of their guitar to differ their output to keep their audiences interested. Some guitar players constantly played in a particular tuning, others pass up and down between tunings. Joni Mitchell used to say she used about 50 tunings in her act, while the legendary Son House usually kept his national steel guitar tuned to open G, which he had fun with using an entirely unique flailing bottleneck style.


To start this brief study of making use of drop D tuning in acoustic blues guitar fingerstyle, I play a short interpretation of Blind Willie McTell's "Statesboro Blues". It's not too much like the original, except for the tuning, but it does demonstrate how we can adapt picking strategies to our particular style.

Dropping the bass string 2 steps down from E to D completely alters the taste of the music and also provides us some flexibility in chord fingering. For instance, we don't need to press the bass E when playing a D major chord, which maximizes fingers for more intriguing work around the other strings.

The dropped D note also provides us a low, low note to stress the blues sound and counter balance the tune. Performed in the right way, it has an effective result and has actually also been utilized thoroughly in traditional and modern folk songs by numerous well known artists.

We can hit the bass string and let it sound, utilize a monotonic thumb technique (where we simply strike one bass with the thumb) or alternate our thumb strokes and damp the basses in a Travis choosing design. Whichever way we play, it's necessary to adapt the chords sometimes. For example, when playing G7 it sounds discordant if we hit the bass E open, or if fretting on the 3rd fret like we generally would, so we simply don't strike it at all.

We could likewise move up the fret board to form a G and press the bass E on the 5th fret-- its just a matter of preference and relies on the feel of the tune you are playing. We can play any A chord shape we like, but without hitting the bass E note.


When playing a gig, I want to differ the style and the taste of the tunes I play so that the audience keeps their interest, and I do this my changing the rhythm, the category within the blues (i.e. slow blues in E versus swing or ragtime) and also by utilizing various tunings. Some songs definitely have to be played in open tuning, like the old bottleneck tunes of Boy House or Robert Johnson - they simply would not work if the tuning wasn't in open G. 

Likewise with open D - some tunes only work in this tuning. Usually, I would start a gig with 3 or 4 tunes in regular tuning, a sluggish one first and finishing with a swing or ragtime before proceeding to an open tuning. There are numerous songs of all styles in drop D guitar tuning, so I'll take the bass E string down a number of steps, choose one sluggish and one fast tune, prior to going down to open D, which means tuning 3 more strings down.

Open D benefits bottleneck but not so good as open G, however there are lots of other tunes to select from. I usually begin with a Blind Blake tune called 'Down The Country' which is a slow delta blues piece. After this I might play an original arrangement and then finish off with a fast ragtime style tune. 'Police Dog Dog Blues' by Blake is such a tune, and I often play this (if I have actually got the chops that day!).

So here's how it's done (refer to the diagram on the left) - as in drop D tuning, the bass E string is tuned down to D, while the A and D strings are left as they are. Tune the G string to F#, the B string to A, the high E string to D and you are ready! Strum the open strings and you should hear an extremely enjoyable chord which is basically 'D'.

It's an excellent tuning to experiment with and develop brand-new sounds, however you need to recognize that none of the chords that you discovered for regular tuning will work, so you'll require a whole brand-new set of chords. That stated, with just 3 or 4 chords you can play some fantastic tunes - have fun with it!
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