Drop D tuning is easily one of the most popular alternate tunings for the guitar out there. It’s super easy to learn and has become the staple tuning choice for many iconic rock and metal artists. By learning songs in drop D tuning you can open up a whole new world of music. Both experienced and beginner musicians will be able to recreate the songs we are going to teach you below. There are so many benefits to learning drop D tuning songs on your guitar, including easier ways of playing power chords.
Below we are going to tell you how drop D tuning can be achieved on your guitar along with some popular and great song choices that this tuning is featured in. Let’s get going.
How to Tune Your Guitar to Drop D Tuning
Before we jump into songs in drop D tuning will need to tune your guitar. Get your tuner ready and follow these steps:
- Play your low E string and turn the peg slowly towards you to make the pitch go lower.
- The low E string has be tuned down a whole step, changing the pitch from E to D. Check that the string is accurately on D with your tuner.
That’s it! Two simple steps is all you need to achieve drop D tuning. All of the rest of the strings stay at a standard E tuning.
Songs in Drop D Tuning
1. Everlong – Foo Fighters
Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl often taps into drop tunings to help make the band’s signature heavy and deep sound. Their hit single Everlong was released in 1997, bringing us a four-minute-long ballad full of emotion from these alternative rock giants. It makes great use of drop D tuning.
The song is fuelled by power chords so for beginners it won’t be a challenge from a learning perspective. The thing you need to pay closer attention to is the speed because this one comes in at quite a clip.
Grohl wrote Everlong when he was first going into a new relationship. It’s a heavy song in terms of sound but the theme is of longing and love. The original song was a huge success so the band decided to release an acoustic guitar version that also uses drop D tuning. We would suggest that you learn both renditions of the song to see how drop D tuning can sound great, even on an acoustic guitar.
2. Heart Shaped Box – Nirvana
Heart Shaped Box had an original title of Heart Shaped Coffin and the song gave grunge rockers Nirvana a really hard time in finishing it off. The band struggled through their recording sessions because of Cobain’s cryptic lyrics which were hard to put a melody to.
According to Kurt Cobain, Heart Shaped Box was about children with cancer. Many say that the song was Cobain’s strange way of telling Courtney Love about his feelings for her.
This unique composition was the first single to come from the 1993 album titled In Utero. The riff is true to Kurt’s signature guitar style, using drop D tuning. You’ll have to know about alternate and arpeggio picking, eighth note strumming, slides and bends if you plan on attempting this track.
3. Moby Dick – Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin used a widely recognized guitar riff in Moby Dick which Page composed in 1969. It became a classic for the band and was bought to life by Bonham’s drumming. The song is named after the Herman Melville novel and features a lot of power chord shapes and mindblowing riffs.
We all know how much Jimmy Page loved his alternate tunings. It’s rare that he actually ever played using standard tuning. There is a twelve-bar blues riff at the end of the song where he joins up with Bonham and the bassist at the time, John Paul Jones. He then drops out and leave the end of the song for Bonham who finishes with a ripping drum solo.
4. What I’ve Done – Linkin Park
What I’ve Done is a song that steered away from what Linkin Park usually did. The lyrics were much rawer and were about pointing out someone’s past mistakes which could help them become a better person. Despite it being a bit more toned down than the band’s usual style and Mike Shinoda taking a back seat for Chester Bennington, the song still managed to be a hit. It’s been the band’s most commercially successful single when looking at it from a sales point of view.
The beginning of the song starts out with a guitar riff and is driven by a piano melody which is easily replaced on your guitar using drop D tuning. There’s also a great solo in the middle from guitarist Brad Delson which uses a pedal point lick to give it more flow and a melodic sound.
5. Harvest Moon – Neil Young
The first single that Neil Young ever released from his first album that shared the same name is Harvest Moon. It’s a gorgeous folk song with a laid-back melody and lyrics that are soothing to listen to. Young originally wrote the song as an homage to his wife Pegi Young who can also be seen in the music video dancing with Young.
Harvest Moon gives guitar players a lesson in how drop D tuning helps you play the sixth string as well as your usual chord patterns. The result is a much fuller sound that gives the track an ethereal quality. It’s definitely a song that you will want to add to your repertoire.
6. You Are My Sunshine – Chris Stapleton
You Are My Sunshine is a song that has been covered by a plethora of artists through the years including Johnny Cash. It was originally popularized by Charles Mitchell and Jimmie Davis in the 1930s. A more recent recording of the song was from Chris Stapleton and Morgane who are a sibling duo. They are considered to be the rising stars from the Nashville circuit and they released their cover back in 2016 through the label Elektra Records. It’s a great song in drop D tuning that shows you how you can incorporate licks and the blue scales with alternate tunings.
7. I Heard It Through the Grapevine – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Who doesn’t love a bit of CCR? This Creedence Clearwater Revival is a rendition of the soul classic from Marvin Gaye. The melody starts out with a riff by John Fogerty who is played a down-tuned guitar to take the heaviness up a bit.
The original song was written for Motown Records by Norman Whitfield and it had a lot of people who wanted to play it. Gaye’s version was the most popular and it spent seven weeks at the top of the Billboard Pop Charts. However, we like the CCR cover better in terms of drop D tuning because it makes excellent use of it throughout the track.
8. Monkey Wrench – Foo Fighters
Another Foo Fighters classic is Monkey Wrench which makes use of drop D tuning. Released from their second album titled The Colour and the Shape, the song was intended to be a metaphor to depict the feeling of being inadequate and unequal in a relationship.
The song is all about the melody and features an aggressive rhythm which goes along with the frustration of the lyrics. Even though it’s fast it’s not actually a hard song to learn but you do need to tune your guitar to dropped D tuning before you begin. An easy song in drop D tuning is what you get with Monkey Wrench.
9. Killing in the Name – Rage Against the Machine
Rage Against the Machine gave a voice against the injustices that happen in the world. In the lyrics to Killing in the Name, Zach De La Rocha pairs his powerful vocal style with Tom Morello’s crazy guitar playing. If you want to know exactly what this band sounds like and what they stand for then listen to this song.
It’s a song in drop D that uses power chords such as D, A and G. This is why having some knowledge of power chords using drop D tuning will serve you well as a guitar player. This is a must-know song for any guitarist that wants to express their angst in the most musical way possible.
10 – Dear Prudence – The Beatles
Playing styles such as power chords, breakdowns and riffs all sound a lot more aggressive and heavier when played on a down tuned guitar. Drop D is one of the most versatile drop tunings out there which gives a heavier sound without restricting you to rock and metal music. Bands of almost every genre have used alternate tuning like these, including the ever-popular Beatles.
Dear Prudence is a song that uses fingerpicking and was played by Lennon using drop D tuning to give a great arpeggio effect. The song first took shape when The Beatles were on a meditation trip at an ashram in Rishikesh, India. The lyrics are simple and honest with an ethereal quality. It was a good departure from the usual Beatles songs but it’s still a fun classic to learn in this tuning.
11. Never Going Back Again – Fleetwood Mac
Never Going Back Again has some lively and vibrant melodies and some very profound lyrics. The song was written by the guitarist for the band, Lindsey Buckingham. It was about how he dealt with a break up but the lyrics can be interpreted in a lot of different ways.
Largely the song is about a protagonist who wants to move forward with his life and not make the same mistakes twice. Lindsey played this song and sang it with his own fingerstyle technique to make up the rhythm. It’s a tricky one to learn at first but once you have a breakthrough moment it will stay with you. The picking pattern is particularly interesting which makes it one of the drop D tuning songs worth learning.
12. Schism – Tool
Adam Jones who is the guitarist for the progressive rock band Tool has always liked using drop D tuning. Almost all of the band’s songs feature his guitar in drop D tuning. Schism is the song we’re taking from their discography and it was this track that got the band a Grammy for the Best Metal Performance.
This track featured on the third album title Lateralus and is a great pick for anyone that wants to push their heavy metal guitar playing skills. It’s a complex one that will take a guitarist with a lot of skills to pick up because of the challenging rhythms and unusual time signatures. You shouldn’t let this put you off though because it’s actually a very repetitive track. Once you have nailed the main riff and some of the harder nuances you’ll find that the rest of the song is actually quite straightforward.
Before jumping in to learning this track you will be tuning your guitar with drop D tuning from low to high that goes DADGBE. You will be using a lot of different techniques here too including timed delays during the bridge, muted hammer-ons in the riffs and some complicated power chord shapes that really drive the song forward.
13. Meant to Live – Switchfoot
Switchfoot first found fame with a mainstream audience when they released their song Meant to Live. The track reached high numbers on a lot of Billboard charts as well. The lyrics talk about self-exploration which is a nice juxtaposition aginst the heavy and gritty guitar tone.
It’s only the intro guitar part of this song that using drop D tuning, after which you switch back to standard tuning. The trick is how you can play the intro and then tune your sixth string by up a whole step back to an E to play the rest of the track. It might take you a few attempts to get it right but it does show how versatile drop D tuning can be because you only have to tweak that sixth string while the other guitar strings stay the same.
14. Newborn – Muse
Muse has a lot of songs that use drop D tuning for some riffs which sound impressive and are actually quite easy to learn. The 2001 song Newborn is about the frontman and songwriter for the band, Matthew Bellamy, and his concerns for how quickly the technological evolution is happening plus all of its downfalls.
The opening is driven by the piano and features an instantly recognizable guitar riff that is full of power chords. The riff is fast and starts around a minute into the song, appearing a few times later as well. For you to recreate it as Bellamy plays it you will need a whammy pedal that is set to one octave down on harmony mode.
15. Ruin – Lamb of God
Drop D tuning is one that is favored by alternative and metal bands because it’s easier to achieve that darker and grittier tone using the most popular alternate tuning. It tends to go well in drop D tuning songs with intense lyrics, pounding riff, power chords and screaming vocals.
Lamb of God are heavy metal superstars in their own right and their song Ruin is a great example of how a drop D tuned guitar can add to the heaviness and tone of a track. It acts as an opener for their As the Palaces Burn album and it sets the mood for the rest of the songs.
You’ll be hooked when you hear the might solo and the incredibly fast chord breakdown, and the chorus is really catchy as well. If you enjoy songs from Lamb of God then check out Omerta which feature on their 2004 album titled Ashes of the Wake which is an iconic song that uses electric guitar drop D tuning.
16. Du Hast – Rammstein
Du Hast is seen as the best song to have ever come out of Rammstein who are what is known as industrial metal musicians. This song is what put them on the map in the mainstream, probably because it appeared as a track in the Matrix Trilogy movies. It is a hard-hitting song with lots of foreboding sections that stayed on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart for quite some time. This is better than any other German song to have ever been made.
A lot of guitarists may be tempted by the simplified version of the song which can be done in standard tuning. However, if you want to sound just like the original then you will need to tune your guitar down to drop D.
17. Your Body is a Wonderland – John Mayer
Something a bit lighter for you to play guitar to is Your Body is a Wonderland by John Mayer. It came from his second album titled Room for Squares and he won a grammy with it for the Best Male Vocal Pop Performance. The rumor goes that the track was originally written for a girlfriend Mayer had when he was 14 and that he originally called it Strawberry Wonderland.
It’s got a good smooth rhythm to this love song with some cool chords and it’s probably one of Mayer’s most listened-to and popular tracks even still. The easygoing nature of the song masks how tricky the fingering and chord progression actually is. Of course, you will be in drop D tuning with a capo place on the third fret.
18. Midnight Rider – Allman Brothers Band
The second single to come off the second album, Midnight Rider is a classic example of what a good old southern country song can be. It didn’t become an instant hit when it was released, only gaining popularity when Willie Nelson, Gregg Allman and Paul Davidson all did solo versions of the song.
Played on drop D and not standard tuning, the song has a very simple chord progression of D, Gm7, C and Bb. They used drop D because of the lower ranges that it could offer the song, even though these could be achieved, albeit in a more complicated way, with standard tuning.
19. Radioactive – Imagine Dragons
Imagine Dragon’s are considered to be pop-rock sensations who use this popular alternate tuning in the dubstep blended song Radioactive. It had a great run on the charts, staying on the Billboard Hot 100 for a total of 87 weeks.
The original recording of the track uses three guitars. Both the lead and backing electric guitars are tuned to drop D, but the acoustic guitar that plays the rhythm uses standard tuning.
20. Slither – Velvet Revolver
Velvet Revolver got together as a band in 2002 as a solution for fans of Guns N’Roses who missed their sound when they broke up. This new band produced some great tracks but only had a short run of commercial success. Slither won a Grammy in 2005 and you can see why with the riffs and catchy rhythms. The main riff will be a great lesson for you on how you can jump from power chord to power chord in drop D tuning.
Learning to play with drop D tuning is another part of broadening your guitar playing. This is a skill that will come in handy to play a lot of different songs. We hope our guide gave you everything you need to move away from standard tuning to this alternate one. We would highly recommend you look at other tunings as well which we have guides for here on our website including, open C, open D and open E. Have fun and, as always, happy playing!
Who uses Drop D tuning?
The artists who wrote the songs above use drop D tuning to create their music. It’s used in a lot of different genres, primarily being in the rock and metal types. The lower range of drop D tuning allows the band to produce a heavier sound and play power chords which are synonymous with his type of music. Many bands such as Foo Fighters, Van Halen and Judas Priest have produced a lot of drop D tuning songs. It’s a tuning that is used less in country, pop and blues but there are still some tracks, as you will see in our list above, that stray from standard tuning. There are a lot of easy Led Zeppelin songs on guitar that use alternate tunings like this as well if you want to discover more tracks like this.
What songs are played in open D tuning?
All of the songs we have mentioned in our guide above use variations of drop D and open D tuning. You can find more examples of this type of tunings here on our website.
What songs are in double drop D tuning?
There are a lot of songs that use double drop D tuning, with some being featured on this list. We have plenty of guides on our website to help you with tuning like this, as well as other guides such as how to tune a 12 string guitar to help you with your playing skills.
What is drop D tuning good for?
Drop D tuning is perfect for alternative and rock metal songs. Many of the most famous rock and metal artists use this tuning to create their signature sound.