Guide To Drop Tunings
Almost every metal band these days is playing in a drop tuning, and the tuning is getting lower and lower (depending on the sub genre of metal). Everyone started with drop D, and now a lot of bands tune MUCH lower. Bands like Meshugga are tuning down to Drop E. That's a whole octave lower! So how do you tune your guitar to a drop tuning, and why would you do it?
Both questions are easy to answer. First of all, how do you do it? Every drop tuning is the same in a way. All the strings are tuned to standard tuning (E-A-D-G-B-E) relative to each other, except for the 6th string. In every drop tuning, the 6th string is tuned to be one octave lower than the 4th string. So if you want to try it out, grab your Snark tuner, or whatever YOU use at home and try out these different drop tunings:
Drop D = D-A-D-G-B-E
Drop Db = Db-Ab-Db-Gb-Bb-Eb
Drop C = C-G-C-F-A-D
Drop B = B-F#-B-E-G#-C#
Drop Bb = Bb-F-Bb-Eb-G-C
Drop A = A-E-A-D-F#-B
Drop Ab = Ab-Eb-Ab-Db-F-Bb
Drop G = G-D-G-C-E-A
Drop Gb = Gb-Db-Gb-B-Eb-Ab
Drop F = F-C-F-Bb-D-G
Drop E = E-B-E-A-Db-Gb
Here is a tuner you can use for the most common drop tunings (Drop D-Drob Bb)
It's all audio tuning so you may have to pause and rewind the video if you're going to tune your guitar along with it. Here is a quick example of what two different drop tunings sound like:
So Why would you want to change the tuning of your guitar? There's two answers to that question. The first is simply because it's easier to play songs with the 6th string tuned down. Power chords become much easier to play. Instead of needing 3-4 fingers to play a chord, you only need 2. You can also play more complicated chords in drop tunings. Bands like August Burns Red take advantage of this in almost every song they write. The other answer is because a lot of people like the way a song sounds when the guitars are tuned much lower than normal. Using a really low tuning like Drop Bb doesn't really make a riff sound heavier. There's a ton of videos on Youtube showing this. Tuning lower does change the tone of the guitar though, so it just depends on what you want your guitar tone to sound like. Try out a few different tunings to see which ones sound good for your songs.
Usually, when people tune their guitars down low, they are going to leave them in that tuning. It can become quite a pain to constantly change tunings. That's why so often you'll see bands writing an entire album in the same tuning; and even when they have some songs in a different tuning, you'll see them switch out guitars in between songs while they're on stage. Some people like J.B. Brubaker will use a pedal that changes the tuning of your guitar for you. One example of this is the Digitech Drop pedal, which allows you to tune your guitar up to a whole octave lower if you want, without actually re-tuning your guitar.
Now before you run off to tune your guitar to Drop F to see if you can blow out your bedroom windows, you need to know that not every guitar can handle those low tunings (Unless you're using a drop pedal). If you just have a normal style 6 string electric guitar, you can probably tune down to Drop C and be fine. With Drop C, you will need some thicker strings if you want your guitar to stay in tune. I use D'Addario 11-49 gauge strings. Regular gauge strings should be able to handle Drop D and Drop Db just fine, but for anything lower than Drop C, you'll probably want a baritone guitar. These guitars come with a longer scale length and can handle thicker gauge strings. A good baritone guitar should be able to handle Drop B-Drop Ab, while still being able to stay in tune. I have a Michael Kelly baritone and it plays in Drop Ab just fine.
Well now you know everything you need to know about drop tunings, except for actually knowing all the different chord shapes you can actually play with them. I'll be going over that in a future post \m/