Dropped-D Rhythm Guitar Patterns

Hello everyone! For this month's lesson I decided to break things up a little bit and get away from the typical wheedly-deedly lead guitar type of lesson and talk about some rockin' rhythm guitar ideas!

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Hello everyone! For this month's lesson I decided to break things up a little bit and get away from the typical wheedly-deedly lead guitar type of lesson and talk about some rockin' rhythm guitar ideas!

We have to do something to pass the time in between our solos, right?

So grab your guitar, check out these ideas and get ready to create some killer rhythm riffs of your own! Feel free to use these ideas as springboards for your own songs.

Is It Magic?

When you listen to songs by popular rock, pop and metal bands have you ever felt like all of the chords seem to fit together well? It's almost as if they have some divine gift that helps them to choose the right chords!

There's a good reason for this. Generally speaking, songs or riffs that sound pleasant to our ear use chords and notes that are diatonic to a particular key. Don't get hung up on jargon, this just means that all of the chords work together in a particular key.

So when you hear a song that sounds good the writer may have a good knowledge of music theory which he used to help him to choose the chords in his (or her) song.

Note: I said generally speaking above because today our ears are becoming more accustomed to hearing adventurous harmonies and chord progressions than past generations. A few centuries ago some intervals commonly used today would have caused you to be burned at the stake! (Seriously)

I don't want to dig deep into theory in this lesson instead I want to give you some quick and easy to use tools to immediately start crafting your own songs.

Dropped-D Tuning

These examples are all in Dropped-D tuning. For those of you unfamiliar with this tuning, it is similar to normal tuning, except that the low E-string (6th string - the fattest one) is tuned to D (one whole step down). If you have a common chromatic electronic tuner, you can accomplish this pretty easily.

So are you tuned up and ready to go? All right then, let's continue!

One of the coolest things about Dropped-D tuning is that it allows you to play power chords (aka 5th chords) on the low E and A strings by barring one finger. This allows you easily change chords and slide between them.

Also, if you strum your open (unfretted) 6th and 5th strings together you get a nice thick, powerful-sounding D power chord!

Power Chord Scales

So let's take a look at what I like to refer to as dropped-D power chord scales - essentially a map of the power chords in the key of D. By using these chords together you can easily create your own great-sounding riffs and songs.

Figure One demonstrates our first chord scale pattern the D Blues Scale on the 6h string.

Figure 1: D Blues Scale on low E-string

Our next figure is also the D Blues Scale, only this time on the 5th string.

Figure 2: D Blues Scale on A-string

Now let's apply some simple rhythmic ideas to our first chord scale pattern and see what we can come up with

In Example One we play each chord followed by two palm muted open (D) power chords in an 8th-note triplet rhythm. It's surprising how great this simple pattern sounds!

Example One:

Note: You can get a free Guitar Pro Tab of this lesson, along with audio clips, a drum track to practice with and more free high quality guitar lessons like this one at here.

Example Two applies the same basic idea from above to the chords on the 5h string. Again the results sound awesome!

Example Two:

Another Power Chord Scale

So now let's take a look at another scale commonly used in rock and metal music. Figure Three demonstrates a power chord scale based on the notes of the D natural minor Scale on the 6th string.

Figure 3: D Natural minor Scale on low E-string

Figure 4 is the same power chord scale as above, just moved over to the 5th string.

Figure 4: D Natural minor Scale on A-string

In the next example I play a different three-note riff - two fretted notes followed by a palm muted open (D) power chord. Note how the open chord occurs at different places from one measure to the next. Cool? Yes!

Example Three:

In Example Four I applied the sequence from the prior example to the Blues Scale and ended up with a riff that sounds similar to the riff from a popular Velvet Revolver song.

Example Four:

Of course, you aren't locked into playing only chords you can also play single notes from the scale patterns to create riffs.

Example Five combines single notes and power chords using the notes from both the D Natural minor and Blues Scales.

Example Five:

Free high quality guitar lessons like this one available here.

I hope you enjoyed this lesson. Grab your guitar and try using the patterns and concepts in this lesson to create your own cool-sounding riffs. Mix and match and don't be afraid to experiment. I am confident you will come up with some great ideas!

Until next time take care and have fun!

Your Friend, Paul Tauterouff.

2010 Paul Tauterouff All Rights Reserved.

About The Author: Paul Tauterouff is a professional musician/ guitar teacher in New York. For more information visit Paul's website at http://paultauterouff.com.

51 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Lord_Vhailor
    Some good ideas for the beginners to this tuning, but I didn't find anything useful for me '.
    jamiels
    TORCHERROR wrote: WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF DROP D TORCHERROR PLAYS IN DROB B, (a step and a half lower) Metalllll
    meshuggah use Bb 0 in spasm on their eight strings. thats a semitone lower than a bass in drop b
    crystaldragon75
    I love playing in Dropped D, C, etc. The chord voicings that one can form within makes for some interesting and beautiful chords.
    Ne0Assass1n
    TORCHERROR wrote: WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF DROP D TORCHERROR PLAYS IN DROB B, (a step and a half lower) Metalllll
    o noez drop D iz not br00tal enuff!!11!1one!!11!one!!1!
    jtozier
    Paul, Great article, clear and well-written. As an avid blues fan, I had fun with your ideas! Julie Tozier
    MealsOnWheels7
    Ironically, the dead white guy who lived 500 year ago was more adventurous and open minded than today's bands. Having said that, it's very unfair to compare Bach to bands like Green Day. Green Day is popular music, produced for mass consumption, while Bach wrote his music for a specific audience.
    Paul Tauterouff
    To Replica - I appreciate your opinion, but nowhere in this article do I say that this is the end all- be all, nor do I say that this is the only thing you need to know to write a song. It is one easy strategy. To cover everything you need to know would be well beyond the scope of one article. I just wanted to provide one easy to use method and approach that people could try out. Put together a bunch of chords in the same key and they will probably sound good together, right? It's like you are just trying to find fault in my article. When I talked about harmonically adventurous modern music I had in mind bands like System of a Down and other more modern metal bands that do not create strictly diatonic music. You Argue against this by comparing Nickelback to Bach, but then turn around and argue against modern diatonic music by mentioning atonality? C'mon man - give me a break here! A better use of your time would be to write your own article providing another approach or idea for guitarists to use in writing songs. In your effort to pick apart the article you somehow missed where I said "Generally speaking, songs or riffs that sound pleasant to our ear use chords and notes that are diatonic to a particular key." and that the writer "MAY have a good knowledge of music theory which he used to help him to choose the chords in his (or her) song."
    benx3000
    Ehhhhh I think its really really basic... Like very first thing ever learned on guitar.
    CapnKickass
    Ne0Assass1n wrote: TORCHERROR wrote: WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF DROP D TORCHERROR PLAYS IN DROB B, (a step and a half lower) Metalllll o noez drop D iz not br00tal enuff!!11!1one!!11!one!!1!
    Yeah what a pussy. The Capn plays in DROP A, (sometimes drop a#), BUT MOSTLY IN DROP A!!
    Lauren Bateman
    Very cool lesson. Would like to incorporate more Drop D tuning. Definitely found this helpful.
    guitar4eternity
    What's with all the trying to out-do each other? Come on peeplz! This is just a simple lesson for beginners, and such. I play in whatever tuning I feels like so there. But in any case, let the noobs learn from this and stop criticizing it. I think he did a good job in laying it out for new guitarists.
    lespaulmaster
    Thanks for the lesson. I'm far from being a beginner, but I always write with standard tuning! Mainly cause I've been too lazy to retune! The only song I change on is She Talk To Angels by the Black Crowes which is very simple and uses an open E tuning ( E,B,E,G#,B.E). Also, I just haven't thought about it in awhile. But thanks to your article, I'm going to start playing around with different tunings!
    Paul Tauterouff
    Thanks for the kind words everyone! Lespaulmaster I am glad you found value in this lesson. If you record something in this tuning send me a message here on UG so I can check out the riffs you can up with.
    Jeff Vivrette
    A lot of people either haven't heard of Drop-D tuning, have heard of it but don't know where to start or don't realy know what they're doing when they use it. They just wing it and go with what sounds good. This article will teach those that don't know about it how to do it it and teach those that just wing it exactly what they are doing. A winner for everyone. Excellent lesson Paul!
    seusion
    useful stuff, I prefer drop tuning.. you can make cooler riffs and you don't get cramp .. hahaha
    DeadxEndxEmpty
    TORCHERROR wrote: WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF DROP D TORCHERROR PLAYS IN DROB B, (a step and a half lower) Metalllll
    Drop B all the way man. used it since I was 18. heavy as hell. b.t.w. it's nice to not see anybody hyping drop C, everybody plays in that in the midwest.
    simpleben09
    Pfff. You people think drop D is badass? Well, it's not, because the only way you can be truly metal is if you use DROP FUCKING A# BITCHES!!!!1!! IT'S TEH BRUTALZ!!!!1!!! By the way, please disregard that last statement. I personally do not go lower than drop C Good lesson for beginners though :-D
    Jigsaw62
    jamiels wrote: TORCHERROR wrote: WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF DROP D TORCHERROR PLAYS IN DROB B, (a step and a half lower) Metalllll meshuggah use Bb 0 in spasm on their eight strings. thats a semitone lower than a bass in drop b
    haha thats why meshuggah sounds like shit.
    stilt37
    pigeonmafia wrote: 'songs or riffs that sound pleasant to our ear use chords and notes that are diatonic to a particular key' That is appauling grammar. It should read 'songs or riffs that sound pleasant to our ear use chords that are derived from diatonic scales'. Something can't be diatonic to something else.
    i love it when ppl make asses of themselves
    RockRolla
    Good lesson,I've been playing for a year now and was looking for some drop D examples.I will try these riffs and examples in practice.Thanx.
    Disturbed_EMG
    I already knew all this but it seems like a handy little column to those guitarists just starting out.
    Dream Floyd
    Dream Floyd wrote: What is this with G#? D is D,E,F#,G,A,B,C#... where is he coming from with G#?
    oh, I didn't read he said D blues...
    Paul Tauterouff
    A 1? Just because this wasn't useful to you doesn't mean that others won't find value in it. This is for beginner or intermediate players. Did you even try the examples?
    pigeonmafia
    'songs or riffs that sound pleasant to our ear use chords and notes that are diatonic to a particular key' That is appauling grammar. It should read 'songs or riffs that sound pleasant to our ear use chords that are derived from diatonic scales'. Something can't be diatonic to something else.
    Reaper-Man
    ArminB wrote: totally useless
    Maybe to you, but people not up to your 'standard' may want to know about Drop D tuning, mostly my playing is Drop D, I still wanted to use it, and I recapped.. no need to be a bitch.
    Colohue
    I always find it useful to have some examples put down in front of me. When you first start out, this sort of thing is necessary to get your brain working.
    mdawg24
    pigeonmafia wrote: That is appauling grammar.
    Win. At any rate, it's a bit basic, but it does what it sets out to do. Well done.
    pigeonmafia
    mdawg24 wrote: pigeonmafia wrote: That is appauling grammar. Win. At any rate, it's a bit basic, but it does what it sets out to do. Well done.
    Spelling has never been my strong point
    ChrisWin
    Some good stuff for beginners and for anyone wanting ideas for drop D Good one Paul!
    Paul Tauterouff
    Thanks for the comments folks. I wanted to do something a little different in this lesson. It seems like there are a lot of advanced lead guitar lessons around.
    PissInMyShoeses
    "Paul is a professional guitarist and teacher in upstate New York and is co-manager of Tom Hess' Music Careers Mentoring Program (MCMP)." lul.
    MoonBoots432
    pigeonmafia wrote: 'songs or riffs that sound pleasant to our ear use chords and notes that are diatonic to a particular key' That is appauling grammar. It should read 'songs or riffs that sound pleasant to our ear use chords that are derived from diatonic scales'. Something can't be diatonic to something else.
    An A Minor is diatonic to C but not to A. How's is that not acceptable when relating things in that way?
    texzephyr
    Well i quite liked it... I wish this kinda stuff was around when i first started. Anyway, ranking myself as an intermediate player (may be wrong), I still got something out of this, rhythmic ideas I haven't tried. Time for some Drop D riffery!
    Reaper-Man
    texzephyr wrote: Well i quite liked it... I wish this kinda stuff was around when i first started. Anyway, ranking myself as an intermediate player (may be wrong), I still got something out of this, rhythmic ideas I haven't tried. Time for some Drop D riffery!
    I'm in the same boat as you matey, don't know whether to class myself as 'intermediate' but I write a few Drop D riffs aswell as play some Drop D riffs from various bands... I enjoy playing in D, it's an awesome sound!
    TORCHERROR
    WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF DROP D TORCHERROR PLAYS IN DROB B, (a step and a half lower) Metalllll
    tatatotfolife
    I'm guessing that this lesson is more about playing drop tunings rather than specifacally Drop D. Also I thought the lesson was decent, although it can't take too much knowledge to figure out drop tunings and how to play in them.
    oxymorcide
    I thought that was really good, maybe not that suitable for many guitarists here as they are a bit more advanced, but this sort of article would be perfect for a beginner or someone that hasnt been playing for long. Many of the other lessons would not make much sense for beginners, so I thought that although this was not terribly useful for me, it is an excellent addition to the website.