Drop D - Basic Scales And Exercises

A continuation from Drop D - Tuning and Basic Chords where I will go over some scales and exercises I found very useful when I first started playing Drop tunings.

Ultimate Guitar
A continuation from Drop D - Tuning and Basic Chords where I will go over some scales and exercises I found very useful when I first started playing Drop tunings.


In Drop D Tuning all your scales will still sounds and play just fine the only difference is when starting on the 6th string you will need to move two frets up from the starting place of the scale in Standard tuning. I'll go over a Minor Pentatonic scale, a Minor scale and a Major scale. Here is the A Minor Pentatonic Scale in Standard Tuning:
e ----------------5-8--
B -------------5-8-----
G ----------5-7--------
D -------5-7-----------
A ----5-7--------------
E -5-8-----------------
Here is the same scale in Drop D Tuning:
e -----------------5-8--
B --------------5-8-----
G - ---------5-7--------
D --------5-7-----------
A -----5-7--------------
D -7-10-----------------
As you can see all you have to do is move up two frets on the 6th string to keep the same scale. This method of translation will work for all the scales you know in Standard Tuning. Instead of showing you all the scales in Standard tuning then translating them to Drop D I'll just show the Drop D scales and if you need them in Standard you can just translate to standard by moving back two frets. Here is the A Minor Scale In Drop D Tuning:
e -------------------------5-7-9--
B --------------------5-6-8-------
G ---------------4-5-7------------
D ------------5-7-----------------
A -------5-7-8--------------------
D -7-9-10-------------------------
Here is the A Major Scale In Drop D Tuning:
e ---------------------------5-7-9--
B ----------------------5-7-9-------
G -----------------6-7-9------------
D ------------6-7-9-----------------
A -------5-7-9----------------------
D -7-9-11---------------------------
Now that you know those three scales in Drop D play with them and get used to how they feel. There are a lot of different exercises out there for learning scales so look those up and practice them. I recommend practicing scales for about 30 minutes to an hour each day. Try to play each scale faster than the previous time and eventually you will be moving through them pretty swiftly. Remember to always use your fingertips and never be afraid to use your pinky finger to hit frets as it needs to have its strength built up.


The first exercise is really simple; all you need to do is play each scale from 6th to 1st string then back. When you do that move up one fret on the sixth string then play the scale again. Do this until you get to the 12th fret for each scale you know. The next exercise will work on your speed. For this next exercise you'll want to palm mute your strings enough to make it easy to move on the, but not too much to where you get rid of the tone you're playing.
e ------------------------------------------------------------------------
B ------------------------------------------------------------------------
G ------------------------------------------------------------------------
D ------1-----------2-----------3-----------4-----------5-----------6-----
A -1-3-4-4-3-1-2-4-5-5-4-2-3-5-6-6-5-3-4-6-7-7-6-4-5-7-8-8-7-5-6-8-9-9-8-6
D ------------------------------------------------------------------------
You'll want to keep this pattern till you reach the twelfth fret. Try to play it faster each time you play it. Play it slowly at first to get your fingers used to the pattern and eventually work into moving faster. Try to play it three to five times in a row and you should see an improvement pretty soon. That's all I have for this lesson. Leave comments letting me know what I messed up on or got wrong. I'll try to get these up once a week or so. Also feel free to let me know what you want to see next. Thank you for reading.

37 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I think Drop D is most useful for chord based riffs. It's used to get a different sound and intended to utilise the 6th string. I've never bothered playing scales in Drop D, seems a pointless exercise.
    Obligatory boredom post: Agreed, drop D really does nothing for scales. Just makes them harder to play. You're better off avoiding the 6th string altogether for soloing and whatnot. ARE YOU HAPPY?
    "Different sound"...? Oh, hey, guys...did you know that it completely changes the sound of the guitar when you tune to Drop D? I didn't, because your amplifier changes the sound. All Drop D (or any Drop tuning does) is allow you to be lazy and play powerchords with 1 finger, instead of 2 or 3.
    Really? That's all? Funny, I play some really cool sounding sus2/sus4 chords in drop tunings as well. Oh, and you can play major chords on just the lowest 3 strings too, just requires a fairly wide stretch to do it.
    Drop C and B allow you to play power chords with one finger as well. And actually, You can play different chords made up of 3 or 4 fingers as well...duh!
    steven seagull
    the advice about practicing scales is pretty bad advice, there's little to be gained from playing scale patterns for the sake of it, and just moving up a fret at a time serves no purpose as you're not learning anything useful by doing that. Practicing all positions of a scale all over the fretboard has some use, but just playing one position up and down at different frets is kinda pointless. Finally you should absolutely not be "trying to play each scale faster than the previous time", that just goes against all the principles of correct practice.
    I agree with that for the most part, unless you are just starting off with scales. Practicing in one position is good for getting the rolling feel of vertical playing figured out, but not very useful past that point.
    There is a lot to be gained by practicing scales, if you want to know anything about music. If you play guitar for the fun of it, don't worry about scales, but if you want to play for anything, scales are the most valuable piece of knowledge you could have
    This advice is just bad, zillaman. It's much better to have an understanding of music theory than to know how to play scales. Furthermore, you'd better learn how to play vertically and horizontally; the guitar is NOT a set of box patterns. The only useful thing about practicing scales is building up finger dexterity. Beyond that, it's useless.
    i agree completely. this is the approach i used to use, now i just play what sounds good and hope it fits when i get to practice. i guess im just not that technical of a player, but thats why i just joined up here, to work on some of that stuff. hell, ive even thought about taking lessons. and after 20 yrs of playing thats weird...
    I found when learning that practising a scale over and over was useful in building finger dexterity which is essentially to playing leads and melody lines.
    Pointless article, its like saying lets try to eat a bowl of cereal but this time lets use a fork instead of a spoon.
    Not only that, but encouraging drop tunings (when tuning like D standard, which is essentially E lowered 1 step) is kind of pointless in the long run. Yes, I know a ton of guitarists use Drop D these days. I also think they're lazy and should stop using drop tunings.
    I use dropped D because i want a lower kind of pitch for heavier songs. I also use the 6th string in my solos in dropped d. Its one of my favorite tunings. Im not lazy i just like the ease. It allows me to play more riffs then if i have to keep another finger pressed down
    Right, because there is NOTHING else you can do in drop tunings, right? Play a sus2/sus4 chord on the lowest 3 strings, or play a major chord on the lowest 3 and tell me that again. If you sincerely believe there is nothing you can do in drop tunings other than 1 finger power chords, you need to brush up on your playing a bit.
    Harsh, any advice for someone like me who was hoping this article was gonna deliver?
    To be honest, there isn't much advice to give that changes so much between playing standard and drop. Just know that doing drop D makes most traditional chord structures more difficult to play, but optimizes power chords on the top 3 strings. It is a difficult tradeoff for some. Not sure what else to add there.
    I figured out how to play the majority of the open position basic chords in drop D. I actually kind of like how a G major chord sounds in drop D better than in standard. Just let the open low D ring open. I also play a D on the B string, so my voicing has 3 Ds, 2 Gs and 1 B.
    Songs like Freedom or Killing in the name make good use of this tuning, a lot of old folk/blues finger picking songs do as well. Looking at the notes, you can work out what scales they're based on, as drop D songs are usually in the key of D
    That excercise you have there never uses the Dropped string, so it's kinda pointless in a "Drop D Scale Excercise". Also, you only talk about it as drop D, you should probably mention that the same thing apply to any drop tuning with only the lowest string dropped.
    This should have been spent practicing things that are actually different in drop d tuning. None of these things in the article actually use the open d and are just harder versions of something you would use standard tuning for.
    Would have been a little more interested if you had of talked about dropping both E's to D. There's quite a few classic rock songs in that tuning like Neil Young's "Ohio" and "Going to California" by Zeppelin
    Nice avatar. SMRPG = best mario game ever.
    many guitarist use 1 tuning or another no 1 tuning is the best.. and you are not lazy for using 1 or the other. I play standard, drop,and open c, as well as a drop A on my 7 string, and standard.. I have no problem scaling in standard or drop. and I play lead rhythm.
    This is some good info for people just playing with the idea of drop tunings.
    The blind leading the ignorant. And another thing... **** a power chord. Learn to play the damn guitar.
    Thanks a lot. I'm a begginer musician and i write stuff, mostly the just so come and i play them. But every little piece of advice is useful. For example this, might be ispiring some day. Thank you, keep making shit like this!
    if you wanna play solos you will learn scales , learning how to ajust to the slightley different tuning is good for all guitarists , if you dont like it or already know this then this artical is not for you
    if theres nothing useful here can someone post useful stuff instead of just bitching and moaning? i really wanna learn...or is this just a gripe and gossip page? if so, let me know and me and im sure lots of other people will look elsewhere