Drop D - Tuning And Basic Chords

This will cover tuning a guitar into Drop D and some of the raw basics of playing in Drop D tuning. Check the end of the article for a key on the symbols used in chord diagrams or tablature.

Ultimate Guitar


Standard - EADGBe, Drop D - DADGBe
If you have a tuner just tune your low E string down a whole step until it shows you've tuned it to D. If you do not have a tuner you can tune your low E string down until it is the same pitch as your D string.


Probably the first thing everyone learns about Drop D tuning is that power chords on the lowest string become a fair bit easier to play. Below is an A power chord on the left in Standard tuning and on the right in Drop D tuning.

e --x-- e --x--
B --x-- B --x--
G --x-- G --x--
D --7-- D --5--
A --7-- A --5--
E --5-- D --5--

Instead of using 2 or 3 fingers to play power chords you can just bar the three lowest strings of your guitar. This also opens up D and D# power chords closer to the head-stock of the guitar. Play around with the power chords until you're comfortable playing them. Try using the progression below as it may sound familiar to some of you.

For the next part we will add something very small that will also add a different sounds to the Drop D tuning. It's as simple as adding your pinky finger to the 3rd string(G) two frets up from the power chord you already have. The left is an A power chord in Drop D and on the right is the chord when you add your pinky finger.

e -x- e -x-
B -x- B -x-
G -x- G -7-
D -5- D -5-
A -5- A -5-
D -5- D -5-
Let's take the chord progression from the last section and use it here. As you may have noticed it's a part of the song "When You Were Young" by The Killers and as you also may have noticed it sounded a bit off. When you add the fourth note to the power chords from earlier you will get the right sound.

e ---------------------------------------------------------------
B ---------------------------------------------------------------
G --4-4-4-4-4-4-4-4-6-6-6/8--8-8--11-11-11-11-11-11-11-11-4-4-4-4
D --2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-4-4-4/6--6-6--9--9--9--9--9--9--9--9--2-2-2-2
A --2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-4-4-4/6--6-6--9--9--9--9--9--9--9--9--2-2-2-2
D --2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-4-4-4/6--6-6--9--9--9--9--9--9--9--9--2-2-2-2

For the last part of this lesson I'll show you a chord that is used in a lot of Killswitch Engage songs and metal songs in general. It's a minor chord that is a modified version of the power chords you learned earlier. On the left is an A power chord and on the right is the new A minor chord.

e -x- e -x-
D -x- D -x-
G -x- G -x-
D -5- D -8-
A -5- A -5-
D -5- D -5-

Play around with chords and get used to moving them to different places on the fret-board. I suggest try using the chord progression below for practice. These chords may hurt a little bit if you're a pure beginner because it's stretching muscles in your hand more than their used to.

e ----------------------------------------------------------------------
B ----------------------------------------------------------------------
G ----------------------------------------------------------------------
D -10-10-10-10-6-6-6-6-8-8-8-5-10-10-10-10-10-10-10-10-5-5-8-6-5-8-6-10-
A -7--7--7--7--3-3-3-3-5-5-5-2-7--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--2-2-5-3-2-5-3-7--
D -7--7--7--7--3-3-3-3-5-5-5-2-7--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--2-2-5-3-2-5-3-7--

I'll put up another Drop D lesson sometime in the coming week or two, but until then feel free to comment on here and let me know what I missed or what you would like to add. Thank you all for reading.


For chord diagrams...
1(or any number) - the fret being played
0 - play the string open
x - do not play anything

For tablature...
1(or any number) - the fret being played
0 - play the string open
/ - slide from one note to another

34 comments sorted by best / new / date

    "Below is an A power chord on the left in Standard tuning and on the right in Drop D tuning." Isn't the one on the right an G power chord?
    Yep. You have to know your root notes. If G is played on the low E string, that would be a G chord (G-D-G). An A chord should be played on the 7th fret (A-E-A).
    You named the power chords totally wrong. Your A power chord is actually a G power chord because it has a G as the root note, a fifth and an octave. The first positions should look like this: e --x-- e --x-- B --x-- B --x-- G --x-- G --x-- D --7-- D --7-- A --7-- A --7-- E --5-- D --7--
    Most certainly a good lesson for beginners and I do really like that you highlight about hand strength when it comes to stretching as that is always a key thing when playing guitar in general. The only thing I noticed is that you said that you can tune to D as it is the same pitch, it's not the same pitch as the D string in the middle of the guitar is definitely a higher pitch (octave above) but they are the same note still. Looking forward to the next section of the lesson though man! Would be good to see some "scale patterns made easy for drop D guitar" or something
    Yeah I noticed that just now about the power chord bit. I was doing this late at night and it slipped my mind. I know my fret-board and we all forget things my bad.
    Just a small "advice" for begginers.. e|---- ---- --- ---| B|---- ---- --- ---| G|(2)- ---- --- ---| D|-0-- --2- -3- -4-| A|-0-- --0- -0- -0-| D|-0-- --0- -0- -0-| power chord, sus2 chord, minor chord, major chord...
    Glass Prisoner
    And just to be pernickety, the sus2 is sometimes seen as add9. They mean the same.
    Actually they do NOT mean the same. sus2 chords have 3rd replaced with 2nd tone from scale, so they are nor major nor minor. add9 chords however, have added 2nd (9th) note from scale, but also have 3rd, so they retain minor or major flavour.
    actually, as the guy above said, add9 and sus2 don't mean the same. Because with an add9, you still gotta play the third. But a sus2 you don't. You just add the second (or ninth, however you wanna look at it).
    No. sus2 and sus4 chords are basically the same. sus2 and add9 are different. Fsus2 is the same chord as Csus4/F
    As he mentioned, most of this applies to beginners. Its cool for someone just learning. Alot of us that are seasoned players wont use it because we are aware of these points. But take it easy on the Guy. He put a nice effort helping beginners. I'm sure they appreciate it. I don't care who you are and how good you are we all make mistakes and overlook things that make the lightbulb go off. Lol
    Thanks for this mate - I'll give it a whirl. For all you advanced players out there its important to remember that not everyone is quite so far along as you are and some of us appreciate the time taken to explain a fairly basic concept. Its genuinely appreciated.
    good lesson for beginners... Makes me laugh when ppl criticise others in these lessons and pick on mistakes. Wheres YOUR lesson?
    Emperor's Child
    Mistakes aside, it would've been nice to include some info on chords that are easier but also the ones that become more difficult (e.g. barre chords) - Pros vs Cons if you will. Anyway, Open Dsus4 tuning is where it's at guys - DADGAD...
    Drop D tuning? More like how to play a power chord in Drop D with two variations. Would've been nice to explain how the first variation is the low end of an Open D chord. Or hows about adding in that all our favorite metal bands use the Open D as a pedal tone. No mention of chugging? Next time you hit the bottle late at night just use the guitar, not the guitar and computer
    The sus2 is not really a chord either a sus2 as it is commonly referred to is actually a 5add9 but you are correct that there is no third, but it is not 1,2,5 it is 1,5,9.
    How is sus2 not really a chord? It has three (distinctive) tones, and three tones together, as far as I know, are counted as a chord. As far as 9th goes, yes it is used from higher octaves, thus 9th, but is basically stil 2nd tone from scale, just octave higher. Thats why I wrote 2nd (9th).
    Good info for beginners to start learning new shapes. Could have had more info about which notes are in the chord and which notes are being added, but I guess that is not so important to most of the beginners.
    Dude, if you're gonna teach, learn first. A =/= G Best get cracking on that fingerboard memorization again.
    This is a lesson?? How does this qualify as a lesson?? I can sum this up in 1 sentence... Drop down the top string and hit some bar chords. Ugh.
    All the 15 year old kiddies in here can take a chill pill, you're wasting you're breath bitching while this guy is trying to help us. If you have something to add, do it. If not, stop whining.
    Could've summed up with "tune your big E string to D, now power chords are easier!"
    You guys are ****ing hilarious I'm going to come back to this site just to read the posts.....
    Perhaps for the a =/= g power chord, he was just showing an example of each not which one is which. Though in hindsight, it would make more sense to have used the same chord.. or he just likes the number 5 a lot o.o EDIT: Scratch that missed a word
    The blind leading the ignorant. And another thing... **** a power chord. Learn to play the damn guitar.
    To everyone talking about advanced or beginners... presenting something that everyone does the first day they have their guitar as a 'lesson' is lame. It has nothing to do with being a beginner or being advanced. He didn't even get the chord names in this article correct. Terrible.
    Eh. Have to disagree there. Most beginners do that their first day, but how many of them actually know what they did?
    Yes. Finally a helpful lesson. Been looking for one with drop d chords. Not power chords but chords. Picture So Far Away by Avenged Sevenfold, something a long those lines. This is very helpful to me. I was taught scales first and I think that's what messed me up the most