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Thread: Drop-D Tuning

  1. #1
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    Default Drop-D Tuning

    I love the richness afforded by the Drop-D tuning, but to save my soul I cannot seem to get used to it, so I always end up going back to standard tuning, and trying to figure our "workarounds", in standard, for the songs which would otherwise be played in Drop-D. They're generally passable, but I'm always conscious of missing that nice low D in certain chords or passages. Has anyone else struggled to get comfortable with Drop-D, and perhaps eventually broken through the mental barrier that seems to be hanging me up, to become a Drop-D enthusiast?

  2. #2
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    Low D is my favorite tuning and I often just leave a guitar tuned that way for months. The secret is to love playing in keys that need that note—G and D especially—or refingering the 6th string for the proper bass notes (two frets higher). Another possibility is to play a 7 stringer and tune the 7th string to D (I normally use C or B on my 7 stringer).

  3. #3
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    Thank you, Peter! I suppose I need to just make up my mind to get accustomed to re-fingering those 6th string bass notes, as you said, and I have a feeling there'd come a time when I'd realize that I'd "turned the corner" and that it had become second nature. My impression is that a lot of the classical guitar repertoire utilizes the Drop-D tuning. By the way, the duets that you and Grace do are so awesome!!

  4. #4
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    I kept one of my 12 strings in double-drop-D for a while and really enjoyed. You get most out an altered tuning if you learn a few songs that were written for this tuning and then you get a good feel for what chords work well. For my 12 string that mainly included a few Neil Young songs such as "When You Dance ..." Going the other way and trying to translate common chords and songs to drop-D is not usually an improvement and can be frustrating.

  5. #5
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    I think you're right, Merlin. It's almost like certain songs "live" or "reside" in drop-D tuning, and trying to figure out an effective way of doing them in standard just doesn't always cut it. And you make an excellent point about the "inverse" of that-- many songs work better in standard from the get-go, and don't necessarily work very well if we try to "re-imagine" them in drop-D ! I think my problem is that I hate re-tuning the sixth string from song to song and then having to contend with it drifting slightly out of tune once I've begun the next tune. I like the idea of just choosing my tuning and sticking with it for every song. (I realize that maybe I just need to get over that!) I've been listening to Earl Klugh recently, in particular his song "This Time". He uses standard tuning, and does the song in the key of E, so that his main bass note throughout the song is simply the low E. So maybe that's kind of a "compromise" in which we can stay in standard tuning but still have a fairly deep bass note to work with. I've heard some players say, however, that they're not crazy about working in the key of E...

  6. #6
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    If one keeps their guitar in open D or open G and plays most or all of their music in only the keys of D, G, Dmin, and Gmin. Is that possible, do-able, bad, good? I too am not hot on standard tuning and hate re-tuning all of the time.

  7. #7
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    Johnny, I remember several years ago, after learning a couple of nice-sounding tunes in open-G (DGDGBD), I sought to keep my acoustic tuned that way exclusively; but after a while I found that the "vibe", if you will, of the tuning started to become somewhat over-familiar (does that make sense?) and therefore a little monotonous. So I then discovered a few tunes in DADGAD and became enthusiastic about that tuning, but the same thing eventually happened-- it has a certain "sameness" to it that made me grow a little restless for a different sound. Then I heard some Tommy Emmanuel tunes, and read an article about him in which he said that he uses standard tuning but that he often employs little variations in his chord voicings to make it sound as if he's using an altered tuning of some sort. I think Tommy does in fact utilize drop-D with some frequency. So, it may be that standard tuning, with the occasional dropping of the 6th string down to D, may be a very good way to approach things. It's worth noting that one of the things that the DGDGBD and DADGAD tunings have in common is that 6th string dropped down to D; so perhaps one could say that standard tuning, with a dropped-down 6th string, gives us the best of both worlds.

  8. #8
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    Bill, Do I ever understand what you are saying. I change my mind about ukulele or guitar, and one key or the other at a faster rate then you do. Almost monthly or faster. That is my big problem. I need to settle down. I agree with you that regardless of tuning the bottom string should be a D. I especially love open D tuning. On piano I play in all 12 keys and on guitar I play in most keys, however, overall keys of G and D are my favorites.

  9. #9
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    Thanks, Johnny! Good to know I'm not the only one who bounces around and gets on a new "jag" every couple of weeks! If anything, however, I guess it shows that we're enthusiastic about what we're doing, and having a lot of fun with the journey!

  10. #10
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    I putz with it and the stuff I play doesn't sound all that good on a Drop D tuning. I found capo has better sounding results.

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