How to learn alternate tunings

If you’re just starting out on your guitar journey, alternative/alternate tunings can seem daunting. However, tunings outside of the standard EBGDAE can make it easier to play riffs and power chords in the open position. It can help your chords sound fuller and more open, which is why they’re used so often in rock music.

You may find that some of the songs by your favorite artists are played in alternative tuning – like “Numb” by Linkin Park (Drop D), “All Apologies” by Nirvana (Drop C#), or “Animal I Have Become” by Three Days Grace (Drop C). Mastering alternative tuning can help you spark your creativity and create brand new sounds in your playing style.

Common types of alternative tuning

Drop D tuning

Tuning your guitar to Drop D is popular in heavy metal and hard rock, thanks to giving the guitar a heavier and darker quality. To tune to Drop D, just lower the low E string one full step to D.

Songs in Drop D tuning 

Numb – Linkin Park

Them Bones – Alice in Chains

My Own Prison – Creed 

A Country Boy Can Survive – Hank Williams, Jr. 

Last Resort – Papa Roach 

Choke – Tigress 

Naked As We Come – Iron and Wine

 

Drop C# tuning

Drop C# tuning involves tuning your guitar a half-step down from Drop D. While in Drop C# tuning, your strings will be C#, G#, C#, F#, A#, and D#. This tuning provides a deep, textured tone that’s great for metal and grunge.

Songs in Drop C# tuning

Paramore – Crushcrushcrush

Linkin Park – What I’ve Done

System Of A Down – BYOB

Nirvana – All Apologies

Disturbed – Down With The Sickness

Collective Soul – Shine

 

Drop C tuning

Drop C tuning starts with tuning the low “E” string down to C, but unlike Drop D tuning, all six strings must be tuned down. The rest of the strings get tuned down one whole step, so your tuning will be C — G — C — F — A — D.

Songs in Drop C tuning

Animal I Have Become – Three Days Grace

Chop Suey – System of a Down

My Curse – Killswitch Engage

Passenger – Deftones

 

E♭ tuning

This tuning involves tuning all six strings down one half-step, starting with the low “E” string (to E♭). The lower tuning makes it easier to bend notes thanks to reduced tension on the strings. It can also make it easier for singers to hit notes by slightly lowering the pitch.

Songs in E♭ tuning:

American Cowgirl – Monarch

More Than Words – Extreme

Sweet Child O’Mine – Guns ‘n Roses

Eruption – Van Halen

All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix

 

DADGAD

This tuning has the high and low “E” strings tuned down to D and the “B” string tuned down to A. It’s commonly used in Celtic music, although it can also be found in rock, metal, and folk music.

Songs in DADGAD tuning

Kashmir – Led Zeppelin

Dear Maria, Count Me In – All Time Low

Before You Go – Lewis Capaldi

Circle – Slipknot

Ain’t No Grave – Johnny Cash

Black and White – Niall Horan

 

There are lots of other alternative tunings to explore! You can explore the full range of alternative tunings with the tuner in the Fret Zealot app!

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