Drop D Tuning (Guitar Lesson)

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Jim Deeming

Drop D Tuning

Jim Deeming introduces drop D tuning. Drop D is a popular alternate tuning used in many styles of music including rock, fingerstyle and blues.

Taught by Jim Deeming in Basic Guitar with Jim seriesLength: 25:25Difficulty: 2.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (00:30) Musical Introduction Jim kicks off lesson 22 with Tommy Emmanuel's fingerstyle arrangement of "Old Fashioned Love Song" by Three Dog Night. This particular arrangement is played in an alternate tuning called "drop D" tuning. How does this tuning effect the overall sound of the arrangement?
Chapter 2: (07:37) Intro to Drop D Tuning Jim explains one of the most commonly used alternate tunings. This tuning is referred to as "drop D." In this tuning, the pitch of the low sixth string is dropped a full step down to the note D. Drop D has a wide variety of applications that are used in almost all styles of music. Jim provides an introduction to the possibilities that drop D tuning provides.

Tuning to Drop D

1. When tuning to Drop D, first tune your guitar to standard tuning. Within standard tuning, the open strings are tuned as follows:

6th string: E
5th string: A
4th string: D
3rd string: G
2nd string: B
1st string: E

Make sure your guitar is perfectly in tune with Jim's before proceeding to the next step.

2. Tune the sixth string down to the note D. This step can be accomplished by three different methods. Experiment with all three methods to determine which yields the best results for you. Most guitarists begin with one method. Then, a second method is used to check tuning accuracy.

A. Method 1

Match the pitch of the open sixth string to the open fourth string. Remember that the open fourth string produces the note D.

B. Method 2

Match the pitch of the note played at the 7th fret of the sixth string to the pitch of the open A string.

C. Method 3

Match the harmonic played at the 12th fret of the sixth string to the harmonic played at the same fret of the fourth string. The harmonic at the 12th fret of the fourth string produces the note D. This method tends to yield the best results for most players.

Chord Shapes in Drop D

Typically, most pieces in drop D tuning are played in either the key of D major or D minor. When playing in this tuning, the fingering for many chords must be altered due to the tuning of the sixth string. Jim explains the adjustments that are made to the I, IV, and V chords in D major. Respectively, these chords are D, G, and A.

D Major

The D major chord that you have learned in past lessons utilizes four strings. However, this chord can be played with all six strings in Drop D tuning. This is possible since the lowest string is now tuned to D, the root of the chord. The open fifth string produces the pitch A. This note is the fifth of a D major chord.

G Major

When playing a G major chord in drop D tuning, some fingering adjustments need to be made. In standard tuning, the root note is fretted on the 3rd fret of the sixth string. In drop D tuning however, this fretboard location now produces the note F. As a result, the root note must be played two frets higher.

Use the third finger to fret the root note of the chord. Fret the high root note on the first string with the first finger. Since it is almost impossible to fret the B note on the fifth string, lightly mute the fifth string with the third finger. Consequently, the third of the chord is no longer doubled.

The pinkie can also be used to fret the low root note. This enables the other fingers to play melody notes lower on the fretboard.
Chapter 3: (03:41) Drop D Chords A Major and A7

The V chord in the key of D major can either be played as an A major triad or an A dominant seventh chord (A7). The voicings for these chord remain unchanged in Drop D. However, if you apply an alternating bass line to either of these chords, some adjustments must be made. The fifth of the chord, E, is played at the 2nd fret of the sixth string. In standard tuning, this location produces the note F#. In drop D however, this note is now E. The E note can either be fretted by bringing the thumb over the top of the neck or by simply using the first finger. If you choose to fret this note with the first finger when playing an A major triad, the second, third, and fourth fingers must fret the remaining notes in the chord.

C Major

When playing the open C chord, Jim typically omits the lowest string. If you desire a six string sound with this chord, you can bring the thumb over the fretboard to play the note E. This changes the lowest note to the third of the chord. Consequently, this chord now becomes C/E.

E Major

Many players use the thumb to fret the low root note. In drop D tuning, E is located at the 2nd fret of the sixth string. Other players prefer to use the second finger to fret this note. Consequently, the third and fourth fingers must be used to fret the notes B and E on the fifth and fourth strings.
Chapter 4: (07:35) Playing in Drop D Once you have mastered the chord fingerings that Jim explained in the previous lesson, it is time to start playing some chord progressions in drop D. Apply an alternating bass line to a I IV and V progression in the key of D Major. Remember to alternate between the root and fifth of each chord.

At 02:30, Jim demonstrates another common chord progression in D major. This progression features the I, bVII, and IV chords. Respectively, these chords are D, C, and G. Notice how he plays the G chord with B as the lowest note. This produces a G/B chord.

Note: Tablature and notation to these progressions can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.
Chapter 5: (05:59 ) Alternate Chords and More Drop D Advantages of Drop D

1. Expanded Range

The range of the guitar is expanded into a lower register when drop D tuning is applied. This allows you to play bass lines such that are not possible in standard tuning. Jim provides an example of such a bass line at 03:30 in the lesson video. Countless Elvis Presley songs feature this bass line.

2. Chord Voicings

A variety of new chord voicings can be played in this tuning. For example, Jim demonstrates two new voicings for a D major chord. The three lowest strings are played open in both chord grips. The first version he demonstrates is played in fifth position. The second version is played in tenth position. The combination of low open strings and high fretted notes gives these chords a very bold sound.

Note: Fretboard diagrams of all of the chords discussed in this lesson can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

3. Power Chords

Power chords become much easier to play in Drop D tuning. A power chord can be formed by barring the first finger across the sixth, fifth, and fourth strings. This basic chord shape can be transposed anywhere on the fretboard. Jim plays the main riff from Heart's "Barracuda" to illustrate this concept.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

Dnmas1028Dnmas1028 replied

Jim is a great instructor but the video is constantly freezing, can't take it any more I'm out

Bradley.ConwayBradley.Conway replied

Hi Dnmas1028! I wasn't having any freezing issues with this one. Did you try switching to a lower resolution? You can do that by clicking the "HD" icon in the lower right of the progress bar. I usually start with "low" and work my way up to the best resolution that plays without buffering. I hope this helps!

LSCalgaryLSCalgary replied

WOW!! Great lesson Jim! :)

toppingtopping replied

video 4 is still freezing up

Jason.MounceJason.Mounce replied

Hi there topping, I was unable to replicate the issue on this video. The freeze issue was corrected with a re-render several years ago. I also noted on the previous lesson on your comment that making sure your browser is up to date and it's cache cleared should help. You may also need to drop down to a lower quality setting if you are getting buffering from the video. If this does not help, please contact us at [email protected] and we can help you further.

DaveJB4662DaveJB4662 replied

video 4 freezes around 3:38.but i see everyone else has mentioned this to you.

DeseratDeserat replied

The cool progression that is cut short in video four is not in the supplemental material as stated in the video.

DeseratDeserat replied

Video stops working at 3:58 or so......please fix.

DeseratDeserat replied

On vide four.

tone-88tone-88 replied

This sequence is not functioning at about half way in. Video just stops while the course continues.

DeseratDeserat replied

Video four, that is.

orangeloverorangelover replied

Fantastic stuff and much appreciated, Jim.

echochickechochick replied

Just completed Phase 1 and couldn't be happier, thanks Jim! And can't hardly wait to begin finger-picking in Phase 2 - but first a quick observation....... the two lessons in this series on drop-D tuning seem to be out of sequence? Lesson 22 (Drop D Tuning; 25 min) is an in-depth study and comes before Lesson 24 (More On Drop D; 6 min) which is a short overview. I don't think it really makes any diff' but i thot i would mention it :)

prestopickoprestopicko replied

Hey Jim. I don't consider myself a novice player. I've been playing 5 years, and I play every day for a few hours. I wanted to get a change in my sound from flat picking to finger style. I worked on you lesson on Travis picking, and am still practicing. But I decided to go back to your beginning lessons and move up to the Travis and keep going through all your lessons. I really enjoy your picking style. I went back to the Red River Valley lesson and have now also done the Drop D lesson. I've got to say I have thoroughly enjoyed the lessons. Thanks Preston

artistartist replied

I don't understand what you mean by the 1, 4, 5 position.

drapeupdrapeup replied

My God Jim you are no joke

dewhonourdewhonour replied

I found that a spider capo can simplify Drop D tuning. I capo all the strings except the 6th at the second fret. This is not a true Drop D tuning. It's a Drop E tuning in the key of A, but it is very rewarding. The Em chord is the only one requiring a change, but it's so easy. I enjoyed watching this video all the same. ;-)

andyandy replied

Is the song Old Fashioned Love song coming up soon ; thanks Jim

restrummerrestrummer replied

good stuff. I really like the open voicing options you are presenting. Can you recommend a brand of a thumb pick or a type of thumb pick that isn't a heavy gauge. I am used to using mediim to thin picks and when I strum with a thumb pick it sounds clunky. Thanks

TangletomsTangletoms replied

amazing - really makes sense the way you explained it jim! I'll be busy now!!! :)

jaymosley79jaymosley79 replied

great job Jim.

SylviaSylvia replied

yay! I was hoping you would teach this kind of stuff. :o)

Basic Guitar with Jim

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Fingerstyle master Jim Deeming teaches you the basics of guitar playing. With over 30 years of experience teaching and playing, Jim will definitely start you in the right direction. This is a great series for beginners and guitarists looking to refresh their knowledge.

Introduction LessonLesson 1

Introduction Lesson

In this short lesson, Jim Deeming will introduce himself and talk about his upcoming lessons.

Length: 6:12 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Choosing a GuitarLesson 2

Choosing a Guitar

Jim gives his thoughts on purchasing your first guitar.

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Goal SettingLesson 3

Goal Setting

Jim discusses the importance of setting goals. He provides some tips that will help steer your practicing in the right direction.

Length: 11:00 Difficulty: 0.5 FREE
Changing the StringsLesson 4

Changing the Strings

Jim Deeming walks you through the process of changing your strings. He gives some excellent tips on this important process.

Length: 41:09 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Meet Your New GuitarLesson 5

Meet Your New Guitar

Jim introduces proper playing technique. Then, he explains how to play your first chord.

Length: 52:24 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Learning More ChordsLesson 6

Learning More Chords

Jim teaches you the 3 primary chords in G major. He also explains how chords relate to specific keys. A great lesson!

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Right Hand RevisitedLesson 7

Right Hand Revisited

Jim discusses a plethora of right hand techniques that are essential to guitar playing.

Length: 35:19 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
New Chords and KeysLesson 8

New Chords and Keys

This lesson provides additional information about chords and keys.

Length: 19:08 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Let's PlayLesson 9

Let's Play

This lesson is all about playing. Jim will start you off playing a song. You will have the opportunity to play along with him.

Length: 20:10 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Alternating Bass and ChordsLesson 10

Alternating Bass and Chords

Jim teaches you a few more commonly used chords. Then, he discusses a technique known as the alternating bass line.

Length: 40:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
A Shape ChordsLesson 11

A Shape Chords

Jim covers all possible fingering options pertaining to the basic open A chord shape.

Length: 17:42 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Basic Guitar CheckupLesson 12

Basic Guitar Checkup

Jim talks about the future of his Phase 1 guitar series and where to go from here.

Length: 4:18 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Notes, Scales and TheoryLesson 13

Notes, Scales and Theory

Jim delves into basic music theory. He starts from square one in this lesson.

Length: 29:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Chord FiestaLesson 14

Chord Fiesta

Jim Deeming invites you to a veritable chord fiesta. He demonstrates common dominant and minor chord shapes.

Length: 43:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Movable ChordsLesson 15

Movable Chords

This lesson is all about movable chords. Learn the importance of barre chords and other movable shapes.

Length: 40:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Proper PracticingLesson 16

Proper Practicing

Jim Deeming explains how to create a productive practice routine. Make sure you aren't wasting needless time!

Length: 30:00 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
The Pinky AnchorLesson 17

The Pinky Anchor

Many guitarists use their pinky as an anchor. Jim explains the pros and cons of this technique.

Length: 9:00 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Palm MutingLesson 18

Palm Muting

Jim discusses an important technique--palm muting. He explains how palm muting is used by flatpickers and fingerstyle players.

Length: 7:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Reading TablatureLesson 19

Reading Tablature

Jim Deeming covers the basics of reading guitar tablature. Knowledge of tablature will help with JamPlay lessons as well as learning your favorite songs.

Length: 21:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Tuning ExtravaganzaLesson 20

Tuning Extravaganza

Jim explains various tuning methods. He provides useful tips and tricks that will ensure that your guitar is sounding its best.

Length: 31:45 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Let's Play: Lesson 21

Let's Play: "Red River Valley"

Jim is back with another "let's play" style lesson. He teaches the classic song "Red River Valley" and encourages you to play along.

Length: 52:38 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Drop D TuningLesson 22

Drop D Tuning

Jim Deeming introduces drop D tuning. Drop D is a popular alternate tuning used in many styles of music including rock, fingerstyle and blues.

Length: 25:25 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Let's Play: Lesson 23

Let's Play: "Wayfaring Stranger"

Jim Deeming breaks down the song sections to the classic tune "Wayfaring Stranger".

Length: 29:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
More On Drop DLesson 24

More On Drop D

Jim Deeming takes another, more focused look at drop D tuning.

Length: 6:27 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Your Friend, the MetronomeLesson 25

Your Friend, the Metronome

Jim Deeming discusses how to use a metronome for practice, skill building, and speed building.

Length: 24:02 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Jim Deeming

About Jim Deeming View Full Biography Jim Deeming got his first guitar when he was only six years old. His Dad was taking fingerpicking lessons, and Jim wanted to be just like him. The Mel Bay books didn't last very long before he strapped on a thumb pick and added the Chet part to Red River Valley so it sounded better.

Most of Jim's early learning was by ear. With unlimited access to his Dad's collection of Chet Atkins albums, he spent countless hours decoding his favorite songs. They were never "right" until they sounded just like Chet. Around the age of 12, Jim heard Jerry Reed for the first time and just knew he had to be able to make that "Alabama Wild Man" sound. The styles of Chet & Jerry always have been a big influence on his playing.

More recently he has pursued arrangements by Tommy Emmanuel and Doyle Dykes, in addition to creating some of his own and writing originals.

Jim has performed in front of a variety of audiences, including concerts, competitions, weddings and the like, but playing at church has always been a mainstay. Whether playing in worship bands or guitar solos, gospel music is deep in his roots and is also the driving theme behind his debut CD release, titled "First Fruits".

Jim has been playing for about 38 years. He also has taught private lessons in the past but believes JamPlay.com is an exciting and better venue with many advantages over the traditional method of weekly 30 minute sessions.

Jim lives in Berthoud, Colorado with his wife, Linda, and their four children. Although he still has a "day job", he is actively performing and is already back in the studio working on the next CD. If you wonder how he finds time, look no further than the back seat of his truck where he keeps a "travel guitar" to take advantage of any practice or song-writing opportunities he can get.

The opening song you hear in Jim's introductory JamPlay video is called, "A Pick In My Pocket". It's an original tune, written in memory of Jim's father who told him early on he should always keep a pick in his pocket in case he ever met Chet Atkins and got the chance to play for him. That song is slated to be the title track for his next CD, which will feature several more originals plus some of his favorite covers of Chet and Jerry arrangements.

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