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Drop D Tuning (Guitar Lesson)

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Steve Eulberg

Drop D Tuning

Steve discusses drop D tuning and how it is used. He also teaches an original song in this tuning called "Neither Lion Nor Lamb."

Taught by Steve Eulberg in Fingerstyle Guitar seriesLength: 30:00Difficulty: 3.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (00:42) Intro Music Welcome back to the Phase 2 Fingerstyle Guitar series with Steve Eulberg! Steve begins this lesson with a brief performance of an original composition called "Neither Lion Nor Lamb." In the scenes that follow, he will breakdown the essential concepts pertaining to drop D tuning. He will also explain how this tuning is used to play "Neither Lion Nor Lamb."
Chapter 2: (14:06) Scene 2 Basics of Drop D Tuning Alternate Tunings

Drop D tuning is the most commonly used alternate guitar tuning. It finds its way into almost all styles of guitar playing with the exception of jazz.

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 Steve'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.

3. When tuning down, it takes awhile for the string to settle into the new pitch. The string will have a tendency to return to its previous pitch. Once you have tuned down, stretch the string out. Then, tune again. After repeating this process a few times, the string will remain in tune.

Advantages of Drop D

-This tuning allows you to play a massive open D major or D minor chord with all sixth strings. The open fifth string is tuned to A, which is the fifth of both the D major and D minor chords. The sixth string is now tuned to the root note of these chords.

-Drop D tuning extends the low register of the guitar. This allows you to play bass lines that are not possible in standard tuning.

-Power chords can be played by barring a single finger across the sixth, fifth, and fourth strings. This enables guitarists to play power chord progressions that feature rapid chord shifts.

-Drop D tuning produces an altogether different timbre or tonal quality from standard tuning, which can add variety to a set list or a recording.

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. In the lesson video, Steve explains how the fingering of the I, IV, and V chords in the key of D major must be adjusted.

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

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.

Fingering 1

Use the third finger to fret the root note of the chord on the sixth string. 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. Play the fourth, third, and second strings open.

Fingering 2

Fret the low root note with the third finger. Then, use the pinkie to fret the D note at the fifth fret of the fifth string. Once again, use the first finger to fret the high root note on the first string. The fourth, third, and second strings are still played open.

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 chords 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 fretboard 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.

E Major

Many players prefer to use the thumb to fret the low root note of an "open" E major chord . 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.

"Neither Lion Nor Lamb"

This song was written by Steve several years ago to capture the absence of turbulent weather changes that one normally expects in Kansas City during the month of March.

Note: Open "Drop D Tuning" listed under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

"Neither Lion Nor Lamb" features double stops played on the third and first strings. These double stops are diatonic sixths played in the key of D major. The first and third measures of the piece feature a descending line consisting of these double stop shapes. Each double stop implies a specific chord in this key. For example, the first double stop implies a G major chord. The second double stop implies A major. You are probably already familiar with this concept if you have been following along with Mark Nelson's Phase 2 Slack Key Guitar series.

Right Hand Fingering

Watch carefully as Steve breaks down the proper right hand fingering for these double stops. A low bass note is plucked immediately before the first double stop. Since the thumb must be used to pluck the bass note, use the index and ring fingers to pluck each double stop shape.

Left Hand Fingering

Steve breaks down the left hand fingering for these double stops at 06:12 in the lesson video. Use fingers three and four when playing a double stop that features notes played at the same fret. Use fingers 1 and 2 when playing a minor sixth interval (notes on different) frets. The second double stop (C# and A) forms this interval. Use fingers two and three for the final double stop that implies the D major chord at the second fret.

Practicing Double Stops

Work through the first few measures along with Steve at 07:56. You must be able to play the double stops cleanly and in time. Make sure that each note rings clearly into the next.

G Major (Third Position)

In measure 2, the double stops resolve to a G chord played in third position. The third finger frets the root note at the 5th fret of the sixth string. The notes B and D are played on the third and second strings. The middle and index fingers are respectively used to fret this note. Within this fingering, the fourth string is played open. The open first string can also be added to the chord for extra color. When this string is included, a G6 chord is formed.

Bass Notes

The first time the double stops are played, a D pedal tone is played at the beginning of the measure. A pedal tone occurs when multiple notes or chords are played against a note that remains static. The root notes of the I, IV, and V chords are used most often as pedal tones. When the double stop figure is repeated in measure 3, a G bass note is used. Hold this note while playing the first double stop. Then, you must release the bass note in order to play the remaining double stops in the measure.

D Major (Third Position)

The double stop figure that occurs in measure 3 resolves to a tonic D chord played in third position. This chord shape resembles the "open" C chord. Simply slide the C shape up three frets to form a D major chord. An open bass note is played on the sixth string. The open third and first strings can be added to the chord for extra color. The inclusion of these notes produces a Dadd9,11 chord.
Chapter 3: (09:14) Working on the Song At the beginning of this scene, Steve brings the first four measures together. Watch and listen carefully to make sure that you understand what is happening during this section. Then, pause the lesson video and practice these measures on your own. Make sure that you can play them in time with a metronome! When you feel ready, return to the lesson video and play along with Steve at 01:48.

Arpeggiation of Chords (Measures 2 and 4)

The notation included under the "Supplemental Content" tab provides one possible way to arpeggiate the chords in measures 2 and 4. Feel free to experiment with your own arpeggio patterns for these chords. As you will notice throughout the lesson, Steve arpeggiates chords differently each time that he performs this section.

Second Section

The second section of the song centers around the V chord, A.

Measure 9

In measure 9, a hammer-on figure is played on the fourth, third, and second strings in conjunction with an open A pedal tone. On beat 2, pluck the fourth, third, and second strings open. Then, simultaneously hammer onto each string at the second fret. The hammer-on figure produces a rapid change from a G chord to an A chord.

Keep Slurs Even!

Do not perform this hammer-on too quickly! Do not cut the open notes short! All of the notes under the slur line must receive the EXACT same value. Check out Danny Voris' seventh Phase 2 Classical Guitar lesson for more information on this topic. Danny provides some exercises that will help keep slurs even.

Steve performs the triple hammer-on with fingers two, three, and four. This fingering is most conducive to playing the figure smoothly and in time. If you find measure 9 difficult, drill it until it becomes second nature. Steve demonstrates this miniature exercise at 05:19 in the video.

Double Stops

Check out the left image on Steve's marker board. This image can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab. The blue and green notes on the fourth and second strings indicate the locations of some important double stops that occur in this section. These double stops are played in sixths that are diatonic to the key of D major. In measure 12 of this section, the double stops are played in an ascending fashion to provide some contrast with the double stops taught in the previous scene.

Pay careful attention to the left hand fingering that Steve uses to play these new double stops. This fingering will allow you to play the melody in a smooth, legato style.

Practice Time

Pause the lesson video and practice measures 9-12 along with a metronome. Once you can play these measures cleanly and in time, proceed to the next scene.
Chapter 4: (05:54) Putting the Song Together Steve provides you with an opportunity to play "Neither Lion Nor Lamb" along with him in this scene. At 01:10, he plays the piece at a modest tempo. Later, at 03:10, he demonstrates the piece at performance tempo.

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.

danaheinsgelderdanaheinsgelder replied

Lovely tune & fun to play. I wondered... what is the meaning of N.C (D) in part II? I googled N.C. (means no chord), but what does the D mean?

tasmanian deviltasmanian devil replied

I notice that the tabs to all of steve's fingerstyle lessons are close to but not the same as what steve is playing. why?

raynobleraynoble replied

Nice tune but a very short one. A lesson for the next part as promised would have been nice

raynobleraynoble replied

Print option for the tune doesn't work

charlie_waspcharlie_wasp replied

Steve, it's really great song, I love it. Thank you.

anniediveranniediver replied

I would love to learn the rest of the song. Any chance Steve will upload another lesson to teach the entire piece?

bobertwbobertw replied

I'm a little confused. Toward the end of the lesson it says that we will continue on with the second part of the song in the "next lesson" yet I see no next lesson. Did we cover the whole song in the one lesson?

hockeybeerhockeybeer replied

hi steve i'm from Canada great finger style lessons are you going too teach more lessons in 2 or 3 thanks marc

jcusterjcuster replied

Hi Steve, I'm from KC area so "hiya" right back. Good lesson. Joe

Fingerstyle Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Fingerstyle guitar is the classic art of playing the guitar solely with the fingers. Fingerstyle playing opens up a whole new realm of possibilities on the guitar.

Starting FingerstyleLesson 1

Starting Fingerstyle

Steve introduces you to the world of fingerstyle guitar by teaching a few exercises and an orignal tune called "Porch Swingin'."

Length: 38:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Matteo CarcassiLesson 2

Matteo Carcassi

Steve Eulberg teaches you to play Op. 60 (No. 1) composed by Matteo Carcassi.

Length: 42:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
House of the Rising SunLesson 3

House of the Rising Sun

Steve teaches a fingerstyle arrangement of "House of the Rising Sun" by Animals.

Length: 29:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Freight TrainLesson 4

Freight Train

Steve covers some of the fingerstyle techniques created by Elizabeth, or "Libbis" Cotten.

Length: 24:00 Difficulty: 3.5 FREE
Planxton's Farewell Part 1Lesson 5

Planxton's Farewell Part 1

Steve Eulberg teaches you how to play his original piece "Planxton's Farewell." This is part 1 of a 2 part lesson.

Length: 34:00 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Planxton's Farewell Part 2Lesson 6

Planxton's Farewell Part 2

This is part 2 of the fingerstyle song "Planxton's Farewell." In this lesson Steve teaches you the second half of this beautiful tune.

Length: 22:00 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Drop D TuningLesson 7

Drop D Tuning

Steve discusses drop D tuning and how it is used. He also teaches an original song in this tuning called "Neither Lion Nor Lamb."

Length: 30:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Porch Swingin' Part 2Lesson 8

Porch Swingin' Part 2

Steve Eulberg teaches the second half of his beautiful fingerstyle piece, "Porch Swingin'."

Length: 30:21 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Five Foot Two (fingerstyle)Lesson 9

Five Foot Two (fingerstyle)

Steve teaches a fingerstyle version of the classic song "Five Foot Two."

Length: 29:54 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Operator IntroductionLesson 10

Operator Introduction

In this lesson Steve shows how to play the introduction of the classic Jim Croce song, "Operator," in a fingerstyle fashion.

Length: 22:21 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Operator VerseLesson 11

Operator Verse

Steve returns to the beautiful Jim Croce song, "Operator," in this fingerstyle guitar lesson. This time around he demonstrates the verse.

Length: 12:58 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Operator ChorusLesson 12

Operator Chorus

Steve finishes up the Jim Croche song, "Operator." He covers the chorus and brings the entire song together.

Length: 9:55 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Alternating BassLesson 13

Alternating Bass

Steve uses the classic childrens song, "Paw Paw Patch" to demonstrate how an alternating bass line can be played within a fingerstyle arrangement.

Length: 15:42 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
We Wanted a KingLesson 14

We Wanted a King

Steve Eulberg teaches a beautiful fingerstyle arrangement of his original song, "We Wanted a King."

Length: 36:31 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Building the ThumbLesson 15

Building the Thumb

Steve Eulberg guides you through a series of exercises meant to improve the dexterity and independence of the thumb.

Length: 12:52 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Mixing Up the FingersLesson 16

Mixing Up the Fingers

Steve Eulberg mixes up the fingers to create a dynamic fingerstyle exercise.

Length: 12:48 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
ChopsticksLesson 17


Steve Eulberg explains how to play the classic song "Chopsticks" using fingerstyle technique.

Length: 12:18 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Advanced ChopsticksLesson 18

Advanced Chopsticks

In this lesson, Steve Eulberg teaches an advanced version of "Chopsticks."

Length: 8:11 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Ode To Joy Part 1Lesson 19

Ode To Joy Part 1

Welcome to the first lesson in a 3 part series on the song "Ode To Joy". Steve has arranged a very unique fingerstyle lesson that starts from square one. This 3 part series can really help any beginner...

Length: 10:32 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Ode To Joy Part 2Lesson 20

Ode To Joy Part 2

In the midst of this three part lesson series, Steve continues his "Ode To Joy" song lesson by introducing a parallel movement. This will demonstrate a "skip a string" technique with the picking hand and...

Length: 7:25 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Ode To Joy Part 3Lesson 21

Ode To Joy Part 3

In his final lesson in the three part series of the song "Ode To Joy", Steve adds a few more additional fingerstyle techniques to the mix. By adding a harmony and a D string drone note, this will complete...

Length: 10:43 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Thumb Builder #1Lesson 22

Thumb Builder #1

In direct response to a common issue seen in his live Q&A, Steve crafted the following group of 9 lessons devoted to "thumb building". Learn all 6 variations of the exercise Steve teaches and practice...

Length: 16:38 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Thumb Builder #2Lesson 23

Thumb Builder #2

The second installment of Steve's Thumb Builder lessons continues to build your finger and thumb coordination with multiple pattern variations.

Length: 8:40 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Thumb Builder #3Lesson 24

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Join Steve for the third installment in his Thumb Builder lessons. Keep pressing on and you should be finding that the mechanical movements are becoming more and more natural.

Length: 10:33 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Thumb Builder #4Lesson 25

Thumb Builder #4

It's time to challenge yourself by adding more fingers to the mix! Instead of just responding to the thumb with one finger, you'll be using different fingers on different strings.

Length: 8:42 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Thumb Builder #5Lesson 26

Thumb Builder #5

Things are getting a little more complicated and a little more challenging as Steve marches through some more thumb building exercises. Keep up the hard work and practice!

Length: 6:42 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Thumb Builder #6Lesson 27

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Steve continues to build up muscle memory and coordination. In these exercises, the thumb is gonna start jumping around along with the fingers.

Length: 9:16 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Thumb Builder #7Lesson 28

Thumb Builder #7

Part 7 of Thumb Building Bootcamp! Good job for making it this far! Things keep getting more challenging, but you should definitely be noticing a marked improvement in your finger-thumb coordination...

Length: 8:03 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Thumb Builder #8Lesson 29

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Steve introduces a handful of new patterns to keep on building up that thumb.

Length: 7:53 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Thumb Builder #9Lesson 30

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Good work! You've made it to the final installment of thumb builder exercises. Learn some of the patterns that Steve commonly uses in his own playing.

Length: 6:48 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Walkin' Down the TrailLesson 31

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Sometimes we hear the word exercise and it just sounds like work... That probably won't be the case when you listen to the exercise Steve teaches in this lesson. It will take some work, but you'll walk...

Length: 19:30 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Frere Jacque FugueLesson 32

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In this lesson, Steve takes the familiar Frere Jacque and teaches how to play it in a round on the guitar.

Length: 6:28 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Michael, Row Your Boat AshoreLesson 33

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Turn this classic folk tune into a beautiful fingerstyle arrangement.

Length: 13:24 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Steve Eulberg

About Steve Eulberg View Full Biography An Award-winning multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, Steve Eulberg weaves mountain and hammered dulcimers with a variety of unusual instruments to create thought-provoking, smile-inducing, toe-tapping acoustic experiences.

He has sung and composed for religious communities, union halls, picket lines, inter-faith retreats, mountain-top youth camps, as well as the more familiar venues: clubs, coffeehouses, bookstores, festivals, charity benefits and showcase concerts.

Born and raised in the German-heritage town of Pemberville, Ohio, Steve was exposed to a variety of music in his home. Early piano lessons were followed by trumpet in school band, and he became self-taught on ukelele and guitar and harmonica. Mandolin was added at Capital University where, while majoring in History, he studied Ear Training, Voice and took Arranging lessons from the Conservatory of Music.

While at college, he first heard hammered and mountain dulcimers, building his first mountain dulcimer just before his final year. Seminary training took him the west side of Denver where he built his first hammered dulcimer. With these instruments, he was able to give voice to the Scottish, English and Irish traditions to which he is also heir.

Following marriage in 1985 to Connie Winter-Eulberg he settled in Kansas City, Missouri. There he worked cross-culturally in a church of African-Americans, Latinos and European Americans, with music being a primary organizing tool. He moved with his family in 1997 to be nestled beside the Rocky Mountains in Fort Coillins, Colorado.

Founder of Owl Mountain Music, Inc. he teaches and performs extensively in Colorado and Wyoming with tours across the US and the UK. He delights in introducing the “sweet music” of dulcimers to people in diverse settings and in addition to his own recordings, has included dulcimers in a variety of session work for other musicians.

In 2000 he was commissioned to create a choral composition featuring dulcimers for the Rainbow Chorus in Fort Collins. It was recorded in the same year (BEGINNINGS). He is currently at work on a commissioned symphony that will feature hammered dulcimer and Australian didjeridu.

Eulberg passionately believes that music crosses cultural and language barriers because music builds community. Influenced by a variety of ethnic styles, his music weaves vital lyric with rap, rock, folk, gospel and blues. Audiences of all ages respond well to his presentation and to his warm sense of humor.

Steve is a member of Local 1000 (AFM), The Folk Alliance, BMI and BWAAG (Better World Artists and Activist's Guild).

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