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Drop D Tuning (Guitar Lesson)


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Brad Henecke

Drop D Tuning

Brad Henecke introduces drop D tuning in this lesson. He explains many advantages of this tuning. He also demonstrates how this tuning affects chords and scales.

Taught by Brad Henecke in Rock Guitar with Brad Henecke seriesLength: 12:57Difficulty: 2.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (00:06) Lesson Introduction Brad Henecke introduces you to one of the most frequently used alternating tunings. This tuning is referred to as Drop D tuning. Drop D is employed in countless hard rock and metal songs as well as a wide variety of classical pieces.
Chapter 2: (03:50) Tuning to Drop D Learning the Basics

As you learned in the previous lesson, whenever you learn a new tuning, you must start with the basics. You must first learn the proper process for altering your guitar to this tuning. Then, learn basics such as chords and scales in the new tuning. Since only one string is re-tuned for Drop D, scales and chords will not change quite as drastically as they do when playing in Open G.

Tuning to Drop D

In Drop D tuning, the pitch of the low sixth string is lowered from an E note down to a D. The preferred method for tuning to drop D is to play the open fourth string and sixth strings simultaneously. Then, match the pitch of the sixth string to the pitch of the fourth string. Some guitarists prefer to use the harmonics at the 12th fret of these strings when tuning to Drop D. Applying the harmonics to these notes raises their pitch by an octave. Some people find it easier to tune when using notes in this higher register.

Advantages of Drop D Tuning

Drop D tuning allows you to play several chord voicings that are simply not possible or practical in standard tuning. For example, it is possible to play root / five power chords with just a single finger. Consequently, the other three fingers are free to add other interesting chord tones to this basic structure. These shapes can be transposed across the entire length of the fretboard.

In addition, the lowered sixth string provides a much heavier and darker sound. Consequently, this tuning is used frequently in hard rock and heavy metal music. Brad plays a heavy riff at 01:53 that is characteristic of this style. Also, many bands tune each string down an additional half, whole, or whole and a half step in addition to employing drop D tuning. This gives the guitarists and bass player the ability to play with bone-crushing low notes.

Playing Power Chords

Brad demonstrates how to play an open D5 power chord in this tuning. Simply play the open sixth, fifth, and fourth strings. The note on the fourth string is an optional note. This note is a doubled root one octave higher from the note played on the open sixth string.

Since only one finger is needed to play a power chord, it is much easier to rapidly shift between power chords when playing in Drop D. Notice how Brad plays a rapid series of power chords at 01:53 by using the first, second and third fingers.

I IV V Chords

When learning any new tuning, it is absolutely essential to learn the basic I, IV, and V chords in a variety of keys. Brad applies these chords to the key of D major. Typically, most songs in Drop D are either played in the keys of D major or D minor. This is definitely not always the case however. He uses power chord voicings for each of these chords. The I chord is the open D5 power chord that you learned earlier. The IV chord, G5, can be played by barring the first finger across the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings. Remember that the note on the 4th string is a double of the root note one octave higher. By sliding this shape up two frets to the 7th fret, you have formed the V chord, A5. Notice how Brad chooses to play the V chord with his third finger. Use this particular fingering if you must rapidly shift back and forth between the IV and V chords in this key. Brad demonstrates how these chords can be applied to a heavy rock rendition of "Louie, Louie." This song consists of the I, IV, and V chords in D major.
Chapter 3: (02:35) Drop D Exercise Note: Tablature to all of the exercises presented in this lesson can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

Brad provides an exercise designed to get your fingers acquainted with playing these barred power chords. Typically, the first, second, and third fingers are used to play power chords in Drop D tuning. The pinkie isn't used to fret a three string power chord unless absolutely necessary. The pinkie is the weakest finger. Consequently, it is almost never used to barre more than two notes at a time.

In this exercise, you must play ascending chromatic power chords with the first, second, and third fingers. Begin with the open D5 power chord. Then, play an Eb5 at the first fret by using the first finger as a barre. Next, ascend to E5, played at the 2nd fret with the second finger. Finally, ascend the pattern to the F5 chord played at the 3rd fret. Use the 3rd finger to perform this barre.

Through each repetition of this pattern, the chromatic pattern is shifted up a fret while the first chord remains a constant open D5. For example, on the second repetition, play the open D5 power chord followed by power chords played at the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th frets. Continue this pattern all the way up the fretboard.

Function of Power Chords

Remember that power chords do not contain the third of the chord. This makes them ambiguous from a harmonic standpoint. They are neither major nor minor in quality.

Like Brad mentions, you can use the #IV power chord as a passing chord between IV and V to create some interesting chromatic harmony in this tuning.
Chapter 4: (00:39) Another Exercise This exercise is very similar to the exercise presented in the previous scene. This time around, you are still playing an open chord then fingers one, two, and three. However, the exercise now descends down a fret with each repetition of the pattern. Feel free to experiment and come up with your own exercises and chord progressions once you have mastered the two exercises that Brad has provided.
Chapter 5: (02:03) Drop D Tuning and Chord Shapes What happens to the common major and minor chord shapes that you learned in standard tuning when playing in Drop D? Since only the low 6th string is tuned differently, the chords will not change as much as they did in open G tuning. Chords that do not involve the sixth string will not change at all. With barre chords, you can omit the fifth and sixth strings (also the first string if you so desire). Brad demonstrates how to play an A major chord in this manner at 01:00 in the lesson video. This is a moveable voicing with the root note on the 4th string. You’ve probably already learned this chord shape for the F chord in first position.
Chapter 6: (03:39) Drop D as a Drone Note Brad applies a low drone note to two chord progressions. A drone note is a note that remains constant throughout a chord progression while the chord progression changes over top of it. The first progression is played in D major. In this progression, a low D note is sustained while the I, IV, and V chords are played above it.

Note: Tablature to this chord progression can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

The second progression is played in the key of D minor. Once again, the D note is played as a constant drone while the harmony continues to change.

The Drop D drone note can also be used in conjunction with scalar lines. Notice how Brad improvises a D minor scale run over a low D drone note. This is frequently used in modal improvisation. It creates the illusion that two guitarists are playing together. The low D drone note can also be applied to any tonality played in the key of D. For example, you could play the D major scale, D Dorian, D Phrygian, D Lydian, D Mixolydian, D Aeolian, or D Locrian over a low D drone note.


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.


unforg1venunforg1ven replied on November 12th, 2008

Great lesson. Easy way to tell if in drop d is tune with distortion and try to get a rid of the distorted 'hissing' when tuning down to D. Cool riff I learned to practise was Steve Vai's "Bad Horsie" which happens to be in Drop D.

unforg1venunforg1ven replied on November 12th, 2008

*edit - not drop d but still sounds good =)

craigsoundcraigsound replied on October 5th, 2008

Great lesson Brad, are there anymore drop D Lessons on this site.

kevinacekevinace replied on October 7th, 2008

Sure are. just use the search box at the top right of the main members page.

snowdadsnowdad replied on October 4th, 2008

Great lesson Brad!

Brad.HeneckeBrad.Henecke replied on October 3rd, 2008

yes A SE Paul Allander :)

chingolingochingolingo replied on October 2nd, 2008

great lesson Brad, d tunning has come up in a lot of pieces that i like this helped a lot, ohh and i got to say you always show some really nice guitars lol

jaronjaron replied on October 2nd, 2008

Brad, is that a new PRS SE Paul Allander signature guitar?

Rock Guitar with Brad Henecke

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

In this Phase 2 series Brad Henecke will school you in the art of rock guitar. You will not only learn how to play some of your favorite songs in this series, but you will also learn how to create your own.



Lesson 1

Basic Rock Guitar

This lesson covers the absolute basics of rock guitar. Learn about the electric guitar, pickups, amplifiers, changing strings, and more.

Length: 52:09 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Learning Chords

The first step of your rock guitar experience is learning some of the more popular chords and that is what this lesson is all about.

Length: 42:30 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

Barre Chords and More

Brad Henecke introduces common strumming patterns and barre chords.

Length: 42:23 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 4

Your First Song

In this lesson Brad covers some of the more advanced barre chord shapes. He applies these shapes to the song "Hotel California."

Length: 41:31 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

Blues and Scales

Rock has its roots in the blues. Brad helps you explore the wonderful world of blues in this lesson. He also covers some chord theory.

Length: 48:14 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Tricks and Lead

This lesson is all about specific techniques used by lead guitarists.

Length: 52:02 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 7

Jammin' with Scales

This lesson details how to improvise with the blues scale.

Length: 27:27 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 8

3 Songs

In this fun lesson, Brad Henecke teaches you riffs from 3 classic rock songs.

Length: 28:28 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

Power Chords

Power chords help give rock music that "punch you in the face" feel. Learn basic power chords in this lesson.

Length: 13:22 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

2 New Songs

Are you ready to learn "Ain't Talking About Love" by Van Halen and "You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC? That's what this lesson is all about.

Length: 27:32 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

Pentatonic Scale

Brad teaches the first pattern of the minor pentatonic scale and explains how it relates to the blues scale.

Length: 14:30 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

Second Pattern

Brad covers the second pattern for both the minor blues and minor pentatonic scales.

Length: 9:07 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

Message in a Bottle

Learn the classic rock song "Message in a Bottle."

Length: 10:22 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

Third Pattern

This great lesson covers the 3rd fretboard pattern of the minor pentatonic and minor blues scales.

Length: 7:19 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 15

Colorful Chord Tension

Brad demonstrates how open strings can be added to chord shapes you are already familiar with.

Length: 9:09 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 16

The Fourth Pattern

Brad covers the fourth pattern of the minor pentatonic and minor blues scales.

Length: 8:28 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

Daytripper

In this lesson Brad demonstrates how to play the Beatles song "Daytripper."

Length: 15:21 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 18

The Fifth Pattern

Brad demonstrates the 5th pattern of the minor pentatonic and minor blues scales. He also discusses practicing and memorizing them.

Length: 13:05 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 19

"Brown Eyed Girl"

Learn the classic rock song "Brown Eyed Girl" in this episode of Rock Guitar.

Length: 11:23 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Phrasing

Brad introduces you to the importance of phrasing. Quality phrasing is essential when performing any melodic line.

Length: 14:19 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

Basics of Tapping

Tapping is an idiomatic guitar technique that offers a unique sound.

Length: 14:34 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 22

Intro to Modes

Learning the modes is essential to the development of your scale vocabulary.

Length: 31:04 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 23

Understanding Chord Shapes

Brad further explains what chord shapes are and how they relate to barre chords.

Length: 10:15 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 24

Natural Harmonics

Learn the right and left hand mechanics involved in playing harmonics.

Length: 13:16 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 25

Advanced Harmonics

Brad covers more advanced harmonic techniques such as harp harmonics, pinch harmonics and tap harmonics.

Length: 16:10 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 26

The Dorian Mode

Brad moves on in his modal lesson series to explain the Dorian mode. This lesson includes 2 backing tracks.

Length: 22:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 27

Phrygian Mode

Brad explains and demonstrates the Phrygian mode.

Length: 13:33 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 28

The Lydian Mode

Brad continues his discussion of the modes. You will learn the Lydian mode in this lesson.

Length: 9:27 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 29

Mixolydian Mode

Brad explains the Mixolydian mode and its practical applications.

Length: 10:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 30

The Aeolian Mode

Continuing with his modal lessons, Brad Henecke teaches the Aeolian mode.

Length: 9:09 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 31

The Locrian Mode

The final lesson in our modal series covers the Locrian mode.

Length: 9:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 32

The Ace Zone

Brad teaches some licks inspired by Ace Frehley of KISS. Incorporate these licks into your own solos.

Length: 7:18 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 33

Learn Licks

In this lesson Brad Henecke teaches you some fun licks that can be used in your own guitar solos.

Length: 10:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 34

Blues Licks

Brad Henecke demonstrates some cool blues licks.

Length: 17:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 35

Modes and Scales

Brad Henecke provides an alternate way of comparing modes and scales.

Length: 8:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 36

A Different View

In the last lesson, Brad Henecke compared some scales that are major or dominant in quality. Now, he repeats this process with minor scales.

Length: 7:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 37

One String Scales

This lesson is all about 1 string scales. Learning scales on 1 string is essential to your knowledge of the fretboard.

Length: 8:34 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 38

One String Ionian Mode

Brad demonstrates a one string version of the Ionian mode. This lesson demonstrates the importance of horizontal scales.

Length: 7:27 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 39

Aeolian Mode on One String

Brad continues his discussion of single string scales. He explains how to play the Aeolian mode across a single string.

Length: 4:11 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 40

Octave Scales

Brad explains how to locate octaves within scale patterns. He demonstrates a cool lick that involves playing simultaneous octaves.

Length: 7:07 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 41

Using Octaves

Brad explains how to use octaves in the context of an exercise. Octaves can also be used to build effective licks.

Length: 5:18 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 42

Harmonic Minor Scale

Brad introduces the harmonic minor scale. He explains how it can be applied to the solo break in "Sweet Child O' Mine."

Length: 7:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 43

Learning by Ear

Brad Henecke provides valuable tips regarding the process of learning songs by ear.

Length: 23:00 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 44

Ear Training Game

Improve your ear training by playing "The Tone Is Right" with Brad Henecke.

Length: 29:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 45

Diminished Arpeggio

Brad Henecke explains diminished chords and provides a fun diminished arpeggio exercise.

Length: 19:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 46

Understanding Time Signatures

Brad Henecke addresses time signatures.

Length: 10:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 47

Diminished Chords

Brad Henecke explains the construction of diminished seventh chords. He also provides a diminished chord exercise.

Length: 10:30 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 48

Open G Tuning

Brad Henecke introduces open G tuning in this lesson.

Length: 23:50 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 49

Drop D Tuning

Brad Henecke introduces drop D tuning in this lesson. He explains many advantages of this tuning.

Length: 12:57 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 50

G Major Pentatonic

Brad Henecke teaches the G major pentatonic scale. He demonstrates all 5 patterns and explains how they can be transposed to any key.

Length: 22:50 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 51

Changing Scales with Chords

In this lesson Brad Henecke talks about changing the pentatonic/blues scales with each chord in a chord progression.

Length: 11:08 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 52

Mixolydian Scale and Chords

Brad will show how to use the Mixolydian scale with a blues chord progression.

Length: 6:56 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 53

Gear and Effects

This lesson is all about gear and effects. Brad begins his discussion with power conditioning and removing hiss from your amplifier. He progresses to discuss a plethora of effects pedals. Brad explores...

Length: 52:48 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 54

The Wah Pedal

In this lesson, Brad Henecke introduces the wah pedal and demonstrates its many applications.

Length: 15:53 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only

About Brad Henecke View Full Biography Brad Henecke was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on May 5th of 1963. He has been a fan of music for as long as he & his family can remember. You could always find him running around the farm wailing on his cardboard guitar, pretending to be a member of the rock band KISS. Additional inspiration came during his first concert when he got the chance to see Boston & Sammy Hagar in the early 1970's.

This opened up a whole new world of rock and roll music for him; his parents noticed his growing interest in music and enrolled him into guitar lessons when he was 13.

From there he jumped into two years of lessons at a local music store in Cedar Rapids. After discovering Eddie Van Halen, Brad knew that the guitar would always be a part of his life. He took his love throughout the city as he played as a pit musician & jammed at parties for friends.

This made him thirsty for more. He enrolled classes at Kirkwood Community College & also took lessons from the one & only Craig-Erickson (www.craig-erickson.com).

His love for music landed him a gig opening for Molly Hatchet in Cedar Rapids with a band called "Slap & Tickle". He has also played in the Greeley Stampede show for quite a few years with "True North".

Brad is currently playing in Greeley, Colorado with a rock band titled "Ragged Doll". They play a wide variety of music with an emphasis on classic rock from the 60's to present, with Brad playing electric guitar in the five piece lineup.

He currently jams on his all-time favorite guitar: a Paul Reed Smith Custom 24. Beyond guitar, he plays also plays drums & bass guitar. He has also been known to thrash a banjo from time to time. He is still actively playing & passing his 31 years of playing experience on to others (you!).

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