Dropped D Tuning is not just for metalheads and rockers. This alternate tuning is simple to use and gives the fingerpicker the tools to play great acoustic blues in the key of D.
Some alternate tunings (like Open G) require changing the pitch of several strings. By contrast, Dropped D is very easy to tackle. Simply tune the pitch of your 6th string down from E (if you’re in standard tuning) to D. This change lowers the pitch a whole step and it opens up an alternating bass sequence for the key of D.
Alternating Bass in Dropped D
Think about much of the fingerpicking lessons that we’ve talked about on Tuesday Blues before. If the lesson was in A, like the A7 Chordy Lick, then we focused on pumping out an A note in the bass. Similarly, if we were playing in E, the low E string was called in for bass duty.
The thing about the Key of E and A is that the 6th and 5th strings are tuned to those pitches and ready to jump in and provide the low bass thump. But, if we want to play in D, the open 4th string which sounds a D note, is just t0o high in pitch. It doesn’t sound as thick and certainly doesn’t give us the ‘thump’ we love as fingerpickers.
Enter Dropped D.
By tuning the 6th string down from E to D, you now have access to a low D in the bass that will sound great over blues in the key of D.
To work in an alternating bass while in Dropped D Tuning, alternate between the 6th string and the 4th string. Both notes are D, the 4th string note is simply an octave higher.
Chords in Dropped D
A great way to get to know the possibilities of Dropped D Tuning are to learn some chord shapes that work great in this tuning. In this lesson, we’ll focus on D Major chord shapes which can be made on the top three strings. We’ll also look at several D7 shapes on the same string set.
Because a 7th chord has four notes and we’re only working on the top three strings, these D7 shapes are really just partials (not the full chord). But, they sound great and I find myself using these partial shapes all the time, so let’s run with it!
In this lesson, we’ll cover seven D and D7 chord shapes up the neck. To my ears, the D7 shape around the 5th and 7th frets is absolutely beautiful. I love the sound, but really love the fact that you can finger the chord so that your pinky is free to handle some light melody work.
Very cool and very efficient.
It’s important to note that all of the chords covered in this lesson are either a D or D7, just different versions of these two chords.
Work with the exercise in the TAB and you’ll gain the ability to play these chords in multiple spots on the fretboard. This gives you options and over time, if you nurture the ability to use these options, you’ll become a much more confident player. One that utilizes the whole neck rather than just a couple of spots.
Good luck and Play On!