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Today, we will be grappling with a topic that becomes more and more relevant the more this tuning becomes canonised in popular music theory. Today, we tackle the double dropped D tuning head on!
Table of Contents
What are Dropped Tunings?
First of all, to call a tuning ‘dropped’ is to enter it into one of the several categories of alternate guitar tunings, the tonal centre typically beginning with standard tuning and lowering or dropping the pitch of only a single string, which in most cases is the lowest pitched E string (sixth string), resulting in the dropped D tuning we all know and love.
This dropped D tuning is common on electric guitar and rock music, and has been for a number of decades. Within the dropped D tuning, the low E string is tuned down a whole step from E to D while the rest of the strings remain in standard tuning, creating a power chord with the lower strings that you would otherwise have to fret manually. In the same vein, and of particular interest to us today, there is a double drop D tuning, wherein both of the E strings are tuned down a whole step from E to D, while the rest of the strings stay at their original pitch.
Although initially introduced and developed by blues and classical guitarists, drop D tuning is perhaps better known for the way it shaped rock and early heavy metal music, examples of which include The Beatles’ ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ and Led Zeppelin’s ‘Moby Dick’.
Tuning the lowest string down like so allowed the musicians of these bands to instantly acquire a heavier and darker sound than would be possible in standard tuning, rendering the need to tune down all of the guitar strings less pressing, expanding the scale of the instrument down in pitch by two semitones.
Dropped D tuning allowed later musicians to use different methods of articulating power chords and to change chords faster. Over time, drop D tuning became common practice among alternative metal acts who used the tuning a great deal throughout their careers and would later influence many alternative metal and nu metal bands.
How to Double Drop Your D
This is very simple and in fact only involved two cohesive movements of the hand.
First, you will need the guitar to be in standard tuning, usually tuned to the specific pitches with a tuner, though do keep the tuner to hand afterwards as you will be needing it.
Next, tune the lowest pitched E string down by two semitones to D string.
Then, do the same with the other, higher pitched E string, tuning it down two semitones (otherwise known as a tone) to D.
And it’s as simple as that! Go on, run along and tell your friends and family that you have double dropped your D and they will think that you are being rather uncouth indeed!
So, there you have it! Though brief, I hope this guide through double drop D tuning has contained everything that you need to know about how to get there and where it came from in the first place!
FAQs Double Drop D Tuning
I don’t suppose that tunings are the kind of things to which one can ascribe an original owner or inventor, though some people certainly have their ideas. For some, the first proponent of drop D tuning would have been John Dowland, a Renaissance composer between the 1500s and 1600s who composed music for the lute which, when arranged on the classical guitar, required said guitar to be tuned using drop D. This sounds a little far fetched to my ears. We can at least be sure of some of the early proponents of the tuning in the rock mainstream. Acts like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin no doubt helped to popularise the tuning with their heavy and anthemic hits ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ and ‘Moby Dick’ respectively.
I want to entertain all possibilities in all of my answers to questions, though you are rarely going to come across an instance where you are needing to tune up to play in drop D tuning. The names of tunings are invoked by first considering the base point of tuning. This is more often than not the standard tuning of E – A – D – G – B – E. From here, the alternate tuning is figured, hence why drop D is called drop D in the first place, because the lowest pitch, E, is dropping in pitch to D. And so it goes for double drop D tuning, where both of the E pitches that would be present in standard tuning on the alternate poles of a set of strings are being dropped by a tone to D.
Over the last half century, this tuning has become immensely popular to the point where it is a widespread common knowledge among all guitarists and most music tutors, as certain songs from the rock canon have edged their way through the door of most classrooms to be taught in various music syllabuses throughout the western world. Thus, you would be hard pressed to find a band, at least in the rock and heavy metal sphere, that has not, at some point, used drop D tuning to further their musical endeavours and to dim the lights of the mood of a certain track or set of tracks.
I don’t suppose there is one all encompassing guitar tuning that is universally accepted as the lowest. There are certainly some songs that spring to mind where the artists and guitarists who have recorded have attempted to really push the limit of the guitar and its pitch capacity, where the tuning reads lowest to highest string pitch: F# – B – etc etc. These are drastic examples, though, for the lowest you are likely to see commonly used on recording or at a gig is B standard, wherein the standard tuning of a guitar is taken and each individual string is diminished in pitch by five semitones, rendering it: B – E – A – D – F# – B.