Are you looking to learn a little more about double drop D tuning? Do you know the basics but now want to learn some songs that were written in this alternative tuning? Do you fancy yourself a songwriter and want to learn some tips and tricks on how to get started?
Table of Contents
- 1. “Ohio” by Neil Young
- 2. “Satellite” by Elliott Smith
- 3. “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” by Neil Young
- 4. “Devils & Dust” by Bruce Springsteen
- 5. “The End” by The Doors
- 6. “Cortez the Killer” by Neil Young
- 7. “The Loner” by Neil Young
- 8. “Black Water” by the Doobie Brothers
- 9. “Cinnamon Girl” by Neil Young
- 10. “Going to California” by Led Zeppelin
- Final Tones
- FAQs Songs in Double Drop D
1. “Ohio” by Neil Young
What more need we say about this legendary country artist than the legend that already precedes him wherever he goes? Sure, he might have garnered a bit of a miserly reputation of late by standing up to streaming platforms and removing as much of his music from them as he could, but who are we to judge this decision?
Really, it is a decision to be respected – after all, if were to choose between Neil Young and the conglomerate services as to which cares more about the sanctity of the artist, your money sure as heck shouldn’t be going on the latter.
The fact that this song right here is a reaction again the 1970 Kent State shootings where four student protestors of the Vietnam War were shot dead by the Ohio National Guard should tell you that his politics have always been broadly in the right place.
2. “Satellite” by Elliott Smith
Though it might cause some controversy, there are many who would put Smith’s songwriting abilities right on par with Young’s, though they admittedly approach their craft from different perspectives.
Young is from one of the original eras of country rock and so has always been inspired by those kinds of sounds. Smith is considerably younger and is more informed by folk with a healthy amount of respect for the Beatles, using power chords just as often as complex alternate tunings, showing that it doesn’t always have to be the preserve of metal songs.
Unlike the progressive rock band Tool, though, Smith’s music is replete with whisper-spun yarns full of nuance and intrigue. Some listeners have even likened his vocals to the spinning of spider webs, so delicate and fragile are they, so vulnerable.
3. “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” by Neil Young
This track comes from Young’s signature 1970 album After the Gold Rush, one of his first great solo albums featuring the kind of gently smart balladry that would go on to character his entire oeuvre.
Young is in fact a much revered guitarist, though this is rarely spoken about in comparison to the praise lauded upon his lyricism and general artistry. Indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch was such a fan of his playing that he asked him to soundtrack his 1995 Western drama Dead Man, most of which is propelled by his snarling and spacious solo guitar.
His keen ability to play smartly and experiment is seen on “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” too, where he takes regular old double drop-D and tunes the whole guitar down another step. Thus, this song is in fact in double drop-C.
4. “Devils & Dust” by Bruce Springsteen
Though the so-called Boss is undoubtedly better known for his earlier output, his later music is oft-considered equally as compelling by more contrarian music fans.
In particular, this title track from his 2005 record Devils & Dust won him three Grammy nominations, likely because of how topical the subject matter must have felt at the time. The song is in fact centered around the Iraq War, the protagonist being a soldier who served in the initial invasion and who is subsequently struggling with the morality of his decision.
Of course, crime always pays, so, though this song won the Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance, it lost its other two nominations to U2. By no means a rock song, this track still has the power to shake anyone with a conscience to their very core.
5. “The End” by The Doors
Though it might now seem old hat to have a song called “The End” and to have it be an epic over ten minutes long as the last song on the album, at the time it must have felt like such a marvel. Indeed, before bands like Led Zeppelin could properly seize the opportunity to use an alternate tuning and play power chords over a droning instrumental, the Doors were there doing just that.
Utilizing a tuning that he said came from jamming with Ravi Shankar, guitarist Robby Krieger provided the perfect accompaniment to Morrison’s own droning and surreal imagery. It really is a psychedelic trip that everyone should venture forth on at least once, very much akin to Suicide’s epic “Frankie Teardrop” which they would release around ten years later.
The Doors really were arguably the best American rock band of their time and you can play along with the tab here.
6. “Cortez the Killer” by Neil Young
Anyone in doubt of Neil Young’s instrumental prowess on the guitar better study his work on this track and others with his legendary band Crazy Horse. This would become the band’s staple track, offering forth some long and doom-ridden instrumentals that really were quite ahead of their time. This song would be repurposed in the early days of the post-rock band Slint and something about them covering this long and droning song suffused in shadow feels incredibly apt.
Many might suggest this is the best rock song without a power chord and, though this is a subject ripe for debate, with performances like this it’s hard to disagree. Devoid of any sort of guitar riff to speak of, the act of playing guitar here becomes incredibly searching and you can almost feel how little Neil Young is blinking in his search through the darkness for light of any kind.
Here’s the tab if you dare to play along.
7. “The Loner” by Neil Young
Yes, yet again Neil Young eschews standard tuning in favor of this exploratory tuning that permits rock music to meander down a far more hypnotic and dulcet route.
This tune is, in fact, Young’s first solo single which was released as the only single from his 1968 self-titled debut solo album. And yet, we are already being treated to an artist that, while not totally in control of their medium, is certainly in control of their desire to experiment and try new things.
Producer David Briggs has since let the world know that the strange guitar noises dotted throughout the track are a result of plugging a guitar into a Leslie speaker. Small details like this that don’t take up too much of the limelight would soon become the currency in Neil Young’s artistic legacy.
Check out the tab here and begin your own journey in the footsteps of Young from his very first solo effort.
8. “Black Water” by the Doobie Brothers
Released on the Doobie Brothers’ fourth studio album What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits (1974), the song “Black Water” delivers a healthy slice of delta blues inspiration, as per the moody title of the song. There are also some interesting bluegrass flavorings throughout the track.
The Doobie Brothers certainly aren’t the first band you might think of when considering alternate guitar tunings, but here they experiment with not only dropping down to D on the lower E string but also dropping down to D on the higher E string.
As one of the few songs that topped the Hot 100 Singles chart by Billboard after it was originally released, this song clearly has a staying power, thanks in no small part to its inclusion as a B-side to “Another Park, Another Sunday”.
If you fancy following in the shaggy and homeless aesthetics of the Doobie Brothers, then check out the tab here.
9. “Cinnamon Girl” by Neil Young
Just when you thought you were rid of the mutton-chopped empath of country rock here he comes again, bowling around the corner with another alternately-tuned guitar spooling out a bathos yarn.
By now it should be clear that Young clearly took a real liking to this tuning, from the very beginning of his career on the track “The Loner”, and throughout the rest of his works, making appearances on many of his albums from back in the 60s right up until the present day.
If you, as earlier, fancy yourself up to the task of treading these same footsteps and wish to start with this track, then you can find the tab here.
10. “Going to California” by Led Zeppelin
Last and by all means least we have this billowing pile of slop from one of the most overrated rock bands to ever do it. In typical fashion, the band see fit to plagiarize the things around them, in this instancing using the experience of being within distance of an earthquake in California as the inpirations for the track.
Here, the band eschew their live instrumentation for something a bit more stripped back and acoustic, jamming it out in doble drop D tuning.
Singer Robert Plant is famously a little embarrassed about the lyrics on the tune and he has every reason to be. Granted he was only 22, but the entire song sounds like the ramblings of someone who is so hopped up on substances that they don’t know what they are saying but feel like they are saying something.
So, there you have it! Hopefully, you are now feeling ready and able to find a new song in double drop D tuning and get started learning it!
FAQs Songs in Double Drop D
“Unchained” from Van Halen’s 1981 album Fair Warning is believed to be the song that brought drop D tuning to the masses.
Nirvana made quite a name for themselves as advocates of drop-D tuning, using it on songs like “Come As You Are”, “On A Plain”, etc.
Indeed, they did, using it on numerous songs, including the smash hit “Come As You Are” and the more low-key album track “On A Plain”, both making full use of the freedom that alternate tunings can afford.
While there is no strict that those playing a guitar in double drop D should adhere, the idea is typically that the song’s root will be D major or minor unless they choose to use a capo to increase the overall temperament of the instrument anyhow, in which case there would be no point in tuning the guitar to double drop D in the first place.