Drop C tuning is an alternative guitar tuning where at least one string has been lowered to a C. Most commonly this is CGCFAD, which can be described as D tuning with a dropped C, or drop D tuning transposed down a whole step. Because of its heavier tone, it is most commonly used in rock and heavy metal music.
Drop c tuning is a way to tune your guitar to play heavier rock and metal music. It’s also called “drop C” or “C-C”. It’s a way to lower the pitch of the strings of your guitar to make it easier to play power chords.
Let’s look at what it is, how to tune your guitar to it, and why you might want to use it.
The Ultimate Guide to Drop C Tuning
Drop C tuning is a type of guitar tuning where the lowest string is tuned down two whole steps from the standard tuning. This means that the lowest string is tuned from E to C, hence the name “Drop C”. This tuning creates a heavier and darker sound, making it a popular choice for rock and heavy metal styles of music.
How to Tune Your Guitar to Drop C
To tune your guitar to Drop C, follow these steps:
- Start by tuning your guitar to standard tuning (EADGBE).
- Next, lower your lowest string (E) down to C. You can use an electronic tuner or tune by ear using a reference pitch.
- Check the tuning of the other strings and adjust accordingly. The tuning for Drop C is CGCFAD.
- Make sure to adjust the tension on your guitar’s neck and bridge to accommodate the lower tuning.
How to Play in Drop C Tuning
Playing in Drop C tuning is similar to playing in standard tuning, but there are a few things to keep in mind:
- The lowest string is now a C, so all chords and scales will be shifted down two whole steps.
- Power chords are played on the lowest three strings, with the root note on the lowest string.
- Be sure to practice playing on the lower frets of the guitar’s neck, as this is where Drop C tuning really shines.
- Experiment with different chord shapes and scales to create a variety of sounds and styles.
Is Drop C Tuning Good for Beginners?
While Drop C tuning can be a little more challenging for beginners, it is certainly possible to learn and play in this tuning with practice. The main thing to keep in mind is that the tension on the guitar’s strings will be slightly different, so it may take a little getting used to. However, the ability to play power chords more comfortably and the wider range of notes and chords available make Drop C tuning a great option for beginners looking to explore different tunings.
Why Drop C Guitar Tuning is a Game Changer
Drop C tuning is a popular alternative guitar tuning where the lowest string is tuned down two whole steps to a C note. This allows for a lower range of notes to be played on the guitar, making it perfect for heavy metal and hard rock genres.
Power Chords and Parts
With drop C tuning, power chords sound heavier and more powerful. The lower tuning also allows for easier playing of complex riffs and chords. The tuning complements the playing style of instrumentalists who want to add more depth and power to their music.
Helps Shift from Standard Tuning
Learning drop C tuning can help guitar players shift from standard tuning to alternate tunings. It is an easy tuning to learn and can help players understand how alternate tunings work.
Better for Singers
Drop C tuning can also help singers who struggle to hit high notes. The lower tuning can help singers hit notes that are easier to sing.
Get Your Guitar Ready for Drop C Tuning
Step 1: Set up the guitar
Before you start tuning your guitar to Drop C, you need to make sure that your guitar is set up to handle the lower tuning. Here are some things to consider:
- Check your guitar’s neck and bridge to ensure that they can handle the extra tension from the lower tuning.
- Consider adjusting the truss rod to ensure that the neck is straight and the action is low enough for comfortable playing.
- Make sure the bridge is properly adjusted to maintain proper intonation.
Step 2: Choose the Right Strings
Choosing the right strings is crucial when tuning your guitar to Drop C. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- You’ll need heavier gauge strings to handle the lower tuning. Look for strings that are designed for Drop C tuning or heavier gauge strings.
- Consider using an alternative tuning like a seven-string guitar or a baritone guitar if you want to avoid having to use heavier gauge strings.
Step 4: Learn Some Drop C Chords and Scales
Now that your guitar is properly tuned to Drop C, it’s time to start playing. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Drop C tuning is popular in rock and metal music, so start by learning some power chords and riffs in this tuning.
- Experiment with different chord shapes and scales to get a feel for the different tones and sounds you can create.
- Remember that the fretboard will be different in Drop C tuning, so take some time to get familiar with the new positions of the notes.
Step 5: Consider Upgrading Your Pickups
If you’re a fan of Drop C tuning and plan on playing in this tuning regularly, it may be worth considering upgrading your guitar’s pickups. Here’s why:
- Drop C tuning requires a different tone than standard tuning, so upgrading your pickups can help you achieve a better sound.
- Look for pickups that are designed for heavier gauges and lower tunings to get the most out of your guitar.
Step 6: Start Playing in Drop C Tuning
Now that your guitar is properly set up for Drop C tuning, it’s time to start playing. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Drop C tuning may take some getting used to, but with practice, it will become easier to play.
- Remember that different tunings offer different potential for playing and writing music, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different tunings.
- Have fun and enjoy the new sounds and tones that Drop C tuning has to offer!
Mastering Drop C Tuning: Scales and Fretboard
If you want to play heavy music, Drop C tuning is a great choice. It allows you to create a lower and heavier sound than standard tuning. But to make the most of it, you need to know the scales and shapes that work best in this tuning. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Drop C tuning requires you to tune your guitar’s sixth string down two whole steps to C. This means that the lowest string on your guitar is now a C note.
- The most commonly used scale in Drop C tuning is the C minor scale. This scale is made up of the following notes: C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, and Bb. You can use this scale to create heavy, dark, and moody music.
- Another popular scale in Drop C tuning is the C harmonic minor scale. This scale has a unique sound that’s perfect for metal and other heavy styles of music. It’s made up of the following notes: C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, and B.
- You can also use the C major scale in Drop C tuning. This scale has a brighter sound than the minor scales and is great for creating more upbeat and melodic music.
Playing Drop C Tuning Chords and Power Chords
Drop C tuning is a great choice for playing chords and power chords. The lower tuning makes it easier to play heavy and chunky chords that sound great in heavy music. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Power chords are the most commonly used chords in Drop C tuning. These chords are made up of the root note and the fifth note of the scale. For example, a C power chord would be made up of the notes C and G.
- You can also play full chords in Drop C tuning. Some popular chords include C minor, G minor, and F major.
- When playing chords in Drop C tuning, it’s important to remember that the fingerings will be different than in standard tuning. Take some time to practice and get used to the new fingerings.
Mastering the Drop C Tuning Fretboard
Playing in Drop C tuning requires you to get familiar with the fretboard in a new way. Here are some tips to help you master the fretboard in Drop C tuning:
- Remember that the lowest string on your guitar is now a C note. This means that the second fret on the sixth string is a D note, the third fret is an Eb note, and so on.
- Take some time to learn the different shapes and patterns that work well in Drop C tuning. For example, the power chord shape on the sixth string is the same as the power chord shape on the fifth string in standard tuning.
- Use the entire fretboard when playing in Drop C tuning. Don’t just stick to the lower frets. Experiment with playing higher up on the fretboard to create different sounds and textures.
- Practice playing scales and chords in Drop C tuning regularly. The more you play in this tuning, the more comfortable you will become with the fretboard.
Rock Out with These Drop C Tuning Songs
Drop C tuning has become a staple in the rock and metal genre, favored by bands and singers alike. It lowers the pitch of the guitar, giving it a heavier and darker sound. If you’re having a hard time choosing which songs to play, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of songs that use drop C tuning, featuring some of the most iconic tracks in the genre.
Metal Songs in Drop C Tuning
Here are some of the most famous metal songs that use drop C tuning:
- “My Curse” by Killswitch Engage: This iconic track was released in 2006 and features drop C tuning on both guitar and bass. The main riff is simple yet straight to the point, making it perfect for beginners.
- “Grace” by Lamb of God: This track is composed in drop C tuning and features some super heavy riffs. The extended range of the tuning allows for some deep and prominent bass elements.
- “Second Trip” by Welsh band, Funeral for a Friend: This alternative metal track features drop C tuning on both guitar and bass. The sound is unlike anything else in the genre, having a super dark and heavy sound.
Drop C Tuning: Everything You Need to Know
So, you’ve decided to try out Drop C tuning on your guitar. Good for you! But before you jump in, you may have some questions. Here are some of the most common ones answered:
What happens to the strings when you drop the tuning?
When you drop the tuning, the strings get lower. This means that they will have less tension and may require some adjustments to hold the tuning properly. It’s important to use the right gauge of strings for Drop C tuning to avoid damage to your guitar.
What if my string gets snapped?
If a string snaps while you’re playing in Drop C tuning, don’t panic! It’s not irreparable damage. Simply swap out the broken string with a new one and retune.
Is Drop C tuning only for rock and metal songs?
While Drop C tuning is common in rock and metal music, it can be used in any genre. It facilitates power chords and extended range, giving a unique flavor to any song.
Do I need special equipment to play in Drop C tuning?
No, you don’t need any special equipment. However, it’s important to set up your guitar properly to handle the lower tuning. This may require adjustments to the bridge and possibly the nut.
Will Drop C tuning wear out my guitar faster?
No, Drop C tuning won’t wear out your guitar faster than standard tuning. However, it may cause some wear on the strings over time, so it’s important to change them regularly.
Is it easier or harder to play in Drop C tuning?
It’s a little of both. Drop C tuning makes it easier to play power chords and facilitates extended range. However, it can be more difficult to play certain chords and requires some adjustments in playing style.
What’s the difference between Drop C and alternate tunings?
Drop C tuning is an alternate tuning, but unlike other alternate tunings, it only drops the sixth string down to C. This gives the guitar more power and flexibility in playing chords.
Can I switch back and forth between Drop C and standard tuning?
Yes, you can switch back and forth between Drop C and standard tuning. However, it’s important to retune your guitar properly each time to avoid damage to the strings.
What songs use Drop C tuning?
Some popular songs that use Drop C tuning include “Heaven and Hell” by Black Sabbath, “Live and Let Die” by Guns N’ Roses, “How You Remind Me” by Nickelback, and “Heart-Shaped Box” by Nirvana.
What’s the theory behind Drop C tuning?
Drop C tuning is based on the theory that lowering the sixth string to C gives the guitar a more sonorous and powerful sound. It also facilitates playing power chords and extended range.
So there you have it- everything you need to know about drop c tuning. It’s not as hard as you might think, and with a little practice, you can use it to make your guitar sound much heavier. So don’t be afraid to give it a try!
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.
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