Drop D Riff Writing with Metal Mike

Channel: Guitar World


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For decades, a common practice in rock and metal has been to use drop-D tuning, wherein the guitar’s low E string is tuned down one whole step to D, one octave below the fourth string.

Aside from the additional heaviness this tuning provides by extending the instrument’s range downward, having the bottom two strings tuned a fifth apart—D to A—enables one to play a root-fifth power chord simply by strumming the two strings open or barring a finger across them at any given fret. And with the fourth string included, a three-note, root-fifth-octave power chord can be sounded just as easily.

My favorite way to use drop-D tuning is to combine one-finger power chords with single-note riffs that utilize the open low D note as a pedal tone. To do this, I will play on the sixth string as if it were tuned normally, to E, but move all notes on the other strings two frets lower than where I would ordinarily play them.

This results in some unusual shapes when moving between the sixth and fifth strings.