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Guitar Players -- Help Me Out with Drop D Tuning

 
pollinator
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Playing acoustic guitar, unamplified, is a challenge. It's hard to project enough volume in a large venue.

I'm pretty good at working the harmonics, and working up the neck, with standard tuning. All strings are working; and even those not being directly played are gently muted, to get the volume and harmonics that adds depth to the whole.

But I know that blues players and lots of serious musicians use a drop-D tuning, where the sixth is dropped one note from E to D. I haven't played around with this much, but it clearly makes the instrument "larger."

So tonight I just figured out how to do the Allman Brothers' classic "Midnight Rider" in a drop D*. This is a first for me. The sound is huge and complex -- wow.

Any advice on where to start to get my head around drop-D?

* This was inspired by Steve Earle doing Midnight Rider, solo acoustic, and he freaking nailed it. Wow people. This is absolutely worth your time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbuzIP1t-_s
 
pollinator
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If you drop the other E down to D as well, so that you're DADGBD, a whole bunch of standard chords become a lot easier to play in drop D... you can basically play any full chord in a modified C or G shape. It's widely known as 'the Neil Young tuning,' and it has a lot more useable chord shapes than DADGBE or DADGAD. Tuning wise it makes a lot of sense that if you bring the root note down you should bring the top octave note down as well.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
pollinator
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Abe Coley wrote:If you drop the other E down to D as well, so that you're DADGBD, a whole bunch of standard chords become a lot easier to play in drop D... you can basically play any full chord in a modified C or G shape. It's widely known as 'the Neil Young tuning,' and it has a lot more useable chord shapes than DADGBE or DADGAD. Tuning wise it makes a lot of sense that if you bring the root note down you should bring the top octave note down as well.


Yeah, I've played with that. Joni Mitchell did it too, electric not acoustic. It's sort of limiting (at first glance) but it makes the player sound like a genius. I think I would use that to introduce a young player to the instrument -- OMG I can make amazing sounds!
 
Douglas Alpenstock
pollinator
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:* This was inspired by Steve Earle doing Midnight Rider, solo acoustic, and he freaking nailed it. Wow people. This is absolutely worth your time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbuzIP1t-_s


Holy smokes people, I'm just blown away. I didn't realize Gordon Lightfoot was part of the live audience until I read the comments section. Rest well Gord and thank you -- your work lives on!
 
pollinator
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I play a bit of slide guitar, both acoustic (dobro) and electric (lap steel) so I have all sorts of weird tunings. The drop D family is a great place to start, and of ones that Abe described, I am fond of DADGAD. Once you get into that, you are on the doorstep of the Joni Mitchell tunings (think Coyote) and then it gets immense. Then there are some of the open and suspension tunings that people like Ry Cooder and David Lindley use (I ran sound for a show that Dave played back in the 1980s with El Rayo X and he must have had 20 guitars on stage to accommodate all the tunings).
 
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Drop D in my mind is kind of a cheater tuning for a standard player looking for a quick sound change.  Imo if you're going to drop the high E to D, you might as well go full DAGDAD and sit in with your local Irish Trad jam.

When I started getting into banjo/mando/fiddle, it really opened my eyes to alternate tunings.  I use one of the banjo tunings, "Double C" modified for guitar and it blows DAGDAD away imo. I always tune back to standard because it really requires some custom gauged strings.  Dropping low E to C has too much buzz from slack.

As to your original question, amplification is definitely not what a dreadnought is known for, but I feel like it projects more when using a capo anywhere between 2nd and 4th frets.
 
pollinator
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Howdy
I can play guitar, but I really like the dobro. Mine is a square neck played lap style. I tune to a D chord,(DADF#AD). I play without picks.
 
master pollinator
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This is slightly off topic, but since I have learned a few new tunings today, I will share one that I like.

DbAbGbBE, or “all fourths”—because all of the strings are the same interval apart, it is easy to play triads or four-note chords anywhere on the fretboard with the same shapes, and the same is true melodically as well. It probably wouldn’t work as well for projecting sound, but I don’t really have to worry about that considering that I don’t generally play for crowds.
 
pollinator
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Very roughly speaking, the way I use drop D is basically to treat the 3 low strings (meaning low in pitch, the "bass" strings D A and D) as an easy one finger power chord factory. It allows me to play rather complicated power chord riffs that I wouldn't be able to play in standard tuning. Then the 3 high strings (G B and e) become a way to add color to the chords (I like stacking fourths for that jazzy sound, for example) or to play other riffs that contrast sharply with the power chords.

Helmet were (still are) the masters of this. But even if you're not playing metal you can apply the same principles to get really powerful sounds in other musical styles.
 
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