Most guitar players have heard of Drop D tuning, which involves tuning down the bottom E string down a whole step to D, making the first three strings an easy to play bar chord. This tuning is extremely popular in hard rock music, but for those that want an even heavier sound, there's Drop C.
Drop C tuning is about as low as you can tune most strings before they just start falling off the neck, but this looseness means that you can string your guitar with the heaviest strings on the shelf without running them too tight to play. But whether you have heavy strings or loose standards, the benefit of Drop C is the sheer weight your guitar will suddenly have. The lower strings are able to reach notes that metal enthusiasts crave, turning your guitar into the perfect instrument for riffs delivered from darkest depths.
How to Tune to Drop C
Drop C is, in theory, very similar to Drop D tuning, except that every string is tuned another whole step down. While Drop D requires tuning down the low E string to D and leaving the rest, for Drop C you'll have to tune every string down a whole step and then tune the low D string to a C. This is made a lot easier if you have a tuning device or program!
If you don't listen to too much metal music, which can have mental health benefits such as long-term anger processing, you might be wondering if Drop C is worth exploring - we believe it is! The tone that Drop C can bring out of your guitar is an absolute thrill, and while it's more popular in metal music, you can play any song that's in Drop D in Drop C (and vice versa!) It's really about experimenting with the boundaries of your instrument and discovering new sounds with your guitar.
Here are three killer songs played in Drop C for you to explore for yourself.
1. "Happy?" - Mudvayne
If you're looking for a song that combines the heaviest of riffs with beautifully arranged chords and melodies, look no further than Mudvayne's emotional track, "Happy?" While metalheads are surveyed to be among the happiest of music listeners, this song is dark and tragic, featuring a chugging verse riff with huge chords, seamlessly weaving into a touching acoustic guitar section before bringing the house back down with distortion.
"Happy?" is a great song for guitar players to practice their hand-eye coordination, moving back and forth quickly between low chords and high octaves to create sweeping guitar rhythms.
Between the rhythm and lead parts of Mudvayne's song, "Happy?" has a lot to offer guitar players of every level - the chords themselves aren't overwhelmingly complicated, but the riffs are fun and exciting to play.
2. "The Dream is Dead" Heaven Shall Burn
Don't let the synthesizer at the start fool you - this song is as heavy as they come, with sludgy riffs and menacing vocals belting throughout, Heaven Shall Burn's song "The Dream is Dead" is quintessential heavy metal, perfect for headbanging or, believe it or not, boosting focus! The song kicks off with a massive guitar riff that just continues to build as it goes on, making for a wickedly fun playing experience, especially with the perfect distortion.
What we love about playing "The Dream is Dead" is that the guitar is constantly growing and developing, which means learning and playing this song is a thrilling challenge, even for experienced guitar players. Filled with varying heavy riffs, Heaven Shall Burn created a track that makes tuning down to Drop C worth the effort.
3. "Walking by a Wire" Katatonia
Katatonia is a band that finds the balance between gentle and thoughtful vocals with clean guitar riffs and sudden, chunky guitars that rip through the song. Their song, "Walking by a Wire" is a metal ballad that has soaring lead guitar sections and a galloping, distorted chorus arrangement. "Walking By A Wire" is a great song for any guitar player looking to practice singing and playing at the same time, particularly its chorus that trades off rhythms between the vocal melody and the guitar chords.
Katatonia's clean guitar riffs really shine on this track, with the deep, Drop C tune bringing out the weight of the notes even without distortion. Especially if you want to practice switching from clean to distorted tones with pedals, "Walking By A Wire" is a song that is definitely worth checking out when you've got your guitar in Drop C.
Whether you're a fan of heavy metal or not, music is a powerful tool that brings joy to our lives, boosts our health in numerous ways, and helps process everything on our horizons, and Drop C tuning can significantly expand your versatility as a guitar player. It's great for beginners who want to try something new and perfect for veteran players looking to add more tools to their repertoire.
As we mentioned, any song that's in Drop C can also be played in Drop D, so don't feel discouraged if your favorite tune is in one or the other. If you want to play along with the backing track, you'll need to adjust your strings. However, if you just want to practice or play by yourself, you can have the freedom to play in either!
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