Dethklok Tuning: A Thorough Guide (2023 Edition)

Table of Contents

If you’re interested in Dethklok tuning and the sorts of non-standard tunings this band uses, this post is for you!

Let’s get to it!

Dethklok and the Wonders of Fictional Bands

There are no boundaries to art. And that’s essentially how we got fictional bands. The concept wasn’t new in the 2000s. However, I’m not sure someone made a whole show with this concept.

That’s how Brendon Small’s Dethklok came to be. The show “Metalocalypse” proved that death metal can be interesting to wide audiences. The five likable and amusing characters of the show were all very proficient musicians.

However, it’s all Brendon Small. Not long after the show’s launch, he released the Dethklok album. The whole gimmick soon turned into an actual band. There’s a total of three albums and the project also saw live performances.

At this point, they’re one of the most beloved fictional bands. The fun part is that they sit on the edge between a comedy act and a full-on metal band. Be that as it may, Dethklok music is still awesome to the right audience.

Dethklok Tuning

Of course, this is all thanks to Brendon Small and his musicianship. He’s an incredible guitar player. And part of this is due to the interesting tunings he uses.

So what is Dethklok tuning? Well, let’s find out.

C Standard

Almost all of the Dethklok material is in C standard. This really comes as no surprise. The tuning is popular among several death metal bands.

If you’re not familiar with this tuning, don’t worry. It’s really easy to wrap your mind around. It goes like this:

  • C2-F2-A#2-D#3-G3-C4

But if you prefer flats over sharps, then you can write it down like this:

  • C2-F2-Bb2-Cb3-G3-C4

In fact, Brendon Small himself prefers to write it with flats. That’s the way he revealed it via social media and in some interviews.

So how do you get this tuning? Well, it’s really simple. All you have to do is lower all strings by four semitones. Or, in other words, you drop them all by two whole notes or by one major third interval.

Otherwise, the distribution of intervals is the same. All of the scale and chord shapes will be the same. But if you want to play Dethklok or sound like them, it will all mostly be power chords in C standard. 

Why C Standard

The C standard tuning is quite popular among death metal bands. We can say the same thing about doom, sludge, stoner, and a few other metal subgenres.

But why this tuning? Well, going low can help things sound a bit heavier. Pair this tuning up with high-gain tube amps, and it’s pure metal mayhem.

Check out Dethklok’s Murdertrain a Comin and you’ll get what I’m talking about. Even those full-on blues parts sound like death metal in the C standard tuning. And let’s also take a moment to appreciate Brendon’s guitar-playing skills while we’re at it.

Dethklok - Murder Train A Comin' [Album Version]

Drop D

But what’s also interesting is that C standard is not the only tuning Brendon Small used for Dethklok songs. There’s also drop D tuning, although it was just for one tune that I know of. This was for the Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle.

The humorous song is only one minute in length, appearing in the first episode of Metalocalypse. Nonetheless, you can still hear classic death metal elements in there. Here’s the famous part of the episode.

Dethklok - Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle (full version)

Drop D is a pretty common tuning. Although it wasn’t new at that point, it grew popular during the 1990s. It’s also pretty simple and it gives easy access to power chords. It goes like this:

  • D2-A2-D3-G3-B3-E4

As you can see, it’s almost the same as the E standard tuning. All you have to do is lower the bottom string by two semitones. It’s as simple as that.

What You Should Know About Dethklok Tuning

So Dethklok tuning is pretty much C standard tuning. It may not be as common as drop D, but it’s pretty popular. However, there are some things guitar players tend to overlook with such low tunings.

Bear in mind that this one is whole four semitones lower than usual. Most electric guitars and string gauges are designed to work in E standard. If you go this low, you’re bound to have your strings feeling like rubber.

And that’s what happens to guitar players who just detune their instruments. However, there are two methods to go around this.

The first one involves getting a baritone guitar. These are essentially instruments with longer scale lengths. A regular guitar has it between 24 and 25.5 inches. Meanwhile, long-scale guitars go anywhere between 26.5 and 30 inches. A 27-inch scale will do the trick for C standard.

The other solution is to use thicker strings on a regular-scale guitar. In fact, that’s what Brendon Small is doing. As he explained in some of his interviews, he uses .013-.060 strings. In some cases, it’s .13-.56. Either way, these are some pretty thick strings.

Meanwhile, he also mostly plays on Gibson guitars. And these all come with a scale of 24.75 inches, except for some rare models. It would be difficult to use average .010-gauge strings in such a setting.

If you want to keep normal tension and reliable tuning stability, go with at least .012-gauge sets. If your guitar has a scale length of 25.5 inches, then 11s might work. But even in that case, I’d advise thicker strings for the C standard tuning.  

Dethklok Tuning: Conclusion

I hope this article has clarified what Dethklok tuning is and how to use it!

As usual, if you have any questions about this or another guitar topic, let me know in the comments below!

And if you want to read more about different band’s alternate tunings on this blog, check out:

2 Responses

  1. Ryan Corman says:

    Nice explanation. I noodled around on my old Samick P-Bass knockoff (w/Lace Audio pick-ups and Ernie Ball round wounds), and my “I wannabe Dale Stewart (Seether)” Schecter Johnny Christ Signature 4 string. I didn’t understand “downtuning”- I started percussion at 8yoa, marching band, orchestra, garage bands, play hotel lounge bands, can do marimba and Glöckenspiel, piano in a real pinch. I get it. My Samick could do the score, but wasn’t deep enough. The Schecter has unlimited depth, but I couldn’t get the Dethklok sound. I’m still learning string stuff. Spent years hitting things, getting paid, looking like a hero. Takes a couple tuning forks and 10min to tune a double bass set. Not so easy with strings.
    Thanks for the lesson!

    1. Glad you found the article useful, Ryan!

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