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A Simple Guide to Drop Db Tuning [2021 Edition]

If you’re curious about drop Db tuning, this post is for you!

I’m no expert on this tuning, but it has been fun to mess around with it.

Let’s dive into how this tuning works!

Alternate Tunings

When you start learning guitar, E standard tuning is almost certainly the lens through which you learn everything about the guitar. By default, both acoustic and electric guitars are tuned to E standard which is E-A-D-G-B-E, or more precisely E2-A2-D3-G3-B3-E3.

But the guitar is actually a pretty flexible instrument regarding tuning. Its huge advantage is that you can tune it almost any way you want. The E standard tuning is simply its default tuning.

So what about tunings that stand out from the E-A-D-G-B-E standard? We call these “alternate tunings.” The term, however, is a bit redundant these days. We’re seeing fewer and fewer musicians tuning their guitars this way.

We can roughly categorize alternate tunings into these groups:

  • Lowered – The same distribution of intervals as E standard, just one or more semitones lower.
  • Open – Open tuning forms a functional chord.
  • Dropped – largely maintaining standard tuning while lowering the tuning on one or two strings
  • Others – tunings that don’t exactly fall into any of the above categories.

Guide to Drop Db Tuning: What Is It?

But here, we’re interested in the Drop Db tuning. So, what is it actually? From the bottom to the high string, it goes:

  • Db2-Ab2-Db3-Gb3-Bb-3-Eb4

How does it compare to the E standard? Well, all of the strings are one semitone lower, except for the 6th string. It goes three semitones lower.

What Are Drop Tunings?

But in order to fully understand it, let’s explain what drop tunings are. What’s interesting about the guitar is that it’s usually tuned in perfect fourths, except for second and third strings. Instead, these two form a major third interval.

This is all completely different compared to most of the other string instruments. However, having all fourths and one major-third has its advantages.

But “drop” tunings add a little twist with the bottom string. You simply drop it down by one whole step or two semitones. This forms a perfect fifth interval between the fifth and the sixth string.

In a practical sense, drop tunings allow you to play power chords easily. You just use a simple bar chord with your index finger. Or, when you play open 6th, 5th, and 4th strings, it’s also a power chord.

Drop D is the most common drop tuning. But if you lower it all for one semitone, you get Drop Db.

What’s Drop C#? Functionally, It’s the Same Thing!

You may also have heard about the drop C# tuning. You could be nitpicky and say that, according to music theory, Db and C# aren’t the same note. You could also say the same about C# and Db tunings.

But let’s not geek out on music theory. Functionally, drop Db and drop C# are the same thing. The only difference is whether you prefer to use flats or sharps to define it. If you define it as drop C#, you write it:

  • C#2-G#2-C#3-F#3-A#3-D#4

Use Proper Music Theory “Grammar”

Just remember – it’s helpful not to mix flats and sharps. From a music theory perspective, you typically write either drop Db or drop C#. Furthermore, you continue your use of sharps or flats. For instance, if you say that you tuned your 6th string to C#, it’s proper from a music theory perspective to then say that you tuned your 3rd string to A#, not Gb. In short, you reference notes either with sharps or flats.

The main idea behind this is to use proper music theory “grammar.” While it’s not super-essential, it’s a good habit. As you learn more about music theory, you’ll figure out how keys work. And with proper use of note names, you’ll make your life easier.

For now, just remember that you should go with one other the other. Don’t mix flats and sharps.

Songs in Drop Db Tuning

A tuning like drop Db most often appears in rock and metal. In particular, I’d say that metal music most commonly features drop Db.

Tuning your bottom strings lower than E standard just gives a different tone. So a tuning like drop Db typically sounds heavier.

(Also, if you’re interested in a heavier sound from a lower tuning, check out some of my articles about the baritone guitar.)

And, just like most other drop tunings, you can play power chords more easily in this tuning which, again, makes it a great tuning for metal music.

With all this said, here are some songs that are originally written and recorded in drop Db tuning:

  • System of a Down – Lonely Day
  • System of a Down – B.Y.O.B.
  • Avenged Sevenfold – Hail to the King
  • Avenged Sevenfold – Almost Eazy
  • Stone Sour – Absolute Zero
  • Deftones – My Own Summer
  • Trivium – In Waves
  • Trivium – Chaos Reigns
  • Memphis May Fire – Vices
  • Disturbed – Down with the Sickness
  • Lamb of God – 512
  • Breaking Benjamin – Polyamorous
  • Linkin Park – Numb
  • Ozzy Osbourne – Perry Mason
  • Nirvana – Heart-Shaped Box

Of course, the list goes on. In case you want to learn how to play some of these, plus more, check out the video below:

Drop Db Tuning: Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you understand this tuning and how you might use it!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments!

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