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What Tuning Does Metallica Use? The Definitive Guide [2021 Edition]

If you’ve been wondering what tuning Metallica uses, this is the post for you!

I know Metallica has a huge fan base, and plenty of guitarists learn from their songs.

So I thought I’d tackle this subject here on the blog.

Let’s get into it!

Tunings That Metallica Used in Their Career

Metallica has used several different tunings throughout their career.

But we’re lucky enough that its band members are open about their work. Among other things, we can easily find out more about their tunings.

And that’s exactly what I’ll explain here. Below, you can find what I think is a comprehensive list of tunings that Metallica has used over the years.

E Standard

E standard is what they used on most of their material. You can hear this on their first four albums. The self-titled, or The Black Album also features E standard. But there are also other tunings on it.

Of course, this is nothing new. It’s what most bands and artists use anyway. But for the sake of this guide, I’ll write down every tuning. This one goes:

  • E2-A2-D3-G3-B3-E4

I would also need to point out that the “Ride the Lightning” album was a bit different. Technically, it counts as E standard. However, it seems that the album is slightly sharper.

Some sources claim that it’s within the A=444 Hz. There’s never been a real confirmation of this, or as to why this was the case. But some theories claim that something happened during the mastering process. It’s likely that the band tuned to A440 but then something else went wrong.

Eb Standard or D# Standard

The Eb standard tuning is very common among thrash metal bands. But Metallica only started using it in the 1990s on “Load” and “Reload” albums.

As far as studio recordings go, these are the only two records with such a tuning. However, these days, Eb standard is the most prominent tuning for their live shows.

This is not uncommon as most of the older bands do this. It makes it easier for James Hetfield to sing.

So, this one goes:

  • Eb2-Ab2-Db3-Gb3-Bb3-Eb4

Or, if you prefer to write it as D#, then it goes:

  • D#2-G#2-C#3-F#3-A#3-D#4

D Standard

Master of Puppets was actually Metallica’s first album to feature a tuning that wasn’t E standard. Here, they used the D standard for The Thing That Should Not Be. There are some theories flying around that it’s actually drop D. However, it’s D standard.

On the so-called Black Album, they came back to this tuning. It was Sad but True that featured D standard.

But if we count in the covers, then I should mention The $5.98 E.P. – Garage Days Re-Revisited EP. Metallica’s version of The Small Hours by the metal band Holocaust is also in D standard. And it’s also D standard on the cover of Budgie’s Crash Course in Brain Surgery.

The tuning also appears on the Garage Inc. covers album. This is the tuning for Sabbra Cadabra and Whiskey in the Jar.

D standard goes:

  • D2-G2-C3-F3-A3-D4

Drop D

Drop D is common among metal bands. However, Metallica had it on only a couple of their songs. These are All Nightmare Long from Death Magnetic and Just a Bullet Away from the Beyond Magnetic EP. I believe these are the only two songs in their discography to feature this tuning.

Drop D is:

  • D2-A2-D3-G3-B3-E4

Drop C# or Drop Db

Now, drop C# may not be as common as drop D. But it’s still something that metal bands use on occasion.

However, when it comes to Metallica, it’s also a very rare thing for them. There is actually just one song I know of with the drop C# tuning. It is Human that they’ve written for the S&M live record.

Drop C# goes:

  • C#2-G#2-C#3-F#3-A#3-D#4

This tuning is pretty much the same thing as drop Db. If you prefer to look at it this way, then it goes:

  • Db2-Ab2-Db3-Gb3-Bb3-Eb4

Drop C

Of course, the St. Anger album still remains one of Metallica’s most controversial releases. In fact, it’s probably one of the most controversial albums of all time.

But despite the unexpected departure from their classic style, the record has its following. It seems that it aged better than expected.

One notable thing on this album is that Metallica went down to the drop C tuning. Bear in mind that this album was released during the early 2000s or the era of nu metal when plenty of bands were using this tuning.

Nonetheless, it was a huge departure for Metallica especially if you add the different riffs, song structures, and lack of solos. All except one song on the St. Anger album were in this tuning.

The drop C tuning goes:

  • C2-G2-C3-F3-A3-D4

As you can see, it’s pretty much the D standard tuning with a dropped bottom string. Or, another way to define it is to take the drop C and tune all strings one whole step lower.

Drop Bb or Drop A#

The lowest Metallica ever went was drop Bb or drop A#. And, of course, this was on the St. Anger album. However, just one song on the record is in this tuning. I’m talking about The Unnamed Feeling.

Many consider this an underrated metal masterpiece. It features some of their heaviest riffs. Despite all the accusations of going into nu metal, this is an interesting song.

At the first listen, it seems that the song is in drop C. However, they use the open Bb power chord just in the chorus.

Drop Bb tuning is:

  • Bb1-F2-Bb2-Eb3-G3-C4

Or, if you prefer sharps, then it’s drop A# and it goes:

  • A#1-F2-A#2-D#3-G3-C4

Metallica Tuning: Conclusion

I hope this article has clarified which tunings Metallica uses!

And if you’re interested in reading about some other bands’ tunings, check out the following posts:

As usual, feel free to message me in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar-related subject!

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