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Drop A Tuning: What It Is & Why It Might Give You The Elusive Sound You’re Looking For

Drop A tuning isn't the most versatile alternate tuning, but it's a great way to experiment with new sounds to melt metalheads' faces.

Guitars can be tuned in different ways, but most guitarists only use the standard tuning where the strings are tuned from low to high, EADGBE.

It’s the standard tuning for good reason:

  • It’s versatile.
  • It’s convenient.
  • It’s comfortable to play.

But there are alternate tunings that will help you produce different sounds and show your creative prowess.

This is beneficial for every guitarist, especially for those that want to experiment with new sounds and master their instrument in every way.

Today, we’re going to talk about Drop A tuning.

Check out our other guides to alternate guitar tunings:

What is Drop A Tuning?

Drop or dropped A tuning has gained traction and popularity for guitarists that play 7-string guitars, but there have been examples where it’s been used with 6-string guitars.

The method of tuning is different for each, which I’ll explain below.

While there are different types of drop tuning, they all rely on the same principle to work:

Tuning the lowest string on the guitar to a lower tuning in comparison to standard tuning.

While not the most versatile alternate tuning, but it’s very popular with metal guitarists.

drop a tuning on a seven string guitar
Drop A tuning is especially popular among metal guitarists with 7-string guitars. (Source)

When is Drop A Tuning Used?

Every drop tuning can boost your creativity and result in some excellent riffs, mainly because your guitar just sounds different.

But when used improperly or at the wrong time, you can get into unwanted trouble.

Drop A tuning is not used to show off accuracy or technicality, and therefore I wouldn’t recommend it for funk or jazz musicians. But many heavy metal and hard rock guitarists have used drop A tuning extensively:

  • Slipknot
  • RED
  • Of Mice & Men
  • Amon Amarth
  • Suicide Silence
  • Volumes
  • Ektomorf
  • Mastodon

As mentioned earlier, drop A tuning consists of tuning your strings lower than the standard tuning. This results in a lower pitch, lower tension on the strings, and inconsistent vibration.

Plus, playing the lower part of the neck will be a bit harder in comparison to standard tuning.

How To Do It

Drop A tuning is different on both 7-string and 6-string guitars. 

Regardless, you’ll need reliable tuning and nut systems to work effectively with drop A tuning. The correct nut for drop tunings will shorten the distance from the nut to the first fret, so the pitch near that string will be flattened, and you’ll need to intonate the bridge saddles.

Drop A tuning can be technical, but it’s worth the hassle for the guitarist looking for the right sound. 

Here’s how it’s done.

Drop A Tuning on 7-String Guitars

There’s no single “right” way to do it, but there are more acceptable or more common ways. One of the easiest ways on a 7-string guitar is to start with the standard tuning (BEADGBe) and make two changes:

  1. Tune your low B down a full step
  2. Tune your G down a half step

The final result is a AEADF#Be tuning.

Others recommend tuning to AEADGBE with a G instead of F#.

Drop A Tuning on 6-String Guitars

On 6-string guitars, you start with the standard tuning, EADGBE. Then you make two changes:

  1. Tune all strings down a fourth
  2. Tune the lowest string down an additional step

The final result is an AEADF#B tuning.

If you’re drop A tuning on a 6-string guitar, I’d recommend opting for thicker strings to get the best results. Something between 0.012 to 0.056 should work well.

Final Thoughts on Drop A Tuning

If you want to spruce things up a bit when it comes to your riffs, then give drop A tuning a try. Heavy metal guitarists will love it, but it certainly isn’t the most versatile tuning method of the bunch. When used sparingly and accordingly, drop A tuning is a great way to experiment with new sounds to melt metalheads’ faces.

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