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Drop C Tuning: A Heavy Metal Tuning For Deep, Bassy Sound

If you're a fan of Godsmack, SOAD, or Disturbed, then you're a fan of drop C tuning. We explore this alternate tuning and how you can use it today.

Have you heard “Holy Diver” by Killswitch Engage, “Rebellion” by Linkin Park, or “Strife” by Trivium?

Have you ever wanted to play those songs?

Well, your standard guitar tuning won’t cut it.

These songs sound unique because they’ve been recorded with drop C tuning.

What is drop C tuning and how can you sound like some of your favorite rock and heavy metal bands?

Check out our other guides to alternate guitar tunings:

What is Drop C tuning?

Drop C tuning is predominantly used in heavy metal and it’s best used with thicker-gauge strings.

It’s achieved by tuning your guitar to CGCFAD though there are several minor variants. We’ll look at this in more detail when we’re talking about how to tune your guitar to drop C.

This tuning provides a heavier sound to your music and comes with a much more full-bodied bottom line.

A lot of chords that are hard to play in standard tuning are significantly simpler to play in drop C tuning. An example is the F major barre chord.

Another reason to try drop C tuning is because of how different chords sound. Get ready to discover a new sound as you play around with your music!

What Types of Guitars is It Best For?

While any guitar can be tuned to drop C tuning, it’s predominantly used on 6-string guitars to play heavy metal and rock. Guitars with a fixed bridge make it easier to drop the tune and help pick up lower notes better.

It’s also advisable to get heavier strings for dropped tunings. A 26.5″ scale guitar is ideal.

Drop C tuning is used heavily by metal bands like System of a Down and Disturbed but some alt rock bands like Linkin Park use it as well. (Source)

How to Achieve Drop C Tuning

The most common drop C tuning is CGCFAD. It’s easiest to start by tuning your guitar to drop D first.

If you aren’t familiar with drop D tuning, it’s the standard tuning with the fattest string tuned a whole tone down from an E to a D.

6th String (C): Do this one last after tuning all five other strings. Done? Tune this string down to a C by harmonizing it with the now-tuned open 4th string.

5th String (G): Because you’re in drop D, you can find a G on the 5th fret of the 6th string. Harmonize the 5th string with the G note on the 6th string.

4th String (C): You can find a C by placing your finger on the 5th fret of the now-tuned 5th string. Harmonize with it.

3rd String (F): You can find an F by placing your finger on the 5th fret of the now-tuned 4th string. Harmonize with it.

2nd String (A): You can find an A by placing your finger on the 4th fret of the now-tuned 3rd string. Harmonize with it.

1st String (D): You can find a D by placing your finger on the fifth fret of the now-tuned 2nd string. Harmonize with it.

When to Use Drop C Tuning

Drop C tuning is great for guitarists who are interested in playing rock and heavy metal, as well as those who want to play simpler power chords.

Some other great songs you can cover with drop C tuning are “Totem” by Rush and “Blew” by Nirvana.

Keep exploring, or just play around with your guitar’s new sound until you come up with something you like.

Hopefully, this article has helped you learn about drop C tuning, how you can tune your guitar to it, and the kind of music you can play with it. Good luck, and keep practicing!


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