Watch the Intro to Dropped D Tuning online guitar lesson by Tony McManus from The Celtic Journeyman

Let’s talk about dropped D tuning. We begin in Standard- the tuning everyone knows, the tuning I like everyone else started in, learned all my fist position “cowboy’ chords. As a kid I was listening to a lot of Irish music and playing along and finding standard a little unsatisfying in the lower end because the Irish pipes are centred around the key of D. The drones are in D in three octaves. A standard D chord has as its lowest note an A, the fifth, not the root D. You can hook the thumb around and play an F# on the bottom but that’s a 3rd not the root. To get a root I tuned the low E down to D....hardly rocket science! It not a huge alteration from standard but it does change things. First of all there’s this great low D I use to anchor accompaniment to Irish and Scottish music. And having done this so long ago it’s become my “standard” tuning. I usually start the day in dropped D. I use it for accompaniment, for flatpicking jigs and reels (maybe for another course). I also use it for arranging tunes fingerstyle- the subject of this course. It’s a very rich sound!

It has a feature common to many tunings I use. On the bottom we have D A D- in terms of the key of D that’s root, fifth, root. That pattern is also found in DADGAD tuning which we talk about later.

So that’s Dropped D tuning- we’ll look at some vocabulary in this tuning and arrange a ballad or two.