Have you noticed that certain songs seem to have a lower guitar tone than what your guitar can produce? Chances are likely that the song is in Drop-D tuning, which tunes the low E-string down one step.
Drop-D tuning is actually quite common in modern music and is almost easier than regular standard tuning in some ways. Experimenting in Drop-D is a great place to start if you’ve never played in alternate tunings.
All of the following songs are recorded with a guitar in Drop-D tuning and present a wonderful learning opportunity. Whether you like folk or metal or anything in between, there’s something here for you.
Table of Contents
“Everlong (Acoustic Version)” by Foo Fighters
Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters took the mainstream music world by complete and total surprise with its first release. Nobody would have guessed that Nirvana’s drummer would have such a penchant for writing hit pop-rock songs.
This is precisely why it was of utmost importance for Foo Fighters to raise the bar with their 2nd album. It’s safe to say that they achieved that mission, in part thanks to the massive success of the song, Everlong.
You’ll be able to play the original version, as well as the acoustic version (supplied here) in Drop-D. The acoustic version just seems to add an extra element ripe for intimate listening sessions.
“The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac
Out of every album ever recorded beyond 1970, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours sure has its fair share of rumors. The entire album also plays like a sort of “Greatest Hits” album.
For many people, the songs from Rumours are all they know of Fleetwood Mac. This isn’t a bad thing, though it is an injustice to the fabulous blues-rock works of their earlier career.
With that being said, one of the tracks that is the most enduring from Rumours is undoubtedly, The Chain. It also has one of the most iconic 10-second bass solos ever recorded.
“Schism” by Tool
Tool has been a constant presence in the progressive metal genre since the early 1990s. However, they’ve never been exactly mainstream, as they do require a little digging to be discovered.
Fortunately, many people have discovered Tool over the years that they are more accessible and easy to find. Plus, it also helps when you have songs like Schism actually chart on the mainstream music metrics charts.
For many people, Schism was their first introduction to Tool with the epic album, Lateralus. You’ll find a few more tracks from Lateralus scattered throughout this article.
“Can’t Find My Way Home” by Blind Faith
Can you call yourself an Eric Clapton fan if you aren’t familiar with Blind Faith? Don’t worry, Blind Faith isn’t exactly at the forefront of common knowledge with regard to the guitarist’s career.
Which, really, is a shame considering it was a powerhouse group featuring Traffic’s Steve Winwood and Cream’s Ginger Baker. Like Cream, Blind Faith was a sort of continuation of the supergroup formations that seemed so prevalent in the 1970s.
One of the standout tracks on Blind Faith’s only album is the song, Can’t Find My Way Home. It has a sort of dark, mystical folk mood with a tasty descending line fit for accompanying Winwood’s howls.
“Dear Prudence” by The Beatles
Speaking of descending musical lines, one of the most iconic and recognizable comes from Dear Prudence. This song is almost entirely built upon a descending line based around the D chord.
Many people seem to shy away from learning songs by The Beatles. Perhaps it's out of reverence, but if you love this group, you’re encouraged to learn their songs.
Studying their compositions and how they use different chords will aid you in writing your own songs. Plus, it will help demystify things and you’ll see how incredibly simplistic many things actually are.
“Harvest Moon” by Neil Young
Neil Young has had a fantastically prolific career spanning from the 1960s to the present day. While most people know him from his songs of the late 1960s into the 1970s, he’s had hits beyond that.
In fact, the 1990s proved to be a time when Neil Young seemed to establish himself yet again in popularity. Of course, his album Harvest Moon had a lot to do with his resurgence to the mainstream.
The album’s title track, Harvest Moon, remains to be one of the most heartfelt songs ever written. If you have an anniversary of any kind, this is the perfect song to bust out while in Drop-D tuning.
“Never Going Back Again” by Fleetwood Mac
Are you up for a challenge that might take you a year to fully accomplish and master? If so, get yourself ready to conquer the beast that is Fleetwood Mac’s Never Going Back Again.
In simple terms, this song is stupidly difficult considering everything that is going on in the recording. With surface-level listening, you probably never thought that this song was difficult.
Try to wrap your fingers around it and you’ll be confronted with tasty and complex polyrhythms galore. If you plan to sing it at the same time like Lindsey Buckingham, well, that’s a whole challenge in itself.
“Ten Years Gone” by Led Zeppelin
Ask anyone why they love Led Zeppelin and there’s a fair chance that epic guitar parts play a role. Zeppelin tracks are often characterized by some signature guitar licks, layers of guitars, and soaring guitar solos.
It isn’t their most popular, but Ten Years Gone is a song in Drop-D that meets the classic Zeppelin criteria. The song is a sort of lamentation in the form of a ballad that has some amazingly awesome guitar parts.
There are parts of the song that have both a signature Jimmy Page riff and an elevating guitar solo simultaneously. For some folks, it doesn't get much better than this track on Physical Graffiti.
“Joker And The Thief” by Wolfmother
If you’re like me, you discovered Wolfmother by means of skateboarding videos like Toy Machine’s Suffer The Joy. After all, in 2005, Wolfmother’s debut album was hard to avoid.
This album proved that classic stoner rock with riffs galore was not something of the past. The track, Joker And The Thief, is one of the more popular songs to come from this debut goldmine.
“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” by Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan has always had a way of putting intangible things into words. Sometimes, he delivers his message in a way that hits without coming out and saying exactly what it is.
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall is one Bob Dylan track that seems to always be open to interpretation. Like many of his songs, new generations of listeners are able to find their own meaning in his words.
To play this song in Drop-D, it’s best to put a capo on the 2nd fret. This will put the guitar in E (with Drop-D intervals), allowing you to incorporate an alternating bass line.
“Forty Six & 2” by Tool
As far as songs go, Forty Six & 2 embodies the key features that Tool is known for as a band. This includes things such as complex rhythms combined into an epic progressive metal track filled with dynamics.
From the very beginning, Forty Six & 2 continues to build in energy and intensity. Eventually, the song uncoils into a full-on in-your-face track about self-transformation.
There’s a reason why Tool is so commonly associated with the psychedelic mystical side of metaphysics. This song belongs on the self-help soundtrack.
“Midnight Rider” by Allman Brothers Band
There’s something incredibly timeless about the music that the Allman Brothers Band has created over the years. This group’s catalog can make anyone want to take a long road trip thanks to the music’s rolling, rambling nature.
That rolling and rambling sound is ever present in the band’s mega-famous track, Midnight Rider. By incorporating 2 different melodic guitar parts, the Allman Brothers Band continually crafted a picturesque sonic quilt.
Midnight Rider is pretty easy to play by most standards, with normal open chords used with Drop-D. Of course, if you wanted to play it in regular tuning, you probably wouldn’t have much of an issue.
“On A Plain” by Nirvana
Melancholia is perhaps one of the most difficult feelings to properly emote in a song. Full-blown sadness is much easier to convey than a feeling of melancholy, which has its own blandness.
Nirvana’s track, On A Plain, somehow manages to capture that feeling of melancholy almost perfectly. It’s a track that reminds you that things aren’t necessarily all that bad if there’s nothing to complain about.
The most iconic version of this track comes from the group’s MTV Unplugged album. You can find this performance in the supplied video above.
“Wake Up” by Rage Against The Machine
There have been few bands in history that have had the explosive political commentary of Rage Against The Machine. It would be a near-safe venture to say that they are perhaps one of the only bands of their kind.
The group’s debut album was particularly raw and explosive, featuring tracks like Wake Up. This track is classic RATM, fusing aggressive noise-rock elements with funk and hip-hop.
“Sober” by Tool
Many Tool fans have taken the band’s sonic progression to conspiracy theory levels of contemplation. Some feel that the group's progression from rawness to complexity resembles self-transformation itself.
A popular track that comes from one of the group's earlier albums is Sober, which was a moderate hit. However, it’s blatantly obvious just how much the band did grow in the many years to follow this release
“Optimistic” by Radiohead
Radiohead is another group whose sound has completely evolved throughout the years. One of the biggest debates tends to be surrounding which is the best Radiohead album overall.
With potent, pensive tracks like Optimistic, many people feel that Kid A takes the cake as their best album. Regardless, anybody can get lost in the song’s landscape and repeating chorus lines.
“Pink Moon” by Nick Drake
The funny thing about recorded music is that, often, people don't get discovered until it’s too late. Though Nick Drake had a record deal in the 1970s, he’s nowhere near as popular as he is today.
And really, this is unfortunate, as he has come to be known as one of the greatest 20th-century songwriters. Much of his standout work appears on his album, Pink Moon.
In fact, it’s the album’s title track that tends to be many people’s introduction to Nick Drake. Learn this one and you’ll tap into that mystical wizardry that is so present within the album.
“Naked As We Came” by Iron & Wine
Folk music made a comeback in the early 2000s when it became intertwined with indie music. One of the greatest albums to come from this time period was Iron & Wine’s Our Endless Numbered Days.
This album contains some of Iron & Wine’s biggest hits and put the group on the map with a wider audience. Part of the album’s success had to do with the richness of the recording’s sound.
Naked As We Came is arguably Iron & Wine’s most famous track. Take your time getting settled in with this rolling fingerpicking pattern in Drop-D tuning.
“Gold Dust Woman” by Fleetwood Mac
Listening to Rumours in its entirety is the musical equivalent of a soap opera for the ears. It takes a special song to bookend an album full of so many fantastic songs ranging in scale of moods.
Gold Dust Woman seems to really put the punctuation at the end of such an iconic album. It’s full of airy moodiness that, at times, borders on sultry seduction.
If you’re going to be playing for any Fleetwood Mac fans, put this in your bag of tricks. It isn’t an overly common selection compared to the other Fleetwood Mac songs that people cover.
“Cortez The Killer” by Neil Young
As a guitarist, it’s never bad to have a sizable collection of songs that provide plenty of jamming. When you’re sitting around with friends, these can be key tracks that everyone can go to town on.
A song that is popular for long, drawn-out jams is Neil Young’s Cortez The Killer. Lyrically, it’s actually a fairly dark song about the Spanish conquest of Mexico.
Musically, it provides an ample platform for guitar solos galore. The chord progression itself has a sort of moody tension built right into the sound.
“House Of Cards” by Radiohead
Radiohead’s track, House Of Cards, was just one of many songs to become popular from In Rainbows. This track has a distinct catchiness with plenty of the pensive moodiness that Radiohead has become known for.
House Of Cards is one of the few Radiohead songs that talk about love in a non-cryptic manner. Unfortunately, it’s a love that doesn’t seem to be without plenty of strings attached.
If you’re a fan of In Rainbows, you absolutely need to learn House Of Cards on guitar. It’s a song that even non-fans are likely to be somewhat familiar with.
“Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan
If there was going to be just one Bob Dylan song that you would learn, make it Mr. Tambourine Man. This song has all of those classic characteristics from Bob Dylan’s folk era.
Mr. Tambourine Man will give you a masterclass in incorporating a rambling storytelling vibe into a melodic song form. It’s one of those songs that will likely stand the test of time.
You can be certain that our grandkid’s children will be listening to Mr. Tambourine Man at some point. Why not make your own cover of it for them to discover down the line?
“The Pot” by Tool
Tool is notorious for taking an egregious amount of time in between each album. This leads to a fanbase that is incredibly hungry for new material and anticipating and speculating possible greatness.
The group's album, 10,000 Days was met initially with mixed reviews, eventually growing to be favorable. This album also has some comical moments embedded within, which can be heard in songs like The Pot.
This song shows that the band doesn’t always have to be so overtly serious.
“Sometimes” by My Bloody Valentine
If you’re a shoegaze fan, you’re undoubtedly aware of the legacy of My Bloody Valentine. This group is perhaps the most commonly associated with the massive washed-out tones of the genre.
Their 1991 album, Loveless, remains a must-listen for anyone interested in 90s alternative music. This album has many of the group's best-known works, including the song, Sometimes.
It might seem strange to tab out a shoegaze song but Sometimes is actually quite easy to play. Most of the song relies on a droning Drop-D open power chord to get things done.
“Monkey Wrench” by Foo Fighters
Monkey Wrench is perhaps one of the most readily-identifiable Foo Fighters songs in the band’s catalog. Anyone who was alive at the time of its release heard it being played non-stop on all media channels.
This song really does encapsulate the time it was written without ever feeling like a dated recording. You can easily play this song with Drop-D power chords on the lowest 3 strings.
“Lateralus” by Tool
Tool’s song, Lateralus, is another sprawling progressive metal epic that traverses the range of dynamics. It’s also an ideal song for learning Drop-D power chords using the lowest 3 guitar strings.
In fact, there’s a fair chance you could play 60% of this song using one finger to play each chord. Of course, you will still have to utilize multiple fingers on your hand to play the song up to speed.
But really, it’s songs like Lateralus that illustrate that something that sounds so complex can be ridiculously easy. This might come as a surprise to those who hold Tool’s musical complexity on a pedestal of high regard.
“The Thing That Should Not Be” by Metallica
Metallica is undoubtedly one of the most famous metal bands to ever grace the planet. In some ways, they revolutionized metal by incorporating thrash elements while also bringing metal music mainstream.
Many fans consider the album Master Of Puppets to be one of the band’s crown jewels. It has a perfect blend of melodic metal, thrash, and epic moments worthy of any raised fist.
The Thing That Should Never Be is a lesser-known Metallica track by mainstream standards. But, for those who love the Master Of Puppets album, it wouldn’t be the same listening experience without it.
“Ohio” by Neil Young
Most people know the song Ohio as a track from CSNY’s iconic album, Deja Vu. Those who know their stuff also know that this iconic protest song was written solely by Neil Young.
Ohio was written as a reaction to the unnecessary deaths of college students during a peaceful protest. In turn, the song became a sort of anthem for the late 1960s as the flower-power movement became more political.
Throughout much of his career, Neil has performed Ohio, with more notable instances on the acoustic guitar. If you're a solo performer, consider adding this song to your list as it will always remain relevant.
“I Might Be Wrong” by Radiohead
Does most of Radiohead’s material have a pensive vibe to it? For the most part, yes.
However, it’s tracks like I Might Be Wrong that almost get funky with it. Sure, it’s not full-on funk like Funkadelic, but if Radiohead-funk was a thing, this would be it.
I Might Be Wrong is built from a signature riff in Drop-D tuning while utilizing string-skipping. This riff relies heavily on a consistent rhythmic pattern that has a hint of weird polyrhythm within.
“Slither” by Velvet Revolver
The formation of supergroups has been a thing since the beginning of rock music. Velvet Revolver is perhaps one of the last major commercial supergroups to see the light of day.
For the most part, the group was reasonably successful and enjoyed acclaim with their track, Slither. This Drop-D track is relatively easy to play, utilizing simple barre chords and octave chord shapes throughout.
“The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers
With so many mentions of metal music, it might seem weird to see a Kenny Rogers country song here. However, Drop-D is commonly used in country guitar primarily because so many songs are written around the D chord.
The Gambler is a song that has a chorus that transcends the country genre altogether. Anyone vaguely familiar with the words will immediately be able to chime in and sing along.
For the most part, this is an easy crowd-pleaser that you need to have in your repertoire.
“Run Through The Jungle” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
If you’re an absolute beginner, most of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s catalog is optimal learning material. While the band has a signature sound, every song is built primarily from extremely simple roots.
The band’s track, Run Through The Jungle is simple, though different in that it utilizes the Drop-D tuning. This helps provide that quasi-psychedelic droning tone in the guitar’s main riff.
Anyone who wishes to play in a band would do well to study CCR’s musical compositions. It will teach you that the sum is often greater than each individual part if everyone stays in their lane.
“Parabola” by Tool
Compared to their other tracks, Parabola is a unique Tool song to try to learn. This is partially because it’s so loose and fluid for the first half of the song.
Unless you have someone singing the lyrics, it could be hard to stay in time without a reference point. Of course, when the full instrumentation kicks in, this possible confusion clears up.
From there, it’s straight-up metal delivered in your face as only Tool could do. Fortunately, the leads and rhythm sections are relatively easy to dial in thanks to the conveniences of Drop-D tuning.
“Down By The River” by Neil Young
Neil Young’s Down By The River is a moderate hit from early in his career. It doesn’t get constant radio play, but it’s just as iconic as the rest of his catalog.
On the electric recording, Neil does seem to play the song in regular E standard tuning. When he switches to the acoustic, he tends to play the song in Drop-D.
Of course, with Neil, there never seems to be any hard rules, so it’s best to use your ears. There’s little doubt that he’s probably played this song electrically in drop-D at some point.
“Bodysnatchers” by Radiohead
If you’re anything like me, Radiohead’s album, In Rainbows, completely changed your life. Like a virus, this album has seemingly been a constantly recurring presence in my life ever since its release.
Right out of the gate, Bodysnatchers comes in with a guitar part that is massively distorted and huge. In terms of overall energy, Bodysnatchers simply does not let up one second while devouring your senses.
Playing this song is actually relatively easy and incorporates some fun hammer-on runs in the main riff. While the notes have been notated, the attitude and approach you use when playing it is perhaps the most important.
“The Modern Leper” by Frightened Rabbit
Those who were fortunate got to experience Frightened Rabbit’s 2008 album, Midnight Organ Fight, on release day. The album quickly gained widespread critical acclaim, with tracks that you’ll remember for life.
Opening this iconic album is the track, The Modern Leper. This song has a rare combination of honesty dressed in tasteful wit with a catchy musicality.
Unfortunately, Frightened Rabbit’s main member, Scott Hutchison, passed away in 2018. May his music live on forever in the hearts of anyone willing to discover it.
“Take Me Somewhere Nice” by Mogwai
Mogwai is a group you probably don’t see too much of on similar list articles. The band has never been a massive mainstream success, though they are pioneers in their field.
Take Me Somewhere Nice is a slower song that embodies much of what Mogwai is known for. The music is thoughtful, intentional, and cinematic.
“Only A River” by Bob Weir
Miles of words have been written about the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia. Bob Weir often gets overlooked, despite being a crucial aspect of the band.
Weir has always proved himself to be a competent songwriter, with Only A River being a recent example. This song has a very earthy feel to it that almost imbues a sense of age in its sound.
Only A River utilizes basic open chord shapes that you’re used to using in E standard tuning. The low D of the Drop-D acts as a droning note, providing depth at the bottom end of the mix.
“Run Like Hell” by Pink Floyd
For some people, they heard Run Like Hell on the radio and asked themselves whether Pink Floyd had gone disco. The song does have that sort of late-70s disco-dance vibe going on with plenty of guitar delay.
Run Like Hell might be leagues away from the psychedelic forays Pink Floyd made a career with. But, at the same time, Run Like Hell introduced new generations to the band’s music.
The song also illustrates that Pink Floyd was always in a continual state of evolution. A track like this only proved that they were relevant for any modern period.
“Moby Dick” by Led Zeppelin
Do you have a drummer that won’t seem to play in a disciplined manner until they’ve gotten their jollies off? If so, learning Moby Dick allows your drummer to let loose with reckless abandon.
Moby Dick has its own signature guitar riffs, no doubt. But, it doesn’t take long to learn as the song is mostly a drum solo.
Plus, if you ever find yourself having to go to the bathroom during a gig, this makes an easy cover. You could easily step off the stage and use the restroom (or get a beer) during the drum solo section.
“In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins
Speaking of iconic drum parts, everybody knows In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins. When the drums kick in, everybody and their 3rd cousin imitates the toms being hit.
Of course, as a guitarist, you need to harness this kind of audience interaction every chance you can get. If that means you have to learn a Phil Collins track that is somewhat cheesy, so be it!
One thing you’ll find if you play even semi-professionally is that there will be songs you won’t want to play. But you’d be a fool to think that you wouldn’t have to play some of them once in a while.
Best Drop D Songs, Final Thoughts
Because of its simplicity (particularly in the chording of the lowest 3 strings), Drop-D might seem like a stale tuning. You might wonder if there’s anything original you could even write considering everything that’s been done in the tuning.
However, you need to keep in mind that music has a way of repeating itself, whether intentional or not. Don’t be afraid to let your inspirations shine through on things when you do write original material.
Drop-D will always be convenient for those low and heavy chugs and when a deep, ambient drone is required. Plus, it doesn’t require you to have to re-tune the entire guitar to use it.
Side note, do you want to learn to play guitar songs the easy way? Learn how here – results are guaranteed!