8 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Songs That Require Dropped Tuning
Dropped tuning has been used in heavy metal and hard rock music since the 1970s. Although it has been popular in short bursts. It became extremely popular in the early 2000s with Nu Metal acts who were looking for a brand-new sound. Playing songs in dropped tuning meant guitar riffs could sound lower, heavier, and more sinister in general. I would like to look at 8 songs that use dropped tuning.
1. Led Zeppelin - Kashmir
This is probably one of Led Zeppelin's most famous riffs. Jimmy Page’s creative idea to drop the tuning for this song opened up many sonic possibilities. By tuning the 1st, 2nd, and sixth string down a tone Page was able to come up with an incredibly memorable riff.
2. Black Sabbath - Rock n Roll Angel
Although a lot of heavy metal songs used dropped D tuning, Black Sabbath played a lot of their songs in dropped C sharp. This was mainly due to guitarist Tony Iommi’s unorthodox guitar style. (Iommi lost the tips of his middle and ring finger in an accident.) If you listen to this song you can clearly hear it doesn’t use standard tuning. Take a close listen to the bass notes the guitar is playing in the song’s intro.
3. Steve Vai - The Audience Is Listening
Vai popularised the use of the 7-string guitar. This had a low B string so you could still use standard tuning but have more low-end possibilities. Although other people had used 7-string guitars before, Vai, in conjunction with Ibanez guitars made a model for the masses. This song’s main riff utilizes the low B string for extra grunt and power.
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4. Whitesnake - You're Gonna Break My Heart Again
This song uses dropped D tuning. The advantage of using dropped tuning is not only for more possibilities with guitar riffs but also to assist vocalists. If you listen to singer David Coverdale’s voice in the bridge you can see he doesn’t have to strain to hit the higher notes. This is partly due to the guitar part being played in the lower register.
5. Sevendust - Face to Face
This song is in dropped B tuning. This tuning is interesting because only the low E string is altered. Tuning the E string 2 and a half steps to B makes this tuning the easiest. This is because none of the other strings are affected. This is a great sinister riff with funky drums and ear-piercing vocals.
6. Korn - Alone I Break By
Korn was an important part of the nu-metal scene in the early 2000s. Their use of the 7-string guitar set them apart from their peers. This song uses a dropped G sharp tuning which is incredibly low. The cool thing about this is if you listen to the low guitar part it starts entering the frequency of the bass guitar. It still stands apart due to the guitar tone but it has a great effect. The majority of this album features a 7 string guitar.
7. Mudvayne - Happy?
This song uses dropped C tuning. This is one of the most difficult dropped tunings. Mainly because every string needs to be tuned down a step. It’s important to note that these bands usually have separate guitars ready for these songs when played live. The outro of this song is the easiest part to hear the dropped tuning.
8. Rage Against the Machine - Killing in the Name
This classic riff uses dropped D tuning. It was released in the 90s and would influence many other bands like Korn and Limp Bizcut in the years to come. The dropped tuning is easy to hear in the song’s main riff. It is important to note that most guitar riffs with dropped D tuning use very little reverb. This is because the overlaying sound will make the riff ‘muddy’ due to being played in the low register.
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