If you’re planning on playing heavy music on the guitar, it might be best to play in the Drop-C tuning. This tuning is identical to Drop-D, with the exception that all of the strings are tuned down one full step.
It’s never a bad idea to learn some Drop-C songs, especially if you’ll be regularly playing in that specific tuning. You’ll be able to bust out some surprising covers that could potentially please any audience you play in front of.
All of the following songs feature guitars tuned down to Drop-C and are ideal for anybody to learn. Whether you like metal or indie-rock, there is something here for you to add to your repertoire.
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“Aerials” by System Of A Down
If you’re looking for a workout on playing one note across several different strings, give Aerials a try. This track’s brooding intro features a continuing sequence of triplets across the guitar’s 3 lowest strings.
Fortunately, the actual note fingering played during this part is relatively easy. The only note that moves is on the 6th string which follows a typical minor scale pattern.
This means that you’ll leave the 4th and 5th strings open, though you’ll want to take care to pick cleanly. From there, you’ll be employing basic 1-finger power chords to deliver some of the heavier musical moments.
“Hearts Burst Into Fire” by Bullet For My Valentine
If you’re seeking a metal ballad that provokes tears and showcases godly guitar skills, check out Hearts Burst Into Fire. This song has it all, from elevating melodic passages to memorable anthemic lines.
Like so many of the songs that came out around its release, this track opens with a clean, chorus-affected guitar. A soaring guitar solo kicks in, where things will get interesting if you lack the capable skills.
Hearts Burst Into Fire will give you a taste of everything you need as a modern metal guitar player. Plus, it’ll teach you how to use tapping and give you a masterclass in melodic soloing.
“My Curse” by Killswitch Engage
Killswitch Engage has that unique blend of hardcore mixed with elements of emo that can satiate anyone’s tastes. Though the band has had a tenuous career, their hit track, My Curse, still slaps after almost 20 years.
The beginning of the song really pulls from the Midwest emo roots, incorporating a clean guitar with some delay. You’ll want to employ a delay pedal that has a tap-tempo function to emulate the song properly.
For the most part, this melodic section (which repeats at times throughout) is probably the most difficult passage. The rest of the song consists of barre chords and palm-mute chugging on the lowest string.
“Animal I Have Become” by Three Days Grace
In the early 2000s, it was a challenge to escape the reach of Three Days Grace’s music. If you didn’t like them, it was guaranteed that you had at least 1 friend who did like them.
Even then, Three Days Grace found widespread radio play, especially between 2003 and 2007. The track, Animal I Have Become, comes from this time period, off of the group’s 2nd album.
Animal I Have Become features some of the hallmark aspects of why Three Days Grace was so popular. The song’s catchy foundation makes it accessible and appealing to just about anybody with ears.
“Free” by Zac Brown Band
Drop-C is mostly used in heavier styles of music, but it can also be used in just about any situation. For instance, the Zac Brown Band (usually considered “country”) uses the tuning on the track, Free.
Sure, the song might have a capo on the 1st fret (making it Drop-C#), but the mechanics are the same. Like any song in standard tuning, Free utilizes open chord shapes you’re probably familiar with.
Songs like Free are especially ideal if you feel like singing songs in regular E standard tuning is too high. This, in turn, illustrates the fact that Drop-C could be incredibly useful for any songwriter.
“Holy Diver” by Killswitch Engage
DIO’s famous track, Holy Diver, has become a sort of anthem that all metal fans enjoy to no limit. Killswitch Engage’s cover version is an excellent modern rendition of this classic metal track that anyone can appreciate.
Musically, the way Killswitch Engage played the track would be fitting for any episode of Adult Swim’s Metalocalypse. Aside from the screaming vocals in the song’s break, even Howard Jones pulls off a fantastic and respectable Dio emulation.
The original is great, no doubt, but Killswitch Engage gives the song the energy it has always been lacking.
“I Stand Alone” by Godsmack
If you were a regular MTV viewer in 2000, you witnessed things that would stay with you for a lifetime. The channel was still known for breaking groups into the mainstream, with Godsmack being just one example.
For the times, Godsmack was an interesting group to be seen in the mainstream spotlight. Just the name alone was enough to make some people feel uneasy, let alone their flavor of trance metal.
Their song, I Stand Alone, is a popular song to play in Drop-C. A majority of the song’s structure relies on just 2 strings.
“Roman Bird Dog” by Melvins
Melvins is one of those groups that has always been a presence but is unknown to most. That is, unless you have a propensity for a uniquely weird brand of sludge metal, which Melvins serves up non-stop.
The trio has a massive list of official releases ranging the length of their 40-year career. Their track, Roman Bird Dog, comes from their 1992 release, Lysol, just before they made their major label debut.
If you’re playing this, make sure you also have a bassist and drummer who are locked in with you.
“Toxicity” by System Of A Down
When System Of A Down floated into the mainstream with Toxicity, the world was never the same. The 2001 album is generally considered one of the greatest albums ever made and it still holds up today.
While every track on the album is a banger, the album’s title track is especially potent. Musically, it has everything you could want, from simple melodicism to intensely difficult rhythmic patterns.
Consider the fact that 9/11 took place just shortly after this album, along with everything that’s happened since. It goes to show that things beyond our control will forever keep this album relevant to any modern time.
“Fight This Generation” by Pavement
Pavement might be the most random addition to a list that primarily features bands from heavier genres. However, while Pavement might be a little more “soft,” they were still full of plenty of angsty moments.
Their track, Fight This Generation, for instance, traverses an unusual landscape of emotions not generally touched upon. What starts out as daydreamy and lackadaisical turns into an anthem worthy of any punk band.
Of course, the dissonance present between the guitars in the mix helps to convey all the tension that is needed. Perhaps it is a symbol of the disagreements commonly experienced between every generation coexisting at any one time.
“Bad Horsie” by Steve Vai
If you’re vaguely familiar with wah pedals, you’re probably aware of the Bad Horsie model made by Morley. Any person who isn’t a Steve Vai fan would probably wonder at the reasoning behind the pedal’s name.
Well, it does actually come from the song titled, Bad Horsie (big surprise there). And while the track is full of standard Vai tendencies, Bad Horsie is actually incredibly heavy.
In fact, Bad Horsie could rival some of the heavier bands from any era. It truly does chug at a level that is surprising for even Steve Vai.
“Something In The Way” by Nirvana
There are many memorable moments on Nirvana’s Unplugged album, all of which are notable for different reasons. Something In The Way is an especially memorable track, if only for its performance.
Out of all of the songs in the Nirvana catalog, Something In The Way just hits a little differently. It is, by far, one of the most vulnerable songs that Cobain ever penned.
The track is played in Drop-C, but much of that vulnerable sound comes from the addition of the cello. Regardless, it’s something every Nirvana fan should learn if they’re dabbling in the Drop-C tuning.
“Into The Void” by Nine Inch Nails
Every Nine Inch Nails fan will go into a debate about which album they think is the best. For many, it’s the 1999 release, The Fragile, which sees Reznor honing his craft to greater detail.
The Fragile has many musical themes that play throughout the tracklist. Many of these thematic elements can be heard in the song, Into The Void.
Somehow, Reznor blends elements of gospel, pop, metal, rock, and even funk, in one package.
“Chop Suey!” by System Of A Down
For many people, the song, Chop Suey!, was their first introduction to the band, System Of A Down. The song quickly got attention for its explosiveness mixed with melodic pop elements, which contrast each other throughout the song.
Of course, Chop Suey! also caused quite a stir in regard to its seemingly anti-religious chorus lyrics. Though the song was released a month before, 9/11 seemed to have tainted its mainstream viability.
That obviously didn’t hurt System Of A Down’s success by any means.
“Curl Of The Burl” by Mastodon
Mastodon has always seemed to be one of those metal bands that just always does things the right way. Infectious riffs, world-class musicianship, and wickedly-good song compositions are par for the course here.
Their track, Curl Of The Burl, has all of the things you’d want to find in a stoner metal song. The main riff has some sneaky syncopation that will require you to slow the track down to locate its timing.
Most of the solos tend to fall more on the melodic side, making it easy for any blues player.
“N Dakota” by Parquet Courts
Parquet Courts tapped into the right vein of indie rock sounds that helped give them a status of royalty. Their 2012 album, Light Up Gold, is considered one of the best indie rock albums of the 2010s.
Of course, the group has garnered comparisons to indie-rock godfathers, Pavement, due to their jangly sound. The song, N Dakota, encapsulates the essence of Pavement’s obtuseness.
This track is especially ideal if you’re primarily used to playing barre chords. Compared to other songs in this article, N Dakota is a breeze that anybody can handle.
“The Darkest Nights” by As I Lay Dying
While As I Lay Dying obviously takes its name from the Faulkner novel, they are anything but boring. The band is known for its screaming vocals and infectious riffs that dance like lightning.
Many of the group’s songs are actually played in Drop-C, with The Darkest nights being one example. Anyone who was a teenager around 2005 probably listened to this at least once in high school.
The Darkest Nights is composed mostly of catchy guitar riffs mixed with some repeating melodic phrases throughout. It leans toward the melodic side of things rather than heavy, rhythmic chugging.
“Blew” by Nirvana
For as popular as Nirvana has been, you’d be surprised how many people overlook the 1989 album, Bleach. This album features Nirvana at its most primitive form, with song’s like the opening track, Blew.
If you’re a beginner guitarist who’s also a Nirvana fan, Blew is a good foray into exploring the Drop-C tuning. The song utilizes some one-finger barre chords and also has a very melodic and competent guitar solo.
In fact, you could say that Blew’s guitar solo is more articulate than many of Cobain’s later solos. It could also just be because the guitar solo itself has a rather clean tone, which is unusual for Nirvana.
“Becoming The Bull” by Atreyu
Since the early 2000s, Atreyu has seemingly always been a presence in the metal scene. The band found their mainstream stride with their 4th album, which featured the song, Becoming The Bull.
Musically, this song seems to be built from a sort of marching pulse that persists throughout the composition. The guitar parts range from high-octane riffing (with some horror influences) to chugging, to wicked melodic passages.
Learning this will give you a masterclass in understanding how modern pop-metal (is that a thing?) is written. Many songs have followed a similar formula to what this song uses.
“The Best Deceptions” by Dashboard Confessional
Again, you don’t have to play metal to utilize the Drop-C tuning in an effective way. If you don’t believe me, check out Dashboard Confessional’s song, The Best Deceptions.
This song comes from early in Dashboard Confessional’s career and features one acoustic guitar. Musically, there the song features some simple chord strumming as well as some melodic cross-string runs.
Again, if you were a teenager in the early 2000s, chances are you might have encountered this album. It was sort of considered the softer flip-side of emo’s metal sound.
“Boredom” by Tyler, The Creator
Tyler, The Creator is a recent example of an artist who has been able to transcend the boundaries of genres. His music has a flair of authenticity because of the fact that the actual instrumentation doesn’t feel or sound digital.
The song, Boredom, for instance, features a guitar prominently in the mix as the song’s foundation. Musically, there are only a few chords to learn here, including the beautifully majestic major 7th.
One thing to note is that you’ll actually leave the entire guitar in E standard. Instead, you’ll only be tuning the 6th string to C.
“The Fragile” by Nine Inch Nails
The Fragile is another track that comes from the Nine Inch Nails album of the same title. Like most of the songs on the album, this track is incredibly cinematic and emotionally revealing.
There are a couple of things that make this song fun to play, with the first being that it’s easy. The entire intro is basically just pounding away at a descending line, one note at a time.
Large distortion is a necessity as the song relies on dynamic juxtaposition for extra potency. The song almost quiets down to a whisper before pulverizing you with a signature Reznor melody.
“I’m With Stupid” by Static-X
Some music groups can be easily remembered by the simple fact that somebody has a unique hairstyle. Static-X is one of those bands, and, for many, it might be the only thing they know about the group.
Is it wrong to formulate a judgment toward a band on the basis of a hairstyle? Not necessarily, as Wayne Static’s iconic hairstyle does seem to have served its purpose.
After all, anyone who’s curious enough would stumble on great tracks like, I’m With Stupid.
“Monster” by Skillet
If you just want to rock out without having to do anything technical, give Skillet’s Monster a whirl. This song only uses 1-finger barre chords and is simple enough for any beginner guitarist to play.
“Change (In The House Of Flies)” by Deftones
Deftones is one of those bands that will be highly regarded until the dawn of the next modern age. Their entire catalog is littered with songs that people from any musical background could appreciate.
The song, Change (In The House Of Flies), features many moments of dynamic contrast. Learn the power chord and barre chord forms and you’re pretty much set to go with this song.
“Some Kind Of Monster” by Metallica
When St. Anger was released in 2003, the reception among fans and critics was lackluster to say the least. Some have openly called it their worst release (though that title realistically goes to Lulu, their collaboration with Lou Reed).
With that being said, after 20 years, St. Anger hits a little differently than it did back then. Songs like Some Kind Of Monster are somewhat more bearable than they used to be.
As such, Some Kind Of Monster is very easy to master. Most of the song consists of simple riffing that any beginner could play.
“The Numbers” by Radiohead
Every Radiohead release seems to be a monumental world event, and 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool was no exception. This album touched on many of the sonic landscapes that the band explored with their legendary album, In Rainbows.
It also has moments that are more intimate, often featuring simplistic compositional decisions. The Numbers is one of these tracks which primarily features a guitar along with a drum machine and some piano.
Learning this is relatively simple once you master the main progression that the song is built on. There are only a few parts that differ from the main progression.
Best Drop-C Songs, Final Thoughts
As you can see, Drop-C does tend to find more rampant usage in heavier styles of music. The tuning itself has a growl embedded in itself that can shake the bones of anyone’s body.
So, the next time you need to give somebody a sonic massage, consider tuning your guitar down to the Drop-C tuning. Just about any of the songs mentioned in this article will surely provide that pummeling earthquake associated with heavy music.