Detuning the low E string to a D is often one of the first alternate tunings guitarists experiment with. It’s probably the most convenient to try, as it doesn’t require all of the strings to be tuned differently.
If you’re looking to add some drop D songs to your repertoire, you’ve come to the right place. Learn these songs and you’ll have an entire set’s worth of songs you can play in this simple alternate tuning.
But first, if it's your aim to do music professionally, you'll want to check out our free ebook while it's still available:
Free eBook: Discover how real independent musicians like you are making $4,077 - $22,573+ monthly via Youtube, let me know where to send the details:
“Everlong” by Foo Fighters
When Foo Fighters broke into the mainstream, it came as a surprise to many to see Dave Grohl playing guitar. It was even more perplexing to see him in the role of a frontman, handling vocal duties, as well.
In a way, it seemed as if he was born for the role, with his songwriting capabilities at the forefront. This was, by far, a vast contrast to how everyone came to know him for being the drummer of Nirvana.
Dave Grohl has professed countless times that he is somewhat lacking in terms of his general fretboard knowledge. However, one has to wonder if he’s bothered to take any lessons during the band’s near-30-year career.
Everlong is one of the band’s biggest hits, and it’s actually a product of experimental exploration. By willingly allowing himself to noodle, Grohl found chords consisting of sounds that were tasteful to his ear.
Eventually, he combined his rough skeletal outline with a different rhythm and some emotional lyrics. And, as the saying goes, the rest is history.
“Harvest Moon” by Neil Young
Neil Young has had a career filled with success in every avenue his musicianship has gone down. Part of this success is undoubtedly due to his willingness to experiment and stay true to himself.
While Young is definitely a competent guitarist, particularly in emotionally conveying his phrasing, songwriting is his greatest asset. Throughout every decade, Young has produced timeless hits, with Harvest Moon being one of them.
Harvest Moon has a more laid-back country-tinged folk attitude about it and is a great love song. Young utilizes the low D string as more of a droning note during the song’s iconic intro.
“I'm The Man Who Loves You” by Jeff Tweedy (Wilco)
Wilco has been an incredibly groundbreaking band throughout the course of their sprawling career. When they released their album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, in 2001, they did something that really hadn’t been done before.
Their record label, at the time, didn’t approve of the finished album Wilco had presented and wished for changes. The band didn’t oblige and was dropped from the label, only to release it for free on their website.
This, in turn, was one of the first instances of internet music streaming. However, the album’s tracklist is ultimately why this album is one of the best of the early 2000s.
Jeff Tweedy, Wilco’s main songwriter, frequently performs solo shows, often with songs being reworked musically for a solo acoustic performance. I’m The Man Who Loves You (from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot) features drop D with a capo on the 3rd fret.
“Never Going Back Again” by Fleetwood Mac
If you’re just getting into fingerpicking, Fleetwood Mac’s song, Never Going Back Again, will be a challenge. Heck, it’s a challenge even for those that have been utilizing fingerpicking techniques for years.
The guitar part features a steady alternating bass line between the 6th string (tuned to D) and the 5th. However, the melodic aspect of the rest of guitar instrumentation presents its complicated challenges.
Perhaps the most common is the aspect of different polyrhythms that exist between the treble and bass lines. There are also some cascading lines that variate, which will require some dexterity.
What’s even more mind-blowing is the fact that guitarist, Lyndsey Buckingham actually sang quite well while playing this. It’s an example of exquisite mastery disguised in simplicity, as one might not be readily aware of this song’s difficulty.
The song does use a capo on the 4th fret. Just remember, as with learning anything difficult, start small and go slowly.
“White House Road” by Tyler Childers
Many people claim to not like country music, which is valid as not everyone has tastes in certain genres. There are also people who say that there is a difference between real country and the country on the radio.
This might be true, perhaps, though the average person might not readily know what could be considered as “real” country. Many people cite Tyler Childers as being an artist possessing these types of qualities.
His earlier works were filled with powerful lyrics, often with rural landscapes providing lyrical subject matter. He also utilized more of a simplistic folk guitar approach, serving as the base for delivering his potent lyrics.
White House Road is one of his most popular songs about living life in the fast lane. It uses a capo on the 5th fret and consists of only 3 different chords.
“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” by Bob Dylan
Much of Bob Dylan’s catalog is considered to be consisting of top-notch lyrical work and vocal delivery. Whether it was in his early folk days, or bridging the gap into rock, Dylan’s music has always been potent.
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall has frequently been named one of the best songs of all time in various magazines. Like many Dylan songs, this song has some honest lyrics that serve as a great commentary on the human experience.
Many of Dylan’s songs can be a little difficult for a beginner to grasp. However, this makes for a great entry in Bob Dylan’s work, as it features a simple strumming pattern.
You’ll need to put a capo on the 2nd fret to play this song in the proper key. From there, the song is built primarily from simple open chord shapes.
“Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan’s early work was an instance of an artist influencing an entire decade of music. It also helped to personify Dylan as being one of the most important (and greatest) songwriters of the modern era.
Mr. Tambourine Man is a great example of this, as it’s been popular many times over. Several groups, including The Byrds, have covered this song to significant effect.
This song utilizes a capo on the 3rd fret. Much of the music is based around the open chord shape of D.
“I’m Always In Love” by Jeff Tweedy (Wilco)
Wilco’s 1999 album, Summerteeth, saw the band adding pop elements into their sound. However, Summerteeth does not suffer from pop sounds that allow the music to be dated specifically to the late 90s.
Rather, Summerteeth utilizes more obscure pop stylings, with inspiration seemingly to have come from the 1960s. I’m Always In Love (from Summerteeth) features a signature synthesizer line that allows the track to be instantly recognizable.
When Jeff Tweedy plays this song in his solo performances, he mimics that signature line. This is especially apparent in his use of suspended chords around the standard D-shape open chord.
To play this classic track, you’ll need to put a capo on the 5th fret. The drop D can make for a great bass note for a bit of a larger sound.
“On A Plain” by Nirvana
When Nirvana exploded onto the scene, the mainstream hadn’t really been exposed to such a raw sound. Sure, metal had existed for decades, but Nirvana seemed to possess a unique pop sensibility.
This became all the more apparent when Nirvana did the acoustic performance for their MTV Unplugged In New York album. It was this album that really allowed the world to see the beautiful fragility that existed within each song.
Of course, it’s also notable for the fact that Cobain died not even a year after the show was recorded. Regardless of this fact, the album remains one that has a sacred space in the hearts of many.
The song, On A Plain, utilizes a drop D tuning, with some convenient drop D power chords used throughout. This is a great choice for anyone who is learning to transition into power chords and barre chords.
“All Your’n” by Tyler Childers
All Your’n is another popular song by Tyler Childers, which comes from his 2019 album, Country Squire. On the surface, this would appear to be a love song, which some have claimed to use during their weddings.
Digging deeper, one might get the impression that this song is actually a telling tale of substance abuse. This might not be so far off base, as much of Childer’s lyrics have mentioned the use of substances.
Either way, this is a great song for any beginner. It can be played in traditional standard tuning, or drop D.
“Something In The Way” by Nirvana
One of the most moving tracks from the MTV Unplugged Live In New York is Something In The Way. This song is performed exceptionally well, aided by a tasteful cello that swells throughout.
Something In The Way is filled with lyrics that are quite visual in nature. It provides a detailed example of living in squalor beneath a bridge.
Out of all the tracks on this particular album, this song is best-known for this performance. Cobain’s vocal delivery is both fragile and haunting at the same time.
Much of the song features a simple riff between the guitar’s 3 lowest strings. Drop D barre chords are also used within the song to provide an excellent dynamic balance between song sections.
“My Own Prison” by Creed
The 1990s were filled to the brim with heavily distorted guitars and edgy musicality. It seems as if grunge had completely revolutionized what could be used within the boundaries of mainstream rock music.
Toward the end of the 90s, grunge itself had sort of evolved into something different. This time period would see a slight infusion of metal music elements with grunge for a distinctive sound.
One of the bands that came from this era was Creed. Today, just mentioning the band’s name is enough to make anybody cringe.
However, their first album was a bit of an underground success, although it did receive mixed reviews at the time. This album had the right amount of edginess to serve as a foresight of what the 2000s might sound like.
Of course, the band’s various themes and messages in this album might not be to everyone’s liking, and that’s okay. Musically, though, it does deserve at least another look, if only for a guilty pleasure.
Creed has played their song, My Own Prison (from their debut album of the same title) acoustically. You’ll find this song utilizes a drop D tuning, which is quite standard amongst heavier genres of music.
Unfortunately, Creed’s acoustic performance failed to really gain them the attention they once had. At one point in time, they were truly on top of the world in terms of widespread success.
“Ashes Of American Flags” by Jeff Tweedy (Wilco)
Here’s yet another Wilco song that Jeff Tweedy frequently performs live during his solo concerts. Ashes Of American Flags comes from the album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, serving as a more somber track on the album.
In some ways, this song touches on the American way of life, particularly with the bit about the cash machine. This song also features classic examples of Tweedy’s masterful lyricism.
For the most part, this song is fairly simple, utilizing traditional open chord shapes without a capo. Be sure to check out Tweedy’s acoustic album, Together At Last, for a reference point.
“There There” by Radiohead
With a timeline spanning nearly 40 years, Radiohead has been one of the most important bands of all time. Each release finds the band exploring new territory and pushing boundaries beyond previous benchmarks.
Their song, There There, comes from the 2011 album, King Of Limbs. On the album, this song has more of an electronic vibe, accentuated by electric guitar.
When the band performs it live, Thom Yorke often plays the acoustic guitar while singing. Playing it like this, the low string is tuned to D, while the A string is tuned up to B.
“Shine” by Collective Soul
It’s a rare event when a band’s debut single ends up being the biggest song they would ever release. That very thing happened with Collective Soul’s song, Shine.
While there are many songs to come from the grunge period, Shine came just before grunge truly broke mainstream. However, that’s not to say that grunge’s success didn’t help Shine reach the top of the charts.
The song has memorable vocal melodies, a hopeful chorus, and heavy interlude breakdown sections. Its simplicity really makes this a powerful song that anyone of any era can relate to in some way.
In some ways, Shine is almost like a cosmic hymn, despite not really being a religious song. Every person deserves good, and the universe granting that is what this song’s all about.
Shine uses some fairly basic open chord shapes, along with some power chord melodies. You’ll have a lot of fun with the musical variance written into this song.
“Black Hole Sun” by Chris Cornell
Chris Cornell made his mark as one of the iconic and most-recognizable voices of the 90s grunge era. His work with Soundgarden helped to bring that signature Seattle sound into the homes of almost every person on Earth.
Anyone who was alive in the 1990s is probably quite familiar with the song, Black Hole Sun. This track featured Cornell’s vocal prowess amidst some timeless rock guitar work.
Just about anyone from that time period can recite the chorus from this iconic song. By tuning your guitar to drop D, you can easily play this song for yourself.
You should be forewarned, however, that anyone within earshot of you playing this song may sing along. At the very least, you’ll probably never hear the end of requests for you to play this song.
“You Lie All The Time” by Beabadoobee
Beabadoobee has been making waves in the indie music scene over the last few years. Despite being in her early 20s, Beabadoobee has become a household name amongst music nerds everywhere.
Of course, when you write a song about Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus, people are going to check it out. Even Malkmus himself has mentioned Beabadoobee’s song, which gave her all the street credit she’d ever need.
All of that aside, her song, You Lie All The Time is a great choice for a drop D song. It does utilize some interesting chord voicings that may prove to be difficult for a complete beginner.
Much of Beabadoobee’s latest works have been well-received by critics. It’s songs like these that show that indie music will likely be affected by this artist’s contributions.
In fact, Beabadoobee is one of the few indie artists of the last decade to break into the mainstream.
Best Drop D Acoustic Songs, Final Thoughts
Drop D tuning is usually seen with heavier styles of music, and more often than not, with an electric guitar. However, this list has shown many examples of how drop D plays an important role in many acoustic songs.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with drop D tuning. You’ll find that the low depth of the tuning provides something tangible that you can’t seem to get enough of.