While it’s nice to play in regular E standard tuning, it’s always worth your time to explore other tunings. An easy one to try out without much to remember (tuning-wise) is D standard.
This isn’t Drop-D, but rather, is essentially E standard with every string tuned down 1 whole step. You’ll find that, while the tunings are similar, the lower notes provide a rich depth to the guitar’s sound.
Here are some excellent D standard songs to get you started with this 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:
“Yesterday” by The Beatles
You might be sick and tired of always having to hear about The Beatles. However, this group is perhaps one of the most influential bands in all of pop music history.
This group spent as much time in the studio as a normal person spends working their day job. And by the sheer number of hits the group recorded, it’s evident that this hard work was not in vain.
One of the group’s most iconic songs from their early period is the track, Yesterday. This song has a sort of smoky quietness that really helps to drive home the lonely aspect of its lyrics.
It’s one of those songs that could have been written and released in any time period. There isn’t much here that makes it seem as if it’s dated specifically to the mid-1960s.
With this song in D standard, you’ll essentially be employing your normal E standard chord shapes. There’s a good number of chords in the song, but they are all fairly easy for the most part.
“Whiskey In The Jar” by Metallica
If you grew up with Metallica, you never would have guessed that they would play an Irish folk tune. But, in the late 1990s, the band did just that and ended up having great success with the song.
This was what Metallica was hoping for, as the group really seemed to be struggling with maintaining their relevance. Sure, the band had a die-hard loyal following, but they were by no means the cutting-edge group they once were.
Whiskey In The Jar gave Metallica a Grammy, and was one of the last positive notes for the group. Not long after, they would become embroiled in a public battle against Napster, among other things.
Hetfield notably had an alcohol problem throughout this period, so there may be some reasoning behind this song. Irish folk tunes and drinking go together like butter and bread, at least from a stereotypical point of view.
“Girls, Girls, Girls” by Mötley Crüe
The 1980s in Western culture is an interesting decade, especially as far as entertainment is concerned. Those who grew up in the 80s consider it to be the greatest decade ever.
Of course, anyone else might look at the 80s as a sort of cultural cesspool. The reasoning behind this is that many feel the music lacks a timeless quality that other decades possess.
That doesn’t stop people from enjoying 80s metal, and Mötley Crüe was one of the major founding fathers. They successfully combined an image, a lifestyle, and an attitude into their brand of fast metal.
And, yes, some of it was quite crude, which is evident with songs like Girls, Girls, Girls. Nobody can be certain that this song would have been as successful (or even accepted) if released today.
“If We Were Vampires” by Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit
Jason Isbell is a name you might have seen floating around the ether where country music is concerned. Isbell made a name for himself when he was young, recording with Drive-By Truckers and working in Muscle Shoals.
While he could be considered a modern master of the Telecaster, his acoustic skills are top-notch, too. You can really hear his mastery in the song If We Were Vampires, which features D standard tuning.
There are only 5 different chords to worry about during this song, but the magic is in the picking hand. Isbell employs some fingerpicking that will truly leave you stumped for a while.
Like anything, start out slowly and work your way up to normal speeds as you get better. If it takes you 3 months, then so be it, but the results will be worth it.
“Fly Me To The Moon” by Frank Sinatra
While Fly Me To The Moon had been around for a bit, Frank Sinatra’s version blasted it into space. Perhaps it was a bit of intuition, but Sinatra released the song around the time of the first lunar landing.
Part of what made Fly Me To The Moon so successful is the involvement of Count Basie. This would open the door to involvement with the well-known jazz session guitarist, Freddie Green.
What’s often overlooked is that Sinatra and Basie’s partnership came at a pivotal time in history. This was the same time period that Martin Luther King, Jr. was leading the efforts for civil rights.
Fly Me To The Moon does have its fair share of chords, but, for the most part, are fairly simple. Take your time to really translate the orchestration to the guitar in a way that presents itself nicely.
“The Biggest Lie” by Elliott Smith
One of the greatest songwriters of the last 30 years is undoubtedly, Elliott Smith. Unfortunately, he was not given the full amount of recognition he likely deserved during the time he was living.
Smith has a way of writing lyrics that say things in a way that nobody else can really touch. His lyrics are often emotionally haunting and are amplified by his musical stylings.
His first record, while a bit raw, shows the vast potential that Elliott possessed and would soon become honed in. A great example of this can be heard in the song, The Biggest Lie.
This track in D standard involves 5 chords, often with a pulsing bass line played by the thumb. While simple, it tells the tale of mixed feelings and being the victim of somebody else’s whims.
“Strawberry Fields Forever” by The Beatles
By the late 1960s, music had gotten a bit more trippy, which isn’t necessarily at the fault of The Beatles. However, because they were the giants in the industry, their influence paved the way for trippiness to become normalized.
One of the most psychedelic songs ever released is their track, Strawberry Fields Forever. This is a bit of an unusual song, and not just because of the way it sounds.
When recording the song, they actually slowed the tape to give Lennon’s voice a more ethereal sound. The track actually has multiple takes spliced seamlessly together, slightly altering the listener’s perceptions.
You’ll be able to play this on a guitar tuned to D standard. However, you’ll need to adapt to the weirdness a little to make it work.
“Cowgirl In The Sand” by Neil Young
Neil Young was truly on fire in the early years of his career. He made a name for himself by playing in different groups, as well as with his own solo project.
Many consider Young’s earliest solo releases to be the true prized gems of his career. These albums would spark the hits that Young is known most for today (aside from releases with other bands).
Neil isn’t afraid to do what he wants, and it’s spawned a few songs that are classic for guitar solos. Cowgirl In The Sand is one of these songs, featuring a lengthy track time and a bevy of different solos.
This is a song you’ll want to know and keep in your back pocket for any occasion. You can bust this out at jam sessions where everyone is looking for a platform to solo with.
“Shout At The Devil” by Mötley Crüe
As far as history goes, there have always been styles of music associated with evil, and more specifically, the devil. It’s only been in the last 50 years that styles of music have begun to embrace this imagery.
When Mötley Crüe released Shout At The Devil, it helped to give them an image of living on the edge. Parents certainly were not too enthused about letting their children listen to such music.
However, Chuck Klosterman makes a great point in his book, Fargo Rock City. The song seems to actually be about battling the devil, rather than embracing the dark side.
Nevertheless, this D standard track is the epitome of 80s metal at its finest. There’s even an anthem here for an audience to sing along with.
“Lithium” by Nirvana
Nirvana’s track, Lithium, is a song that has seemingly been in the band’s repertoire since its beginning. It wasn’t until Butch Vig provided his production mastery that the song became what it is today.
Lithium is just one of many songs that have transcended its track listing on the album, Nevermind. It has a very eerie musicality that plays into the song’s lyrics about chemical happiness and confusion.
This D standard song is relatively easy to play. Perhaps the only thing that can cause an issue is the odd timing during the song’s intro and verses.
“Waltz #2 (XO)” by Elliott Smith
Every album that Elliott Smith released shows a progression of evolution in his songwriting. While his early releases feature sparse instrumentation, his later releases were more developed.
The release, XO, came at a time when Smith signed with a major record label. He had previously achieved mainstream success by having a few songs on the film, Good Will Hunting.
This allowed Smith to have a larger budget for his work, resulting in powerful tracks like Waltz #2 (XO). While many of the songs on the album are gems, it’s Waltz #2 (XO) that stands out on the album.
If you’re studying songwriting, you need to add this song (played in D standard) to your repertoire. Powerful lyrics enhanced by haunting musicality are just a taste of what you’ll find here.
“Sad But True” by Metallica
Metallica had been building an army of fans throughout the 1980s, which would culminate to a pinnacle in 1991. That year saw the release of Metallica’s self-titled album, which was their biggest commercial success.
Unfortunately, their legion of fans began to become divided by the sentiment that Metallica had lost its edge. They felt that they had softened up to appeal to a wider commercial audience.
While The Black Album might be their most accessible, it does signal a pivoting point in the band’s career. Many jokingly associate the song, Sad But True, to correlate with the band’s “selling out” for commercialism.
Even so, Sad But True has its iconic moments, and makes for a great song to learn in D standard. Plus, even casual fans are familiar with it, since it’s on the same album as Enter Sandman.
“Stuck In The Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel
The 1970s continued to build upon the hit-factory industry standard set back in the 1950s. Too many 70s songs to list have become pop culture hits far beyond their original release date.
You could certainly say that about the Stealers Wheel hit, Stuck In The Middle With You. While the song charted quite well, it’s perhaps become even more famous as time has gone by.
This song has an undeniable feel-good vibe to it, and just about everybody can appreciate it. It makes for a perfect song to add to your repertoire, especially one centered around the D standard tuning.
The song itself is based around some simple chord shapes, which lends itself to be convenient. No matter how far gone you might be, you’ll be able to bust this out at any party.
“Things Ain’t Like They Used To Be” by The Black Keys
The Black Keys were an absolute force to be reckoned with during their early years. Audiences found it baffling how a band of just drums and guitar could have such a large and powerful sound.
This all culminated at a peak around 2008 with the band’s album, Attack & Release. Many consider this to be one of their best albums, no doubt aided by Danger Mouse’s production.
Things Ain’t Like They Used To Be is a slow, sprawling track appearing towards the end of the album. It features Dan Auerbach’s penchant for mixing rhythm and lead concepts is on full display here.
Plus, if you listen closely, you’ll get to hear some tasty organ lines laid down by Danger Mouse himself.
“Heroes” by David Bowie
David Bowie will forever be one of the greatest musicians to have ever graced the Earth. Few people have managed to realize their artistic visions to the extent that Bowie was able to do.
And while anyone can work hard, Bowie continually proved that he was to always be considered relevant. For a pop star working through different genres, many consider Bowie to be extremely innovative.
Take the song, Heroes, for instance, which came out in 1977. If you didn’t know any better, you might guess that the song would have come out an entire decade later.
Many consider Heroes to be Bowie’s biggest commercial hit, likely because of its lyrics. Learning this song in D standard is a breeze, utilizing 5 different normal open chord shapes.
“Lullaby” by Low
Low is an interesting band originating from the 1990s that might have missed your radar altogether. This band is noted for being extremely down-tempo, often with very delicate sounds with a hint of desolation.
Low’s music often requires a bit of patience, but this is usually rewarded in surprising ways. Considering what was popular on the radio at the time, it’s not hard to see why Low never blew up.
The song, Lullaby, comes from Low’s 1994 debut album, I Could Live In Hope and features the D standard tuning. When playing this, you’ll find the guitar’s part is based on 3 different arpeggios.
Once the song picks up in intensity, you’ll primarily be playing simple power chords. Keep your guitar slightly clean with just a hint of delay to achieve a similar sound.
“Between The Bars” by Elliott Smith
Elliott Smith’s 3rd album, Either/Or, features Elliott at his most raw and unrefined. Many of the album’s tracks feature instrumentation played by Smith himself, which dresses up the haunting messages of his lyrics.
One of the tracks on this album is Between The Bars, which many consider to be one of his best. The song touches on the topic of love in the late night hours and the distances between drinking establishments.
Out of all of Smith’s songs, this is probably the most known by even fairly casual fans. It has a serious potency that cannot be denied.
When you learn this song, you’ll see why Smith opted to write the song in D standard. The tuning perfectly fits his soft and delicate voice, which often delves into falsetto territory.
“Come As You Are” by Nirvana
While Smells Like Teen Spirit might have ignited grunge, Come As You Are could be considered grunge’s anthem. Take a listen to the lyrics and you’ll see that this is actually quite an inviting song.
It’s almost as if Cobain wrote the song from the point of view of an all-inclusive club. People from all walks of life certainly took notice, which is one small fraction of the reasoning behind Nirvana’s success.
Come As You Are is also one of the few songs that really made the chorus guitar effect cool again. The song just does not sound the same when being played without this watery effect.
Many beginners often flock to learn Come As You Are early in their journey of learning the guitar. Its main riff centers on 2 strings, utilizing some basic chords to deliver the extra bit of punch.
The song also has a fairly easy guitar solo that any beginner will fare well with. It has a hummable melody, which only makes things easier to play from memory.
“Burn One Down” by Ben Harper
Ben Harper is a musician that toes the line between the sounds of reggae, folk, and soul. His career is littered with accolades, but it’s a track from 1995 that remains one of his most famous.
That track, Burn One Down, has a musicality that mimics reggae without any of the hallmark reggae features. Instead, the guitar emulates a typical reggae bass line in the context of folk guitar.
It doesn’t take a genius to decipher what Harper is talking about in the song. But, beyond its obvious meaning, it is a song about living and celebrating your uniqueness, even if others don’t agree.
Burn One Down is great for learning how to incorporate a moving bass line with the strumming of chords. It’s also a guarantee that an audience will lose their wig if performed in front of the right people.
As a side note, the recording itself features the guitar tuned in D standard. If you’re playing along to a live recording, Harper often plays the track in regular E standard tuning.
Best Guitar Songs In D Standard, Final Thoughts
You might be wondering why anyone would want to play in D standard. Capos are great for transposing upwards, but the only way to go lower is to tune down.
If you’re a songwriter, you might find that your regular chord shapes suit your voice much better in this tuning. Nevertheless, it’s a fun and easy way to explore the rich tonal timbres that are unlocked with alternate guitar tunings.