Some guitarists spend their entire life devoted to mastering just the basic E-Standard tuning. For others, this common tuning isn’t low enough in pitch to deliver the gut punch they’re looking for.
C-Standard is a popular choice, primarily because it only requires each string to be detuned by 2 steps. This, in turn, will keep the intervallic string relationship intact, which is convenient if you’re used to E-Standard.
The following list of songs contains some excellent examples of C-Standard that anybody should attempt to learn. There is a bit of a caveat here, as there are some songs that have a modified C-Standard tuning.
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“Spring To Come” by John Butler Trio
John Butler Trio manages to blend folk and roots essences into a jam-music setting. Their live performances have that same spirit of improvisation with some unexpected surprises to keep audiences on their toes.
The song, Spring To Come will have you employing some intricate fingerpicking patterns for its rolling, anticipatory sound. You’ll modify the C-Standard tuning to reflect a sort of G chord with a C on the bottom.
“Nottingham Lace” by Buckethead
Buckethead may have gained widespread notoriety with Guitar Hero, but his catalog speaks for itself. There really might not be anyone more prolific than Buckethead.
Buckethead has come to be known for otherworldly guitar skills influenced by almost any genre. See him live and he may do a 10-minute nunchaku demonstration and jump on his Kawasaki, vanishing into the night.
Nottingham Lace is a song that showcases Buckethead’s virtuosity and compositional skills. Do be prepared to lose patience with yourself when learning this barn-burner of a track.
“What Makes A Man” by City And Colour
While Alexisonfire has a massive worldwide following, City And Colour (Dallas Green’s solo project) is almost equally as popular. If anything, City And Colour’s folk-influenced sound exemplifies his versatility, especially considering his role in Alexisonfire.
City And Colour really started to take off during the Myspace days when groups bordering on folk-emo were extremely popular. The song, What Makes A Man, utilizes normal open chord shapes.
You’ll find that the rich depth of the C-Standard tuning adds quite a bit of character on an acoustic guitar.
“No One Knows” by Queens Of The Stone Age
Queens Of The Stone Age might be one of the most popular groups that regularly use the C-Standard tuning. From a compositional point of view, this actually makes quite a bit of sense.
This group often blends quirky 60’s pop characteristics with fuzzed-out psychedelic riff rock. Their sound has this snarl that is obviously much lower than the typical E-Standard tuning could muster.
No One Knows, is one example of how this band can be stoner-rock and 60’s bop simultaneously.
“The Botanist” by Sleep
Sleep’s 2018 album, The Sciences, was completely unexpected for just about anyone. Though the band has just a few releases, they are incredibly vital to the formation of stoner-rock and doom metal.
This album showed that Sleep could awake from a slumber of any time duration and shake the world’s foundation. The Botanist is an instrumental track that closes out this fine, modern masterpiece.
In a way, the guitar solo in this kind of takes a blues-rock/classic-rock approach while melting faces.
“Freya” by The Sword
While The Sword might have been much heavier back at their start, they have evolved into a premier stoner-metal band. They have a knack for exploiting rhythms and composing catchy riffs that get stuck in the brain.
The Sword possesses a sound that many bands of this genre attempt but fall short of achieving. It’s partly why the band found itself in so many skateboarding videos during the mid-2000s.
Freya is a classic song in The Sword’s catalog, primarily because it was featured on a Guitar Hero game. Learning to play this song in real life is much more gratifying.
“Little River” by The Tallest Man On Earth
The Tallest Man On Earth might be modern folk-indie’s version of the folk era of Neil Young. Kristian Matsson possesses one of the most unique voices currently delivering this style of music.
For many fans, The Tallest Man On Earth’s debut release is the stuff of gold, featuring stripped-down performances. While Little River doesn’t come from this album, it harkens back to the sound that originally gained so much attention.
“Game Over” by Machine Head
If you’re looking for something relatively easy that doesn’t require too much technique, check out Game Over. The majority of this song utilizes simple power chords and 2-string octave shapes with a smattering of riffs.
You will want to make sure that your picking rhythms are up to snuff, especially when palm-muting. Compositionally, this is a fairly standard and straightforward metal-tinged rock track.
There is one harmonized guitar section in the middle that might give you some difficulty. Just take it slow and learn to play it cleanly before attempting the section at normal speed.
“Blood On Your Hands” by Arch Enemy
Arch Enemy has been a constant enigma in the death metal scene ever since the late 1990s. While the band isn’t the supergroup lineup it began as initially, Arch Enemy still knows how to please a crowd.
In fact, Arch Enemy has continued to build on its reputation, with the late 2000s being a prime era. The song, Blood On Your Hands, comes from the album, Rise Of The Tyrant, which charted well for Arch Enemy.
“Mantra” by Bring Me The Horizon
Have you been searching for a song that primarily makes use of 1 guitar string? Bring Me The Horizon’s track, Mantra, fits this bill, though you’ll need to be prepared to bring the rhythm.
Mantra plays more like a sort of stoner-rock track considering its riff-heavy nature. The low 6th string is the primary string being used, with the 4th string thrown in here and there.
“Alesund” by Sun Kil Moon
If you’re vaguely familiar with Sun Kil Moon, it’s probably a surprise to see them sandwiched between 2 heavy bands. Sun Kil Moon has a soft and endearing folk sound that has made them a legend in their own scene.
The song Alesund is a fairly popular track from the Sun Kil Moon catalog. When playing this, pay close attention to its modified C-Standard tuning and its use of a capo.
“Albatross” by Corrosion Of Conformity
Corrosion Of Conformity’s song, Albatross, is a straightforward stoner-metal track set to a casual rhythm. Much of this song will have you working with some simple power chord shapes rooted on the 5th string.
There is a prominent section that condenses this power chord pattern into a single-noted riff. Just about any beginner (especially somebody well-versed in Black Sabbath-type songs) can play this track.
The song’s guitar solo might be a bit of a challenge for some. However, because it has a sort of bluesy sound, it can be learned relatively quickly by ear.
“Saturn’s Children” by Electric Wizard
Electric Wizard is one of those iconic bands that serve up Black Sabbath-style stoner rock with a heavier twist. Most people are familiar with the band through their legendary 2000 album, Dopethrone.
Throughout the years, Electric Wizard has continued to build on their heavy brand of music. 2006’s Saturn’s Children shows that Electric Wizard’s formula remains as potent as ever, no matter what year it is.
“10,000 Years” by High On Fire
Never heard of High On Fire? You might be familiar with Matt Pike, who is a founding member of the iconic band, Sleep.
High On Fire delivers a similar brand of heaviness as Sleep but with a hint of octane in the rhythm. The track, 10,000 Years, comes from the band’s first album and will win you some serious street credit among audiences.
“Do It Again” by Queens Of The Stone Age
Why will Queens Of The Stone Age’s album, Songs For The Deaf, remain an important, timeless classic? You only need to listen to it in its entirety once to realize just how amazing this album actually is.
While it might be straightforward stoner-rock, this album incorporates influences from the most unlikely of places. The track, Do It Again, takes an influence from the iconic Gary Glitter track Rock ’N’ Roll (the “Hey” song).
It’s little tidbits like this that make Songs For The Deaf a treasure trove for any music nerd. The album is worth a detailed analysis, though it can be enjoyed on the surface, too.
Playing this song isn’t entirely as complicated as it sounds, relying primarily on basic power chords. As it’s Dave Grohl playing drums, the rhythm is really this song’s secret sauce.
“Sextape” by Deftones
Looking for a relatively easy Deftones song to add to your repertoire of heavy bangers? It isn’t from the band’s iconic era, but you might consider checking out the song, Sextape.
Before attempting this song, you should have a trusted delay pedal in your rig. The signature guitar parts utilize the delay pedal quite extensively (though not like U2).
You’ll want to pay attention to the tuning as well. This is modified, adopting more of a Drop-C tuning, which is extremely close to C-Standard.
“Hear My Train A-Comin'” by Jimi Hendrix
Considering how famous Jimi Hendrix is, there is surprisingly not that much footage of him playing. If you’ve ever wanted to see him play the acoustic guitar, your options are quite limited.
After all, Jimi’s reputation was built by playing the electric guitar, forever revolutionizing how it would be played. But, his skills transferred nicely to the acoustic, with rare videos showing him playing Hear My Train A-Comin’.
What’s even more unique about this is that he plays this track on a 12-string acoustic tuned to C-Standard. The sound of this version is a far-cry difference from any of the live, electric guitar versions.
“Video Games” by Ben Howard
Cover songs can be hit or miss, but usually, it’s the versions that are unique that become successful. Such is the case with Ben Howard’s version of Lana Del Rey’s hit song, Video Games.
Ben’s version starts off deceptively simple on the guitar, but prepare to buckle your seatbelt. About halfway through the song, Ben incorporates a complex fingerpicking pattern at a blazing speed.
Tracks like these are refreshing as it shows that just about any song can be applied to any genre styling.
“I Will Wait” by Mumford & Sons
Mumford & Sons quickly became the face of soft, folk-inspired music during the 2010s. Because of that, busting out a Mumford & Sons track will likely be recognized among almost any audience.
The song, I Will Wait, has been a popular choice in weddings and events requiring a track with sentimental lyrics. Do be forewarned that this song does use a heavily modified version of C-Standard tuning.
“The House Of Wolves” by Bring Me The Horizon
Bring Me The Horizon’s track, The House Of Wolves is full of energy that seemingly never lets off the gas. From the vocal delivery to the guitar part, everything works in tandem to catapult energy to the audience.
The House Of Wolves is relatively easy to play in some regards (the rhythm is a different story). A good portion of the track relies on simple power chords and open strings with heavy tremolo picking.
“Comfortable Liar” by Chevelle
Chevelle is one of those bands that is a relic from the nu-metal/alt-rock era of the early 2000s. The band has a fairly heavy sound but utilizes more of a pop influence in the melodic vocal passages.
During their heyday, Chevelle had the sound that many bands were striving to achieve. Their 2nd album, Wonder What’s Next, has most of their biggest hits, including the song, Comfortable Liar.
“Asteroid” by Kyuss
Before there was Queens Of The Stone Age, Kyuss was creating its unique brand of desert-influenced stoner rock. Because of Josh Homme’s involvement, you’re likely to hear some similarities in sound.
The song, Asteroid, begins with a low guitar passage that is both pensive and moody. Eventually, the track erupts into some straightforward riff-rock that combines single-string lines with power chords.
If you’re an avid guitar pedal user, Asteroid gives you plenty of opportunity to stage a pedal freakout.
“Riptide” by Sick Puppies
The song, Riptide, by Sick Puppies, probably wouldn’t be the first thing you’d think of when thinking of C-Standard. This track plays more like a pop-punk song than what is usually played in this tuning.
Because of the nature of this track, any beginner can handle this without too many issues. 1-finger power chords are the norm here, but you will have to adjust the tuning of some strings beforehand.
“A Nightmare To Remember” by Dream Theater
Dream Theater is one of those groups in which even casual music fans know is full of world-class musicians. Every member is a virtuoso on their instrument in their own respect.
Because of this, Dream Theater is on many guitarists’ lists for songs and skills to aspire to. After all, John Petrucci is perhaps one of the biggest names associated with progressive metal.
A Nightmare Remember is a bit comedic, probably because the song is a nightmare to remember how to play. Its 16-minute track time is going to require you to remember what’s coming next in the song.
“Sonic Titan” by Sleep
Sleep’s album, Dopesmoker, might be one of the most iconic doom metal albums to ever be recorded. Just the album art alone is enough for anyone to easily recognize after seeing it only once.
While the song, Sonic Titan, saw a new day with Sleep’s 2018 album, the track harkens back to Dopesmoker. Prior to The Sciences album, the only way to hear it was through re-issues of the Dopesmoker album.
“Venus Blue” by Acid Bath
Acid Bath is a band that is known in certain musical circles, but whose music is hard to find. The group had only released 2 full-length albums during the mid-1990s.
Venus Blue comes from their second album and is a sort of preview of how future music would sound. Imagine the sound of Creed mixed with some screaming elements from hardcore music and you’re not far off.
Kudos to you if you have this album sitting around. Unfortunately, this track might be too obscure for even semi-serious metal fans.
“Skinny Love” by Bon Iver
Bon Iver’s album, For Emma, Forever Ago, is the musical equivalent of Thoreau penning Walden in an isolated cabin. Even after all these years, the album is just as hauntingly potent as it was back in 2007.
Skinny Love is perhaps the most widely-known track on the album, even for casual listeners. As a song, it is almost a condensed soup of all the different characteristics present on this album.
This track is one that uses a modified C-Standard tuning. In a way, it’s more akin to an Open-C tuning but fits here nonetheless.
Songs In C-Standard Tuning, Final Thoughts
If you’ve never played C-Standard before, you might notice something as soon as you detune your guitar. You might find that your trusted guitar just seems to feel completely different than it did in E-Standard.
Detuning 2 steps on every string will decrease the string tension significantly. This has its benefits and its disadvantages as well.
If you wish to play primarily in C-Standard, it’s worth getting your guitar set up for the tuning. The guitar’s intonation and string height measurements will be off enough to notice.
Some people opt for a baritone guitar when playing in these lowered tunings. The baritone guitar’s slightly longer neck helps to accommodate the lower pitches without the slackened string tension.