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Metal for Life with Metal Mike: Continuing Our Look at Drop-D-Based Metal Riffage

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These videos and audio files are bonus content related to the January 2015 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar World Online Store.

Last month, we investigated the great advantages of using drop-D tuning in the development of metal-style riffs and licks. This month, I’d like to continue with this topic and show you some additional advantages that this tuning offers.

Drop-D tuning is achieved by tuning the guitar’s low E string down a whole step, to D, resulting in a tuning of, low to high, D A D G B E. As I stated, in this tuning, the bottom two strings are now a fifth apart—D to A—instead of the normal fourth apart—E to A.

As the higher D string is tuned a fourth above the A string, sounding the bottom three strings open, or fretting across all three strings at any given fret, will yield a three-note root-fifth-root power chord. This makes it very easy to slide and shift this fat-sounding voicing, as a single finger can be barred across the strings to fret the power chord shape.

Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell makes very effective use of this technique in songs like “Dam That River,” “We Die Young” and “Them Bones.” Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell was also a big fan of using drop-D tuning to perform heavy riffs in songs like “Walk” and “A New Level,” and Metallica relied on drop-D for “The Thing That Should Not Be.”


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