Standard D Tuning on Guitar – How to Guide

In this lesson, we look at standard D tuning on the guitar.

Standard D tuning is a variation of the instrument’s most common setup, offering a distinct tonal quality that differs from standard tuning.

This alternate tuning method is popular in genres that favor a heavier, more somber sound, like metal, blues, and some rock. The tuning also allows for easier playing of certain chords and may provide a more comfortable vocal range for singing.

Playing in D Standard Tuning

In D Standard Tuning, you tune each string down a whole step from standard E tuning, resulting in D, G, C, F, A, and D from lowest to highest string.


Benefits

Standard D tuning is a great option for guitarists who want to play in a lower tuning but still utilize familiar chord shapes and patterns. The main advantages of standard D tuning compared to open tunings are:

  • It’s only one whole step down from standard E tuning, so all the common major and minor chord shapes still work, just transposed down two frets.
  • Scales and melodies can still be played using the same patterns as in standard tuning, again just transposed down two frets.
  • It allows guitarists to play in a lower, heavier tuning without having to completely relearn the fretboard or chord shapes. The adjustment is relatively minor.
  • Transitioning a guitar from standard tuning to standard D tuning can impart a fresh creative spark, as this tuning can inspire different melodic ideas and songwriting approaches.

But remember:

When tuning down to D standard, the open chords you’re used to change:

  • An open D chord becomes a C major chord
  • An open G chord will now sound like an F major chord
  • An open A chord will now sound like a G major chord
  • And so on

Famous Songs That Use Standard D Tuning

As we already said. many hard rock and metal bands tune down to D standard to achieve a heavier, deeper sound. The familiar chord shapes and scale patterns make it an appealing alternate tuning for rock and metal guitarists looking to play heavy riffs and solos. Here are some songs where it’s used:

  • “Walk” by Pantera
  • “Fear of the Dark” by Iron Maiden
  • “Would?” by Alice In Chains
  • “Ace of Spades” by Motörhead
  • “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine
  • “Symphony of Destruction” by Megadeth
  • “South of Heaven” by Slayer
  • “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath
  • “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne
  • “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath
  • “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple

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About Ged Richardson

Ged Richardson is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ZingInstruments.com. He has been featured in Entrepreneur, PremierGuitar, Hallmark, Wanderlust, CreativeLive, and other major publications. As an avid music fan, he spends his time researching and writing about new and old music, as well as testing and reviewing music-related products. He's played guitar in various bands, from rock to gypsy jazz. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel, where he geeks out about his favorite bands.

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