Please suggest songs that use a guitar in D tuning
March 19, 2010 5:32 PM   Subscribe

Please suggest some songs that I could play on a guitar in D tuning.

I picked up a cheap acoustic guitar the other day and dropped everything a whole step to play some Elliott Smith songs. The open D and G chord voicings sound amazing, and I also realized that I can play all my transposed tenor sax music on this and have it be in the right key. After I learn all these Coltrane solos (which I imagine will just take a few minutes), I'd love to play some more stuff in this tuning. Wikipedia suggests I learn some metal, which doesn't seem appropriate on an acoustic. Does anyone have any better suggestions?

Some further notes:
Some bands who I like and suspect might use this tuning would be Led Zeppelin or Magnetic Fields. The shift in open strings might also point to songs by non-guitar stringed instrument artists, like Joanna Newsom or Final Fantasy. Dropping everything a whole step also allows me to play in most jazz keys easier, so that might be another road to explore.

I have pretty broad tastes and don't want to limit the options too much or insult anyone's tastes, but please no adult contemporary acoustic pop bands like Hootie and the Blowfish or Goo Goo Dolls. Any classic rock, on the other hand, is acceptable.

This question deals with a different tuning. I am looking for D-G-C-F-A-D.
posted by jalexc to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Since the relationship between the strings hasn't changed, you can play anything you'd play normally - just not along with the radio. It will be easier to sing the high notes.

(I keep my 12-string dropped a step. If I need to play along with someone and read their fingers, I just capo 2, and I'm back at regular E tuning.)
posted by notsnot at 5:55 PM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Zeppelin has a few songs in various drop-D tunings, but none that I'm aware of in standard tuning dropped a full step.

So-called "Concert Tuning" in rock music is having the whole guitar tuned down a half step, to Eb. It is quite common, especially in late 70s and early 80s music. For example, that's how Van Halen generally plays, sometimes dropping the low E string (Eb) down another full step.

But as notsnot notes, you can play every standard tuning song in that tuning. I used to keep my 12-string dropped down a step, but constantly having to either capo or transpose on the fly got tiring, so I just switched to lighter strings to avoid killing the neck.
posted by The World Famous at 6:08 PM on March 19, 2010


When I play The Book of Right On (by Newsom) in it's original key, it's in drop D with the high E tuned up to F. I assume that you could do it, possibly better, in this tuning.
posted by tmcw at 6:09 PM on March 19, 2010


Tune G down to F# (D A D F# B E) and you can play damn near all of M. Ward's catalog. It's a very fun and easy tuning. A lot of his songs are extremely fun to play..give Rag/Duet for Guitars #3 a try. Or Chinese Translation, or Fuel for Fire, or 100 Million Years, or even Let's Dance (a Bowie cover).

You can also give Fleet Foxes' Drops in the River a shot, or Ragged Wood, or This is the Way by Devendra Banhart (the last two can be done in standard tuning as well I think).

I'm trying to learn Baby Birch by Joanna Newsom too..I think it's doable in that tuning but it's pretty, you know...difficult.
posted by One Thousand and One at 6:59 PM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love the Magnetic Fields! However, a quick Google through the Stephinsongs tablature site comes up with only a few songs done in alternative tunings, and one of those for a ukulele song.
posted by gentilknight at 8:47 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" (the 14 minute long epic version) on Electric Ladyland is in D. As is "Machine Gun" on Band of Gypsys... then again, those aren't exactly acoustic friendly.
posted by wabbittwax at 9:28 PM on March 19, 2010


+1 notsnot

Why not play any song one would normally play on an acoustic guitar, but down a whole step?
posted by MesoFilter at 10:38 PM on March 19, 2010


I should have clarified, I realize that I can just use a capo and play regularly or play everything in a lower key, but I'm looking for songs that take advantage of the actual pitches that come from a D-tuned guitar. Such songs would probably feature open D and Dm, G and Gm, Bb, and Eb chords.

I don't have perfect pitch, but it's strong enough that if I play songs that are for an E or Eb guitar in a different key, it will sound wrong to me. As The World Famous notes, many bands play in Eb. I have a guitar tuned down a half step for those songs, and there's no shortage of songs that use that tuning. I was wondering if there were other artists, besides Elliott Smith, who go down the whole step.
posted by jalexc at 8:40 AM on March 20, 2010


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