How To Play Blues Guitar in Dropped D tuning
Dropping the bass string two steps down from E to D completely changes the flavor of the music and also gives us some flexibility in chord fingering. For example, we don’t have to fret the bass E when playing a D major chord, which frees up fingers for more interesting work around the other strings.
The dropped D note also gives us a low, low note to punctuate the blues sound and counter balance the melody. Done in the right way, it has a powerful effect and has also been used extensively in traditional and modern folk songs by many well known artists.
We can hit the bass string and let it ring, use a monotonic thumb technique (where we just strike one bass with the thumb) or alternate our thumb strokes and damp the basses in a Travis picking style. Whichever style we play, it’s necessary to adapt the chords in some cases. For instance, when playing G7 it sounds discordant if we hit the bass E open, or if fretted on the 3rd fret like we normally would, so we just don’t hit it at all.
We could also move up the fret board to form a G and fretting the bass E on the 5th fret – its just a matter of choice and depends upon the style of the song you are playing. (These chord variations are shown in the video at 1m:40s.) We can play any A chord shape we like, but without hitting the bass E note.
At 2m:50s I play an instrumental in dropped D tuning taken from the playing of Stephan Grossman – it’s interesting as the basses walk up and the trebles walk down! At 3m:34s I show how to drop other strings to form open D and then play a low down blues by Blind Blake ‘Down The Country’.
Tips For Playing Dropped D Tuned Guitar
Please note: The tab might not be perfect - I'm just trying to give a way of approaching this wonderful old stuff, and working towards our goal. What is our goal? Well, to have fun, really.