The Best Guitar String Gauge For Drop D Tuning

The Best Guitar String Gauge For Drop D Tuning

To be perfectly honest, drop D tuning is so like standard tuning that the strings that are already on your guitar will usually be fine for drop D tuning. That’s assuming that the action on your guitar is set up correctly.

However, if you’re looking for the best strings possible for drop D, keep reading…

What Are The Best Strings For Drop D Tuning?

If you plan on keeping a particular guitar always tuned to drop D, it might be worth replacing the strings. We would suggest Ernie Ball Skinny Top Heavy Bottom 10-52 gauge strings. 

These allow you to tune the guitar to drop D tuning and give enough tension on the low D (6th) string while allowing you to bend the higher strings with ease when soloing.

These strings run in thickness as follows;

StringOpen NoteString Gauge

Which Famous Guitarist Uses These Strings?

If you’re wondering whether Ernie Ball Skinny Top Heavy Bottom 10-52’s are the right choice for you. Consider this, the band that first comes to mind when you think of songs in drop D tuning should be Tool.

Since they formed in 1990, Tool have been recording pretty much exclusively in drop D tuning. In all that time, Adam Jones has been their guitarist and he uses Ernie Ball Skinny Top Heavy Bottom 10-52 strings. 

If drop D tuning is what you want to use, you could do a lot worse than choosing the same strings as Adam Jones.

These same strings will also tolerate being tuned up to standard tuning and retuned to drop D. The low string will sound just as good pitched at E2 as it will pitched at D2.

SEE ALSO: Tool Albums Ranked (rated from worst to best)

Other Brands Are Available

Above we mentioned the strings that Adam Jones prefers, the same gauge strings are also available in other brands including;

  • D’Addario EXL 117
  • Elixir Nanoweb
  • GHS Bloomers
  • Jim Dunlop Trivium
  • DR Strings DDT-11

What Is Drop D Tuning?

drop d tuning with capo

Drop D tuning is an incredibly popular way of tuning the guitar and is used by many bands in all different genres. 

It all started (as far as we can tell) in 1969 when Led Zeppelin and The Beatles both released songs in drop D tuning. 

Nowadays drop D is popular with heavy metal, alternative rock, punk, country, blues and you name it, pretty much everyone’s playing in drop D.

How To Tune Your Guitar To Drop D Tuning

Drop D tuning sounds really heavy and yet is simple to achieve. All you need to do is lower the low E (6th) string one whole step down to a D. This takes the 6th string from E2 to D2, all of the other strings remain in standard tuning.

It is important that all of your strings are at the correct pitch before lowering the E2 down to D2. The easiest way to do this is to pluck the D (4th) string and while the sound is still ringing, lower the E (6th) string approximately one full turn of the tuning peg. 

Then adjust as necessary until the 4th and 6th strings sound the same, but one octave apart.

Why Do We Recommend Thick Bottom Strings?

The main problem you’re likely to face when lowering the string’s note, is you will make that string looser. This means it’s more likely to cause fret buzz. The best way to combat this is to use thicker strings as these will have a higher tension.

Another benefit of higher tension strings is they will stay in tune longer and they’re less likely to snap.

You will find advice online saying the 6th string needs to be far heavier than our recommended .52. The problem with going higher than a .52 is the effects of the string tension on the neck of the guitar. Not to mention how difficult it’s going to be to play.

Your guitar was designed to be played using strings of a certain gauge. There are certain parameters set that allow slight changes to occur. But, if you make too many drastic changes, you could damage the guitar’s neck, bridge or other component parts.

Which is why for drop D tuning we recommend 10-52 strings.

SEE ALSO: Light Vs Heavy Guitar Strings (here’s how to choose)

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need different strings for drop D?

As you only lower the tuning of one string, the low E (6th) string in drop D tuning, there is no need to change to a different set of strings. We would recommend a 10-52 set of strings for drop D tuning and the same set for standard tuning.

Why do guitarists use drop D?

Guitarists use drop D tuning to extend the range lower from E2 to D2. This allows singers to use a lower, more comfortable key to sing in. It also allows the guitarist to play heavier riffs and drop D tuning also allows easier access to power chords. While leaving the rest of the strings in standard tuning allowing for access to higher range notes.

What tuning did Kurt Cobain use?

Kurt Cobain had his Fender Jaguar tuned to drop D tuning as well as a Fender Mustang and a Fender Stratocaster which were usually tuned in standard tuning although he often tuned them to drop D as well.

Disclosure: We are a professional review site that receives compensation from the companies whose products we review.

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