Drop High D Tuning for Slide

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The first thing you may be asking when you see this post is, “What the heck is Drop High D Tuning?”

Well you have probably heard of Drop D Tuning where you tune the Low E string a whole step down to D. So I decided to reverse that and you’ll have Drop High D. Drop High D tunes the High E String a whole step down to D while keeping the low string an E.

I’ve never heard of anyone doing this, but I’m sure it’s been done before. If you try to Google Drop High D Tuning, you will probably find nothing as I just made the term up.

Drop D Tuning – D A D G B E

Drop High D Tuning – E A D G B D

So why would I ever want to use this tuning?

Think of it like this.

You’re going to play a show or maybe you want to go to a jam session. You only have one guitar or you only want to bring one guitar.

You might want to play some slide as well as some standard fretting licks. This tuning makes this easier to accomplish than re-tuning multiple strings back and forth.

Now I’m not saying to abandon Open E or Open G Tuning, but this will give you another option. I enjoy learning new things and while I love Open E, Open G, and Standard Tuning for slide, I really enjoy trying to push the boundaries of what is possible.

Drop High D Tuning only requires that you tune the High E string to D which is pretty easy to accomplish between songs. When you’re ready to move back to standard playing, then just tune that one string back. Simple!

It also allows you to play all the chords you know in standard tuning ( minus the high d string of course ), and get some cool Open G sounds as well due to the G B and D on the bottom 3 strings. This interval combination ( 1, 3, and 5 ) also occurs in Open E Tuning on the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd strings. In Open E that would be E, G#, and B. Same Intervals so some of your open e tuning licks can be played as well with a little change in your visualization.

This is kind of like combining two worlds together in my opinion to have something that has multiple uses. I also think it makes for a very unique sound and I’m all about developing your own slide guitar style.

Another thing I like is that by only tuning down one string, it doesn’t cause a lot of tension on the neck like Open E Tuning does. Open E Tuning will be harder to play regular licks on if you don’t adjust the action and truss rod to your liking.

This Drop High D Tuning should not mess with anything very much due to only the re-tuning of only one string. Open G Tuning de-tunes many strings, so unless you’re using a heavier gauge string, the strings could become slinky and fret out a lot unless you adjust it for the tuning.

These problems don’t really exist when you’re using Drop High D. I’m currently using .011s for playing on my Strat and by de-tuning just that one string, it will also make the guitar just a bit slinkier but not much.

Watch the Video

video

Gear Used

Fender 1966 Vibroluxvl-effects-greentoneWeber Mini Mass

Let me know what you think of this tuning below. Do you think you would want to experiment with this tuning?

17 thoughts on “Drop High D Tuning for Slide”

    • John, great sound as always. I play several acoustic blues tunes in drop D including, Big Road Blues, Malted Milk and Statesboro Blues, I definitely have to throw slide licks on these tunes after hearing this.

      Thanks
      Doug

  1. Nice one John – an easy switch to do for playing live as you say. Slight typo or something on your remarks as you are showing standard tuning where it says Drop d ( or vice versa ? ).
    Keep sliding – great stuff

  2. HI

    Just watched your latest e-mail video…really incredible…drop high d tuning for slide.
    Do you have pdf/tabs available for a charge?
    thanks

    • Thanks Gerald. I don’t have the tabs for it though and I no longer tab my own material.

  3. I love slide guitar,wish I could get the hang of playing it,I`m still learning,and this is probably my favorite type of blues guitar

  4. This is so cool John, I’ve been wanting to give slide guitar a try but don’t know the open tuning very well, simply dropping the high E allows me to make cool sounding slides easily and still play what I know in standard. I don’t know why I’ve never tried this. thanks so much 😀

  5. John, I’m your quadriplgic student, & play exclusively in Drop D (over-hand slide with a slide on my left thumb, thumb-pick on my right). I have been thinking of switching to Double-Drop-D, which would open up some great possibilities for me. Is that what you’re doing in the video, or are you only droppig the high E-string?

    • Hi Dave,

      Hope you’re doing well. I’m only changing the high e string to a d. Good to hear from you!

  6. Hi John, great playing !! That is blues at its best – love the style & the tone. (More slow blues for future vids please.)

  7. Interesting story on how I decided to take up slide playing.

    I have been cursed and blessed on being a lefty. Late February in 2014, I was taking out the trash, slipped on some black ice and broke my left arm… I had a cast on for nearly 9 weeks.

    Since the cast on my left are was above my elbow and wrist in a locked position, I was unable to use a pick with my left hand. So I started messing with the beginning stages of finger picking.

    I was on a Rolling Stones kick at the time (I think we all get in those moods) and I was listening to the Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out Album. The song LOVE IN VAIN was playing and I was thinking “My god, Mick Taylor sounds like a god with his slide solo”

    I dedicated many hours trying to learn the song and the slide solo is in standard, but every time i would play the High E, it was way out of tune. I started fiddling around and stumbled upon dropping the High E to D.

    The Solo I am talking about starts around the 2 minute mark. And it is 2 minutes of pure brilliance!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgHSgtN2MIY

  8. I stumbled on this tuning several years ago and agree with everything you’ve said. I thought I
    “invented” it (of course!) but not so. With some research, I found it called a Reverse Drop D and
    a Fake (or faux) G tuning. Also some claim it to be a Memphis Minnie Tuning, but I didn’t see that.
    Erin Harpe, of The Delta Swingers, uses this tuning and she was the one who mentioned Memphis
    Minnie to me. I have not seen any others use it beside myself and Erin Harpe but I’m always asked
    about what tuning I’m in when people her those G Tuning licks but they know I haven’t re-tuned
    my guitar. It’s an incredibly useful little slide trick and you do a great job with it, too. If you think it
    out a bit, you can play a lot of wicked cool chords and licks that are not the usual thing while also
    putting out some tasty open tuned-sounding licks. I encourage guys all the time to try it but they
    think it’s too com plicated. Not for me, you, and Erin Harpe (and she’s great with it). It works!

  9. I know this is an old post but noticed it when seaching for double drop d slide . I have recently been working on a few tunes with both e’s tuned to d. This gives some lovely variations for three/four string chords , on the top strings, think “Lowell George” ,and three string chords on the bottom strings – think “Breaking Bad”. Very sexy. I ran this past an old D.C. blues musician I know and he thought it didn’t make sense as there is no “Root” – what do I know? Am I missing something?

  10. This is the Tuning Tim Pierce uses in his “Cheap Sunglasses” YouTube vid. Definitely a blast to play slide in.

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