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Drop C Tuning

The Ultimate Drop C Tuning Guide For Guitar

While it is easy to stick to standard tuning as a guitarist, it shouldn’t be forgotten that there are other ways to tune the instrument.

Alternate tunings can help you reach different notes and shape chords in other ways. One of the most common types of alternate tunings are “drop” tunings. This includes Drop C tuning, which this guide we will explore in depth.

What Is Drop C Tuning?

Drop C tuning is an alternative tuning where at least the top guitar string is tuned to “C”, but most commonly the entire guitar is tuned to C-G-C-F-A-D. It is a common tuning used in metal and hard rock music or when accompanying a singer with a low voice.

This differs from standard tuning where the guitar is tuned (from low string to high) to E-A-D-G-B-E.

Since the strings are “dropped” (hence the name “Drop C”) to a lower tuning, the strings you would use for primarily playing in Drop C need to be a heavier gauge than normal (to provide adequate tension on the string).

One of the main benefits of Drop C tuning (or the similar Drop D) is that the lowest and second lowest strings are fifths, meaning you can play power chords on those strings with just one finger. This completely changes the way you can play certain riffs.

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How Do You Tune A Guitar To Drop C?

Drop C Tuning Chart

Tuning your guitar to Drop C is a rather straightforward process. Using your tuner of choice (clip-on, pedal, or even your phone), you will tune down the lowest string on your guitar two whole steps to C and then tune down the rest of the strings one whole step each.

Once you do this, your strings should end up being (from low to high) C-G-C-F-A-D.

It is recommended that you play and stretch your strings and then re-tune after a few minutes. Right after such a drastic change in your strings’ tension, they have a tendency to fall out of tune.

The Five Best Strings For Drop C Tuning

1. DR Strings DDT-11 Drop-Down Tuning Nickel Plated Steel Electric Guitar Strings

DR Strings DDT-11

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Designed for drop-down tuning

Cons:

  • Handmade, small chance of a bad batch

DR Strings are a classic, big name in the guitar string world and their DDT-11 strings are a perfect option for you. They are literally called Drop Down Tuning strings; their heavy gauge helps you use Drop C tuning with ease and will sound amazing on your guitar.

Key Specs

Material: Nickel plated steel
Core: Steel
Guage: .011 .015 .019 .032 .042 .052
Quantity: Single pack
Dimensions: 4 in x 4 in x 0.2 in (101.6 mm x 101.6 mm x 5.08 mm)
Weight: 1.06 ounces (0.03 kg)

2. D’Addario EXL148 XL Nickel Wound Electric Guitar Strings

D’Addario EXL148 XL

Pros:

  • Low priced despite the quality and heavy gauge
  • Specifically made for C tuning

Cons:

  • No special coating or feature to help them last long

Another option from D’Addario are the EXL148 strings. They are one of their XL products and the gauge is very heavy, ranging from 0.012 to 0.060. The low end is especially strong, which makes it highly receptive to distortion and other effects. As it says on the packaging, these D’Addario strings are optimized specifically for C tuning, which is perfect.

These strings are also known for staying in tune well, which is extremely helpful to a player who switches their tuning regularly.

Key Specs

Material: Nickel plated steel
Core: Steel
Guage: .012 .016 .020 .032 .042 .054
Quantity: Single pack
Dimensions: 4.5 in x 4.5 in x 0.25 in (114.3 mm x 114.3 mm x 6.35 mm)
Weight: 1.06 ounces (0.03 kg)

3. Ernie Ball 2626 Not Even Slinky Electric Guitar Strings

Ernie Ball 2626

Pros:

  • One of the best brands
  • Very heavy gauge

Cons:

  • The D string may be too tight

As you might assume from this product’s name, these Ernie Ball strings are not slinky at all. Their heavy gauge is absolutely ideal for Drop C tuning. The 2626 strings will sound beefy and warm, with great capability for distortion and heavy playing.

Key Specs

Material: Nickel plated steel
Core: Tin-plated hex steel core
Guage: .012 .016 .024 .032 .044 .056
Quantity: Single pack
Dimensions: 4.5 in x 4.5 in x 0.25 in (114.3 mm x 114.3 mm x 6.35 mm)
Weight: 1.23 ounces (0.035 kg)

4. D’Addario NYXL1156 Electric Guitar Strings

D’Addario NYXL1156

Pros:

  • Optimized for drop tunings
  • Very heavy gauge

Cons:

  • Pricier than average for a single pack of strings

The D’Addario NYXL line is a more upscale type of strings and the 1156 model brings that quality to a design optimized for drop tuning. They are slightly pricier than the typical single pack of strings, but it isn’t too drastic of a jump in cost and they will absolutely be worth the money.

Key Specs

Material: Nickel plated steel
Core: Steel
Guage: .011 .014 .019 .032 .044 .056
Quantity: Single pack
Dimensions: 4.32 in x 4.32 in x 0.32 in (109.73 mm x 109.73 mm x 8.13 mm)
Weight: 0.32 ounces (0.01 kg)

5. Elixir Strings 12152 Nanoweb Electric Guitar Strings

Elixir Strings 12152

Pros:

  • Nanoweb coating for a long string life
  • Heavy gauge and a bright, balanced tone for your guitar

Cons:

  • Not too cheap, similar price to the D’Addario NYXL strings

Elixir makes great strings that typically have a special coating on them. In this case, these strings use nanoweb, which both helps strings last for much longer and also cuts back on finger friction as well. While these strings may not be as affordable as your typical Ernie Ball single pack, the long-lasting coating allows you to buy new strings less often.

Key Specs

Material: Nickel plated steel
Core: Steel
Guage: .012 .016 .024 .032 .042 .052
Quantity: Single pack
Dimensions: 4.7 in x 4.1 in x 0.6 in (119.38 mm x 104.14 mm x 15.24 mm)
Weight: 1.44 ounces (0.041 kg)

10 Drop C Songs You Can Learn (With Guitar Tabs)

1. “Blew” by Nirvana

This is a great track off Nirvana’s first album, “Bleach.” This song features a lot of power chords played in the one finger style of Drop C. It also has a melodic part and a fun solo. All in all the song won’t be too difficult to learn.

Here’s the guitar tab

2. “Chop Suey” by System of a Down

“Chop Suey” is a classic song that pretty much every metal/hard rock fan has heard at some point. It is also a very fun song to learn in Drop C. It definitely is more complex to learn than “Blew” but it is still quite learnable.

Here’s the guitar tab

3. “Neon” by John Mayer

“Neon” is a gorgeous, melodically interesting song from John Mayer. Rather than tuning all the strings down a whole step, this song only drops the low E string to a C and keeps the rest of the strings in standard, which is less common. This is a great song for any guitarist to learn.

Here’s the guitar tab

4. “Bad Horsie” by Steve Vai

“Bad Horsie” is a grooving, chugging metal piece with Steve Vai’s flair. It’s a Drop C song that also calls for a slide as well, which you can clearly hear in the song. This is a relatively straightforward song with a few complicated parts that will be interesting to learn.

Here’s the guitar tab

5. “Feed the Machine” by Nickelback

“Feed the Machine” is a great riff to play along to that also has the classic Drop C style. During the riff it is easy to hear the guitarist use the one-finger power chord technique that helps him play the chords faster.

Here’s the guitar tab

6. “Oblivion” by Mastodon

“Oblivion” is a very cool song that has many different parts of varying skill level. It won’t be the easiest song to learn, but as a musician it will benefit you to learn, especially if you are a metal/hard rock guitarist.

Here’s the guitar tab

7. “Elite” by Deftones

This track by Deftones is a strong power chord riff that is a great time to play. The Drop C tuning enables you to quickly switch power chords and there are a few other parts as well that are interesting to learn.

Here’s the guitar tab

8. “Toxicity” by System of a Down

A another Drop C song by System of a Down, “Toxicity” is a solid song to learn to its different parts that go from soft and melodic, to hard and aggressive power chords. You will definitely love learning this song.

Here’s the guitar tab

9. “Passenger” by Deftones

“Passenger” is another awesome song by Deftones which also features legendary Tool singer, Maynard James Keenan. It features a relatively melodic verse and chorus, but there are also parts with chord progressions.

Here’s the guitar tab

10. “Stricken” by Disturbed

Closing out the list is “Stricken” a song by Disturbed with a very clear and meaty riff throughout the song. This song is very popular in the metal genre and will be great to have in your repertoire as a guitarist.

Here’s the guitar tab

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