The guitar is an extremely versatile instrument, and sooner or later you will be wanting to explore the possibilities of alternative tunings. Standard tuning has been found to be the best for a guitarist wanting to make use of all the notes and chords the guitar can offer but alternative tunings like the drop C, while placing certain limitations on the music you can play, opens up other avenues of self expression and crowd pleasing.
The fact is, many guitarists find it boring to stick with the straight tuning all the time, and there are very few professional guitar players who do not experiment with the various tunings available. Fooling around with a new tuning can be a shot in the arm for a guitar player bored with the same old practice routine. As you become more familiar with the world of the guitar, you will find that some guitarists have even invented their own ways of tuning their instrument.
Regarding the use of the term “drop C”, many guitar players say that the name is inaccurate. The label “drop tunings” is used when the sixth string is tuned down to a note other than E. A popular example is the drop D tuning which is D A D G B E where the bottom E string is tuned down to D. Using this interpretation of the term, drop C would be C A D G B E. As you will see, the drop C tuning does not fall into this category because ALL the strings are tuned down. Nevertheless, the term “drop C” is commonly used for the tuning C G C F A D, and the controversy will probably never be resolved so we will just have to be aware of it and live with it.
Drop C tuning is the same as drop D only each string is lowered one whole step. This tuning gives you a low and sonorous, threatening kind of sound which is employed by alot of heavy metal bands like Black Sabbath in “Iron Man” and “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” or Metallica in their St. Anger album, More recent bands like Godsmack, Atreyu, Papa Roach and Mudvane on “Lost and Found” and “The End of All Things to Come” use drop C tuning. Interestingly, Bob Dylan used the drop C tuning “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and other acoustic numbers.
So, all the guitar strings are tuned down one step first, then the sixth string, or bottom E goes down to C. This is one step below D, or TWO steps below E. This sound is a much more booming quality than the drop D tuning which gives a D major chord a full-bodied drone. With drop C tuning you will be able to make any power chord you need by with the open sixth, fifth and fourth strings which are already a C5 power chord and barring these strings
To tune to drop C by ear, put a capo on the second fret of your guitar and tune it to standard tuning. Next with the capo still on, lower the sixth string to D an octave below the fourth string D. Check your tuning by playing a D major open chord:
This is now a C major chord.
The strings might tend to buzz on your guitar now, so you could experiment with ways of fixing this by getting heavier strings or raising your guitar’s action.
Here is a video from YouTube on tuning your guitar to drop C:
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