Drop C tuning sounds heavy – heavy as heck. It also makes playing power chords nice and easy too. Here’s 10 awesome bands that use Drop C tuning…
Metal is all about tone. Getting the heaviest sound possible doesn’t always require that you tune down. Opeth and The Dillinger Escape Plan both play in standard tuning and they’re heavier than a ton of bricks.
And this is ALL down to their masterful use of chord voicing and extensions.
But for that lovely-sounding, low-end chug we all love so much, you’ll want to tune down a few steps from standard. Drop D is a very popular choice, of course, and is used by bands like TOOL and Lamb of God.
But what if you want to go even lowlier? Well, the next stop of the down-tuning train from Drop D is, of course, Drop C. And Drop C tuning is just about as low as you can go on a standard, six-string guitar without the strings getting too wobbly.
Drop C Tuning: How To Do It
With Drop C tuning, your low string is dropped two whole steps down and the rest of the strings one full step down. The end result should look like this: CGCFAD – with CGC being the three thickest strings.
Once you have that dialed in, you can play power chords the same as you do in drop d tuning – just place your finger across the top two or three strings to make a power chord anywhere on the neck. No barre chords are necessary.
PRO TIP – if you’re using thin gauge strings, you might struggle going this low. Make sure you get the right strings for this type of tuning. Check out the guides below for more information:
If you want to tune your guitar down REALLY low, like Drop A or Drop B, then you'll need the right strings in order to keep adequate string tension. The D'Addario EXL117 are an excellent option for this, allowing for ultra-low tunings from Drop B to even Drop A.
10 Metal / Stoner / Sludge Bands That Use Drop C Tuning
1) High on Fire / Sleep
Matt Pike is one of the most influential doom/sludge players of the last 20 years. He doesn’t always use Drop C tuning, most Sleep is in C Standard, but Pike does use Drop C a lot in High on Fire.
And the reason?
High on Fire is fast. The riffs are more punk than blues and this is where a tuning like Drop C comes into its own. With Drop C, you can play power chords with a single finger. And this makes shredding through a riff at break-neck speeds a lot easier.
Before the Deftones got into eight and nine string guitars, they were big advocates of Drop C tuning, as well as drop D# which they used pretty extensively on Around The Fur.
Most of White Pony is in drop c and drop c, as a tuning, appears to be Chino’s favorite setup on his guitar. Nearly all of his songs are in drop C.
Industrial pioneers Ministry broke convention back in the day when they switched down to drop c tuning on the album The Last Sucker. At this point, most other industrial bands were using drop d tuning. And the effect was instantly recognisable – Ministry sounded even heavier.
4) Killswitch Engage
Killswitch have used a bunch of different tunings over the years, including drop d, but the band isn’t afraid of tuning down a little lower when the occasion calls for it.
Popular songs like My Last Serenade and Holy Diver are both in drop C and they both sound bloody fantastic.
Drawing plenty of influence from Lord Pike, Mastodon use a wide range of tunings – from A Standard to D Standard and pretty much everything else in between. They don’t use drop c tuning exclusively, but they do use it on a few songs. And one of them happens to be one of their best – Oblivion, from the Crack The Skye album (arguably its last truly great record).
You can check out this awesome reddit thread that breaks down all of the songs that Mastodon use Drop C tuning for.
I love the Melvins. They’re one of my favorite bands of ALL TIME. I’m even wearing a Houdini shirt as I write this post. Fronted by Buzz Osborne, the Melvins pretty much invented the sludge metal genre. Boris even took its name from a Melvins song. So, yeah, the Melvins are a big deal.
Buzz has been known to use both drop d and drop c tuning, as well as some more exotic ones. I’ve seen them live a gazillion times now and I am 99% sure Buzz uses drop c tuning for 80-90% of the set despite most of its studio albums being done in drop d.
7) Stoned Jesus
Stoned Jesus aren’t too well known, but they have made some really great albums over the years. If you like Black Sabbath and slow, groovy metal with a slab of blues thrown in, you’ll really dig this band.
Stoned Jesus also play, pretty much exclusively, in drop c too – this is why their sound is so low and fat-sounding. They’re not fast by any stretch of the imagination, but for bluesy-sounding pseudo-doom, they’re well worth a look.
Arguably one of the most consistently brilliant bands working today, Converge has been pumping out killer records for over 20 years. And since around the Jane Doe era, the band’s guitarist, Kurt Ballou, has been a big fan of Drop C tuning.
Converge is a three piece musically, most of the time, so having that extra depth on the guitars makes all the difference. You get a huge low-end sound that, when combined with the bass and the kick drum, creates a wall-of-sound effect that makes breakdowns and drops sound more prominent.
9) August Burns Red
August Burns Red are a metal-core band that have been around and producing records since the early-2000s. Throughout this time, the band has used drop c tuning as standard on most of its studio albums.
Slipknot’s guitar tuning has evolved a lot over the years, ranging from drop D to drop A. The Iowa metal band has, however, used drop c tuning on plenty of its songs. Again, drop C is NOT Slipknot’s main tuning, but they have used it to good effect on plenty of classic tunes.
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Drop C Tuning FAQs
How Do I Tune My Guitar To Drop C?
Tuning to drop C is easy. First, most people need to up their string gauge a little. Usually 11-52 is a good place to start for a 25.5 scale inch guitar.
Start by turning your guitar a full step down on all the strings to D standard. This means your lowest and highest string will be D. With all strings in between being one full step down.
Going from high to low:
To get to drop C, tune down your lowest string from D to C.
Will Drop C Tuning Damage My Guitar?
Down tuning your guitar to drop c is not going to damage your guitar. Most six string guitars, providing that you’re using the right string gauge, will be able to handle drop C with ease. If your guitar is struggling, or the bottom string is too wobbly, it means you need to use heavier gauge strings.
What Bands Use Drop C Tuning?
Loads of metal and sludge bands use Drop C tuning like Converge, Sleep, High on Fire, Deftones, Mastodon, The Sword, August Burns Red, Stoned Jesus, and Ministry to name just a few…
What String Gauge is Best For Drop C?
The best string gauge for drop C, based on what most players use, and my own personal experience would be 11-52. This will ensure your strings, even when heavily down-tuned will still hold plenty of tension which is exactly what you want while your sliding around the neck.
RichardRichard has been playing guitar for over a decade and is a huge fan of metal, doom, sludge, and rock music in general – though mostly metal. Having played in bands and worked in studios since the early 2000s, Richard is a massive music production geek, a fan of minimalist recording techniques, and he really likes old-school guitars.
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