Best Strings For Drop D Tuning: Get Perfect Tension & Tone

By Richard •  Updated: 03/27/22 •  4 min read

If you’re tuning down to Drop D from standard tuning, you might want to think about switching up your strings. But what are the best strings for Drop D tuning? Let’s find out…


Drop D tuning is an immensely popular guitar tuning used by loads of players in quite a few different genres of music – Drop D ain’t just for nu-metal bands, kids! Plenty of classic rock – from The Beatles to Led Zeppelin – and country is in Drop D. And, of course, nearly all TOOL songs are as well.

In terms of overall tension, meaning the amount of tension you’ll have on each string on your guitar, Drop D isn’t that dissimilar to standard tuning, as you’re only lowering the low E string down a step to D. The rest of your strings stay the same as they were in standard tuning.

For this reason, it is entirely possible to tune down to Drop D using the strings your guitar came with – even if they’re designed for standard tuning. Tuning down your low E string one whole step isn’t going to affect the tension on that string too much. Providing your action is set up correctly, it should work fine with minimal fret noise.

Best Strings For Drop D Tuning – What’re The Best Options?

However, if you plan on keeping your guitar – or one of your guitars – tuned to Drop D, it might be advantageous to use a new, different set of strings on that guitar. You only have to think about one string, the low E string, now in D, with respect to tension and this makes it a lot easier to deal with than, say, D Standard where ALL of your strings are dropped down a whole step.

It also makes choosing a set of strings less of a headache. You can use similar gauge strings as you would for standard tuning, for instance. I used to play in Drop D A LOT and when I did I used Ernie Ball Skinny Top Heavy Bottom 10-52s predominantly. These strings gave me a great overall tone, ensured the guitar was supremely playable, especially on the higher, thinner strings but also gave my low D string plenty of tension.

Ernie Ball 2215 Nickel Skinny Top/Heavy Bottom

Ernie Ball 2215 Skinny Top/Heavy Bottom Slinky Electric Guitar Strings are the perfect hybrid set for those who like thick bottom strings without sacrificing the ability to solo on smaller strings. This makes them PERFECT for Drop D tuning.

Pros:
  • Gauges: 10-13-17-30-42-52
  • Perfect For Drop D
  • Low Strings Nice & Thick
  • Can Be Used For Standard Too
BUY NOW
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Adam Jones Uses These Strings Too…

Best Strings For Drop D Tuning

And don’t just take my advice, either. Adam Jones from TOOL uses Ernie Ball Skinny Top Heavy Bottom 10-52, and if there is a guitarist on earth that knows more about Drop D than Adam, then I’ll eat my shoes. Adam has used Drop D for the best part of nearly three decades, and if these strings are good enough for Adam, they’re definitely good enough for mere mortals like you and me…

You’ll find that this tension of strings is perfect for playing live, recording, and practicing. You get loads of tension on the low D string which lets you rip through passages with masses of tone and clarity. But if you like to chuck in licks and lead, having “skinnier” ADGBE strings at your disposal is what really sets these strings apart from the crowd.

I also dig that these stings will happily switch between standard tuning and Drop D. You get a nice low-end crunch on the low E string in standard tuning which is great for rock and metal. If I didn’t play in lower tunings – I use C Standard, mostly, these days – I’d be using these strings 24/7 as they’re perfect for standard tuning and Drop D.

Ernie Ball 2215 Nickel Skinny Top/Heavy Bottom

Ernie Ball 2215 Skinny Top/Heavy Bottom Slinky Electric Guitar Strings are the perfect hybrid set for those who like thick bottom strings without sacrificing the ability to solo on smaller strings. This makes them PERFECT for Drop D tuning.

Pros:
  • Gauges: 10-13-17-30-42-52
  • Perfect For Drop D
  • Low Strings Nice & Thick
  • Can Be Used For Standard Too
BUY NOW
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

If you need more advice on guitar tuning, make sure you check out our Guitar Tuning Resource Center – it covers literally everything you could ever want to know about alternate tunings from standard tuning down to things like Drop A and Drop B.

Richard

Richard 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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