DGCFAD is an alternate tuning you can use on your guitar that is a whole step down from EADGBE. It sounds heavier too which is great for rock, metal, and blues
Ever wondered why certain Metallica songs – songs like Seek and Destroy, for instance – sound WAY HEAVIER than others?
It’s not because they’re faster (or slower in some cases); no, it is because the guitars are tuned down to DGCFAD which is a whole step down from standard tuning EADGBE.
This guitar tuning is known as D Standard.
This tuning moves ALL the strings on your guitar down a whole step, so the bottom E string (and the top E string) become D, the A becomes a G, the D a C, and so on.
This makes the overall sound of your guitar lower, darker, and, in the parlance of metal, heavier. This is why DGCFAD is so popular with metal bands like Metallica, Mastodon, GHOST, and plenty of others.
DGCFAD: The New “Standard Tuning” For Metal
The genius of DGCFAD is that the intervals between the notes of each string are kept intact, so all the chords and scales, and patterns you use in standard tuning work exactly the same when your guitar is tuned to DGCFAD.
DGCFAD works just the same as standard tuning. You play power chords the same, SUS chords the same, all your pentatonic patterns are the same. The only thing you have to remember is that the notes of the strings have changed; they’re now one step lower than they used to be.
For instance, in standard tuning, the first fret would normally be F but in DGCFAD, because everything has moved down a whole step, the first fret is now D#. The easiest way to remember this, especially if you know the notes on the bottom string in standard, is just to count back a step, so D becomes C, B becomes A, and G becomes F, and so on.
How To Tune Your Guitar To DGCFAD
It’s pretty easy to tune your guitar down to DGCFAD. If you have a tuner for your guitar or an app on your phone, simply switch it on, and start on your bottom string (the fat one). Tune it down to D.
Then move onto the A string (the second one down from the fattest string), tuning it down to G. Then move to the D string and move it down to C. Next, tune the G string down to F, the B string to A, and the E string to D.
Run your pick through the strings. Congrats, you’re now in DGCFAD tuning. It sounds better, right? Just like standard but with a much darker, heavier edge to it. This tuning is great for rock, metal, and blues. Or, if you have a lower vocal range or prefer singing slightly lower.
Songs To Play In DGCFAD
You can play any song you know in standard tuning in DGCFAD. You’re just one step down, so any song written in standard tuning transposes down to DGCFAD. It’ll be in a different key, but it will still sound like that song, just a little heavier and darker.
When it comes to metal, a lot of Mastodon stuff is in DGCFAD. Metallica’s Seek And Destroy is perhaps its most popular song in DGCFAD. Another cool thing about DGCFAD tuning? You can play songs that are in C Standard tuning too. Ditto B and A tuning, although you’ll need a new set of strings for that.
Again, it won’t sound the same as the record – C standard is A LOT lower, for instance – but it will sound similar, just slightly higher and in a different key. This is good if you like playing a lot of stoner/doom stuff but your guitar doesn’t like being tuned down too low.
And one of the best riffs to learn in your new, lower tuning is Dragonaut by Sleep. Again, Matt Pike’s guitar is tuned down to C Standard. But you can play this tune in D Standard and it sounds more or less just as good; it’s not quite as heavy-sounding but it is good enough, especially if you don’t or cannot tune your guitar down to C Standard.
Have a listen below: Dragonaut by Sleep is one of my favorite tunes of all time and the riff is one of the best ever committed to tape. It is simple to play, heavy AF, and has plenty of groove and sass.
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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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