Learn how to tune your guitar to drop B and start playing your favorite songs in drop B tuning.
By Ben Nemeroff
Playing in drop B tuning on your guitar is a great way to dramatically lower the range of your instrument. Like the popular drop D tuning, drop B requires you to tune down, giving your guitar a darker and heavier sound. In this lesson, we’ll show you how to tune to drop B and give you some songs to practice in this new tuning. Grab your guitar and let’s get to it!
You’ll find drop B tuning in heavy metal and other hard rock genres of music. In fact, the guitarist who first brought drop B tuning to the attention of listeners is Victor Griffin of doom metal group, Pentagram. You don’t have to have his level of expertise on guitar to get a powerful sound out of this tuning, however. Drop B tuning is fairly easy to master, and it gives you the ability to play power chords with one finger while opening up a new lower range on the guitar.
Drop B tuning requires you to tune down or “drop” your low E string two-and-a-half steps to B. However, this tuning has two variations. In one version, you only lower your sixth string, leaving the rest of your strings in standard tuning.
For this lesson, we’ll be focused on the other, more common version of drop B. In this version, you will tune down all six strings.
The first time you try this tuning, you might hear some buzzing because your strings will be looser than usual. If you’re serious about this tuning, you might want to invest in heavier strings or getting your guitar set up in drop B by a luthier.
However, you don’t have to spend a dime to get a good sound from this tuning. You can still use light strings and can avoid buzzing in your tone by strumming your guitar lightly.
As a refresher, here are the notes in standard tuning, starting with the lowest string:
In drop B tuning, your lowest string will be tuned down two-and-a-half steps to B. All other strings get tuned down one-and-a-half steps.
Now that you know the notes of the strings in drop B tuning, you’re ready to tune down. Here’s how to tune a guitar to drop B:
Start by plucking your low E string.
Tune it down two-and-a-half steps to B by turning the tuning peg towards you.
Keep plucking the string until you reach the correct note. You might want to go a bit lower than the note you’re targeting and then tune up to it. This technique helps keep your instrument in tune longer by adding tension back into the detuned string.
-- Pro tip: You can use the Fender Online guitar tuner to help you tune your guitar to the correct note. Use either the Electric Guitar Online Guitar Tuner or the Acoustic Guitar Online Tuner. Or download the app for your phone. Both the web and app versions give you the ability to adjust your settings and tune specifically to drop B and other alternate tunings.
Tuning your guitar down to drop B lowers your guitar’s range by two-and-a-half steps, giving your instrument a heavier, darker sound. You can also drone on the low B string for a heavy, sludgy effect. This low range can also come in handy if you’re accompanying a singer with a low range. Drop B also makes playing power chords super easy.
To play a power chord in standard tuning, you’ll typically use two or three fingers on your fretboard. In drop B, you can play a power chord by barring one finger across the three lowest strings on your guitar, like this:
There’s no shortage of great, heavy songs that use drop B tuning. Here are a couple of songs you can learn to start playing in drop B.
“Duality” by Slipknot relies on the open sixth string for its driving, hard sound. Listen for drop B tuning on both the first and second guitar parts to gain an even better understanding of how drop B alternate tuning pulls this song together.
Next, try “Whispers in the Dark” by Skillet. While the song features a blistering, and rather difficult guitar solo, beginner guitarists just experimenting with drop B tuning can start by focusing on the main riff of the song.
Keep experimenting with the sounds you can make with this heavy-sounding tuning. The more you practice, the better your playing will be! By practicing drop B tuning, as well as other alternate tunings, you’ll become a well-rounded guitarist capable of a wide range of play styles, tones and genres. Learn more with a free trial of Fender Play.