• Low Drop C tuning •

C-G-C-F-A-D

• OVERVIEW •

The same interval pattern as Drop D, but everything is moved down two further semitones. Brings a loose, chaotic, imperfect texture: total string tension is lowered by around 25% – equivalent to a ~40lb/18kg drop on a steel-string acoustic (an instrument on which EADGBE tension can exceed 180lb/82kg…hence you need the truss rod!).

 

One of my all-time favourite versatile acoustic tunings: allowing for wider bends and expressive articulations while also balancing well with instrument timbres of all shades. Perhaps best to jump it up a half-step on short-neck axes…or you can drop it down even lower for some slack-buzzing magic (n.b. Some call CGCFAD ‘Drop C’…but for clarity I’ve reserved that title for CADGBE).

Pattern: 7>5>5>4>5
Harmony: C6/9(sus4) | 1-5-1-4-6-2

• TUNING TONES •

• SOUNDS

CGCFAD is most often found on bespoke, heavy-strung electric cuts. While far less popular than its Drop D transposition, it does turn up on some prominent songs: e.g. Question! (System of a Down), Ill Wind (Jonny Greenwood), Vox Stellarum (Arch Enemy), Radiant Eclipse (Avenged Sevenfold), Nottingham Lace (Buckethead), She Found Now (My Bloody Valentine, -1) – as well as most of Metallica’s St. Anger album.

 


  • Question! – System of a Down (2005):

“Question! mixes intricate arpeggios with pounding riffs, running both through several different time signatures…drawing on the group’s Armenian heritage, a tradition famous for grooves of 10/8 and beyond…As ever, the first step is to tap along. First, isolate the three main rhythm loops: 9 subdivided as ‘3-2-2-2’ (intro & verse), 10 subdivided as ‘3-3-2-2’ (heavy riffs), and 12 subdivided as ‘3-3-3-3’ (chorus)…” (from my Odd-Time Songwriting lesson for Guitar World)


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• NUMBERS •

6str 5str 4str 3str 2str 1str
Note C G C F A D
Alteration -4 -2 -2 -2 -2 -2
Tension (%) -37 -21 -21 -21 -21 -21
Freq. (Hz) 65 98 131 175 220 294
Pattern (>) 7 5 5 4 5
Semitones 0 7 12 17 21 26
Intervals 1 5 1 4 6 2
  • See my Tunings Megatable for further such nerdery: more numbers, intervallic relations, comparative methods, etc. And to any genuine vibratory scientists reading: please critique my DIY analysis!

• RELATED •

—Associated tunings: proximities of shape, concept, context, etc…

  • Drop D (this +2): higher, tighter transposition
  • Dracula: same 6-3str, slightly higher 1-2str
  • Pink Moon: same 6-3str, much higher 1-2str

• MORE INFO •

—Further learnings: sources, readings, lessons, other onward links…

  • CGCFAD songs: check out the huge track list on the Drop C Wikipedia article (although it has to be said…Wikipedia, despite its many areas of strength, is an absolutely terrible source of tuning info, and the Drop C page’s citations are pretty thin – plus, I haven’t heard of most of the artists, who range from Swedish thrash acts to obscure Japanese electronicore – let me know what you can discern!)
  • CGCFAD shapes: sample some step-by-step basics in an overview from Fender, as well as a Reddit discussion featuring the superlow 6-string bass equivalent (“…I play a lot of stoner/doom/sludge metal, and this thing is perfect…”)

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George Howlett is a London-based musician, writer, and teacher (guitars, sitar, tabla, & santoor). Above all I seek to enthuse fellow sonic searchers, interconnecting fresh vibrations with the voices, cultures, and passions behind them. See Home & Writings, and hit me up for Online Lessons!

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