The Dropped-D Visual Guide

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1 The Dropped-D Visual Guide How to Maximize Your Use of Dropped-D and Related Tunings by Jason Aaron Wood

2 Dropped D Dropped D tuning opens a whole new world of possibilities on your guitar. It makes some things easier, while it makes some things possible. It also makes some things more difficult, like things you might normally play with standard tuning (EADGBE and/or any other tuning tuned 4 th -4 th -4 th -3 rd -4 th ). Whether you re tuned to Dropped D, Dropped C-sharp, Dropped-C or any other similar tuning, this e- book will give you several important visual tools to help you really get to know your way around with any dropped D tuning configuration by making use of specific D -based scales as well as by getting to know the layout of the natural harmonics in this tuning.

3 4 Scales This e-book will focus on 4 separate but related scales, all starting on open D : 1. Natural Minor (aka, the Aeolian mode) 2. Harmonic Minor (Natural minor with a raised 7 th ) 3. Phrygian (aka, the Phrygian mode; 5 th mode of Natural Minor) 4. Phrygian Dominant (Phrygian with a raised 3 rd ; 5 th mode of Harmonic Minor) Spend some time getting used to where the notes are within each scale pattern, and take note of the different sound each scale s interval pattern produces: Take note how Natural Minor sounds different from Harmonic Minor: which note is different? Note how Natural Minor sounds different from Phrygian: which note is different? Note how Phrygian and Phrygian Dominant sound different; which note is different? Pay close attention to how the location of each changed note within the scale affects the resulting sound of the scale (e.g., how Phrygian s flat-2 nd sounds darker than Natural Minor s 2 nd ).

4 What Gives Each Scale Its Own Distinctive Sound? Each interval has its own unique sound, as does each combination of intervals. The characteristic sound of each type of scale is a direct result of its interval pattern. The specific spacing pattern of the notes is what makes it sound more exotic, more bluesy, more neoclassical, etc. While a note may be higher in one scale than in another, what is really different is the spacing between the notes, and the way that spacing difference alters the resulting sound of the scale and one s sense of the key center. If one note moves to a new location, that is a different relative location from both of its surrounding notes; one note change creates 2 interval changes. Every note in the scale takes on a different interval relationship to the moved note.

5 The First 5 Frets: There s a lot you can do with just the open strings and the first 5 frets. In this section you ll get to know the fretboard layout for all 4 of the above scale patterns. Playing in D Natural Minor Dropped D is obviously very well suited to playing in the key of D minor (aka the Aeolian scale, or Aeolian mode). One of the things that Dropped D allows us to see is the one note in every octave that doesn t have a perfect 5 th (power chord) - the note that has a flat 5 th. As you can see in the diagram to the left, note #6 is one fret too low to form a power chord with note #2. Notice also how this differs from the way that notes #1, #3, and #4 each line up with their 5ths on the 5 th string. When playing with power chords, a lot of people either skip the 2 chord, or they go out of key and play the power chord on that note anyway. You don t have to do either of these things however, if you just use note #7, which is ½ step higher than a perfect 5 th. It s the same note you d use for #3 s power chord. Playing in D Harmonic Minor Dropped D is even better suited to playing using the D Harmonic Minor scale, since the root (D) and 5 th (A) of the scale - the 2 strongest-resolving scale degrees - each have an open low string. If you compare this scale to the Natural Minor scale above, you ll notice that the only difference is that the Harmonic Minor scale has a raised 7 th. This places the 7 th only a ½ step below the root, and 1½ steps above the 6 th, whereas the 7 th of the Natural Minor scale is located one whole step between the 6 th and root. This specific interval change makes an enormous difference in the sound.

6 Playing in D Phrygian The Phrygian scale is similar to the Natural Minor scale, except its 2 nd scale degree is ½ step lower. Within the first 5 frets, this causes notes 2 and 6 to line up as a perfect 5 th, giving you 4 fulloctave power chords, based on the root, 2 nd, 3 rd, and 4 th of the scale. The flat 2 nd of the Phrygian scale creates a darker type of sound than the 2 nd of the Aeolian (aka Natural Minor) scale. The Phrygian scale (or mode) actually begins on the 5 th note of the Aeolian scale/mode. In other words, D Phrygian is the 5 th mode of G Aeolian - it s really in the key of G minor (the note G is the number 4 in the above diagram). That places the minor (Aeolian) root note at the 5 th fret on your D strings. Playing in D Phrygian Dominant Phrygian Dominant is the 5 th mode of Harmonic minor, the same way that Phrygian is the 5 th mode of Natural minor. Phrygian Dominant s 3 rd scale degree is ½ step higher than the 3 rd of Phrygian (the same note that is the raised 7 th in the harmonic minor scale). Phrygian Dominant is a very epic, Arabian sounding scale. The word dominant indicates the type of 7 th chord or arpeggio associated to the root note of the scale. A dominant 7 th is formed from a root note, major 3 rd, perfect 5 th, and minor 7 th, all of which are contained within the Phrygian Dominant scale. By having a raised 3 rd, this once again throws off the perfect 5 th intervals required to play power chords. For a replacement tone when playing the 3 chord, add note #1 (the power chord note of note #4).

7 Further Up the Neck While there are tons of things you can do with the first 5 frets, taking a full-octave view of the DAD strings will open the door for countless additional possibilities. Here are those same 4 scales, from the open strings to the 12 th fret. Take note of which notes have their power chords line up across all 3 strings, and which notes don t, in each scale.

8

9 Additional Dropped-D Voicings In addition to knowing the 4 scales up and down the neck on the DAD strings, you ll still want to be able to use the rest of your strings to make full use of this tuning. In this section you ll learn several note combinations that you can use to get additional sound textures when playing in Dropped-D tuning. Power Chord Voicings (Root-Fifth Combinations)

10 Major and Minor Chord Voicings

11

12

13 Smaller Major & Minor Chord Voicings: (Power-Chord-Based)

14 Using Harmonics (in-key) It s one thing to simply play harmonics and get that squeal sound - playing harmonics that are IN KEY with the rest of what you re playing is another matter, requiring a much greater degree of attention. To fully know the harmonics - their layout on the fretboard, how they are related to the fretted or openstring note, and how and where they fit into the key in which you re playing - you need to start with the NATURAL HARMONICS on each open string. String Fractions Each string, when divided into simple fractions (1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, 1/6, 1/7, 1/8, etc) of its length, will produce a higher tone that is harmonically related (that is, related by harmony) to the open-string note (hence the name, harmonics ). The easiest harmonic to play is directly above the 12 th fret on any open string. This is the exact center of the string. Sounding the 12 th fret harmonic divides the string perfectly into two halves, each of which vibrates at twice the speed (one octave higher than the open string). That last part is very important - half the length = twice the speed of vibration = one octave higher. That means that if you touch the string at exactly 1/4 of the way up the fretboard (at the 5 th or 24 th fret), you d be dividing the string into equal 1/4ths, which produce a harmonic 2 octaves higher than the open string (1 octave higher than the 12 th fret harmonic). This means that at the 1/8 point of the string (roughly the middle of the 3 rd fret space; fret 2.4 ) will give you a harmonic 3 octaves higher than the open string. Divisions smaller than 1/8 of a string are extremely difficult to produce clearly, so this lesson will only be concerned with harmonics between 1/2 and 1/8 of the string.

15 The red dots in the diagrams below show a close-up of the locations of each harmonic along the string: Here is a view of the natural harmonics along the entire string up to the 12 th fret: Now, keep in mind that these intervals are all in relation to the root note - the note of which ever open string you re playing. It will be a different note, depending on what the note of the open string is. In the next section, we ll look at the harmonics that actually fall within the scales of D natural minor, D harmonic minor, D phrygian, and D phrygian dominant.

16 D-Friendly Natural Harmonics in Dropped-D Tuning Root-5 th Harmonics: These work with all 4 scales: Natural Minor, Harmonic Minor, Phrygian, & Phrygian Dominant. These are the safest harmonic notes to use when playing in any of these scales. D Natural Minor Harmonics: These work when playing within the D Natural Minor scale:

17 D Harmonic Minor Harmonics: These work when playing within the D Harmonic Minor scale: D Phrygian Harmonics: These work when playing within the D Phrygian scale (the 5 th mode of G Natural Minor; D= 1 ):

18 D Phrygian Dominant Harmonics: These work when playing within the D Phrygian Dominant scale (the 5 th mode of G Harmonic Minor; D= 1 ):

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