As you explore the world of guitar deeper, sooner or later you’ll encounter alternate tunings. This is when you tune your guitar to something other than the standard tuning of EADGBE. For example, you might tune the guitar to a chord to make a song easier to play.
Drop D is usually the first place you will find yourself. It’s the most popular alternate tuning due to its simplicity, just need to down tune your lowest string by 2 semitones and you’re done!
So today, we’ve prepared a list of 35 of the best songs that are famously played in Drop D to give you an opportunity to try out this very popular alternate tuning.
- Moby Dick by Led Zeppelin
- Dear Prudence by The Beatles
- Everlong by Foo Fighters
- Never Going Back Again by Fleetwood Mac
- Harvest Moon by Neil Young
- Bat Country by Avenged Sevenfold
- Heart Shaped Box by Nirvana
- Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine
- You are My Sunshine by Chris Stapleton
- Schism by Tool
- All Nightmare Long by Metallica
- Decode by Paramore
- Home by Dream Theater
- I Won’t Give Up by Jason Mraz
- If Eternity Should Fail by Iron Maiden
- Last Resort by Papa Roach
- Monkey Wrench by Foo Fighters
- Meant to Live by Switchfoot
- Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr by Trivium
- One by Ed Sheeran
- What I’ve Done by Linkin Park
- Ruin by Lamb of God
- Sugar, We’re Goin Down by Fall Out Boy
- Ten Years Gone by Led Zeppelin
- Never Too Late by Three Days Grace
- New Born by Muse
- On A Plain by Nirvana
- Sonne by Rammstein
- Spoonman by Soundgarden
- Forty Six & 2 by Tool
- Unholy Confessions by Avenged Sevenfold
- Unnatural Selection by Muse
- Wake Up by Rage Against The Machine
- Whatsername by Green Day
- The Beautiful People by Marilyn Manson
Moby Dick by Led Zeppelin
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Strangely enough, this song started out life on the drums, but after guitarist Jimmy Page overheard John playing it in the studio various parts were cut together to create the final song. There’s famously a rather lengthy drum solo in this which when the band played live could go on for as long as 30 minutes. So why include a drum-led song on a list for guitarists?
This song has no shortage of great, classic, groovy rock riffs for you to sink your teeth into. Because of the drop D tuning, you can play the opening riff much more comfortably and is a great example of how the tuning can make your life easier.
Dear Prudence by The Beatles
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The Beatles really pushed the envelope of pop at the time and were able to explore a lot of new ground for the genre. So while we might associate drop tunings with power chords or rock guitar, they were able to utilize it in different contexts such as this fingerpicked song.
This song is a wonderful example of how drop D can make your life easier in a finger picked scenario. With your first string now matching your 3rd and 6th strings, it’s now much easier to have access to your root note as they are all on the same fret. This will also introduce you to a less commonly talked about technique called ‘clawhammer’ picking which is something that is primarily used on the banjo.
Everlong by Foo Fighters
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Another great example of how effective drop D can be. This song was written by guitarist and singer Dave Grohl, who stumbled upon the song by accident while in the studio recording Foo Fighters’ second album ‘The Colour and the Shape’. In between recording sessions for the song Monkey Wrench (which is also in drop D) he wrote the main riff which he described as a ‘Sonic Youth rip-off riff’.
The main chords to the song make great use of the low D, allowing you to play some of the chord voicings such as the sus2 comfortably and without any stretching because of the convenient string arrangement. Likewise, for the chorus there are some large 4 string chords which sound fantastic, and drop D makes them far easier to hold.
Never Going Back Again by Fleetwood Mac
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Released as a promotional single for Fleetwood Mac’s 11th studio album and written by lead singer/songwriter Lindsey Buckingham about his breakup with fellow Fleetwood Mac member Stevie Nicks. In contrast to the somewhat serious topic the song discusses, it has a great upbeat and hopeful tone. It’s also been covered by some notable artists including Matchbox Twenty.
This is another example of how drop D can work well in a finger picked context. With a bassline that jumps between the first two strings, this would have been considerably more difficult to play in standard tuning. Some of the melodic parts are fairly involved but because the bassline is so simple you can pour all of your focus into them.
Harvest Moon by Neil Young
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This is the first single released from the 1992 album of the same name and was written by Neil as a tribute to his wife Pegi Young. It has a wonderful melancholic feel with some unique chord voicings, where the dropped D really adds a lot of weight and thickness to the sound. The song charted at number 36 on the UK Singles selling over 200,000 copies.
The main motif of the song will have you playing some chords quite high up the fretboard. The low strings are used as accents, acting as a drone underneath making the part feel fuller. This is another way in which D makes your life easier as these can be power chords without you actually needing to hold any frets down. Very convenient!
Bat Country by Avenged Sevenfold
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Originally starting as a more niche metal band during the rise of the metalcore genre with albums like ‘Waking The Fallen’. But, as time passed and their popularity was skyrocketing they diversified their sound to embrace more of a classic heavy metal and hard rock style. Bat Country, from their ‘City of Evil’ album is a perfect song to showcase this. With groovy rock riffs and catchy melodies, it ended up being one of their most commercially successful songs ever.
The song itself makes heavy use of the flat 5 with a groovy heavy metal riff that uses power chords exclusively. Particularly on the verse, this would be almost impossible to play were it not for the dropped D making the chords playable with just a single finger.
Heart Shaped Box by Nirvana
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One of the highly successful singles from Nirvana’s smash hit third (and final) album ‘In Utero’. It goes without saying that Nirvana are the kings of grunge, and have some of the coolest and most iconic riffs ever written amongst their catalog. The song charted in the top 10 on both the US Alternative Songs and Mainstream Rock Billboard.
Contrary to some of the other songs on this list, the main draw of this song’s drop D tuning is not for strumming purposes. The main motif of the song actually has the chords played as arpeggios (that is to say, as single notes) and the drop D tuning makes your life just that little bit easier by lining up some of the notes and making them more convenient to play.
Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine
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Rage Against the Machine were a band that achieved great commercial success right from the get-go with their debut album release. People fell in love with their anti-establishment message along with their catchy and powerful riffs. Killing in the Name was hilariously made the Christmas number one single in the UK after a fan led campaign wanted to stop the X-Factor winner from claiming it for yet another year.
An overall simple song to play, you will be relying a lot on that open D power chord which is made incredibly easy to play thanks to the tuning. The riffs are hard-hitting and powerful so make sure to use a bit of gain and pick hard.
You are My Sunshine by Chris Stapleton
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You are My Sunshine is a song you’ve probably already heard in one or more of its various incarnations and covers by many artists. But the Chris Stapleton version recorded in 2016 has been a favorite for guitarists to play. Its iconic and catchy vocal melody in tandem with some of Chris’s exquisite guitar work is a treat to listen to, and a lot of fun to learn.
The guitar part has a lot of blues and country flair to it which will have you playing a lot of cool minor pentatonic licks. In addition to that, there’s also a ton of sliding power chords where the drop D tuning will help the two notes stay together as you slide around.
Schism by Tool
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Tool are one of the few highly progressive bands to somehow breakthrough to a mainstream audience. They married elements such as odd time signatures, unique rhythmic groupings and coupled them with dark and unsettling imagery. Yet they still were able to walk that line of accessibility with catchy and memorable vocal melodies.
If you haven’t yet dabbled into the deeper world of progressive music, Schism is a great place to start. With almost every measure being non 4/4 and the chorus also makes great use of the dropped D with some cool percussive mutes and barred power chords. Nothing too taxing in terms of speed, this is more a test of rhythm!
All Nightmare Long by Metallica
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Metallica are one of the biggest metal bands of all time, from humble thrash roots they have risen to worldwide fame, releasing some of the most popular metal albums in the world. They were revolutionary in how they evolved the genre, striking that all important balance between heavy metal riffs and catchy vocals.
This song is a great representation of what a traditional Metallica song should be. With a little clean guitar on the intro before leading into the crushingly heavy power chords. You’ll also be challenged during the verse as there’s heavy use of the ‘galloping’ technique which is sure to give your right hand and forearm a good workout!
Decode by Paramore
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Paramore are at the top of their game when it comes to all things pop-punk, having achieved massive commercial success and even a Grammy Award during their 17 year career and they show no signs of stopping. Decode was a song written for the hit movie ‘Twilight’ and sold over 2 million copies in the US alone. It also had a music video to accompany it which is currently sitting at 385 million views on YouTube.
The majority of this song can be played with a single finger, you just need to bar the first 2 strings and move that shape around the fretboard. They also add the minor third on the higher octave during some spots on the chorus which would be quite an extreme stretch were it not for the tuning.
Home by Dream Theater
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Dream Theater are one of the most beloved and popular progressive rock/metal bands ever. They are largely credited with helping to popularize the genre as they always sat on the cutting edge, constantly updating their image and utilizing modern equipment and production techniques to develop their sound. This made them the band other musicians would look to for inspiration.
Heading over to their 1999 concept album ‘Metropolis Pt.2: Scenes from a Memory’, the song home makes great use of the dropped D tuning and is going to really test you on all facets of your playing. From less commonly used scales, interesting rhythms to blisteringly fast leads. Learn this song if you’re after a good challenge!
I Won’t Give Up by Jason Mraz
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This is a straightforward ballad from Jason’s fourth studio album, it was the first promotional single released and achieved a good amount of commercial success, charting in the top 10 in multiple countries. It’s a song about not giving up, whether it’s about your dreams, loving someone else, or yourself, and is a great all-round finger-picked song that anyone can learn.
The song is, of course, in D and your thumb is going to be riding that low string for a lot of the time. Your other fingers will be picking the main melody of the song. Then for the chorus, it breaks out into large chords which make use of the open strings. Try to be careful about not accidentally hitting that top E string when it’s not required.
If Eternity Should Fail by Iron Maiden
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One of the classic, all time great heaven metal titans from the UK. Known as pioneers of ‘the new wave of British heavy metal’ which includes bands such as Motorhead, Saxon, and Def Leppard. The song is from their sixteenth studio release titled ‘The Book of Souls’ which ranked at the number 1 spot on the UK Rock and Metal Albums chart.
After a fairly lengthy orchestral intro, you’ll be treated to the quintessential Iron Maiden sound. Making good use of power chords and the drop D tuning as well as plenty of great twin guitar melodies and harmonies to sink your teeth into. A signature of Iron Maiden’s sound is the use of dual guitars, so if you have a friend who is also learning this is the perfect song to learn together!
Last Resort by Papa Roach
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In the early 2000s when nu-metal rose to prominence, it was often ridiculed and there were low hopes of any longevity in the careers of nu-metal bands. No one could have predicted just how successful the careers of these bands would be. With Papa Roach in particular achieving huge commercial success and is still going strong with a new album currently scheduled for release in 2022.
Last Resort is from their second album ‘Infest’ which is really when they exploded in popularity. It’s an iconic song with equally iconic riffs. There’s nothing too challenging and if you are familiar with any kind of metal playing this will be all quite straightforward.
Monkey Wrench by Foo Fighters
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We previously mentioned Everlong, which was written mostly by accident as the riff was stumbled upon in between takes as the band was tracking this particular song. This is the lead single from their second album ‘The Colour and the Shape’, it did incredibly well and played a huge part in Foo Fighters’ early success as a band.
It’s a fast paced, intense, and heavy rock song that is played primarily using down picking. So this is sure to give your forearm a good workout! It uses a lot of power chords but doesn’t overly rely on the low D until the pre-chorus, which is made considerably easier thanks to the alternate tuning.
Meant to Live by Switchfoot
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Switchfoot are a band that didn’t gain a massive amount of commercial recognition from the get-go, it wouldn’t be until one of their songs was included in the 2002 movie’ A Walk to Remember’ that they’d enjoy their first bit of mainstream exposure. This trend continued over the next few years with some additional movie licensing agreements and the album ended up selling over 2.6 million copies.
While there’s nothing too unusual going on in this song, it does have some interesting rock techniques such as a double stop bend where you will bend the 4th fret of the 3rd string as your 4th string is left to ring, which will require some careful hand movement so you don’t choke that 4th string.
Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr by Trivium
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Beginning life in 1999, it would be with the release of their second album ‘Ascendancy’ that led Trivium to sign with legendary record label Roadrunner Records. This album has a huge number of fan-loved singles and afforded the band many new opportunities including playing with Killswitch Engage and Fear Factory. Pull Harder On The String Of Your Martyr is one of their biggest singles with the official music video sitting at a mighty 7.8 million views on YouTube.
This song is sure to test your metal chops, with heavy alternate picked riffs, palm muting, and plenty of guitar harmonies and solos to sink your teeth into. This is the perfect song to rock out to in drop D.
One by Ed Sheeran
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After Ed had already started to gain quite a bit of recognition for the release of his first album ‘+’, he immediately went on to writing material for the second album titled ‘x’. This song was the first material he began to put together for that album and was written in collaboration with Jake Gosling. It would later be a primary promotional single for the record which sold over a million copies in the US.
The song is primarily finger picked so you’ll be playing most of the bass notes with your thumb while your fingers pick the melody. It rides a lot on the low D during the verse and the chorus also makes use of the dropped tuning to make some of the open chords easier to play.
What I’ve Done by Linkin Park
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Linkin Park shook up the world of alternative metal with their debut album ‘Hybrid Theory’ which had a boatload of successful singles. However, for their third effort ‘Minutes to Midnight’ they began to explore more of their rock side, with the single ‘What I’ve Done’ still achieving a great deal of success selling over 5 million copies in the US.
The song uses the typical Linkin Park drop D tuning, however, it is an overall more laid back effort where you will just be strumming straight chords along with simple, single-note leads. The rhythm section makes great use of the dropped tuning to play some large 4 string chords that span multiple octaves.
Ruin by Lamb of God
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One of the all time great metal bands who have a signature riffing style that plays heavily with blues, chromatics, and even country influence to create a great mash between heavy, chuggy riffs and interesting note choice. The band has released 10 albums to date and are some of the most well respected musicians on the scene.
Ruin is the first track from their second studio album ‘As The Palaces Burn’. It serves as a perfect showcase of how effective the dropped tuning can be when it comes to manipulating power chords at speed. The majority of the song is spent ‘chugging’ on the lowest two strings and the main riffs become a breeze to play thanks to the tuning.
Sugar, We’re Goin Down by Fall Out Boy
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Sugar, We’re Going Down is one of the most popular singles from the American rock band Fall Out Boy. It was released as the second single from their second album ‘From Under the Cork Tree’ and (at the time) was the band’s biggest selling single and shifted over 4 million copies. The song has also made various appearances in movies such as ‘The Fog’ and TV shows such as American Idol.
The song is exceptionally easy to play with just some simple 3 string barred power chords with a couple of octave shapes thrown in. Ideal for a beginner to learn as you can just rock out and have fun with it, use a medium gain for best results!
Ten Years Gone by Led Zeppelin
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Another classic from Led Zeppelin from the album Physical Graffiti. The song was originally planned to be an instrumental piece until Robert Plant added lyrics at a later date. The song lyrically recollects Plant’s experience with a previous girlfriend who made him choose between music or their relationship. Thankfully he chose the music!
This is a song that works great both on electric or acoustic, you will be able to find renditions of both online. The song doesn’t make heavy use of the dropped D, but there are some key moments where it’s used in transitions and makes your life just a little bit easier as it places the notes you need in a more convenient spot.
Never Too Late by Three Days Grace
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Three Days Grace are a Canadian band that’s skirted all kinds of alternative genres from nu-metal and rock to grunge. Never Too Late is essentially a heavy ballad and one of their most commercially successful singles, which went 2x platinum in the US. It’s also a favorite amongst fans with the official YouTube video sitting at 233 million views.
The verse has some acoustic arpeggios which all generally revolve around the 8th fret, they are all simple to play to and should be no problem even for beginners. Then we go even simpler for the chorus which is all just strummed power chords, again with that drop D tuning making everything that much more comfortable to play.
New Born by Muse
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One of the UKs’ biggest and best alternative rock acts, having gone from strength to strength over the years, selling out arenas and winning Grammy Awards. They are also known for flirting with other genres such as progressive and electronica. New Born is a fan favorite from their second (and some argue best) album ‘Origin of Symmetry’.
Although the song does have a lengthy vocal introducing it, once the song really kicks in with its main heavy rock riff you’ll be glad you committed to it. This one doesn’t rely too much on the drop D, but it is a good example of how it’s not a limiting factor either, you can still write a normal song without needing to revolve around the tuning.
On A Plain by Nirvana
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On A Plain is another promotional single from Nirvana’s legendary album Nevermind. Both recorded and released in 1991. The song also features some great vocal backing from drummer and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl. Despite the song’s commercial success, Kurt has mentioned he was dissatisfied with how clean the sound was and wished it was more ‘raw’ sounding.
While it’s true, this song definitely has a slightly more upbeat and pop vibe to it. It’s still a very fun and easy song to learn and is almost entirely played with just some simple power chords. Just remember to crank up your gain and bring the fuzz pedal out as the dirtier your tone, the better it sounds!
Sonne by Rammstein
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When it comes to the appeal of Rammstein, it’s really the huge production and massive sounding guitars that make their simple yet well written riffs resonate with so many people.
Sonne is another single from the album Mutter and has a fantastic music video to accompany the song which depicts an alternate version of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs story.
As is typical for Rammstein’s style, the song just uses heavy barred power chords throughout the entirety of the song. Which, thanks to the dropped tuning, makes it completely playable with just a single finger! So it’s an ideal song if you are a beginner or just need an easy to play song you can rock out to.
Spoonman by Soundgarden
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Spoonman is said to be the song that first exposed Soundgarden to a wider audience and was the turning point at which they started to gain mass appeal. Written by the absolutely incredible vocalist Chris Cornell who has unfortunately passed away, the song made it to number 3 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts and is a favorite amongst Soundgarden fans.
The song is primarily played using 3 string barred power chords, but does a good job of mixing things up by including some slides and rhythmic mutes. There are also a few unusual bar measures thrown in for some extra spice.
Forty Six & 2 by Tool
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Another popular single from Tool’s extremely popular album Ænima. While not quite as commercially successful as songs such as Schism or Vicarious, it is nevertheless a ton of fun to play. It also uses some great musical rhythmic ideas that, if you haven’t been exposed to yet, will really expand your musical repertoire.
Most of the guitar parts sit quite nicely in 4/4. However, you will feel the drums drift off slightly as certain pieces of the kit play alternate rhythmic divisions for a few bars until everything eventually lines up on the 1 count. This can be a little unnerving at first if you are used to everything strictly staying in 4/4, but it does serve as a great chance for you to expose yourself more to this kind of songwriting.
Unholy Confessions by Avenged Sevenfold
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Although we previously mentioned that as Avenged Sevenfold’s career progressed they started to lean towards catchier songs with more commercial viability. But this song is proof that even before that change, the band still was able to achieve a degree of mainstream exposure with Unholy Confessions, the first single from their second album. Which went Gold and is considered by fans to be a classic.
This really is a quintessential metalcore song that will require you to employ all of your most common guitar techniques including down picking, palm muting, and hammer ons/pull offs. Once you have this song mastered you will already be able to play a huge number of metal songs, it’s a really great primer on this style of music.
Unnatural Selection by Muse
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Lyrically singer Matthew Bellamy has mentioned this song discusses the topic of luck and how much of a factor that plays in our lives, people who are born into privilege stand a far better chance of doing well. It’s also said that Matt tried to use the vocal style of System of a Down vocalist Serj Tankian who is known to have been a big influence on his style.
Guitar wise this has some great alternative rock riffs for you to sink your teeth into. It’s a mid-tempo song that has a good energy but is also manageable if you are a beginner. Contrary to many of the songs on this list this is mostly played using single note riffs which you can alternate pick if the down picking is too strenuous.
Wake Up by Rage Against The Machine
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Another wonderful song from Rage’s self-titled album. Although the song was never actually released as a promotional single, it was very famously used as part of ‘The Matrix’ movies original soundtrack which starred Keanu Reeves. Making it one of their most recognized songs ever.
It has some really impactful hard rock riffs, you’ll want a medium gain tone with a good amount of spank to it. Make sure you pick quite hard as it’s only going to enhance the energy of the song. In addition, there’s some percussive mutes on the verse and some strummed octaves, so this song is sure to keep you busy!
Whatsername by Green Day
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Whatsername is the final track from Green Day’s smash hit album ‘American Idiot’ which won the 2005 Grammy Award for best rock album. In addition to that, it’s estimated that the album’s total worldwide sales are in the region of 16 million copies which is a truly remarkable feat for a pop-punk group!
This song will have you playing palm-muted 8th notes at a steady and consistent pace for the duration of the song. While very simplistic it can serve as a great fundamental workout if you are a learner. Plus, it makes it much easier to sing over. Do ensure the higher strings aren’t ringing out as they are not required at all for this song!
The Beautiful People by Marilyn Manson
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Somewhat of a controversial figure, whose name is a combination of actress Marilyn Monroe and notorious murderer/cult leader Charles Manson. He is well known for using shocking imagery and taboo topics as his musical inspiration. But that has not stopped him from achieving great commercial success and he has been rated as one of the best heavy metal vocalists of all time by Hit Parader.
The Beautiful People is from Manson’s second album titled ‘Antichrist Superstar’. Guitar wise it has a very catchy main riff that plays entirely off of the drop D tuning by essentially turning a single note riff into chords. There’s a lot of quick stops that need to happen as well as percussive mutes so be sure to not saturate the gain too much so you can cut the guitar’s sound quickly and tightly.