Anyone messing around with playing heavy will have a few Drop C songs in their repertoire, and for good reason! Alternate tunings can be a great way to explore new ground on the guitar. They can shake up your chord shapes and allow you to be more creative with your playing.
It’s one of the most popular tunings for any rock or metal band, being easy to play since you only need to bar a single fret to play a power chord. The low strings can give you that thick, chunky rhythm sound that’s great with distortion, while the upper strings are tuned high enough to facilitate fast lead-guitar playing.
So today we’ve prepared a list of 25 Drop C Songs, including lessons and tabs, so you can have fun exploring this tuning!
- Chop Suey! by System of a Down
- Hearts Burst Into Fire by Bullet for My Valentine
- My Curse by Killswitch Engage
- Blew by Nirvana
- Change (In the House of Flies) by Deftones
- It Never Ends by Bring Me the Horizon
- Oblivion by Mastodon
- Frantic by Metallica
- All Laid Back and Stuff by Andy McKee
- Marigold by Periphery
- Tears Don’t Fall by Bullet for My Valentine
- Neon by John Mayer
- Stricken by Disturbed
- Isolation by Alter Bridge
- Your Guardian Angel by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
- Feed the Machine by Nickelback
- Bad Horsie by Steve Vai
- I Stand Alone by Godsmack
- I Don’t Wanna Stop – Ozzy Osbourne
- L’Enfant Sauvage by Gojira
- Rain by Breaking Benjamin
- Suffocating Under Words of Sorrow by Bullet for My Valentine
- Roulette by System of a Down
- Inside the Fire by Disturbed
- Animal I Have Become by Three Days Grace
Chop Suey! by System of a Down
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System of a Down made waves with their self-aware and comedic style of metal, which would often lyrically tackle harder issues from politics to suicide. They have released 5 studio albums to date, with their last release being all the way back in 2005. The band have a very dedicated fanbase who still hold hope that they will someday release a new album.
Chop Suey! is System’s biggest-selling single, going platinum in the UK and making it one of the most famous Drop C songs. At first glance, it might appear quite difficult, but it’s actually very easy once you get the patterns down. Also, very satisfying to play. The main riff can be played with just 2 fingers by barring power chords, but it is played quite fast to ensure you’re on time with the song.
Hearts Burst Into Fire by Bullet for My Valentine
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Bullet for My Valentine ascended from the small town of Bridgend, Wales, in the UK to become one of the biggest metal bands around. Back in the early 2000s, they released a self-titled EP that caught the interest of major record labels with songs like Hand of Blood and Cries in Vain. Shortly after, they secured a 5-album record deal and have gone on to release multiple billboard-charting studio albums.
Hearts Burst Into Fire is definitely a more melodic effort, but is nevertheless one of their more popular singles, sitting at over 38 million views on youtube. It’s a catchy song that’ll have you down-picking and galloping some pretty fast power chords, but there are also plenty of great melodies to keep you busy.
My Curse by Killswitch Engage
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Killswitch Engage are one of the main reasons why Drop C became such a popular tuning. They inspired many young guitarists to pick up the guitar to play their catchy riffs and leads. Formed in 1999, they are largely credited with popularizing the ‘metalcore’ genre. They struck a balance between heavy and melodic music, not shying away from using catchy choruses, even in heavy songs.
My Curse will have you playing heavy bluesy riffs, using that flat 5th and some passing tones to give it that iconic Killswitch flair. It’s very comfortable in the hands and a ton of fun to play. Be sure to down-pick the leads under the chorus to ensure it has the correct tonality.
Blew by Nirvana
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Nirvana played a large part in pioneering the dirty, raw sound of grunge and the alternative rock movement of the late ’80s. Following their second album, Nevermind, they achieved massive commercial success, due in no small part to their single Smells Like Teen Spirit. The song became a bit of a cultural phenomenon and sold over 3 million copies in the US alone.
The song itself makes great use of the drop tuning, featuring mainly power chords which you can just bar over your lowest three strings. It also makes good use of the blue note and some interesting ‘micro-bends’, where you will have to pull your whole hand down so all 3 of the lowest strings go sharp simultaneously. A fun one that should be on any grunge fan’s list of Drop C songs.
Change (In the House of Flies) by Deftones
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Deftones are of the all-time great American alternative metal bands, rising to prominence in 2000 with the release of their third album, White Pony. This marked a shift in their sound toward a more ambient, moody, and experimental direction. Deftones are well-known for tuning low, with guitarist Stephen Carpenter having a line of extended-range 7- and 8-string signature model guitars.
While they weren’t quite in 8-string territory at this period of their career, Change makes good use of the lower C tuning as it plays into the darker mood of the song. It allows them to easily reach that minor third on the upper octave (also called a chord inversion), which sounds huge, emotive, and sits in singer Chino Moreno’s vocal range perfectly.
It Never Ends by Bring Me the Horizon
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When Bring Me the Horizon first came onto the scene in 2006 with their ultra-aggressive first album Count Your Blessings, no one could have guessed that the band would morph their sound quite so much over the following decade. They adopted a more eclectic style that would use both clean singing, electronic, and pop elements. This new, more melodic sound would garner them huge commercial success, with their 2013 album Sempiternal going gold in Australia.
It Never Ends represents that early stage of their transformation and the first steps to a more melodic sound. The song uses a lot of octave harmonies between the two guitars, akin to bands such as Soilwork. There are also a lot of single-note open lines, which guitarist Lee Malia has described as sounding more ‘huge’ than the traditional power chord.
Oblivion by Mastodon
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Mastodon released their first album Remission back in 2002. Then in 2009, they really stepped things up with Crack the Skye, which was released to fantastic critical acclaim. The album got a 5/5 from Total Guitar and won Best International Metal Album at the Danish Music Awards.
Oblivion is the second single from Crack the Skye and also has a supporting music video. The song uses some great melodic dissonance and atonal chord shapes which flirt in and out of more traditional diatonic harmony, giving an otherworldly feel to the song. This is a fantastic Drop C song to learn. It will help you expand your chordal vocabulary and have you playing lots of ‘out of the box’ ideas.
Frantic by Metallica
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Metallica’s 2003 album St. Anger often conjures up nightmarish memories of one of the most horrific-sounding snare drums ever to exist. But if you can look past that, St. Anger has a lot of great riffs and songs which are a lot of fun to jam on the guitar. In particular, Frantic, the second single from that album, talks about the band’s struggles with addiction, in particular singer James’ alcoholism.
The song is a lot of fun to play and will have you riffing out much higher up the fretboard than you normally would. Don’t worry if your guitar isn’t intonated perfectly and sounds a little out of tune playing your low C string that high up the fretboard. It also sounds that way on the album!
All Laid Back and Stuff by Andy McKee
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Andy is well known for marrying technical, fingerstyle, and percussive slap-playing with fantastic melody and songwriting skills. In 2005 when he released his 3rd album Art of Motion on CandyRat Records, a playthrough video for the song Drifting went viral on YouTube, exposing Andy’s playing to a wider audience.
This song has a lot of interesting things going on musically. You’ll be playing the bass notes primarily with your thumb while your fingers pick and slide around the melody on the higher strings. You’ll also be using your palms to hit the strings and body of the guitar to emulate the sound of a kick and snare drum. One thing to note is while the song is technically in a Drop C tuning, you will need to raise up your fourth string 1 semitone to G (making CGDGAD).
Marigold by Periphery
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Periphery started as the musical project of guitarist/songwriter Misha Mansoor, who garnered notoriety by posting his home-recorded music on the (at the time) popular website SoundClick. After that, he decided to turn Periphery into a full band that went on to significantly impact the landscape of modern progressive music. Pioneering the use of amp modelers, drum-programming software, and home recording/production.
One of the unique things about Marigold is it has a repeating melody, or motif, that you would normally move with the chord changes in key. But in this song, they use modulations (a fancy word for changing key) so the motif position shifts along with the root-note changes, creating a very dramatic effect. Definitely one of the more tricky Drop C songs on this list.
Tears Don’t Fall by Bullet for My Valentine
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Regarded as one of their best songs by fans, Tears Don’t Fall was the fourth single from their debut album The Poison, which sold very well considering it was from a relatively new and unknown band. It sold over 200,000 units in the UK and was certified Silver. It also had a successful music video, which is currently sitting at a whopping 235 million views on YouTube.
The song itself isn’t too complicated to play. There are lots of huge, barred power chords which the Drop C tuning makes very comfortable and convenient to play. The interlude will also be testing your rhythm ability with some cool, thrashy rhythm groupings on your low G string.
Neon by John Mayer
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John Mayer is one of the most well-respected singer/songwriters around, possessing a world-class singing voice, guitar technique, music theory, and chordal knowledge. He has also won 7 Grammy Awards. John has a line of signature guitar models and, in a 2018 collaboration with Martin Guitars, released a limited-edition John Mayer D-45 signature model, which sold for $15,000 each!
Neon is from John’s debut album and was written in collaboration with Zac Brown Band guitarist and songwriter, Clay Cook. It’s quite a busy song where you will be combining traditional fingerstyle playing with percussive elements. Much like Andy Mckee, it’s in a Drop C tuning, but you will need to raise your fourth string a semitone to G.
Stricken by Disturbed
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You don’t need to be a metal fan to enjoy Disturbed. With their catchy guitar riffs and anthemic choruses, Disturbed packaged metal in a way that was accessible to everyone. This was reflected in their commercial success, boasting 17 million albums sold worldwide, making them one of the most successful metal bands of all time.
In this song, guitarist Dan Donegan makes great use of the Drop C tuning with extensive use of the barred power chords, as well as some heavy chugging on that low C during the verse. There’s also a nice bit of classic, pentatonic shred soloing on the top strings, so having your top strings tuned fairly high to A and D will make this easier to play.
Isolation by Alter Bridge
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Formed by guitarist Mark Tremonti after his previous band, Creed, dissolved despite their popularity, Alter Bridge carved out their own following thanks to Mark’s guitar virtuosity and the vocal talents of singer Myles Kennedy. Isolation is the first single from their third studio album, AB III, which was met with positive critical reception.
This song makes heavy use of the convenience offered by Drop C, putting the 3rd of the chord on the higher octave. Normally this would require an extreme stretch to hold, but this tuning makes it a breeze. There is also a fair amount of lead work that has that great minor pentatonic/blues feel. Plus some huge 5-string open and bar chords on the chorus.
Your Guardian Angel by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
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The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus formed in 2003 and have released 5 studio albums to date. Your Guardian Angel has two versions, the main single release and an all-acoustic version, which can be found on their demo album. The main release has a long period of silence at the end, followed by a secret hidden track called The Grim Goodbye.
This song primarily sticks to strumming 3-note power chords, but they do get quite playful about where the 3rd note sits and use it to lead into the next chord change. This makes it ideal for beginners or anyone who wants to get used to singing and playing guitar at the same time. It’s not very taxing on the musical brain, allowing you to focus on your singing.
Feed the Machine by Nickelback
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There’s no denying that Nickelback is one of the most successful rock bands of our time, producing multiple top-selling and chart-topping hits. Over their 9-album career, they have flirted with all manner of genres from alternative rock to pop. Yet fans were still quite shocked with their single Feed The Machine, probably their heaviest song to date.
The song makes use of ultra high-gain guitars, chunky rock riffs, and some tasty ambient leads on the verse. They even use double kicks on the chorus! Everything is quite comfortable and convenient to play thanks to the Drop C tuning. There are some cool uses of hammer-ons and pull-offs on the main riff as well.
Bad Horsie by Steve Vai
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Steve Vai is one of the most innovative and influential guitarists ever. We have him to thank for numerous creative and technical advances in the world of guitar. A true virtuoso in every sense of the word, he’s also garnered commercial success to match his ability as a three-time Grammy award winner and 15-time nominee.
Bad Horsie is the first track from Steve’s EP Alien Love Secrets. The main riff of this song was based on a riff Steve played at the end of the 1986 film Crossroads. He uses a slide quite a lot on this song, but don’t fret if you don’t own one. It’s just as playable without the slide! There are also some great, squealing pinch harmonics that are meant to recreate the sound of a horse.
I Stand Alone by Godsmack
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Despite being a heavier band, Godsmack has had 25 top ten radio hits, 18 of which were in the top five. I Stand Alone was many people’s first exposure to Godsmack as it was famously used in the soundtrack to the hit Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) movie The Scorpion King. The official music video sits at 209 million views on YouTube.
The song makes heavy use of that low C, falling back to it at all stages of the song. So you can crank your gain up and enjoy the heavy, low-tuned chords. The main riff will also have you playing the 19th and 20th frets of your low C. So try to keep those notes in tune, as it’s very easy to pull them sharp!
I Don’t Wanna Stop – Ozzy Osbourne
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Revered as one of fathers of heavy metal, Ozzy Osbourne’s work in both Black Sabbath and as a solo artist paved the way for modern metal. Although Ozzy is less active these days, he is still putting out fantastic music that both old-school and young rockers alike can enjoy.
I Don’t Wanna Stop is the first single from Ozzy’s 10th studio album and took the number 1 spot on the US Mainstream Rock billboard. It starts with a catchy and anthemic marching section you can chug right along to in all of its Drop C glory. The main riffs are very easy to play and have a groovy, bluesy, and catchy quality to them.
L’Enfant Sauvage by Gojira
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Gojira are one of the most beloved heavy-metal bands. Hailing from Ondres, France, they have consistently put out stellar metal albums that place a huge focus on interesting rhythms. They utilize such concepts as syncopation and rhythmic displacement, all presented under an unsettling and ominous atmosphere that is a joy to listen to.
L’Enfant Sauvage (from the album of the same name) seldom leaves that low C note, with almost all of the musical interest coming from the rhythm, not the pitch. The song uses unusual groupings of 7 on the verse, with fantastic accents from drummer Mario Duplantier. It also features the signature Gojira ‘rake’, where you strike down all the strings while your left mutes them to create an aggressive and percussive sound.
Rain by Breaking Benjamin
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Despite quite a few lineup changes, the lead singer and primary songwriter has been there since the band’s inception, leading them through 6 albums of heavy, crunchy guitar riffs, and angst-filled anthemic choruses. The band has garnered a dedicated fanbase and has been able to sell 7 million albums worldwide.
With that being said, they do have their share of ballads and Rain is a perfect example. The Drop C tuning gives it a warmer and more mellow feel. There are lots of large and open-sounding chords along with some unique and interesting chord voicings. So if you have an acoustic guitar that you can tune this low, this is an ideal song to learn.
Suffocating Under Words of Sorrow by Bullet for My Valentine
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Suffocating Under Words of Sorrow is another single from the Welsh rockers’ debut album and a fan-favorite. The song gathered a fair bit of success in the UK considering it was their first full-length release. It peaked at number 37 on the UK Singles Chart and number 2 on the UK Rock Chart. Also contributing to its success was its inclusion on the soundtrack of the third installment of the popular movie franchise Saw.
Although this song is tuned to Drop C, it primarily rides on the open note of the G string. The riffs in this song are fairly typical for the style, so they are a lot of fun to play and easily accessible for beginners. There’s also a lot of twin harmonies used in the song, so if you have a friend who also plays guitar, this is a great song to learn together.
Roulette by System of a Down
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This track was tucked away at the back of SOAD’s 2002 album, lovingly titled Steal This Album! Following up their massive hit album Toxicity was no small feat. While this album didn’t garnering as much recognition, it still received overall positive reviews and went platinum in the US, selling over 1 million copies.
Roulette is essentially the ballad of the album and can be played on any acoustic (or electric with a clean tone) that you have in Drop C. There are some interesting chord and note choices, making it great for beginners. It’s not too demanding from a technical point of view, but still provides a lot of musical intrigue to help expand your vocabulary on the instrument.
Inside the Fire by Disturbed
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Inside the Fire was a popular single from Disturbed’s fourth album Indestructible and tackled the subject of suicide. The official video (viewed 44 million times on YouTube) contains numerous disclaimers and contact numbers urging viewers struggling with these issues to seek help. The track reached number 73 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The song spends a lot of time up at the 7th fret, but the riffs are made easier to play by the Drop C tuning. There’s nothing too technical here, so you’re free to just rock out. There’s also a great pedal point lick introducing the solo, which will test your alternate-picking ability, and a cool Phrygian/diminished single-note melody that follows the solo.
Animal I Have Become by Three Days Grace
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Another great band whose success coincided with the early 2000’s rise of nu-metal. They released 6 studio albums, the first 2 going multi-platinum. Animal I Have Become, the first single from their second studio release, held the number 1 spot on the US Mainstream Rock Tracks for two weeks and sold over 2 million copies in the US alone.
This song rides off the lower C power chord, while using some interesting note choices in the main riff. The majority of the song is rhythmic power chords, made much more convenient to play by the drop tuning. This is a great song for any beginner, as it’s catchy and not too demanding from a technical perspective.