The guitar has an impressive melodic and harmonic potential within its 6 strings. The vast majority of players play it in what is called “standard tuning”, or “EADGBE”.
However, alternative tunings can bring out unique sounds and colors that were impossible to play in standard tuning. It allows you to explore the capabilities of your instrument even deeper.
Drop tunings are some of the most popular examples of alternative tunings. Simply put, they consist of having the 6th string tuned lower than it would usually be in comparison to the rest of the strings. It will generally be tuned one octave below the 4th string.
These tunings are favored by guitarists who like to play with distortion, because they sound particularly good when playing power chords, a huge staple of rock and metal music.
They also work very well if your goal is to adapt to a singer who has a low voice, since they allow you to play lower notes than usual.
The most widely known drop tuning is Drop D. It is the easiest to obtain from standard tuning, so many guitarists get to know drop tunings through this one.
This KillerGuitarRigs guide will teach you all the important concepts about Drop B tuning, one of the lowest and heavier commonly heard drop tunings.
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- Drop B: Overview and Tuning Guide
- How to Play Chords in Drop B
- Power Chords in Drop B
- Major Chords in Drop B
- Minor Chords in Drop B
- Seventh Chords in Drop B
- Open Chords in Drop B
- How to Play Scales in Drop B Tuning
- Popular Songs in Drop B Tuning and Tabs
- More Examples of Songs in Drop B Tuning
- Final Thoughts on Drop B Tuning
Drop B: Overview and Tuning Guide
Drop B is one of the tunings that allow you to play the lowest notes on the guitar (the low B on the 6th string). Other than that, people don’t generally go below Drop A, which goes one whole tone lower than Drop B.
To tune your guitar in Drop B, you must lower the pitch of every string significantly, which forces us to take a special factor into account: string tension.
In order to maintain a comfortable tension while playing in such low tunings, you should compensate with a heavier string gauge. If you are used to playing with .009 and .010 sets, you should consider at least a .012 string set.
If you keep the same strings, they will just feel very loose and awkward to play. If you’re planning on changing to a heavier string gauge, you should consider having it set up by a professional to ensure you have no intonation issues and your guitar’s neck is safe.
Let’s dive deeper into Drop B by seeing how to get there from standard tuning.
Standard tuning has the following notes (from the lowest string to the highest):
On the other hand, Drop B has these notes:
You can immediately notice how every string changes to a slightly lower note, which is one of the reasons why you should change to a different string gauge.
Here are both of these tunings illustrated:
To get to Drop B, you must lower your 6th string by 2.5 whole tones, and all the other strings by 1.5 whole tones (5 and 3 semitones, respectively).
If you are already familiar with Drop D, this tuning is essentially the same, but everything is one minor third lower than before.
Since you’re changing the pitch of every string, the most recommended method is to use a tuner, so that you are as accurate as possible, and you can quickly double check all strings after you’re done adjusting them.
How to Play Chords in Drop B
Even though players that use drop tunings play mostly power chords on the 3 lowest strings, it is always good to be aware of a few different chord voicings to use every now and then.
Power chords sound especially great with drop tunings – the fact that you can play them with a one finger barre shape on the 3 lowest strings gives them an edgy feel that you don’t get with standard tuning power chords.
Since these are pretty much the most used resource of the tuning, let’s start by checking them out, and then move on to other chord qualities inside Drop B.
Power Chords in Drop B
Playing power chords in Drop B is very easy. Even more so than playing them in standard tuning.
To play them, you just need to find the root note of the chord you wish to play on the 6th string, and play a 3 finger barre shape with your first finger on that fret.
The main challenge here is going to be finding the notes you want on the 6th string after you tune it to a B. Doing this shifts every note on the neck, so you should spend a little time memorizing where some important notes are.
For example, the open 6th string is a B, the first fret is a C, the third fret is a D, and so on.
Being able to quickly find these notes can make the difference when you’re trying to learn a song, jamming with your bandmates, and other scenarios you’re eventually going to find yourself in.
The guitar tab below illustrates how you can play a few power chords after you tune your guitar to Drop B:
You can come up with your own exercises to help you memorize the fretboard quickly in Drop B. You should focus on the 6th string in the beginning, to make sure that you can play the chords to any song.
These exercises can be anything, from trying to play scales on a single string, attempting to learn songs you already know in this new tuning, playing notes in a certain sequence (ascending thirds, fifths, etc).
Major Chords in Drop B
Major chords contain a root note, a major third and a perfect fifth. Here are a few examples of major chord voicings that you can play in Drop B.
Minor Chords in Drop B
Minor chords have a root note, a minor third and a perfect fifth. They only differ from major chords in their third, which is one semitone lower. Check some examples of minor chord voicings in Drop B below:
Seventh Chords in Drop B
Seventh chords are four note chords, not triads. They have a root, a major third, a perfect fifth and a minor seventh. They are typically the dominant (5th degree) of a key, but you can find them in any blues song.
Here are a few ideas to get you started on dominant chords in Drop B:
Open Chords in Drop B
Guitar players should take advantage of the unique sound that open chords have. The resonance from vibrating open strings grants you a distinct sound that you wouldn’t obtain otherwise.
The following chord voicings work great on any guitar, but they will sound particularly good if you try them on a nice acoustic guitar.
How to Play Scales in Drop B Tuning
Usually, players that use Drop B tend to gravitate more towards writing music in the key of B. After all, you tune to a certain drop tuning to have that low root note available on the 6th strings.
With this in mind, we will review a few of the most popular scales to write melodies and solos within the key of B as well.
Check below to find several useful diagrams on important scales in Drop B.
B Major Scale
The “mother of all scales” and the one that is used to explain most music concepts, the major scale can also be described numerically as “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7”.
These numbers relate to the intervals between the notes of the scale. It will become clearer as we apply the same logic to the next scales we will be looking at.
In the key of B, we have the following notes:
Now, let’s see where each of these notes is located on your fretboard, once you finish tuning to Drop B.
Use the diagram below for reference, and to confirm any notes in case you have doubts at any point.
B Natural Minor Scale
You can describe the natural minor scale numerically like this: “1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7”.
Notice how the differences between this one and the major scale are represented: the third, sixth and seventh degrees are flat, or one semitone lower.
This means that the B minor natural scale has the following notes:
Here is where you can find all of these notes in the guitar’s fretboard after tuning to Drop B:
B Harmonic Minor Scale
The harmonic minor scale has an exceptionally distinct sound, mainly due to the 3 semitone interval between its 6th and 7th degrees (the equivalent to a minor third, more than most intervals between two adjacent notes on a scale).
Numerically, you can represent it like this: “1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, 7”. You can think of it as a natural minor scale with a major 7th instead of a minor 7th.
In B, this gives us the following scale:
Here’s where you’ll find these notes on your guitar in Drop B:
B Major Pentatonic Scale
The pentatonic scale is one of the most useful tools in music. It is easy to sound good over various musical scenarios that frequently come up, and it is only a 5 note scale. You should invest some time in getting acquainted with its major and minor scales.
It is the same as the major scale, but without its 4th and 7th degrees (the ones that form a tritone interval within the scale).
In the key of B Major, this corresponds to the following notes:
Below, you’ll find a diagram that shows you where this scale’s notes can be found on the fretboard:
B Minor Pentatonic Scale
The minor pentatonic scale is another staple of many musicians’ arsenals, especially guitarists. It is often one of the first scales that people learn to apply on solos, and then they move on to the blues scale, which is the same but with one added note (the blue note, or b4).
In summary, it is a natural minor scale without its 2nd and 6th degrees.
In the key of B, this corresponds to these notes:
And below you can find the diagram illustrating the location of this scale’s notes on the fretboard after you tune to Drop B:
Popular Songs in Drop B Tuning and Tabs
Now, let’s get practical and check out some song examples that have been written with the guitars in Drop B tuning. This will give you a better perception of how people make the most out of this tuning’s unique attributes.
It will be clear that most of the players that use this tuning play heavier music in general, due to its lower character and the fact that it sounds so great with distorted power chords.
Veil of Maya – Punisher
The song “Punisher” by Veil of Maya has a riff consisting mostly of power chords that alternate with small, fast riffs in between.
It is a great resource to start getting used to this tuning, but start learning it at a considerably slower speed to get it accurately.
Mudvayne – Dig
Mudvayne’s “Dig” also features a riff that uses mostly power chords, like most songs written using Drop B tuning.
Learning a few songs like this will inevitably give you more vocabulary and options when you try to come up with ideas for your own compositions.
Architects – Buried at Sea
The song “Buried at Sea” by Architects is one of the fastest examples of songs that use Drop B in this list.
Aside from some power chords, there are very interesting riffs within this song that explore a lot of the instrument’s range.
Elitist – Caves
“Caves” by Elitist features an aggressive sounding riff that is played by two guitars, often engaging in harmonized sections that sound amazing in Drop B tuning.
This is a song that makes use of several interesting resources throughout its evolution, such as harmonized parts, dissonant intervals, complex rhythmic phrases, and it even alternates time signatures between 4/4 and 5/4.
It is an excellent source of inspiration to write similar music.
Slipknot – All Hope is Gone
Slipknot is one of the most famous bands that are known for using Drop B extensively.
The song “All Hope is Gone” has several intense riffs that take advantage of the guitar’s lower range, as is common in songs that use Drop B.
More Examples of Songs in Drop B Tuning
In case you want to look into a few more songs that feature the Drop B tuning, here are a few more examples:
- Slipknot – Before I Forget
- Linkin Park – Don’t Stay
- Bring Me the Horizon – Pray for Plagues
- The Devil Wears Prada – Outnumbered
- Machine Head – Halo
- All Shall Perish – Wage Slaves
- Blind Witness – Baby One More Notch
- Devil Driver – The Mountain
- August Burns Red – Martyr
- Bleed From Within – It Lives In Me
The bands mentioned here have many other songs that were written using this tuning, so you already have a lot to explore if you want to get into Drop B.
Final Thoughts on Drop B Tuning
Drop B tuning is an exceptional tool to increase the guitar’s ability to play lower notes than usual. If you enjoy playing metal, you should definitely try it out with humbuckers and a chunky distortion.
It also sounds amazing on an acoustic guitar, but don’t forget to adjust your string gauge to play more comfortably. Also, don’t underestimate the value of having your instrument set up by a professional, especially if you are a gigging musician.
Explore this tuning and new musical ideas might come out while experimenting with a different color palette than you had before!