Dropped-D Jazz

May 22, 2014


THIS LESSON DEALS WITH dropped-D tuning in jazz guitar. Dropped-D has been used effectively by such diverse players as Johnny Smith, Lenny Breau, John McLaughlin, and John Scofield and can allow guitarists to incorporate a range of sounds not available in standard tuning. So let’s dive in and go for it.

Ex. 1 illustrates comping with some hip descending 11th chord voicings in measure 1 that would be quite difficult in standard tuning. The tuning also allows for some interesting chromatic walking bass motion that embellishes the II-V progressions around the D7b9b5 and C7b9b5 in measures 2 and 3. The I chord in the last measure is very modern, physically easy to grab, and sounds warm and fat due to the lowered sixth string.


Ex. 2 shows a few of the novel harmonic possibilities within a chord/melody scenario. There are big, luxurious voicings possible in dropped-D and since this ending of an arrangement style example is in D major, we can really use the lowered sixth string to our advantage employing such devices as full resonant block chords in measures 1 and 3, arpeggios with melody notes in measure 2 and 3, and bass pedal tones with triads and impressionistic open-string voicings in measures 4 and 6, respectively. Have fun with the Johnny Smith approved line in measure 5 based on the D diminished scale (D, E, F, G, Ab, Bb, B, C#, D), which colors the preceding C# triad over a D natural bass note quite nicely. I hope these dropped-D examples give you fresh ideas for your own arrangements. Have fun!

Scott McGill is an instructor and BA Course Leader at the Brighton Institute of Modern Music in England.

Keep up-to-date on the latest news
Get our Free Newsletter Here!

You Might Also Like...


comments powered by Disqus

Reader Poll

What’s the one pedal you can’t live without?

See results without voting »