If you’re a guitarist looking to explore new songwriting and melodic ideas, then you should definitely explore alternate guitar tunings. And while Drop A may not be the first one that comes to mind, it is a hidden gem.
In this comprehensive guide, we will take you through everything you need to know about the Dropped A tuning – how to tune to Drop A, chord shapes, pro tips, and we share 22 awesome songs to learn in drop A tuning with Tabs and Videos included.
What is Drop A Tuning?
Unlike in Drop D, the Drop A tuning involves changing the pitch of all 6 of your guitar strings. On a 6-string guitar, Drop A involves tuning all 5 strings from 1 to 5 down a perfect fourth from the standard E tuning and tuning your low E string down further by one whole step.
Whether you’re an experienced guitarist or a beginner that’s just starting out, playing around with the Drop A tuning will give you cool and new ways to play power chords easily and try out a lower, bass-heavy feel and tone of your guitar.
Normally, tuning as low as Drop A is great for 7-string guitars, but here we will be talking about how to adapt this tuning for a regular 6-string guitar.
As a quick recap, the following are the individual notes that your 6 strings are tuned to when in a standard E tuning:
- 6th string (thickest): E
- 5th string: A
- 4th string: D
- 3rd string: G
- 2nd string: B
- 1st string (thinnest): E
However, in a Drop A tuning, all six of your guitar strings are tuned to the following notes:
- 6th string (thickest): A
- 5th string: E
- 4th string: A
- 3rd string: D
- 2nd string: F#
- 1st string (thinnest): B
Who Uses Drop A Tuning?
Because of the massively expanded low range of your guitar, Drop A tuning is very popular amongst a wide variety of metal bands and heavy music genres. Your guitar’s range extends to a fourth step lower, letting you effortlessly play low power chords with just single finger barring.
Given its low range and ease of playing power chords, it’s no wonder that metal and rock bands such as Nile, Dragonforce, Muse, and The Foo Fighters have composed songs in the Drop A tuning. Check out our song list section and you’ll find many other genres such as punk (Rage Against The Machine) and Djent (Periphery) using this cool tuning as well.
How Do You Tune In Drop A?
- 6th (E) string: Pluck your 6th string, and keep turning your tuning peg lower to go from E all the way down to A – that is 3 and a half steps lower than the original E note. Make sure you keep plucking to hear the accurate note till you reach the A on the tuner.
- 5th (A) string: Now, tune down your 5th, or the A string, by 2 and a half steps, till you reach the E note on the tuner.
- 4th (D) string: Similarly, pluck your 4th or the D string and tune it two and a half steps lower to play the A note.
- 3rd (G) string: Do the same with your 3rd string – tune it down by a total of two and a half steps – till you reach the D note.
- 2nd (B) string: Tune your 2nd string from its original B note down by two and a half steps – till you reach the F# note on the tuner.
- 1st (E) string: Finally, last but not least – tune your 1st string two and a half steps down as well – from the standard E till you reach the B note.
What To Keep In Mind When Tuning To Drop A
Use A Tuner: Since we are talking about taking your guitar string’s tunings down by 2 and a half and 2 and a half steps, it might be a good idea to keep a tuner handy to ensure that your final tuning has all the notes accurately tuned. You can use a physical guitar tuner or even a guitar tuning app that can be easily downloaded on both iOs or Android phones.
Consider Thicker Strings: There’s no way around the fact that Drop A is perhaps the lowest of alternate tunings – yep, you’ll be tuning down way lower than your standard E.
So to retain the same comfort while playing and to take full advantage of your guitar’s increased low range, perhaps you should consider changing your strings to a thicker gauge. This also means that you will have to switch your set of strings whenever you decide to tune back up to standard E.
Raise Action/ Adjust Truss Rod: Such an extreme lowering of your guitar’s tuning can significantly reduce the action of your action – which means the guitar strings will now be much closer to the fretboard than in standard E tuning. This can cause a nasty fret buzz if the strings touch the fretboard. To avoid this, consider raising the action of your guitar or adjusting your truss rod so that there is a healthy amount of action.
Chords in Drop A Tuning
The best part about Drop A is that it allows you to play a wide range of power chords by just barring a fret with a single finger. Usually, power chords can take two or three fingers to play on other tunings. Here are three examples of power chords you can play on the Drop A tuning:
Want another trick to keep in mind? The Drop A uses the same fingering as the Drop D tuning – but lower. So all the chord patterns that are usually used for Drop D tuning will also be applicable to the Drop A tuning.
List of 22 Songs in Drop A Tuning You Should Know
Now you know how to tune in Drop A and play some cool power chords on it as well – so now it’s time to start playing actual songs! Here’s a list of 22 iconic songs from across genres that are played in the Drop A tuning – scroll down and find out what they are to expand your repertoire!
1. Psychosocial by Slipknot
With their extensive use of drop tunings, Slipknot has inspired many heavy metal bands to follow suit. They are usually heard playing in drop B but have experimented with drop A tuning in some of their compositions. The band’s Grammy-nominated riff-fest, “Psychosocial,” is one of them. Released in 2008 as the fourth track from their fourth studio album, All Hope Is Gone, the track became one of their biggest hits. Not only did it fetch them a Grammy nomination, but it also featured on Marvel’s Punisher: War Zone’s soundtrack as well as some popular video games.
Featuring a lightning-fast solo by Jim Root, Joey Jordison’s punishing, militant drum work, and Corey Taylor’s brutal screams, it is undoubtedly Slipknot at its finest. And how could we forget the infectious chorus “And the rain will kill us all..” that always seems to make the crowd erupt and sing along. “Psychosocial’s” killer main riff and melodic solo is a great way to get familiar with drop A tuning.
2. Citizen Erased by Muse
While low tunings, especially ones as low as drop A, are usually favored in heavier music styles, “Citizen Erased” by Muse is an excellent example of just how awesome this tuning sounds in rock as well. From the well-loved English band’s second album, this seven-minute track is an opera-rock masterpiece. Played in down-tuned seven-string guitar with frontman Matt Bellamy’s falsetto, this gem should definitely be a part of your repertoire.
The heaviness factor is brought about by the incredibly low tuning. No other tuning would have done justice to the track. To play the song exactly like Muse, you’ll need to get hold of a seven-string and tune the B string down one step. Even if you don’t own a seven-string, you’ll do just fine with a six-string. Lyrics-wise, “Citizen Erased” is inspired by George Orwell’s famous book 1984 and revolves around the protagonist’s frustration at being constantly being questioned by society. As fans of this awesome song, we are eagerly awaiting the release of its remixed and remastered version in June 2021 to mark the 20th anniversary of their immensely popular album Origin of Symmetry.
3. Pisces by Jinjer
Ukrainian metalcore band’s breath seminal hit single “Pisces” is a brilliant track in drop A tuning that would enhance your repertoire. Part of their third album, King of Everything, Pisces showcases Tatiana Shmailyuk’s fantastic vocal prowess. Shmailyuk’s effortless switch from clean, melodic singing to a death growl that’s backed by a heavy down-tuned riff is simply mind-blowing.
The song’s popularity catapulted with the release of its music video that went viral, garnering several reaction videos on YouTube, marveling at the vocalist’s phenomenal versatility. Jinjer’s using of drop A tuning in ‘Pisces’ is a fantastic example of how it lets you use the entirety of the fretboard to support the bass-heavy brutality of the low strings.
4. Three Hammers by Dragonforce
The insane solo in this song has an interesting origin story. After recording numerous takes, guitarist Herman Li had trouble picking which one to go for, so he got his pooch to choose which one to go for. The one where the pet made the cutest face was the one we hear in this fantasy epic track. “Three Hammers” is a melodic mid-paced that transforms into something heavier after it goes past the three-minute mark.
In an album teeming with speedy power metal with galloping solos, fast riffs, and glass-shattering high vocals, “Three Hammers” is a welcome change. You hear a more traditional power metal theme that differs from the band’s usual hyper-fast songwriting. The entire song is played in drop A, but the low tuning particularly stands out when “Three Hammers” nears three minutes. The exact tuning on their seven-string is AEADGBE.
5. Eaten by Bloodbath
Not for the faint-hearted, “Eaten” by Swedish death metal supergroup Bloodbath has brutal, stomach-churning lyrics that dig into the mind of a voluntarily cannibalized victim and why he wanted to be consumed. It is one of the band’s most recognizable compositions that was written by Dan Swano with Hypocrisy’s Peter Tagtgren on vocals. Through their active years, Bloodbath has gone through numerous changes but their trademark extreme heaviness has remained intact.
From their second album Nightmares Made Flesh, this track is a mid-tempo masterpiece that is heavier than faster. “Eaten” is powered by groovy riffs, lead growler Tagtgren’s gutturals, powerful drumming, and not to mention a super catchy chorus that’ll have you singing along. We particularly liked the infectious slow-paced chugging in the pre-chorus that’ll tempt you to pick up your guitar and start playing. Don’t forget to tune to drop A while you are at it.
6. Sacrifice Unto Sebek by Nile
Propelled by George Kollias’ otherworldly drumming, this song by the American death metal band Nile is a technical marvel. The guitar work by Karl Sanders and Dallas-Toller Wade is equally phenomenal with complex riffs and wicked harmonies. “Sacrifice Unto Sebek” starts slow and then explodes with fast riffs that keep pace with Kollias’ pounding drums. The Egyptian sounds throughout add a dramatic vibe to the three-minute song.
There’s a killer riff that shows up around the 2-minute mark that simply takes your breath away. Nile tuned their six strings to drop A to play this amazing track that features in Nile’s fourth studio album, Annihilation of the Wicked. You’ll be thrilled to know that there is a guitar lesson for this song by Sanders himself that’ll be a big help for learning this technically challenging track.
7. Gravity’s Union by Coheed and Cambria
Coheed and Cambria is a well-known name in Progressive space. While you’ll mostly hear them in standard tuning, there are some pretty great compositions that have them tuning down all the way to drop A. Part of their 2012 album The Afterman: Descension, “Gravity’s Union” centers around the protagonist’s rage and sorrow over his wife’s death in an accident. It took the band about two years to create this multi-layered, emotional masterpiece.
They chose to go with drop A to make the distorted riffs sound hard-hitting and heavier than their usual style. With a duration spanning seven minutes, the track is packed with soaring vocals, masterful guitaring, pounding drum work, and an amazing chorus. The entire album did pretty well; it charted to number three on Billboard Top Rock Albums and made it to the top 10 on Billboard US Top 200 albums chart.
8. Stacked Actors by Foo Fighters
In “Stacked Actors,” Alt-rock giants Foo Fighters can be heard tapping in to drop A for a deeper, heavier feel sound. The American rock band was formed by ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl after Kurt Cobain’s death, achieving phenomenal success and winning 12 Grammys over the course of their career. Part of their third album, There is Nothing Left to Lose, ‘Stacked Actors’ is arguably one of Foo Fighters’ most aggressive songs. With a sound that is reminiscent of Grohl’s grunge-influenced past.
Fuelled by power chord-based punk-like riffs and jazzy verses, this song is an immersive album opener. It’s interesting to note that Foo Fighters goes with a variation of dropped A in this song. Retune your E standard with the 6th string dropped to a low A to arrive at AADGBE. Here the first A is tuned a whole octave lower than the second one, producing an incredibly interesting sound.
9. Wormholes by Volumes
Progressive metalcore band Volumes’ djent riffs, groovy breakdowns, dual lead vocals have earned them quite a fan following. Formed in 2009, this band from Los Angeles, California debuted with Via, which reached number 1 on the iTunes Rock & Metal Charts.
From the same album, we bring you “Wormholes.” It’s an awesome track where the band managed to create their signature music on a six-string than the usual seven and eight-string djent-friendly guitars. A remarkable feat that simply wouldn’t have been possible without the low and heavy dropped A tuning, that goes A-E-A-D-F#-B. Fans of groovy metal and djent, be sure to check out this band’s amazing repertoire. You won’t be disappointed!
10. King of All Excuses by Staind
American rock band Staind has been churning out fantastic rockers since their debut in 1996. While many of their songs like “Fade,” “It’s Been Awhile” have been chart-toppers, there are some underrated gems that deserve our attention. “King of All Excuses” is one such lesser-known track from their 2006 album Chapter V. It’s the heaviest song on the album, featuring an ultra-low alternate tuning. With screamed-out vocals, angry lyrics, and down-tuned guitar riffs, especially the opening one, the single deserved more popularity than it got. The song’s lyrics call out a pathological liar for betraying the protagonist’s trust.
Mike Mushok uses a baritone guitar to play this song which works great as its longer scale length, larger body, and heavier internal bracing make it perfect for ultra-low tuning. He tunes the guitar all the way down to drop A, which is A-E-A-D-E-B in this case. As there’s a lot of fast sliding going on all over the fretboard, this song is more suited for advanced players than new learners.
11. The Heretic Anthem by Slipknot
If it’s a song list on drop tunings, you know Slipknot will show up not just once. Here they are again, this time for a death metal song, “The Heretic Anthem,” from their second album Iowa. Pummeling drums, intense riffing, double-bass barrage define this track that also happens to feature one of the most recognizable chorus in metal music. The lyrics slam the music industry and talks about how many of the record labels took absolutely no interest in signing the band in their early days. Corey’s scream, “If you’re 555, then I’m 666,” never fails to evoke an anthemic response from the crowd.
“The Heretic Anthem” was later covered by prominent progressive metal band Periphery and was added as a bonus track in the limited edition of Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal. The original, as well as cover feature, drop A tuning, while Slipknot’s version was done in A-E-A-D-F#-B, Periphery used a seven-string in A-E-A-D-G-B-E.
12. Guardians of Asgaard by Amon Amarth
Swedish melodic death metal band, Amon Amarth’s body of work, draws inspiration from Norse mythology. With a career spanning close to three decades and eleven albums under their belt, the band evolved into a highly influential band in the metal world. Being fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fiction, the band picked the Sindarin name of Mount Doom, a volcano from Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Ancient melodies, fast picking riffs, harmonized guitars, and death growls define their signature style of music.
In Guardians of Asgaard, the band sings about Asgaard, a realm ruled by the god Odin. Driven by the potent combination of Johan Hegg’s brutal gutturals and Entombed L.G. Petrov’s powerful vocals, this riff-heavy song is an astounding piece of Viking metal. Guardians of Asgaard and The Hero are two incredibly catchy tracks from the band’s seventh studio album, Twilight of the Thunder God. Both tracks use the same drop A tuning.
13. Supremacy by Muse
“Supremacy” is another brilliant piece of music where Muse can be heard playing in drop A. The song’s guitar riff, drum beat, and orchestration would remind you of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” All of its elements would make you feel as if you are listening to a James Bond song. The track was released in 2013 in the band’s sixth studio album, The 2nd Law. The monstrous opening riff that’s played on a down-tuned seven-string by Matt is goosebumps-worthy! In fact, this is the first time he uses a seven-string after “Citizen Erased,” which was also played in the alternate tuning of drop A.
In terms of vocals, Bellamy kicks off slowly in a narrative fashion, builds it up into trademark shrieks that he’s well-known for. If you want to try your hand at the song’s famous riff, you don’t need a seven-string as the riff only uses one string. Just retune your six-string by tuning the low E down to A. The riff is not as hard as it sounds but may require heaps of practice to nail how to pick the strings and how hard to press to make it sound as weighty as the track.
14. Welcome To The Fold by Filter
Make way for some great in-your-face rock done in the super low drop A tuning. With screamed verses, hard-hitting industrial riffs that contrast ingeniously with a milder chorus, “Welcome To The Fold” is an addictive fare by American rock band Filter. The song featured as the title track in their second album Title of Record, peaking at number 8 on Billboard US Mainstream Rock chart. It was also picked by Spin for their list of “The 69 Best Alternative Rock Songs of 1999”.
Filter’s music can best be described as alternative rock, hard rock with some influence of industrial metal and post-grunge. In Title of Record, the band melded grunge with folk, worldbeat, and psychedelia resulting in a more diverse and guitar-oriented sound than their previous albums. Filter’s frontman and guitarist Richard Patrick is known to have a soft corner for drop D, but in this riff-heavy song, we hear his guitar tuned to A-E-A-F#-D-B from low to high.
15. Remember Everything by Five Finger Death Punch
Ivan Moody from Five Finger Finger Death Punch penned this song describing his upbringing and childhood. “Remember Everything’s” poignant lyrics touch upon Moody’s bitter arguments with his parents and the fact that his mother disapproved of his music career. It’s one of the softer, more ballad-y tracks on the band’s third album American Capitalist which is otherwise packed with a crunchy, mosh pit ready collection.
Chart-wise, “Remember Everything” peaked at number two on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and 10th on the Billboard Rock Songs chart. You can arrive at the drop A used by the band in the song by tuning your guitar from low to high: A-E-A-D-F#-B.
16. No One Loves Me & Neither Do I by Them Crooked Vultures
Next up is a hard rock marvel by influential alt-rock supergroup Them Crooked Vultures. Formed in 2009 when rock legends Josh Homme (Kyuss), John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), and Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters and Nirvana) came together to create great music. Very few supergroups are able to live up to their past, the celebrity trio managed to do that and more! The album opener “No One Loves Me & Neither Do I” from 2009 their self-titled debut packs in one of their finest performances.
It is a superb track that’s powered by Grohl’s technically precise drum beats, Homme’s captivating vocals, and a seductive guitar riff that keeps you hooked from start to finish. The entire album is pretty amazing, debuting at number 12 on the Billboard 20. This is not the only track of theirs that’s in drop A. You should also check out “Warsaw or the First Breath You Take After You Give Up” and “Caligulove” which use the same tuning.
17. Bangers And Mash by Radiohead
Thom Yorke of the popular rock band Radiohead is a big fan of alternate tunings. Open tunings to drop tunings; he’s used them all! Even the lowest tuning of drop A. In “Bangers and Mash,” the band utilized A-A-D-G-B-E, which is a variation of drop A. This choice of tuning increased the overall heaviness factor of this aggressive rocker.
From the band’s 2007 In Rainbows album, this is an energetic, gritty, loud song that features one of the quirkiest vocal performances by Yorke. It is underrated from a commercial standpoint but became a live staple for its abrasive, choppy guitars, funky rhythm, and Yorke’s frenzied performance.
18. Sorceress by Opeth
Swedish progressive metal/rock band Opeth’s forte is their amazing versatility. They never restrict their sound to just one style of music. Formed in 1989, the band started their journey with death metal but incorporated progressive, folks, blues, classical, and jazz influences along the way. The title track from their 12th studio album Sorceress kicks off with groovy keyboards and a funky organ riff intro. Just when you feel that you’re being treated to quintessential ‘70s progressive rock, the chugging down-tuned guitars push it into a heavier direction. It ends with a melodic part that’s strongly influenced by Abba.
“Sorceress” doesn’t have a chorus, but the infectious rhythm won’t make you miss it. There’s a menacing, dual guitar riff that shows up in this song which is an excellent example of heavy guitaring in the unusually low tuning of drop A. All in all a solid opener for their progressive and dark 2016 album.
19. Layers Of Time by Lacuna Coil
Famous for their gothic imagery and music, this Italian alt-metal band from Milan has been producing quality metal for over two decades. While Lacuna Coil’s earlier music was rife with catchy, mid-paced guitar-driven songs with dual male/female harmonies, their more recent repertoire shows the band embracing a heavier, down-tuned style. The lead single from their ninth studio album Black Anima mirrors the band’s newer sound.
Running slightly over 4 minutes, “Layers of Time” is a roaring mix of slamming drums, fast-paced chugging riffs, and contrasting vocals by Andrea Ferro and Cristina Scabbia. Ferro’s growls during the verses and Scabbia’s beautifully sung chorus create their signature vocal duality that the band is hailed for. A real treat to the ears! Taut is one of the best tracks on the album. Lacuna coil plays this song by tuning their seven-string guitars to A-E-A-D-G-B-e.
20. Boris by Melvins
The next track is one of the most well-known compositions by the grunge and sludge metal trio, The Melvins. The band never stuck to just one style, infusing their sound with noise rock, dark ambient, jazz-rock, punk country, and many more elements. From their 1991 album Bullhead, “Boris” is an eight-and-a-half-minute-long slow riff epic about a cat that inspired a generation of metalheads. An influential Japanese doom/drone metal band even chose to name themselves after this track. It’s incredibly heavy, probably one of the heaviest tracks you’ve ever heard.
The mind-bending riff dominates this droney track. Dale Crover’s taut drumming and Buzz Osborne’s raw vocals that oscillate from high, clean to bizarre growls accentuate the guitaring all the more. So even though you find yourself hearing the same down-tuned sludgy riff throughout the track, it doesn’t ever get boring. The song’s mind-bending riff can be played by tuning your guitar from low to high: A-A-D-G-B-E.
21. Alone In A Room by Asking Alexandria
British rock band, Asking Alexandria’s biggest hit is an outstanding piece of music in drop A. With prominent keyboards, crushing guitars, and powerful vocals, the song became a colossal success, garnering over 40 million Spotify streams and close to 5 million views on YouTube. The lyrics are reflective, capturing frontman Danny Worsnop’s short solo journey when he quit the band in 2015. “Alone In A Room” is Worsnop’s first single after the reunion.
The solid rocker starts slowly, becoming more energetic and aggressive over the course of the song. As soon as the song broke into the top 10 on the radio, Asking Alexandria decided to release an acoustic rendition. Worsnop’s passionate vocals, gentle acoustic, and piano worked beautifully in amplifying the emotions behind the song even further.
22. Marigold by Caligula’s Horse
For the fans of djent, we have an impressive composition by the Australian progressive metal band Caligula’s horse. The second single from their third album Bloom, the dynamic and aggressive “Marigold” is a headbanger’s delight!
Heavy riffing, serene melodies and an infectious chorus fuel this catchy track. We particularly loved the opening riff and the wicked solo at the end that is a brilliant work of art in drop A. To arrive at the tuning used by Caligula’s Horse, you’ll need to tune your six-string to A-E-A-D-F#-B. If you own a seven-string retune to A-E-A-D-G-B-E for drop A.
Alternate tunings are a fabulous way to expand your creative horizons as a musician and the Drop A tuning helps you do exactly that. With this article, we hope you have all the information you need to start chugging those low, Drop A riffs! If you’re interested in exploring other awesome alternate guitar tunings, don’t forget to check out our article resources on open E tuning, open G tuning, open C tuning, drop C tuning, open D tuning, Drop B, and DADGAD tunings!
My name is Chris and I’ve had a passion for music and guitars for as long as I can remember. I started this website with some of my friends who are musicians, music teachers, gear heads, and music enthusiasts so we could provide high-quality guitar and music-related content.
I’ve been playing guitar since I was 13 years old and am an avid collector. Amps, pedals, guitars, bass, drums, microphones, studio, and recording gear, I love it all.
I was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania. My background is in Electrical Engineering, earning a Bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University. With my engineering experience, I’ve developed as a designer of guitar amplifiers and effects. A true passion of mine, I’ve designed, built, and repaired a wide range of guitar amps and electronics. Here at the Guitar Lobby, our aim is to share our passion for Music and gear with the rest of the music community.