If you’re a fan of rock or metal music, I’m sure you’ve at least noticed how the guitarists from your favorite bands tend to have a heavier, grittier tone. It’s likely not some secret effect pedal they are using, often the magic is also in the tuning – and Drop C is a wildly popular tuning for these heavier genres.
If you’d like to explore this unique and versatile alternate tuning in your own playing, then you’re in the right place. We’ll take you through what exactly Drop C tuning is, how to tune your guitar in Drop C. and share 21 awesome drop C tuning songs, complete with video lessons and tabs.
What is Drop C Tuning?
Drop C gets its name from the fact that you “drop” the tuning of your 6th string all the way from E to C – that’s tuning your 6th string down 2 whole steps. Similar to Drop D tuning, the difference being drop D only the low E string is dropped a whole step, and the rest of the strings are still in standard tuning.
Think of it this way. Drop D tuning is standard tuning with the low E dropped 1 whole step to a D, Drop C tuning we start with all 6 strings dropped 1 whole step from EADGBE to DGCFAD, then the low D gets dropped another whole step down to C. So if you start with Drop D and tune every string down 1 whole step you will be tuned to what’s know as Drop C. We’ll take you through a step-by-step guide below.
List of Drop C Tuning Songs
Now that you understand Drop C tuning, it’s time to play! Here’s a list of 21 awesome songs that can be played in this alternate tuning. From hard rock to power metal and everything in between, this list covers it all.
1. Tears Don’t Fall by Bullet For My Valentine
As you scroll down the list, you will notice that Drop C is particularly favored by metal and rock bands for its heavier tone. Power chords are super easy to play as this kind of tuning lowers the range of the guitar and also works brilliantly with singers who have a deep voice. It is precisely for this reason, the iconic Welsh heavy metal band, Bullet For My Valentine is often heard using drop C tuning in many of their songs.
The band’s 2006 single ‘Tears Don’t Fall’s alternate tuning is one of the reasons it sounds so amazing. The track catapulted Bullet For My Valentine to the big-league status and became their live staple that never fails to woo the crowd. It is played in the key of G Minor and has been tuned to Drop C with C-G-C-F-A-D. This metalcore track’s popularity got the band to release its sequel “Tears Don’t Fall (Part 2)” in their 2013 album, Temper Temper.
2. Marigold by Periphery
The American progressive metal band Periphery redefined the genre when they pioneered the Djent movement. This high-gain, distorted, palm-muted, low-pitch guitar sound was invented by the Swedish band Meshuggah but was brought to life by the likes of Periphery, Volume, and SikTh. Along with new sounds and techniques, the band also loves experimenting with alternate tunings on their extended guitar range featuring six, seven, and eight-string guitars. They typically choose a Drop C tuning for their 6-string, Drop G# for 7-string, and standard for their 8-string.
Labeled as their most theatrical song, “Marigold” was released as a part of their fifth studio album, Periphery III: Select Difficulty, in 2016. This drop C track is brimming with orchestral elements and mind-blowing choruses that are bound to enthrall you. The dark-sounding main riff is a masterclass in rhythm techniques like palm mutes, economy picking, upstroke accents, and much more. With fantastic instrumentation, orchestration, and intricate changes, “Marigold” is perhaps one of the most revered songs in the Progressive metal genre.
3. Animal I Have Become by Three Days Grace
Adam Gontier, guitarist and the lead vocalist of Three Days Grace, was going through a rather dark phase when he penned down their chart-topping single, “Animal I Have Become.” Through the song, he vented out his anger and helplessness that came from his addiction to painkillers. “Animal I Have Become” was featured in the Canadian rock band’s second album and was not released in stores, unlike most singles. It charted well, peaking at no.1 on Billboard US Alternative Airplay and US Mainstream Rock.
To play this track, you’ll have to tune to drop C, which basically goes from low to high- C-G-C-F-A-D. The opening riff is bass with a prominent tritone that lends the song a mysterious and tense sound right from the start. The Chorus is easy to play with a simple chord progression in drop C power chords. It is said that Three Days Grace roughly composed this dark and evocative track while on a trip to Germany in 2004. They figured that it would sound perfect as a heavy song, and we are glad that they did! This is one of my favorite drop C tuning songs.
4. My Curse by Killswitch Engage
Arguably the American metalcore band’s Killswitch Engage’s most famous song, “My Curse,” revolves around the theme of having a hard time coping up with the loss of a beloved. The band’s vocalist Howard Jones’ energetic and pining voice, reached out straight to the hearts of metal fans across the world. The guitar is equally passionate, with a mellow opening leading to a paced-up metal chorus that is ultimately followed by an intense bridge and pounding riffs.
The song was released as the first single from the band’s fourth album, As Daylight Dies. In terms of popularity, it managed to outdo their breakthrough hit “The End of Heartache.” It is a well-known fact that in addition to standard D tuning, this metalcore band has an affinity for alternate tunings, especially Drop C. The intro bit has some powerful chords which are played in Drop C tuning. In fact, some of them would be almost impossible to play or sound rather weird in standard tuning.
5. Chop Suey! by System Of A Down
If you are a fan of Modern metal, there is no doubt you wouldn’t have heard of the blockbuster single “Chopsuey!” by the heavy metal giants System of a Down. Shortly after its release in 2001 as a part of their second album, the track fetched the American-Armenian band their first Grammy Nomination for Best Metal Performance. Widely regarded as one of the biggest metal hits, the single made its way into Loudwire’s list of “The Best Hard Rock Songs Of The 21st Century” and ended up becoming the band’s signature song.
Fans of System of A Down would probably know already that most of their guitar and bass tunings are in drop C. It perfectly complements their style and lets them play fast power chord riffs that go all over the fretboard. You can hear the amazing results in many of their songs such as Aerials, Toxicity, Roulette, and of course Chopsuey!. Those of you looking to pick up different kinds of riff in drop C tuning should definitely explore System of A Down’s music.
6. Blew by Nirvana
The first track on the debut album of one of the most influential bands ever, “Blew,” is heavy, growly with elements of groove and simple playing that is easy enough to be picked up by beginners. Interestingly, the band intended to record this track in their favorite Drop D tuning but ended up playing in Drop C tuning purely by accident.
As is often narrated by the band, the instruments were already tuned to Drop D but they went ahead and tuned down one step further. Without realizing the tuning, they were playing in. They ended up recording many songs that day. The goof-up was discovered the next day, and they decided to redo all the songs, but“Blew” was spared for its distinct doom pop sound that came from the drop C tuning. The song’s lyrics were quite personal to the band and were centered around entrapment, claustrophobia, and the desire to break free from rules and restrictions.
7. Heart Burst Into Fire by Bullet For My Valentine
Big, speedy riffs and embellished fretwork fuel this rock ballad by the Welsh metal band Bullet For My Valentine. According to the band’s bass player, Jay James, “Heart Burst Into Fire” was written to describe their life on the road and the desire to be reunited with the loved ones. The song’s softer and relatively toned-down appeal made it reach out to a larger audience. Released in 2008 in their second album, “Heart Burst Into Fire,” it has also been played in the band’s favorite Drop C tuning.
To create the element of heaviness, the band made excellent use of power chords and full chord shapes in the alternate tuning. When you hear the opening riff, you’ll realize how awesome simple arpeggios sound in drop C tuning when compared to other tunings. For guitar enthusiasts who are interested in picking up some cool chord shapes in C minor scale should certainly give this song a go.
8. Oblivion by Mastodon
A song that can shake you to your core, “Oblivion” by the Modern Metal band Mastodon is 6 minutes of pure genius with its changing grooves and some epic evil-sounding riffs. Released in their fourth studio album, Crack the Skye, the song became Mastodon’s second most successful single, peaking at number 30 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks. If you are a gamer, you would have probably heard the instrumental version of this track on the action-adventure video game, Brutal Legend.
The variety of arpeggio and chord riffs you will find in this multi-layered song is plain awesome. The band is known to play most of their tracks in Drop A, Drop C, or D standard, and in “Oblivion,” you will hear their guitars tuned to Drop C. Pay attention to chords in the chorus part to know the kind of exciting stuff you can do with the Drop C tuning.
9. Trashed, Lost & Strungout by Children of Bodom
You will find that the Finish melodic death metal band Children of Bodom play most of the compositions in D standard tuning. However, in their fifth album, Are You Dead Yet? they decided to try something different. The band picked the drop C tuning and changed the song structure to give the tracks a more aggressive feel.
Although the resulting compositions got mixed reviews from the critics, the album made it to Rock Hard magazine’s “The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time”. The most loved tracks were “In Your Face” and “Trashed, Lost & Strungout”. The latter being a fast and heavy song with a wicked intro. And all of this awesomeness played in a drop C! “Trashed, Lost & Strungout” showcases some epic guitar work by the lead guitarist and vocalist, Alexi Laiho, especially the great solo part.
10. Buttersnips by Periphery
Here’s another masterpiece by the progressive metal royalty Periphery that is a testimony to their love for alternative tunings. Started in 2005 as a recording project for the founding member and guitarist Misha Mansoor, the band took the world by storm with their mind-bending instrumentation and techniques. Periphery is revered for pushing the boundaries of metal and coming up with unique musical elements that are new to our ears.
The track “Buttersnips” from their highly acclaimed self-titled album is a brilliant piece that pulls its listeners into the explosive world of Djent. The intro part is out of this world, and we love how it transcends smoothly into the verses and chorus. To play this amazing composition, the band’s guitarist, Misha Mansoor, tunes his guitar down from Drop D to one whole step, low to high C-G-C-F-A-D, or in other words, the Drop C tuning.
11. Freya by The Sword
Next up is the anthemic hit that made The Sword a household name among the metalheads. The track “Freya,” as the name suggests, is based on Norse mythology interspersed with fantasy and folklore. Shortly after its release on the band’s debut album Age of Winters, the song was picked up as a playable track for the music rhythm video game Guitar Hero II. Overall, with “Freya,” the American heavy metal band managed to woo fans and critics alike, becoming their most performed song.
Inspired by the likes of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, the band became well-known for their heady riffs and big arrangements. In their smash hit “Freya,” the band tuned their guitars to drop C and played some pretty wicked riffs. And the solo is equally awesome! From a learner’s point of view, the song might seem a bit complex at first, but after some focused playing, we are confident you’ll get the hang of it.
12. Elite by Deftones
The song that fetched the alternative music giants Deftones, a 2001 Grammy for Best Metal Performance, “Elite,” is basically about how people change themselves just to get some attention. The song was featured on Deftones’ best-selling and first platinum album White Pony that has been entirely played in an alternate tuning. No surprises there as the band’s popularity came from their experimental style that never failed to impress.
Lead guitarist Stephen Carpenter’s signature sound was almost always delivered in a drop tuning with power chords. But what really set his technique apart was the art of coming up with interesting and exciting progressions to create epic-sounding riffs, and “Elite” is a testament to that great skill. Straightforward and heavy, what this track lacks in the dynamics department is more than made up for by Carpenter’s killer riff and ferocious vocals by Chino Moreno. To play this track, you will need to change the tuning of all six strings to CGCFAD to arrive at a drop C tuning.
13. Stricken by Disturbed
“Stricken” was the first track ever for the band where Disturbed’s guitarist Dan Donegan introduced a guitar solo and with pretty sweet results! The fans loved the single so much that it got certified gold in the US for selling over 500,000 copies. Propelled by guitarist Donegan’s hard-hitting riffs, an incredible chorus, and an equally remarkable solo, Stricken is a must-add to any aspiring metal guitarist’s repertoire.
This 2005 track from the band’s third studio album generated even more buzz when it got included in a number of popular video games and was eventually picked up as the official theme for WWE’s PPV New Year’s Revolution. To play distorted licks and that amazing solo, Donegan chose the drop C tuning. Once you get started on this track, you’ll find that the solo is the only challenging bit, and perfecting it will be well worth your time. This is another one of my favorite songs in drop C tuning to play.
Related Article: Songs in Open E Tuning
14. Isolation by Alter Bridge
Formed by the former members of the prominent rock band Creed, Alter Bridge managed to carve out a style best described as heavy yet melodic. Though the band seldom tunes low, we have managed to pull out a sweet track for you that has been played in Drop C tuning. Lucky for us, this track also happens to be one of their biggest hits! Released as a part of their third album, AB III, “Isolation” was lyrically dark that explored detachment from faith and belief. The track won over critics for the range of musical skills and techniques used by the band.
“Isolation” charted all the way up to number one on Billboard’s Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks and stayed put there for seven whole weeks. The song is aggressive, fast, but overall uplifting, contrasting with its lyrics that actually work pretty well. To play the amazing solo and cool riff that powers the verses, tune your guitar to drop C first. Just tune all the strings down a whole step from standard and finally tune the sixth string down to C to arrive at “Isolation’s” alternate tuning.
15. L’Enfant Sauvage by Gojira
If you want to pick a technically sophisticated death metal track that plays in drop C, then “L’Enfant Sauvage” by the French extreme metal band Gojira might be right up your alley. The title track from their fifth studio album reflects on freedom and the responsibility that comes with it. In fact, you can go ahead and pick any track from the album as all of them have been played in the alternate tuning of drop C. All songs from this particular album are incredibly intense yet fascinatingly captivating with heavy-hitting riffs and subtle melody.
Sonically, “L’Enfant Sauvage” packs quite a punch with some awe-inspiring rhythm guitar work. Although the song has a simple structure, Gojira’s style and nuances require heaps of time and effort to master. We suggest you start slow by working on your alternate picking and perfect it with a metronome.
16. Passenger by Deftones
Make way for a slow-burning melodic ballad by the alt-metal legends Deftones. “Passenger” was the result of the band’s collaborative effort with Tool singer Maynard James Keenan. The track’s symbolic lyrics, atmospheric arrangement, and two insanely talented vocalists Chino Moreno and Maynard made it a real treat for the listeners.
Also played in drop C tuning like other songs from the band’s 2000 platinum record White Pony, the track features a fantastic intro followed by a magical duet by Keenan and Moreno. Their striking vocal interplay is then followed by a heavy guitar that leads to the choruses. The song got a new lease of life when Deftones unleashed a remix of the track featuring Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda. While retaining the song structure, Shinoda opted for an EDM-ish beat in place of the original track’s alt-metal backdrop.
17. Avalanche by Bring Me The Horizon
It’s time for something that’s a bit less headbanging but still pretty awesome. Released by the British rock band Bring Me the Horizon, “Avalanche” is one of those anthemic songs that were created keeping a big crowd in mind. The track was released by the band in their 2015 fifth album That’s the Spirit. The song’s powerful, thought-provoking lyrics talk about the band’s vocalist Oliver Sykes’s recent diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and how it played a role in his recovery from drug addiction.
Played in drop C, “Avalanche” has fantastic guitar hooks that give out a strong arena rock vibe. The huge open chords beautifully amplify the soulful lyrics and Sykes mindblowing vocals. The song enjoyed a good commercial run, climbing to number seven on the UK Rock & Metal Singles Chart.
18. Toxicity by System of a Down
Perhaps the most popular band to embrace drop C tuning, System of a Down boasts an extensive discography making their music perfectly suited to start your drop C journey. We spoke about “Chop Suey!” a while ago, now we bring you the phenomenal title track from the very same album, Toxicity. Released by the band in 2001, this smash hit album is entirely played in drop C and showcases a clever mix of different genres, including jazz, rock, folk, and Armenian music.
The title track, “Toxicity,” is hailed for its aggressive vocals, growling guitars, and adrenaline-fueling drum beats. Learning the track might seem like a herculean task given its fast and speedy pace, but it is honestly not that hard. Just play around and follow the song’s widely available tabs, and you’ll nail it soon enough. This is one of the most popular drop C tuning songs and also one of that I really enjoy playing.
19. Monster by Skillet
This heavy and dark single by the American Christian rock band Skillet became one of the most played Halloween tracks following its release in 2009. “Monster” is the second single from the band’s seventh album, Awake. It rose to great heights, becoming the band’s most successful song, eventually earning Double Platinum status. Labeled Skillet’s breakthrough hit, “Monster,” charted Number four on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks and number one on Bubbling Under Hot 100.
Even though the song’s lyrics have a deep theological meaning that revolves around original sin. But the overall theme of how each of us has a dark side resonates with pretty much everybody. We found the song’s energy to be highly infectious. The guitar riffs are pretty heavy with the perfect amount of distortion. If you listen closely, you will notice that the eerie vibe of the song comes from the guitars, which have been tuned down to Drop C.
20. Bodies by Drowning Pool
The American rock band Drowning Pool’s signature song “Bodies” has attracted some controversy, mainly stemming from the misinterpretation of the lyrics. Nevertheless, considered the finest creation by the band, “Bodies” peaked at number six on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart in 2001 and was certified platinum with over a million digital copies sold. That’s not all. The song became so huge that it was soon picked up by many films, TV programs, and commercials.
“Bodies” is basically a mosh pit anthem that makes the crowd go berserk whenever performed live. Although tragically linked to some violent events, the song’s lyrics are anything but inciting that only speak about the crowd’s passion and the brotherhood of mosh pit. The song uses a drop C tuning and is fun to play. Using a wah-wah pedal while playing it will give you superb results. Try it and let us know!
Related Article: Open D Tuning Songs
21. Your Guardian Angel by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
Here’s a heartbreaking Emo song in Drop C to end the list. Written by the American rock band The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’ Ronnie Winter, “Your Guardian Angel” was dedicated to eight students whose lives were cut short in a tornado that wrecked a high school in Enterprise, Alabama. The track was released as the third single by the band in 2007, peaking at number 22 on Billboard Under Hot 100 Singles. It was also chosen to grace the season finale of Moonlight, a CBS show.
For this track, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus tuned their guitars down to CGCFAD and played it entirely in the time signature of 6/8. The intro might initially sound a bit tricky, but once you’ve got it, the verse is quite similar and uses the same strumming pattern throughout.
More Information on Drop D Tuning
As you can see in the diagram below, the standard E tuning on your guitar goes something like this:
However, once you tune your guitar to a Drop C tuning, the individual tuning of all 6 strings will look like this:
How Do You Tune Your Guitar To Drop C? Step-By-Step Tuning Guide
Now let’s jump into how to tune each string from a standard E a Drop C tuning:
6th (E) string (lowest string): Pluck the string, and slowly tune it down to two whole steps to C by twisting the tuning peg towards you. Keep plucking the string till you reach the correct note. If you don’t have a tuner, then you can tune it by ear – press the third fret of your 5th (A) string to get the C note. Then, keep tuning the 6th string down till the tuning matches the note of the pressed 5th string.
5th (A) string: Pluck the 5th string and keep tuning the string down by one whole step, until you reach from the A to the G note.
4th (D) string: Similarly, tune your 5th string down by one whole step to go from D to the C.
3rd (G) string: Pluck your 3rd string and keep tuning the string down from the G note until you reach the F note.
2nd (B) string: In the same fashion, tune down the 2nd string from its original A note to a whole step, until you reach the B note.
1st (E) string (highest string): Finally, pluck the 1st string and keep tuning down by one whole step, until you hit the D note.
Why Should You Learn Drop C?
The Drop C tuning is quite popular amongst guitarists, especially those who enjoy playing rock and metal songs. In fact, some of the world’s most popular metal and rock bands use Drop C in their songs.
Arch Enemy, Killswitch Engine, Bullet For My Valentine, Deftones, and Periphery come to mind, to name a few! However, this is not to say that you can’t explore other genres in the Drop C tuning.
Let’s take a look at some of the top reasons why musicians like playing the Drop C tuning.
Compliments Lower Vocal Range: When you tune the guitar down to a Drop C, the range of your guitar extends by 2 whole steps in the lower range. This helps you shift any guitar parts to better suit vocalists with a lower vocal range. So if you frequently play with singers who like to sing low, then Drop C tuning could work pretty well.
Extended Standard Chords: The Drop C tuning helps you extend the range of standard chords, giving a more lush, open, and layered sound over regular chords.
One-Finger Power Chords: Because of the way the Drop C tuning rearranges the notes, you’ll be able to play power chords by barring frets with a single finger across the 3 lowest strings on the guitar!
In contrast, standard E needs you to typically use at least 2 to 3 fingers to play power chords. This is why Drop C is a rock and metal guitarists’ best friend.
Lower, Gritty Range For Metal: Metal and rock music often prefer lower guitar tunings to add that gritty, low rumble to their music, and Drop C is a great way to naturally add it to the tracks and promises to complete a gritty growl of the vocalist!
Related Article: Drop D Tuning Songs
What To Keep In Mind Before Tuning Your Guitar In Drop C?
Before you decide to change the tuning of your guitar to Drop C, here are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Keep a tuner handy while changing the tuning to ensure accuracy. Plus, it’s better to tune the string down slightly flatter than the intended note, and then slowly tuning up to it. This will maintain the string’s tension and keep it in tune for longer.
- Since the Drop C is such a low tuning vis a vis standard E tuning, you may need to modify and adjust your guitar neck’s tension and raise the action to avoid fret buzz. If you’re an experienced guitarist, you could do it by yourself using a truss rod. If you’re a novice, then consulting a luthier is a good idea.
- Since Drop C tuning involves the lowering of the tuning of ALL your guitar strings, switching to heavier gauge strings will serve you well – they will be easier to play, and will add that heavy sound as well.
- When playing the one-finger power chords in Drop C tuning, do be careful to not play the highest 3 strings.
We hope this blog gives you everything you need to get started on exploring the delightfully heavy Drop C tuning. Experimenting with alternate tunings is a great way to explore new playing styles as well as push your own creative boundaries. Interested in exploring other cool alternate tunings? Check out our handy Open E tuning resource next. Happy playing!
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.