Let's say I want to play "Master of Puppets" by Metallica but I like the heavy sound of D standard. Can I play the riffs in that tuning using the same chord fingerings as in E standard to get the heavier tone? Another example would be playing "Last Resort" by Papa Roach in drop B instead of drop D. This would lower the key of the riffs correct? The songs cannot be "broken" this way as long as the relationship of the strings to each other stays the same right?

  • 2
    It will work as long as, like you've said, the relationships (or intervals) between the strings remain the same. Also, the backing track or the other instruments that are playing with you will also need to be in the same tuning (if everyone wants to retain the same fingering).
    – Adam
    Jan 15, 2016 at 15:11
  • The backing track or second guitar/bass still being in the original tuning is something I didn't think about. Thanks!
    – H3R3T1K
    Jan 15, 2016 at 15:13
  • It is possible for you all to play with differently tuned guitars, but you'll need to change the fingering.
    – Adam
    Jan 15, 2016 at 15:15
  • In a band context yes. I heard that Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden likes to play in drop D to sound heavier while the other guitarists are still tuned to E. I'm a bedroom player though and only play along to the songs so I have to be in the same tuning in order not to be out of key.
    – H3R3T1K
    Jan 15, 2016 at 15:22
  • One thing you could look at doing is transposing the music using some software such as Audacity or Adobe Audition. This will let you play the music with everything transposed down.
    – Adam
    Jan 15, 2016 at 15:28

1 Answer 1


You are correct that the songs will not be "broken" in the sense that they won't sound totally different. Every single note will sound lower, but the relationships between the notes will be preserved - because every note will be lowered by the same amount.

As you note, that will make the overall song sound a little different. It will make each song sound "deeper" and possibly thicker and other interesting metal-sounding words. Mostly that's a good thing. Partly that is caused by the actual pitches involved and partly it is caused by how the sound of the guitar, amp, and distortion change when you play lower notes versus higher notes.

In any case, it can be that some people won't like songs played lower. It will sound different, and some people might not like that as much. Also, some songs might sound worse to most people if played in a lower tuning. Most people might prefer "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles in its recorded key, and not as much in a lower one. So some songs might be a little "broken" for some people by being played in a lower key.

If you you like it better in a lower key, then play on! Not only are you playing partly for your own enjoyment (I assume), but also anyone listening will be shown your interpretation of the song, which to me is a lot more meaningful than just re-creating the song perfectly exactly the way it is on the album.

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