I am writing a piece and I am trying to write a D major chord that is lower than the open E major chord on guitar. How should I do this?
I am relatively new to guitar and I have no idea what this chord might be.

  • I'm not a guitar expert, but would it be possible to create an illusory missing fundamental, at least with an electric guitar?
    – bobajob
    Jul 3, 2019 at 11:25
  • As you might surmise from some of the answers, there are quite a few pieces for guitar that require the player to retune (solfeggio pun not intended) the 6th string to a D instead of the customary E. That messes traditional chord positions, so it’s mostly seen in classical guitar pieces that don’t depend on fixed chord positions as much. Players in concert might tune the string before and after the piece, or keep a second pre-D-tuned guitar for that piece. This writing technique is not common, but it’s not unheard of. For an example, look for “Seis Por Derecho” by Antonio Lauro. Jul 3, 2019 at 19:06

6 Answers 6


If you are wanting to stick with standard tuning, then obviously there's no note lower than the low E in the open E chord - but as a chord, this D/F# (or 'first inversion' of D) might give some impression of being lower, partly because two of the strings (A and D) play a note that is a tone lower than in the open E chord:


Here's a video tutorial on how to play it....

...but to make it sound low you might want to just play the bottom 3 strings - in which case it's a very simple, one-finger chord:

  • 1
    This post would be a good use for jtab rather than pictures of the chords.
    – Dom
    Jul 3, 2019 at 14:46
  • 1
    @Dom good suggestion - I tried, but failed. (See my comment under question at music.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3322/…) Jul 3, 2019 at 19:32
  • My fingers are too short and palms to fat to reach over with the thumb. So I use my index finger to play the low D on the low E string and mute the high e. Sounds even lower than if you include the high g note on the high e string. Jul 4, 2019 at 4:32
  • I think the results are better with just the open A string below the standard D chord, with the E string blocked off. The F# is lower, but it is also the third of the chord, which is more "major" than "root" sounding. (Sorry about my terminology!)
    – RoG
    Jul 4, 2019 at 7:07
  • This is what I was thinking. But I would add that you don't necessarily need to leave off 3 strings to sound lower; even just leaving out the top string will sound lower than the standard open E chord, as the top note will be lower (D vs. E).
    – trlkly
    Jul 4, 2019 at 7:08

Use a Drop-D tuning along with the traditional open D-major chord. Or alternatively try a DADGAD tuning and finger accordingly.

  • 1
    I use drop D often when playing songs in the key of D or when I need that low D note in the arrangement. The song Country Road by James Taylor has a riff that requires drop D tuning for example. Jul 4, 2019 at 4:34

...How should I do this?

You have to re-tune the guitar strings so that they are low enough to play the notes you want.

The technical terms for this is scordatura although in common guitarist lingo it's usually called alternate tuning.

...I am writing a piece

You need to know how to indicate it in your score. There are two basic ways: tab and staff notation.

In tab the lines representing the strings should give the letters for tuning. Below are examples showing standard tuning and "drop D" tuning where the low E string is lowered a whole tone.

enter image description here

enter image description here

In staff notation you put some indicator at the head of the staff for guitar. Violin and guitar scordatura have different indications, but I thought it would be instructive to show both:

enter image description here

...note the re-tuned string number give in a circle along with the tone letter it should be tuned to (Bach, BWV 998.)

enter image description here

...violin family scordatura lists all the string tunings as whole notes on staff - with clefs - before the actual music staff (Kodaly, Op. 8.)

  • @DavidC.Ullrich, I changed the image to a better example, and if gives the info about the composer/composition. Jul 5, 2019 at 13:20

Using standard tuning, it's really not going to happen. To make it sound lower, the bottom string at least is going to be tuned to D, which means that any other notes played on that string then need to be fretted two frets higher, which may/not cause other problems.

By tuning the whole guitar down a tone, but playing the rest of the song two frets higher, you can find that low chord. Or - play the whole song a tone higher in standard tuning, and instead of the 'low D chord', make that chord an open E.


Try this chord. I've heard it called an "inverted root", or in this case an "inverted D". But the reverse chord analyzers call it "A6sus".. Just try it in your song and see if it works.

Standard Tuning, fret it like the lower portion of a barre chord:


I probably wouldn't know it, except that it's used by Weezer on the Blue Album in "The World has Turned", which is how I came to know of it and the only place I've ever encountered it.

You can hear it for yourself in this guy's guitar cover. FWIW I'm not endorsing this as a great guitar cover--I actually disagree with his 3rd chord, but he gets the second chord correct, with the fat, 'lower than E' sound you might be looking for..

Also @topomorto's suggestion (F#/D) is descent, but I usually leave-off the high-D, fretting it like..


..which makes it sound a little lower. It works well in situations where you're walking down from a G, similar to the Weezer song but outside the context of barre chords. But since this version is open-fretted, it sounds a little bright--which of course you may prefer!

  • 1
    This is a good answer, and how I would probably 'fake' a low D chord in standard tuning. The only other options are tuning to D standard and transposing the chord positions, or using Drop D which might not be ideal depending on the use of first position open chords. Jul 4, 2019 at 20:33

On electric guitar, you can play the E chord and whack down on the trem bar. The chord will go out of tune on a Strat but will stay if the trem is a Bigsby.

  • 3
    I don't think the OP wanted a bend sound. Jul 3, 2019 at 12:10
  • 5
    I've used Bigsbys for 50 yrs, and they make a chord go out of tune just like any other! Especially dropping a whole tone. Fact.
    – Tim
    Jul 3, 2019 at 13:43
  • @Tim Indeed! There is such a thing as a transposing tremolo, but Bigsby's are not it, in any way shape or form.
    – Kaz
    Jul 4, 2019 at 16:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.