AADGBE Guitar Tuning (Drop A): Gettin’ LOW N’ DIRTY…

What is AADGBE guitar tuning? What bands use it? And what kind of strings do you need to tune down that low? Let’s dig in and find out…


As guitar tunings go, AADGBE is not what you’d call popular. Not compared to Drop D or D Standard. But there are plenty of big bands that have used AADGBE – or, Drop A – tuning to great effect.

But before we get to which bands and artists have used AADGBE – AKA Drop A tuning – we should probably first establish what Drop A tuning is, how you turn your guitar down to AADGBE, and why you’d even want to…

What is AADGBE Guitar Tuning?

You can think of AADGBE tuning a bit like Drop D tuning, only with AADGBE, you’re dropping the bottom string ALL the way down to A, and that is considerably lower than D or C, the standard for most metal and doom bands.

The rest of the strings, just as they do in Drop D, remain the same. You’re only dropping the bottom string down, everything else stays as is. This means everything that works in Drop D and Drop B will work just the same as it does in AADGBE, save for the notes on the bottom string.

With AADGBE tuning, you’ll also need to factor in guitar strings. Standard guitar strings, the type you use for Drop D and D Standard, simply will not cut it – you will need much thicker strings, especially for the bottom string.

Why? If you tune your bottom E string down to A, you’re taking out A LOT of its tension. This means, in order to have adequate tension in the bottom string, you’ll need to use a different, thicker string gauge.

My advice? Go with either a 58 to a 64 for the bottom string (the one you’re tuning down to A) or, if you pick really hard, something like a 60, 62, or 64 will work best. This should give you a great sound and adequate string tension.

The Best Strings For Drop A Tuning
D'Addario EXL117
$4.89

If you want to tune your guitar down REALLY low, like Drop A or Drop B, then you'll need the right strings in order to keep adequate string tension. The D'Addario EXL117 are an excellent option for this, allowing for ultra-low tunings from Drop B to even Drop A.


What Bands Use AADGBE Guitar Tuning?

As I noted in the intro to this post, AADGBE guitar isn’t super-common. It’s not Drop D or C Standard, both of which are used extensively by metal and rock bands like SLEEP, Deftones, Mastodon, TOOL, and Queens of The Stone Age to name just a few.

With AADGBE tuning, there are a few really good examples of this tuning being used to great effect. The first is Them Crooked Vultures’ No One Loves Me And Neither Do I – that mega riff at the end sounds so good because Josh’s guitar is tuned to AADGBE.

Similarly, the Foo Fighters used AADGBE tuning on their hit song, Stacked Actors. Again, that song sounds so heavy because Dave Grohl’s guitar is tuned down to AADGBE.

Melvins used AADGBE on one of their most-loved tracks, Boris, too, making the track sound even sludgier than Buzz’s usual Drop D tuning which he used predominately on the band’s earliest and best records like Houdini, Stoner Witch, and Stag.

Moving away from stoner and doom, Muse also used AADGBE tuning on a couple of its songs too. Matt Bellamy turned his guitar down to AADGBE for Muse’s Citizen Erased and Supremacy. The vast majority of Muse songs, however, are in Drop D and standard tuning.

Is It Worth Tuning Down To AADGBE?

One of the biggest benefits of using AADGBE tuning is that it isn’t too common – most bands tend to favor Drop B or Drop C, or D Standard or C Standard. If you use AADGBE tuning on your guitar, it will sound different to 90% of the metal out there. And if you’re going for something unique, guitar tuning is a great place to start.

Having said that, tuning down this low does present its own set of unique problems. The main one being strings – you’ll need to buy an extra thick string for your tuned-down bottom string. And even then, it might still sound too jiggly if your guitar doesn’t have a particularly long scale length.

AADGBE tuning does sound HEAVY, though, so if you’re going for a BIG SOUND and you’re happy to mess around string gauges to unlock it, then, sure, give AADGBE tuning a try. You don’t have anything to lose, and your Drop D riffs will instantly sound a whole lot heavier.


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Richard

Richard has been playing guitar for over a decade and is a huge fan of metal, doom, sludge, and rock music in general – though mostly metal. Having played in bands and worked in studios since the early 2000s, Richard is a massive music production geek, a fan of minimalist recording techniques, and he really likes old-school guitars.

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