Soundgarden Guitarist Hits Back At ‘Cheating’ Accusations

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It has been noted that the so-called “drop” tunings where the bottom string is one step lower than the rest became really popular in the 1990s. Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayl, back in his college days in the 1980s, there were people who thought that this was “cheating.”

Speaking to Guitar World, he recalled him and Mundhoney’s Mark Arm finding out about drop D from The Melvins leader Buzz Osborne:

“One time we started talking about our favorite Sabbath songs and Buzz told us about this tuning Tony Iommi used called ‘drop D’ that made everything sound darker and heavier. I remember going home and being like, ‘Whoa, you don’t say!'”

“I started farting around and realized you could make a power chord with just one finger. Playing them really fast up and down the neck became easy.”

It’s not certain whether Black Sabbath really went with drop D. Their earliest song where you could hear a low D note was “After Forever” from the 1971 record “Master of Reality.”

However, looking at concert footage, Tony Iommi plays it regularly, without any index finger power chords. So Sabbath most likely used the D standard for this song or any other eras where the songs were transposed to D, like their “Born Again” album and its tour.

Kim then reflected on how some guitar players back in the day were not happy about people using this tuning”

“It’s funny; I remember these purists and nitwits who would write into guitar magazines saying, ‘Drop D is cheating; you’re not really playing if you do that!'”

Kim continued:

“I’d be sitting there wondering, ‘What do you think this is… Monopoly?! Is it like ‘do not pass go’ or ‘head straight to jail’ just because you don’t approve of that tuning? What do you mean it’s not a proper way of playing guitar? No wonder you’re sitting there writing angry letters to a guitar magazine instead of writing songs!'”

During the interview, he also recalled being so impressed by this new tuning that he and Chris Cornell and Soundgarden’s early bassist Hiro Yamamoto immediately got inspired to write music. He concluded by adding:

“I loved the unorthodox way we were approaching heavy music. It almost feels like songs like ‘Outshined’ simply wouldn’t have existed in standard. Heavy metal and drop D is a match made in heaven… it just works.”