Another class of alternative tunings are called drop tunings, because the tuning drops down the lowest string. Dropping down the lowest string a whole tone results in the "drop-D" (or "dropped D") tuning. Its open-string notes DADGBE (from low to high) allow for a deep bass D note, which can be used in keys such as D major, d minor and G major. It simplifies the playing of simple fifths (powerchords). Many contemporary rock bands re-tune all strings down, making, for example, Drop-C or Drop-B tunings.

The types and models of pickups used can greatly affect the tone of the guitar. Typically, humbuckers, which are two magnet-coil assemblies attached to each other, are traditionally associated with a heavier sound. Single-coil pickups, one magnet wrapped in copper wire, are used by guitarists seeking a brighter, twangier sound with greater dynamic range.

SFCM produces some of the most successful and influential classical guitarists in the world. Spearheaded by renowned faculty and complemented by visiting artists such as Marcin Dylla, the department honors the tradition of the classical guitar while cultivating innovation. The Harris Guitar Collection, housed at SFCM, gives students a chance to see—and play—some of the most extraordinary guitars of the last two centuries.
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