The paper highlights the importance of using site-specific shear modulus reduction (G/Gmax versus shear strain, γ) curves and damping ratio (D versus shear strain, γ) curves for ground response analysis. In order to develop comprehensive G/Gmax–γ and D–γ curves (i.e. over a wide range of strain level), two types of apparatus, viz. resonant column and cyclic simple shear, have been used. The case study considered the geological deposits from the river beds of Yamuna River originating from the Himalayan seismic zone of North India. The tests results have been analysed to develop G/Gmax–γ and D–γ curves and compared with standard curves. It has been observed that upper and lower boundaries for the standard curves are remarkably different for the geological deposit under consideration. In order to assess the impact of using standard curves rather than site-specific curves, ground response analysis has been carried out at five sites along the Yamuna River using two types of curves (standard and site-specific developed in this study). The study showed that the amplification of shear waves at these sites based on the experimentally derived curves is much higher as compared to the standard curves. The proposed curves better represent dynamic behaviour of the soil deposits of the region and will provide a realistic response as far as practically possible, for the structures constructed in the states of Haryana and Delhi and nearby areas. It is anticipated that the data presented in this paper will have wide application and usage. © 2020, Springer Nature B.V.