DADGAD


Introduction

IMPORTANT NOTE: Before studying the material on this page, read through my Open D Tuning page. There you'll find some helpful information on chord patterns/substitutions and theory that I won't be repeating here.

The drone of bagpipes. The claw hammer sound of a banjo. The stark and haunting sound of a country fiddle. All these effects are possible on the guitar using DADGAD tuning (pronounced exactly as it's spelled out.)

Because it is such a versatile tuning, nearly all "new breed" acoustic guitarists use DADGAD, and some, like Pierre Bensusan, use it exclusively. Personally, I really like what Al Petteway has done with this tuning. Check out his catalog of recordings on Maggie's Music. My personal favorite is "Whispering Stones." And what's really great is that transcriptions of all of Al's recordings are published by Mel Bay and also available from Maggie's Music. Talk about a great learning tool!

While you can use DADGAD tuning for anything, it seems to work best with old time country tunes (banjo/fiddle) and with Celtic pieces (Irish, Scottish, early British, etc.) However, you can give any piece a Celtic feel by working it out in DADGAD tuning! Experiment and have fun!

Tuning your guitar

The easiest way to get your guitar into DADGAD tuning, is to go to my open D tuning page (click above) and follow the instructions there on how to tune to Open D. Then come back here. Go ahead, I'll wait!

OK so now you're tuned to open D. Play the note that is on the fifth fret of your fourth string. Now tighten your third string until it sounds just like that note. Congratulations! You are now in DADGAD tuning. Pretty easy, huh?

Chords

First, try strumming all the strings at once. It's an odd, but beautiful sound, isn't it. What makes it sound odd is the third string, the "g" in DADGAD. In a D major scale, the G is the fourth, or the eleventh tone. So what you get when play all of the open strings in DADGAD tuning is a D sus 4th chord. (WOW! Bet you didn't think you could play one of those.) You'll also notice that all the other strings are tuned to fifths, that is, D (or I) followed by A (or V). It is the combination of the 4th and the fifths that give DADGAD tuning it's characteristic starkness, it's droning quality, and its banjo or fiddle-like sound.

Unlike open D tuning, where you get a beautiful D chord with no effort at all (just strum the open strings) here, you need to do a little work, but not much. The following diagram illustrates how to form a D major chord in DADGAD tuning. D major is the most common key for DADGAD tuning, so that's what I'll be using here. If you don't understand the diagram, read more about it on my Open D tuning page.

1||---|---|---|---|---|--
2||---|---|---|---|---|--
3||---|-M-|---|---|---|--
4||---|---|---|---|---|--
5||---|---|---|---|---|--
6||---|---|---|---|---|--

Don't you love the purity and simplicity of that? Also, did you note that the third and the second string sound the same tone? There's that drone I mentioned!

By the way, it is also very common for users of DADGAD tuning to capo up to the fifth fret, effectively changing the key to G. So feel free to try any of these chords with a capo on your fifth fret.

OK. So the chord above represents the "one" (I) chord of the I IV V chord pattern in the key of D. The following diagram will give you the chord that will substitute for the G major, or IV chord:

1||---|---|---|---|---|--
2||---|---|---|---|---|--
3||---|---|---|---|---|--
4||---|---|---|---|---|--
5||---|-M-|---|---|---|--
6||---|---|---|---|---|--

Doesn't that sound great? And it's so easy. Try getting that sound in standard tuning! Now, to complete the pattern, let's do the "V" chord, that will take the place of A major:

1||---|---|---|---|---|--
2||---|---|---|---|---|--
3||---|---|---|---|---|--
4||---|-M-|---|---|---|--
5||---|---|---|---|---|--
6||---|---|---|---|---|--

I love the way that sounds!

For practice (ear and hand) alternate these chords a few times, strumming each four times.

Applying the I, IV, V Cycle to Songs

As with open D tuning, you can play many songs using just these three chords. If you've worked out songs based on the I IV V pattern in open D, try the same songs using this pattern in DADGAD. They sound quite different, don't they?

Make That Guitar Sound Like a Banjo

I mentioned before that DADGAD tuning allows you to get banjo-like effects from your guitar. The following tab of "London Bridge Is Falling Down" will show you what I mean. Start slow, and gradually pick up the pace as you learn the piece. When you can play it a little faster, it's pretty impressive. Amaze your friends, family, and fellow guitarists! If you need help with how to finger pick this, see my Basic Finger Picking page by clicking below. Play very evenly at first, giving each note one beat. After you've got it down, experiment with the rhythms. Sing the song to yourself. Where do the rhythms change?

PRACTICE TIP: Use second position fingering for your left hand. That is, use your index finger for all notes on the second fret, your middle finger for all notes and the third fret, your ring finger for all notes on the fourth fret, and your pinky for all notes on the fifth fret (don't worry, there aren't any in this arrangement). Also notice that the same two notes follow each melody note. That's where the banjo sound comes from. And remember to give the melody notes (the one's you're playing with your thumb) more emphasis than the index and middle finger notes.

London Bridge Is Falling Down

1|-----------0--------0|-----------0--------0|
2|--------0--------0---|--------0--------0---|
3|-----2--------4------|-----2--------0------|
4|---------------------|---------------------|
5|---------------------|---------------------|
6|---------------------|---------------------|


1|-----------0--------0|--------0--------0---|
2|--------0--------0---|-----0--------0------|
3|--------------0------|--2--------2---------|
4|-----4---------------|---------------------|
5|---------------------|---------------------|
6|---------------------|---------------------|


1|--------0--------0---|--------0--------0---|
2|-----0--------0------|-----0--------0------|
3|---------------------|--0--------0---------|
4|--2--------4---------|---------------------|
5|---------------------|---------------------|
6|---------------------|---------------------|


1|--------0--------0---|--------0--------0---|
2|-----0--------0------|-----0--------0------|
3|-----------0---------|--2--------2---------|
4|--4------------------|---------------------|
5|---------------------|---------------------|
6|---------------------|---------------------|


1|-----------0--------0|-----------0--------0|
2|--------0--------0---|--------0--------0---|
3|-----2--------4------|-----2--------0------|
4|---------------------|---------------------|
5|---------------------|---------------------|
6|---------------------|---------------------|


1|-----------0--------0|--------0--------0---|
2|--------0--------0---|-----0--------0------|
3|--------------0------|--2--------2---------|
4|-----4---------------|---------------------|
5|---------------------|---------------------|
6|---------------------|---------------------|


1|-----------0--------0|-----------0--------0|
2|--------0--------0---|--------0--------0---|
3|---------------------|-----2--------2------|
4|-----2--------2------|---------------------|
5|---------------------|---------------------|
6|---------------------|---------------------|


1|-----------0--------0|---------------------|
2|--------0--------0---|---------------------|
3|---------------------|---------------------|
4|-----4--------0------|--0------------------|
5|---------------------|---------------------|
6|---------------------|---------------------|

More Chords

Here are some more chords in DADGAD tuning for you to experiment with.

Major chords

This is a G Major. X means mute. Use the pad of your middle finger to mute the fifth string:


1||---|---|---|---|---|--
2||---|---|---|---|-R-|--
3||---|---|---|-I-|---|--
4||---|---|---|---|---|--
5||---|---|---|---|-X-|--
6||---|---|---|---|-M-|--

Minor Chords

This is a D minor:


1||---|---|---|---|---|--
2||---|---|---|---|---|--
3||---|-I-|---|---|---|--
4||---|---|-M-|---|---|--
5||---|---|---|---|---|--
6||---|---|---|---|---|--

This is an E Minor Seventh:

1||---|---|---|---|---|--
2||---|-R-|---|---|---|--
3||---|---|---|---|---|--
4||---|-M-|---|---|---|--
5||---|-X-|---|---|---|--
6||---|-I-|---|---|---|--

This is a G Minor:

1||---|---|---|---|---|--
2||---|---|---|---|-R-|--
3||---|---|-I-|---|---|--
4||---|---|---|---|---|--
5||---|---|---|---|-X-|--
6||---|---|---|---|-M-|--

This is an A Minor Seventh. Don't play the sixth string:

1||---|-M-|---|---|---|--
2||---|---|-R-|---|---|--
3||---|---|---|---|---|--
4||---|-I-|---|---|---|--
5||---|---|---|---|---|--
6||---|---|---|---|---|--

Dominant Seventh Chords

This is a D Seventh:

1||---|---|---|---|---|--
2||---|---|-M-|---|---|--
3||---|-I-|---|---|---|--
4||---|---|---|-R-|---|--
5||---|---|---|---|---|--
6||---|---|---|---|---|--

This is an A Seventh:

1||---|-R-|---|---|---|--
2||---|---|---|---|---|--
3||---|---|---|---|---|--
4||---|-M-|---|---|---|--
5||---|---|---|---|---|--
6||---|-I-|---|---|---|--

This is an E Seventh, and a tough one! T stands for Thumb:

1||---|---|---|---|---|--
2||---|-R-|---|---|---|--
3||-I-|---|---|---|---|--
4||---|-M-|---|---|---|--
5||---|-X-|---|---|---|--
6||---|-T-|---|---|---|--

And don't forget to try some standard tuning formations in DADGAD and see what happens. Try playing a C Major chord as you would in standard tuning. What does it sound like?

Fingerpicking

Low C tuning is great for fingerpicking, both for solo work and accompaniment. Check out my fingerpicking page to learn some basic patterns.

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