Fingerstyle - DADGAD

Published September 16th, 2008. © Chris Juergensen/chrisjuergensen.com. All Rights Reserved.

Sometimes change is a good thing, especially if you have been playing guitar for a long time like I have, and like me, use your theory knowledge as a constant tool for writing. It starts to get very predictable and old. By tuning my guitar differently, I often find myself thinking like a kid again, searching for chords and sounds that I donft know the names or shapes of. Guitar becomes good innocent fun once again, a musical adventure.

The standard tuning of the guitar generally makes us lean towards writing songs in E minor. After all, the tuning of the guitar looks very much like an Emin7 chord. The A note on the 5th string is the exception, but this note is the bass note of the IV chord, A. Changing the E minor tonality to a Blues tonality can simply be done by adding in the G# note on the 3rd string to make the tonality E7 rather than Emin7. Utilizing these open strings, is the key to the guitarfs tonal appeal.

Tuning to the DADGAD tuning changes the basic tonality of the guitar to a Dsus4 chord. Part of the appeal of this tonality is that the open sus4 chord of this tuning can be harmonically interpreted as both or either major or minor, leading to more of an ambiguous sound.

The DADGAD tuning:

Tuning your guitar to DADGAD:

  • 6th string - Start by tuning your 6th string down to D. You can simply match the pitch to your 4th string (an octave down), which as you know, is already D.
  • 5th string | stays A.
  • 4th string | stays D.
  • 3rd string | stays G.
  • 2nd string | tune down to A. Match the pitch of your 5th string (an octave up).
  • 1st string | tune down to D, matching pitch to 6th and 4th string.

Composing using DADGAD - By understanding the scale in relation to the tuning, it becomes easier to create music. The open strings, from low to high, are D-A-D-G-A-D, therefore D major, D dorian, D phrygian, D aolian and D mixolydian are all good possibilities for tonal centers in your compositions. Learn the D major scale below and:

  • Try arpeggiating the open 4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st strings while moving bass notes up and down the lower strings.
  • Try making melodies in combination with the D bass note on the 6th string.
Try the same two exercises using the other modes.

Ex.1) This example utilizes hammer on and pull offs for a flowing, cascading effect:
Video - The video is a basic overview of this lesson:
If you are having problems viewing the video, follow this link.@
Here is one of my new songs using the DADGAD tuning.

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