How to Play in DADGAD Tuning

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Cross, Dan. "How to Play in DADGAD Tuning." ThoughtCo, Apr. 24, 2017, thoughtco.com/dadgad-tuning-1711758. Cross, Dan. (2017, April 24). How to Play in DADGAD Tuning. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/dadgad-tuning-1711758 Cross, Dan. "How to Play in DADGAD Tuning." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/dadgad-tuning-1711758 (accessed September 21, 2017).
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Learn to Tune Your Guitar to DADGAD

dadgad celtic tuning on guitar

DADGAD (pronounced "DAD-GAD") tuning is an alternate way of tuning most commonly used by folk and Celtic guitarists. Whereas more common open tunings like open D or open G provide guitarists with an ability to play basic major chords and accompanying riffs more easily, DADGAD (sometimes referred to as "Celtic tuning") is popular among guitarists because of it's ability to create interesting sounds beyond standard major and minor chords. DADGAD is tuned so that when all strings are strummed open, the resulting chord is a Dsus4. The tuning allows guitarists to experiment with unusual chord shapes, exploiting intriguing and unusual possibilities.

Tuning Instruction in DADGAD

  • Start by tuning your sixth string down a tone to D. Check the tuning with the fourth (D) string.
  • Your fifth string can remain unchanged - it's already an A
  • Your fourth string can remain unchanged - it's a D
  • Your third string can remain unchanged - it's a G
  • Next, tune your second string down a tone to the note A. Check the tuning with the fifth (A) string - the two notes will both be an A an octave apart
  • Lastly, tune your first string down a tone to D. Check the tuning with the fourth (D) string - the two notes will both be a D an octave apart
  • Check your tuning against this mp3 of a guitar tuned to DADGAD

Once you've tuned to DADGAD, you can begin exploring the interesting sounds the tuning affords. You'll want to focus on playing in the key of D - since this allows you to use the open sixth and fifth strings as "drone notes". Since DADGAD sounds neither major or minor when strummed open, you can experiment with playing songs and chords in both D major and D minor.

Tab of Songs in This Tuning...

Kashmir - Led Zeppelin tune that makes effective use of the DADGAD tuning. Some really nice riffs to learn here. For the more visually inclined, check out the Kashmir lesson YouTube video.

Poles Apart - Pink Floyd tune from The Division Bell which features some DADGAD playing from guitarist David Gilmour. This one might be tricky. For more help, here is a "Poles Apart" video lesson on YouTube.

Amazing Grace - A pretty, short arrangement of the standard hymn in DADGAD tuning. This will sound impressive with practice.

Man of Constant Sorrow - This is the song made popular by its inclusion in the movie "O Brother Where Art Thou?" The song is tuned to DADGAD but uses a capo on the third fret.

Black Mountainside - Another Led Zep tune, this is guitarist Jimmy Page's uncredited interpretation of the Burt Jansch DADGAD tune "Black Waterside". Note that although the tuning intervals are the same as DADGAD, Page actually tunes the whole guitar down an additional half-step, making the final tuning C# G# C# F# G# C#. You can mimic this tuning, or play the whole thing in DADGAD - it'll still sound good provided you don't play along with the recording. For some visual help learning this song, here is the "Black Mountainside" video lesson.

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Other DADGAD Resources

acoustic guitar close up
Al Pereira | Getty Images

VIDEO: Exploring DADGAD Tuning - This is a good start for beginners, walking through tuning, basic chord shapes, and some songs to play using DADGAD

Chords in DADGAD - A wide variety of Dmajor, Dminor, and Gmajor type chords in DADGAD tuning.

DADGAD Chord Shapes - More chords can be found on this informative DADGAD page.

VIDEO: Phil Hare on DADGAD - This video should be inspirational for more advanced guitarists. A key takeaway here is Phil's focus on the major scale, combining open strings and fretted notes, to create a harp-like sound. Pretty stuff.