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Dadgad Tuning Guitar Lesson


I've got two previous hubs on DADGAD tuning, which you may find useful. DADGAD is a widely used tuning for guitar, especially useful for playing Irish, Celtic and folk music in general. It usually has a lot of drone notes, or continuous notes, and this gives chords a lot of depth and sustain. If you want to see the effect of using this tuning, two leading exponents are Pierre Bensusan and Lawrence Juber, who uses it in creating arrangements of Beatles tunes.

To change your guitar tuning to DADGAD:

Strings 6 and 1 go down 2 semitones to D, string 2 goes down 2 semitones to A.

That's it - strings 5,4,3 remain the same.



It's a good idea to change the string tension slowly, although breaking a string is a very rare event. You can use the open D (string 4) as a reference note as you change strings 1 and 6 from E down to D.

DADGAD chords


Chord pictures info

In the chord pictures you will see several variants on a D chord - as this is the home chord in this tuning, it's good to experiment with some different voicings. The most simple songs use the I IV and V chords - in the key of D these chords would be D, G, and A. You can play hundreds of songs with just these three chords. Adding Em and Bm will cover hundreds more songs. The chord names are a bit approximate, and I wouldn't worry about exact chord naming. Rather, think of this tuning as a kind of musical playground where you can shift chords up and down the neck and discover new things.

If you are into songwriting, this can get some great results - Joni Mitchell is the pre-eminent example of writing songs from the standpoint of different tunings.

More chord pictures

Try the D/Fsharp chord in line 4. The next chord pictures show part of a harmonised scale of two-note chords going up the neck, ending in D. The D major scale is shown next, again it's going up the neck. You can combine these notes to play chord melody style pieces, where the melody line and chords are used together.

The D major scale can be described in fret numbers, all on the 4th string (D):

0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12

If you move the same pattern across to the other strings, you will find the major scale that relates to the open string note, so string 3 (G) will be a G major scale.

This 8 - note scale is the basis of all Western music. Whenever you are learning scales, a good tip is to break it down into two halves, and memorise everything.

The E7 is a non-diatonic chord in this key. The next chord is an Am7, although the normal tuning shape would be an A7.


Try using harmonics at the following frets: 12, 7, 5. It's a nice effect in open tunings. You can also integrate a harmonic note into a chord.

DADGAD tuning is strongly associated with Irish and Celtic music. Most Irish songs will sound great in this tuning, or in the open D tuning, which is the same except string 3 goes down a semitone to F sharp.

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Lakes of Pontchitrain

Raglan Rd

Star of the County Down

Arthur McBride.


Jon Green (author) from Frome, Somerset, UK on September 12, 2011:

Thanks a lot.

Dallas W Thompson from Bakersfield, CA on September 12, 2011:

Fun and easy instructions. Flag up!

Jon Green (author) from Frome, Somerset, UK on September 10, 2011:

I've re-scanned the chord pictures. Hopefully it's better now.

Tony Mead from Yorkshire on September 10, 2011:

Thanks for sharing, it's years sine I did any retuning. Weused this one to play with bottle necks.

the chords are useful.


Hashirraja from Dhaka, Bangladesh. on September 09, 2011:

Sorry I cannot play it.

Glenn Scheid from Fort Collins, Colorado on September 09, 2011:

Thank you. Too bad most of the grids are too faint to see and read.

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