DADGAD Chords – The Beginners Guide to DADGAD Tuning

Published Categorized as Chords

If you feel stuck in a rut as a guitarist or songwriter, it can be difficult to get out of it. But one way to revitalize your playing is to experiment with alternate tunings. Different tunings let you experience the guitar in new ways, and they just might inspire you!

If you’re new to alternate tunings, DADGAD is a great one to start with. In this article, we’ll take you through how to start playing DADGAD chords.

What is DADGAD Tuning?

You might sometimes hear DADGAD tuning referred to as Celtic tuning. That is largely because it has been used for Celtic music. “DADGAD” simply refers to how each string is tuned, from the 6th (thickest) string to the 1st (thinnest) string.

To play in DADGAD, you’re only actually changing three strings. Standard tuning is EADGBE, so you are only changing the 6th, 2nd, and 1st strings.

You might wonder why DADGAD is so suitable for Celtic music. That’s because, in Celtic tuning, you can use movable chord shapes that include open strings. By using open strings to create drones, you can mimic the droning sound used in traditional Irish and Scottish pipe music.

Since it’s so often used in folk music, this alternate tuning is often used by acoustic guitar players. But as you can see, it’s perfectly at home in heavier genres as well!

If you’d like a comprehensive introduction to DADGAD tuning, take a look at this tutorial.

Tuning Your Guitar to DADGAD

If you’re going from standard tuning to DADGAD tuning, the actual switch is not too difficult. After all, three of the strings remain the same as they are in standard tuning.

Here’s a quick guide to help you tune your guitar to DADGAD from standard tuning:

  • Start at the 6th string (the low E string). Tune it down one whole step to D.
  • Keep the 5th, 4th, and 3rd strings (the A, D, and G strings) tuned as they are.
  • The two highest strings will need to be tuned down a step. Tune the 2nd string (the B string) down a whole step to A.
  • Last, tune the 1st string (the high E string) down a whole step to D.

We recommend using a quality tuner to do this. After all, it’s important to always be in tune!

As a side note, you may hear some people mistakenly say that DADGAD tuning gives you a D major chord. However, a D major triad contains the notes D, F#, and A.

As you saw above, DADGAD tuning has three D strings, two A strings, and a G string. So it’s close to a D chord; it just has a G string instead of an F# string. If you want a D chord when you strum the strings, you would need to use open D tuning instead.

What Is DADGAD Used For?

We mentioned above that this tuning offers an opportunity to play open-string drones, so it’s especially good for Celtic music. But that isn’t all!

DADGAD tuning has been used by famous artists across genres. A British folk guitarist named Davey Graham initially popularized it. He was inspired by hearing a Moroccan oud player and attempted to mimic the oud’s tuning on guitar.

Later, Led Zeppelin used it in their songs “Kashmir” and “Black Mountain Side.” Sevendust often uses a down-tuned version, and singer-songwriter Ben Howard has also been known to use this tuning.

Is DADGAD Tuning Bad for Your Guitar?

The good news here is that DADGAD tuning doesn’t add more string tension to the neck of the guitar. And since you’re only changing the tuning on three strings (and only tuning each down a step), the string tension is not dramatically lowered, either.

Since the change isn’t massive, you’re unlikely to need to change your string gauge. Of course, feel free to experiment! On drop tunings (tunings where the lowest note on the guitar is lowered further) or any alternate tuning where string tension is lessened, most players opt for a heavier gauge.

Playing Chords in DADGAD Tuning

If you’re ready to start playing in this great alternate tuning, you’ll need to know some DADGAD chord shapes. This tuning uses a number of movable chord shapes, some of which only use one finger!

The movable chord shapes we’ll see here work similarly to barre chords often used in standard tuning. However, since most DADGAD chord shapes are open chords (or partially open chords), they are easier to master.

Your First Chord in DADGAD Tuning

If you have experience with alternate tunings, you probably know that an open tuning gives you a certain chord when the guitar is strummed totally open.

For instance, strumming all open strings in open D tuning gives you a D chord. Strumming all the strings open in open G gives you a G chord.

So what does DADGAD get you? Strumming all the strings gives you a Dsus4 chord. This chord has a distinctive, almost dreamy sound that is decidedly different from a D major chord.

One-Finger Chords

Some chords in DADGAD tuning are easy enough to play with just one finger. And if you want to learn an easy chord progression, you can play a simple I-IV-V progression: D5-Gadd9/D-A7sus4. The names of some DADGAD chords may sound complex, but each can be played with one finger:

  • D5: 3rd string, 2nd fret
  • Gadd9/D: 5th string, 2nd fret
  • A7sus4: 4th string, 2nd fret (mute the 6th string)

Movable Major and Minor Chord Shapes

Technically, you can play the same chords in DADGAD as you can in standard tuning. But some chords are easier to play in DADGAD than others. Generally, chords in the key of D are more straightforward.

Major Chord Shape

In this open tuning, there’s a movable open chord shape where you put your index finger on the 3rd string.

You then put your 2nd finger, 3rd finger, and 4th finger on the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings on the adjacent fret. You’ll need to mute or skip the 1st and 2nd strings.

For example, to play a D chord, place your index finger on the 3rd string at the 11th fret. Then place your 2nd finger, 3rd finger, and 4th finger on the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings at the 12th fret.

Here’s how to use this shape to play a few other chords:

  • G major: start at the 4th fret
  • Gadd2: start at the 4th fret, but don’t mute/skip the 1st two strings
  • A major: start at the 6th fret
  • Aadd4: start at the 6th fret, but don’t mute/skip the 1st two strings
  • F major: start at the 2nd fret

Minor Chord Shapes

As you learn DADGAD tuning chords, learning a minor chord shape is a must.

In DADGAD chord progressions, the movable minor chord shape is somewhat similar to the major chord shape. Your 2nd finger, 3rd finger, and 1st finger are still holding down three strings on the same fret. However, there is a one-fret gap between this fret and your index finger.

Let’s look at the F#m chord as an example. This chord is played by putting your 1st finger on the 3rd string at the 2nd fret. Use your other three fingers to hold down the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings at the 4th fret. Mute or skip the 1st two strings.

Here are a few other minor chords in DADGAD tuning:

  • F#madd: Play F#m, but don’t mute/skip the 1st two strings
  • Bm: Start at the 7th fret
  • Bm7: Start at the 7th fret, but don’t mute/skip the 1st two strings

You can use a variation of this shape to play an Em chord. For this one, hold down the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings at the 2nd fret. Play the 3rd string open, and mute or skip the 1st two strings.

You can also use this shape to play an Em11. Play an Em, but don’t mute or skip the 1st two strings.

Power Chords

You might already know that power chords are considered to be neither major nor minor. They’re great for creating the powerful chord progressions found in rock music and related genres.

To play power chords in DADGAD tuning, you’ll need to mute the three highest strings. The lowest strings (4th, 5th, and 6th strings) are tuned just as they are in drop D. In drop D, you simply tune the low E string down a step to D.

With the high strings muted, you just need to hold down the three top strings on the same fret. Here’s a quick guide to which power chord you play on each fret:

  • Open: D5
  • 1: D#5
  • 2: E5
  • 3: F5
  • 4: F#5
  • 5: G5
  • 6: G#5
  • 7: A5
  • 8: A#5
  • 9: B5
  • 10: C5
  • 11: C#5
  • 12: D5

More Useful Chords

Movable chord shapes are useful to know in any tuning. But it’s also great to know simple open chords that sound beautifully played fingerstyle or strummed. If you’re creating a chord progression in DADGAD tuning or just want to play something that sounds a little different, here are some easy chords that still sound great:

Dsus2
– Fret the 3rd and 4th strings at the 2nd fret
– Play the rest as open strings

D7
– Fret the 3rd string at the 2nd fret
– Fret the 2nd string at the 3rd fret
– Fret the 1st string at the 4th fret
– Play the rest of the strings open

Em7
– Fret the 5th, 6th, and 2nd strings at the 2nd fret
– Play the rest of the strings open

G/D
– Fret the 5th and 2nd strings at the 2nd fret
– Play the rest of the strings open

Asus4
– Fret the 4th and 3rd strings at the 2nd fret
– Mute or skip the 6th string

Am7/D
– Fret the 1st and 3rd strings at the 5th fret
– Mute or skip the 6th string

Cadd9
– Fret the 4th string at the 2nd fret
– Fret the 2nd and 5th string at the 3rd fret
– Mute or skip the 6th string

Cmaj7/D
– Fret the 2nd and 4th strings at the 2nd fret
– Fret the 5th string at the 3rd fret

Let DADGAD Tuning Work for You!

Now that you’re familiar with DADGAD tuning and some simple chord shapes to use, we hope you can confidently begin to use it in your own playing. When you embrace the signature sound of DADGAD chords, you’ll be able to expand your horizons and ultimately grow as a musician.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What chords can I play in DADGAD?

When it comes to DADGAD guitar chords, you can technically play any type of chord you can play in standard tuning. But DADGAD tuning makes it easier to play extended chords, especially sus4 chords. It’s also easier to play many chords in the key of D.

How do you play chords in DADGAD tuning?

In DADGAD tuning, strumming all strings open will give you a Dsus4 chord, a chord that sounds somewhat like D major. There’s a movable chord shape that allows you to play D, G, Gadd2, A, and Aadd4. Another movable shape lets you play F#m, F#madd, Bm, and Bm7.

What is DADGAD tuning good for?

Historically, DADGAD tuning was used for Celtic music, and it’s popular in modern folk music as well. But DADGAD is surprisingly versatile: you can also hear it in metal, rock, and other genres.

How do you play G in DADGAD?

To play G major in DADGAD tuning, place your 1st finger on the 3rd string at the 4th fret. Then, your 2nd finger goes on the 6th string/5th fret, your 3rd finger on the 5th string/5th fret, and your 4th finger on the 4th string/5th fret. An abbreviated way to write this is 5554XX.

How do you play F in DADGAD?

To play an F major chord in DADGAD tuning, place your 1st finger on the 3rd string at the 2nd fret. Then place your 2nd finger on the 6th string/3rd fret, your 3rd finger on the 5th string/3rd fret, and your 4th finger on the 4th string/3rd fret. You can abbreviate it as 3332XX.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

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