DADGAD Fingerstyle Guitar – Hammer-Ons, Pull-Offs and Slides 

In DADGAD fingerstyle guitar there are ways of playing that can add a tremendous amount of contrast and interest to your songs.  This blog entry will discuss three of those techniques which include hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides. There are other techniques that I will deal with in a later blog entry. All of these techniques really come alive when playing DADGAD guitar because of the interest they provide along with the celtic feel of each string. 

I like to think of hammer-ons and pull-offs as kind of opposites. It playing a hammer-on note in DADGAD or really in any tuning you can start with an open string like the high D or first string and then you can pluck that open string and quickly play another note like for example the E note   on the first string and second fret, and sort of hammer-on to that note while not really plucking that D string again. So what you have is a plucked first D string followed immediately with pressing down on the E note first string second fret. The tricky thing is to learn to kind of hammer your finger down on the string stopping the open D note from playing by playing that E note right away.  Hammer-ons can really add a lot to your playing style in DADGAD. I will be creating a video on hammer-ons for DADGAD guitar soon. 

The next technique that can help your playing in DADGAD tuning is the pull off. The pull off as noted earlier is kind of opposite of the hammer-on. Let’s say you have played the E note on that first D string second fret in your DADGAD tuning without plucking the string with your right hand at all you can just pull off that E note ending in an open D note. Again I will be creating a video on this, but a super great technique for DADGAD because your landing strings often are modal D open strings. 

Keep in mind that hammer-ons and pull-offs can also start and end with other non-open notes in DADGAD. I will write on that later. 

The final technique that can add to your guitar playing is the slide up or slide down.  If you are playing that E note on the first string in DADGAD second fret you can slide that finger up to the F note on first string third fret again without plucking that string at all. You can also slide back down. 

This is just an into to DADGAD fingerstyle guitar and I will be creating videos later to help show this in more detail.  These techniques really can add a lot to your playing.

Grace Notes With DADGAD Fingerstyle Guitar 

Grace notes can be thought of as a great tool to have in your DADGAD guitar tool belt. This is true for both composition as well as just daily playing in DADGAD. Grace notes are part of a category in fingerstyle guitar called ornamentation.  Basically I like to look at ornamentation as putting ornaments on a Christmas tree. You can certainly just keep your Christmas tree bland without adding anything to it and it would be fine. But adding ornaments to the tree really makes it come alive with beauty and interest. I see guitar ornamentation in the same way. You can play a song without ornamentation in DADGAD and it will be fine and even move audience. But adding ornamentation can add both beauty and interest just like our Christmas tree example. 

Basically a grace note is a very quick hammer on note that happens so fast you might miss it other then the fact the ear and mind are so fast they do in fact pick it up! Kind of magical how it works I think.  As noted in this website I am currently writing a new song book for DADGAD Guitar Hymns with arrangements I have created over the past years. So here is an example of a grace note in my Amazing Grace arrangement. You can see that the note is very small and proceeds the primary note. It is good to kind of practice grace notes in your playing by for example playing an E note on the first DADGAD D string and then a very very fast hammer on to the F note on same string. With practice you can kind of hit the grace note very nicely as a very fast and passing note and it will add really a lot of nice interest to your song. It is important to play that grace note as kind of a 32nd note really fast and then land on the primary note and let it ring as a normal quarter or whatever note it is. 

I will try and add some sound examples soon of this. I think you will have fun with grace notes and they will add a lot to your song!

Fingerstyle Guitar as an Instrument of Praise to the Lord. 

Fingerstyle DADGAD guitar can be used as an instrument to praise the Lord in worship as we will see in Psalms 98 verse 5. 

In the King James version of the Bible Psalms 98:5 reads: 

Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. King James Version Psalms 98:5 – King James Version 

In the original Hebrew the verb zamar is used.  According to Brown-Driver-Briggs zamar can be translated as make music – in praise to God or of playing musical instruments. Here below is a direct quote from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. 

“zamar – A primitive root (perhaps ident. With zamar through the idea of striking with the fingers); properly, to touch the strings or parts of a musical instrument, i.e. Play upon it to make music, accompanied by the voice; hence to celebrate in song and music — give praise, sing forth praises, psalms.  Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance – 

This Hebrew word comes from a root word that has the idea of striking with the fingers. Back in the Old Testament days there were no guitars as we know the modern-day version.  The harp was used which could have 10 or more strings.  The lyre with 7 or more strings was also used in worship. 

As a fingerstyle guitarist I find the mention of string instruments in the Psalms and the idea of striking the strings with your fingers as pretty amazing.  While the modern guitar is not that old, string instruments go back thousands of years. 

So, the next time you or I pick up your guitar and play to the Lord in worship using the fingerstyle guitar method remember you are doing a musical technique mentioned in the Bible many years ago!

What Is Cross-String in Fingerstyle Guitar? 

Alex de Grassi defines cross string as “In third position or higher, it becomes possible to combine open and fretted strings to play ascending/descending intervals on non-sequential strings. This technique is called cross-string picking.” De Grassi, Alex, Cross-String Picking Basics, 

DADGAD allows for many cross-string options due to the string tuning.  A melody starts on the third or G string and then continues to the second or A open string followed by the third melodic note on the first string. Rather than having to stay on one string with cross-string you can use neighboring strings in your melody line. 

The foundation of my new Hymns for DADGAD Guitar songbook now in final edit is based on cross-string technique in fingerstyle guitar. There are almost unlimited possibilities with the DADGAG tuning and cross-string to bring out the melody line using neighboring open and fretted strings all in one melodic set. 

I will be providing a You-Tube video on cross string technique soon.  Production has started on all YouTube Videos at Hillview Studios – July 2018!

Learning Right Hand Fingerstyle Techniques in Standard Tuning 

You can study and learn a song on a classical guitar in standard tuning that can help you with right hand technique with DADGAD fingerstyle Guitar. I will try and explain a bit… 

I have been taking a short break from my DADGAD fingerstyle guitar playing and working on the new Hymns for DADGAD guitar so try and get some new right hand techniques learned from Standard tuning.  I will share just a short review of my journey with this and how it might help you also with your DADGAD fingerstyle playing. 

First of all why even bother with this approach and short change in your playing routine?  For me, the primary reason I took a short break from DADGAD tuning to learn a standard tuning song was I really was getting a bit burned out and just need a spark of creativity and a break from daily DADGAD work. It is interesting because I have a really nice Collings OM1A deep body guitar that is only for DADGAD which I am so thankful for. The cost was something like $4800 new or something like that. Well, interestingly I am taking a break from that beautiful guitar and playing a $99 classical guitar that I purchased 35 years ago. It is just a really nice break , and new sound, a new source of creative flow to even use a very inexpensive different guitar! 

What I did was get on You Tube and found a wonderful video showing how to play an Earl Klugh song called Love Theme From Spartacus words and music by Alex Norte and transcription by Francois Leduc. Francois has done a wonderful job of transcribing Earl’s song note by note such a find on You Tube, I cant tell you how great this is. The intent is for you to play this song as one person with one guitar which uses the Chet Atkins approach. I am not there in my playing ability yet to do this, so I am learning how to play the lead and then the rhythm as two separate takes and then putting them together with ProTools. Still many lessons are being learned by even doing this! 

What I have learned from this exercise is that you can learn a-lot about the Fingerstyle guitar approach by looking at how another guitarist approaches the song even with a classical guitar and even in standard tuning. Earl’s playing is beyond great. He uses slides, slurs and hammer on and offs with such elegance and ease. This alone is a great way to learn some right and left hand techniques.  Earl also does play both parts at the same time in the time honored Chet Atkins guitar approach.  He is very good and playing the melody louder or accented which takes some practice. This also is a great technique to transfer over to your DADGAD fingerstyle playing which I also plan to do. 

As far as song arrangement it has been interesting to review Earl’s chord choice in the Jazz world.  Then how Earl adds the melody , sometimes first before the Chords, this is just an amazing technique that I could write many blogs on. Just a great way to approach the guitar as Chet did so well. 

In going back to my DADGAD Hymn arrangements I am challenged now to play the melody louder then the chords surrounding the melody.  Also how the melody is even arranged with the Chords will be looked at in future arrangements in DADGAD  just based on this great info learn from Earl. 

So there you have it, a short but sweet blog that basically is just saying – take a break from your DADGAD once in a while and study a standard tuning song in another music style like Jazz and it will spark both your creativity but also the ability to learn some new right and left hand fingerstyle techniques that will translate perfectly into your DADGAD playing. It will make you want to pick up your guitar more and play and have fun more and not feel so much in a rut. I have found also that my wife is very thankful to not hear DADGAD for awhile all time time and hear something new and fresh being practiced! 

Happy DADGAD and Standard tuning playing!

A Trick To Get Better At DADGAD Fingerstyle 

I wanted to share with you a trick I just learned that is helping me with my DADGAD fingerstyle playing. I sort of stumbled on this by accident recently and it has really helped my DADGAD playing. 

Basically what I discovered is that if I take a break , like for a few days or even just a week from my steel string DADGAD tuned guitar and practice and play basic classical guitar songs on my classical guitar two things happen, much to my surprise and delight. 

The first thing I began to notice is that might right hand, finger picking hand, started feeling more confident and relaxed and just felt better over all. 
The second thing I found was that break helped me get more excited again about DADGAD on a new level and more inspired. 

So there you have it. Not too earth shattering for sure a really nice thing I have learned here late in 2018.  Really helpful with my DADGAD fingerstyle playing. 

By the way – my classical guitar is just a 99 dollar old bad guitar but does the trick!  I am learning to play is by Fernando Sor Op No 1.  I have 54 years of steel string guitar playing experience but have never learned classical guitar at all. So this break I mentioned from DADGAD steel string to classical just for a few days or week is both inspiring and fun and helpful to my DADGAD playing.  I hope this method might help your playing too.

Quick DADGAD Guitar Cross-String Exercise 

Here is a quick DADGAD Guitar Cross-String exercise I have used daily for years now. It is something I wrote I think in the 90’s for my DADGAD playing. It helps with cross-string practice and forces the cross-string technique along side hammer-ons and other techniques. 

I like this exercise because it combines good cross-string practice in DADGAD but also adds hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides too – all in just two simple measures!. 

I will add a sound mp3 file here later, but here is the exercise now below. You can play this at any tempo also. I would start out slow and add speed as time goes on. I find that practicing this at various tempos actually helps with finger memory and technique.

Lessons Learned Writing Amazon eBook 

Don’t use Public Domain songs or material even with new arrangements or ways to transform the content. I found that you cannot use KDP Select in the Kindle Direct publishing if you have Public Domain material. 
You can only get 35% royalties’ instead of 70% if you use Public Domain material. It also appears that there are restrictions on using KDP Select if you have Public Domain material also. 
Better to own all your creative products, 100% outright. 
Don’t write an eBook just because you love the topic and feel others should love it too. Better to find out ahead of time what others are searching for online. Always keep your reader’s needs ahead of your own needs to be creative with your ideas. 
Don’t give up after your first eBook. 
Write your book using MS Word but use the Kindle Create app side by side. It is terrific for formatting your eBook on the fly and creates linked content and allows for URL links. Perhaps the most important lesson I learned of all those documented here. 
Use Acrobat InDesign for your printed book, but as noted use, the Kindle Create app for your eBook. 
If you are like me, you will have much more success with the eBook version rather than the Printed Version. I have already in just two short months had 310 plus eBook downloads compared to only six printed versions. 
If you are creating an eBook that has media, then use Kindle Create. It is beautiful and allows for the integration of media as links in the book itself.

What is DADGAD? 

an alternative guitar tuning. The emphasis of this blog and website is on fingerstyle guitar tab and technique. See my blog on DADGAD tuning for more information on DADGAD. DADGAD is used a lot with Celtic music but is growing in popularity now and used by other music genres. DADGAD allows the player to take advantage of open strings close by the selected melody note to add mood and interest. One reason I like DADGAD so much is that it is hard to make a mistake while playing because so many supporting open strings support your primary note, there is a safety net built in which comes in handy when playing songs live in DADGAD. 

The goal of is to provide tools for guitarists to learn and grow with DADGAD guitar tuning and with fingerstyle guitar tab reading and writing. DADGAD, a modal D tuning, is now used by Pierre Bensusan, Laurence Juber, Tony McManus, Al Petteway, Alex Degrassi, Doug Young, Simon Fox, Jean Banwarth, Pat Kirtley, and others. 

I personally love DADGAD, and after many years playing this tuning, I still never tire of its seemingly endless possibilities. I plan to create a video soon on DADGAD chordal shapes. I just published a new songbook for DADGAD Hymns on Amazon.

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Matt 25:35-36

So as a musician who is now stuck at home as most people are, how can I use my music to help feed poor and clothe them?

I have an idea. What if I do a live Facebook concert with my guitar and ask for donations and 100% of all donations go to World Vision?