DADGAD Fingerstyle Guitar - Playing Live and Remembering All Notes!

This past weekend I played about 50 minutes of original DADGAD Fingerstyle guitar Hymn arrangements for a private event.  I wanted to share what I learned and am still learning about playing so many notes and having the ability to remember each note even when nervous in front of lots of people.

I have found that I ( and I think a lot of people) have a strong left and strong right brain when it comes to remembering and playing a lot of fingerstyle DADGAD guitar notes and not forgetting them.  In the past what has happened with me is that I have practiced my guitar for hours and then felt really good about things, only to find that when I get on a stage in front of several hundred people I kind of freeze up and have no idea what notes to play.  Now the funny thing is that I have played in front of a crowd of over 7,000 people (some years back and only one!) and I have played in front of just 4 or so people and the SAME thing happened, I would get nervous and then would freeze up and have not idea where to go in the song. A really terrible feeling indeed!

So this past Saturday I was able to play 50 minutes of DADGAD fingerstyle guitar songs in front about 230 or so people while never freezing up! I wanted to share with you the two things that have helped me so much and kept me from this freezing thing!

The first item is that of how to practice strategically. I learned a method on line some years ago (like 10 years ahhh) and basically you close your eyes and visualize the melody of the song and tap it out on your knee or a table or something. Then you do the same with all the right hand fingering of the DADGAD notes. Then finally you do the same thing with the left hand notes on the guitar fretboard. Then you practice again with that same remembering technique.  This has done wonders with my remembering songs and notes in front of people

Now for the most important thing that I have learned to do that helps me remember DADGAD guitar notes for fingerstyle guitar while playing in front of any number of people.  I rely on finger memory a lot BUT the thing that I have learned is to tell your left brain to quiet down and stop trying to get in on the action and I even pray with my left brain while watching my hand play from finger memory and I just watch them, a strange but very effective method. The job of my left brain is to just make sure that my right brain finger memory for the song being played is not criticized or messed up in anyway. 

I have had so much more success playing lots and lots of my songs without any issues now in front of people because of these two things.

I will try and make a video on this later. It does sound a bit spacy and almost like hypnosis but I think it is learning to really use both sides of my brain in a very stressful and scary situation and making it really work!!


DADGAD fingerstyle guitar - hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides

acoustic guitar photo

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.



One of the statements made by my private music teacher, Jai Josefs, years ago in Los Angeles was something like "too much steak makes beans taste mighty good".  That has stuck with me over the years and what it means is that contrast in music so more then important, it is in fact essential. 

I love DADGAD guitar tuning as you can probably see from this website. It provides a Modal Celtic guitar feel that is second to none. Having said this it is important to note that too much of a good thing can bore the audience to tears, which is not our goal. Our goal as guitarists  is to engage the audience and to move them emotionally. The last thing we want to do is bore the audience and thus loose them in the process.

I think one of the primary drawbacks to using just DADGAD guitar tuning is that it can at times start sounding all the same and you loose contrast - thus you end up with alot of nice steak which starts tasting all the same - ahhh we don't want that.  Here is one thing you can do to fix the boring and sometimes repetitive nature of DADGAD tuning and thus retain that lovely sound you fell in love with initially.  Thus we can kind of have it both ways.

I will be writing a series of Blogs for this website on how we can keep contrast with DADGAD guitar. This is the first of this series - using other music keys in DADGAD

At first glance you might say - I can't play in other keys while tuned to DADGAD because I am simply tuned already to Modal D and can't get out of that D sound. Well the good news is you would be wrong with this statement. All keys are available to the DADGAD guitarist.  I think I need to say that again - all music keys are available to the DADGAD guitarist. This is a powerful statement so let's explore some.

I will use my own arrangement of Amazing Grace from my Hymns for Guitar CD ( and soon to be released song book) as an example. I start in the key of D and then move to the key of G and then the key of A and then back to D. This provides a very good amount of contrast. I use other contrast methods too but that will be discussed in a new Blog soon.

So I start in the key of D in DADGAD Modal tuning. The first verse is totally in the key of D which is the basis for DADGAD tuning. But then I move to the key of G while still in Modal DADGAD tuning. I use the same chord structure as the first verse with the I chord and then the IV chord but now since I am in the key of G I figure out what the notes are in DADGAD for the first I or G chord. So it happens to be 6th string and 5th fret and then 4th string open and then second string open and then 1st string 5th fret. I then figure out the melody as used in the first verse and then put that on top of this G chord.   I then use the same process for the verse in the key of A later in the arrangement. 

There you have it!  You can play in any key while still tuned to DADGAD Modal D. This is amazing and so useful.  It helps to get that steak taste out of your mouth with some nice beans!

I will be posting a how to play this DADGAD Amazing Grace song soon as a video on this website. I will try and explain more about using different keys also in DADGAD tuning on that video. 

Thanks for stopping by.




Tabit is great for putting down quick ideas, but I am using Guitar pro 6 now for the final song book notation. It provides grace notes and better push notes and slurs and such., 

While this blog is very useful I am changing my approach just a bit now. I am using TABIT to create a brand new arrangement because of it's ease of use. BUT once the arrangement is is good shape I am using Guitar Pro 6 to create the final Tab for the song because it has far more options including grace notes and much better notation options. I will be writting a new blog Monday or Tuesday about this. 

In this blog I will discuss how I use the TABIT software from to create DADGAD tablature for my new Hymns for Guitar DADGAD songbook.

There are many guitar score writer software programs out there to create good guitar tablature.   This list of programs includes Finale, Flat, G7, Guitar Pro 6, TablEdit, Sibelius and many more.  There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these options but my objective for writing this blog entry is not to discuss those issues here.  What I want to do is simply explain why I am using TABIT for my guitar tab DADGAD arrangements and why it works so well for me in creating my arrangements for Hymns for DADGAD guitar. 


First, you will not find an easier to use tablature program for guitar then TABIT. Having said this, I find that TABIT meets my requirements better then most options. TABIT provides a DADGAD tuning which is essential to my work.  TABIT also provides a very easy to use and intuitive interface for adding guitar notes in DADGAD tuning.  The first thing I do is to find out what timing my Hymn has that I will be creating my arrangement in.  I am currently creating my arrangement of Amazing Grace in TABIT using DADGAD tuning in 3/4 time. I use the metronome set to a bit slower then normal so I can add notes easily. I then play the first measure of my arrangement on my acoustic guitar and find the DADGAD notes for the first measure in TABIT and place the number matching  the fret number  and then to the string number. This method may seem to take some time but it is rock solid and allows me to enter very accurate notes.  

One disadvantage of using TABIT for my DADGAD arrangements is the fact it does not have standard music notation but in fact only has TAB itself. I have tried to import my tab from TABIT into other programs like FINALE and such but have not had much luck yet doing that. I also am finding that a good solid accurate  and well notated song with just TAB is worth far more to a potential user of the song then tab and notation where the notation is not up to par. 

Once I have the basic song notes in place I then go back with TABIT and add slides and hammer ons and other things that will help the end user be able to play the arrangement effectively.  I then print the final score to a PDF file and then use PDF editor to add copy right notice, instructions and other details. What I then end up with is a very useful solid tab score ready for a guitarist to use for learning the arrangement. 

The other tool I am using now is video. I will be making a video showing how to play these arrangements of DADGAD Hymns soon to this website.  I also plan to make a video soon that will show my process of creating an arrangement in DADGAD using the TABIT software. 


Before getting to involved in all aspects of DADGAD guitar tuning it is a good idea to discuss how you tune your guitar from standard tuning to DADGAD tuning.

Standard Guitar tuning is EADGBE from lowest string to the highest string. I grew up learning guitar as most players do using EADGBE standard tuning and still love this tuning for sure.  But I have found that DADGAD tuning opens up a whole new world of Celtic Model possibilities.

So to tune your guitar to DADGAD you start with the lowest E string and de-tune that down to a D note. I recommend a good guitar tuner to help you with these steps. The second lowest string is A already so just leave that as is.  The third lowest string is D already from standard tuning so just leave that also as is.  The fourth lowest string is G so leave that as is also.  The 5th lowest string is B in standard tuning so de-tune that down to A.  The final 6th lowest string is a E note in standard tuning so de-tune that to D. So if everything went as planned you should now have a nice DADGAD tuning which is D the lowest string , A the next lowest and D the next lowest and G and so on.

I also use a capo a lot with DADGAD tuning so this gives you a lot of nice options up and down the neck and is helpful so that all your DADGAD songs don't start sounding all the same.

My next Blog tomorrow will be starting with simple chord shapes in DADGAD so that you can play along with anyone! 


A DADGAD arranged Hymn can be perfect for a guitar solo played during your church's offering or other short church service segment like during perhaps Communion or even starting or ending a worship service.

If your church is anything like our Westminster Pres Church here in Southern Oregon you might have a praise band that leads in worship for 25 minutes or so before the sermon.  This form of praise and worship is very effective and used by many churches around the world.  What I have found is that playing a soft, melodic and well arranged DADGAD tuned acoustic guitar solo during that same church service perhaps during the offering provides a much needed contrast to the louder praise and worship songs and offers church members a chance to both rest their ears but also relax and enjoy a softer approach. 

My guitar teacher - Jai Josefs - from years ago would tell me often - "Too much steak makes beans taste mighty good".  I think what he was saying is that contrast is both welcomed and critical for music of any type.  So if you have a more loud and dynamic praise band you will find a welcome and loved contrast in the service by playing a soft DADGAD Hymn. 

But why DADGAD tuning you might ask?   A very good question indeed.  I have found that DADGAD guitar tuning so very fun to play and arrange in as well as providing a very nice Celtic feel to a Hymn arrangement that people often find very meaningful.  DADGAD provides the guitarist with both a modal Droned Low D note but also amazing 9ths and 11ths and other chordal structures very close as hand by nature of the DADGAD tuning itself.   Many band praise and worship songs tend to be very strong in the fundamental  I  IV V and such approach and hearing then a DADGAD arrangement with more of a CELTIC feel and somewhat ambiguous third (not really minor or major) is a super way to provide a service with a much needed contrast to the band songs. I have seen this many times in various church services I have played at.

But don't just limit yourself to Hymn arrangements. You can at times play a standard Celtic tune which itself will provide a nice contrast to other songs being played. I will be writting more about this in a new Blog Post soon. 

I should note too that I do play DADGAD tuned guitar arrangements also at more traditional church services, mostly during the offering and this also provides an excellent contrast to the heavy choir and chordal music.  

In summary I would say that you can not go wrong with adding a nice short 3 minute DADGAD HYMN arranged acoustic guitar solo somewhere in your church service, perhaps during the offering to provide a nice relief and contrast to other music being used. 

About DADGAD Guitar

DADGAD is an alternate method of guitar tuning that sometimes is called Celtic tuning. A standard tuned guitar uses EADGBE starting with the low E and ending with the high E. DADGAD on the other hand is tuned pretty much as the name shows - DADGAD or D for the low 6th string and D for the first or high string. 

DADGAD then refers to first the low D on far left of this diagram and then the next A and next D and so on. 

So to get to DADGAD tuning from standard guitar tuning you would de-tune the low E to a D and then keep the next A the same and then keep the next D the same and then keep the next G the same and then de-tune the next B down to A and then de-tune that final high E then to D. I will be creating a video on this soon also.

My approach to DADGAD guitar both playing and composition is very different then the approach to standard guitar tuning and composition and although it works very well for me it might not be for everyone. Having said this I will now explain my approach and outline why this works so well for me.

A bit of background first.  I studied music theory and song writing privately with Jai Josefs in Los Angeles area some years back. My study with Jai took almost 4 years and was extremely valuable.  What I have created then over the years is kind of my own hybrid approach to DADGAD based on the music theory learned from my lessons with Jai.  

Here is where things get perhaps a bit creative and not so main stream. Rather then rely on learning chord shapes in the DADGAD guitar tuning, which is what I did learning guitar as most of us have done with standard tuning, I based my approach to composition on melodic structure only with harmony added but not in a strict chord sense but more of a harmonic triad or set.  I will explain.

I recently recorded a CD of DADGAD Hymns titled appropriately Hymns For Guitar. I rarely used chords in DADGAD tuning but based my arrangement entirely on melodic structure and basic harmonic support really relying on the aspects of DADGAD tuning for supportive harmonic additions.  

While studying DADGAD guitar with Alex De Grassi at a three day camp some years back I ran by my arrangement of the DADGAD Hymn - Amazing Grace and Alex commented that it really does work so it was kind of a ah ha moment for me that I was on the right track. 

If you asked me what chords I used with this arrangement I would have to figure them out to tell you because it was so melodically driven and figured out on the spot as needed based on theory.  I am realizing that as I write this Blog I could in fact turn this into a downloadable E-book there is a lot to say on this topic indeed!  

So in the first verse of the arrangement of Amazing Grace  I found the first note of the melody which is an A and found that on the G string of DADGAD tuning second fret, but then to make things more interesting I used a slide from 1st fret G string to the 2nd fret on same G string then I found a very nice and desirable first harmonic "chord" which turned out to be open low D that same A on G string and open A and open D both first and second string.  This was nothing short of magical to me because DADGAD tuning provides me a pretty easy but beautiful harmonic structure here all in the same basic location.  As it turns out this particular "chord" is made up of just two notes namely A and D which would be really close to a D chord triad BUT here is the magic, at least to me; it is basically a D triad without the third or F#. This it is sort of an ambiguous chord in the sense that it is really neither D minor or D major but a bit ambiguous in nature.  If you then add the drone low D you have a very classic DADGAD harmonic structure that I would die for, just a great sound and one that has captured my imagination fully over the years. 

The melody then requires an F# note next which I found 1st string fourth fret and just play that single note while letting the other strings ring out some. After this I found the notes for a V7 of V or something like that and then played that with the next note of the song. 

I will conclude this blog post with a very important point that I just brought up in the previous paragraph and that is the idea of string ringing. This is for sure one of the great advantages of DADGAD. You can play the desired note and then you can let other strings around that note ring out and then often, though not always, but often work very well.

DADGAD tuning can be an adventure in creativity with the guitar and I hope you fall in love with this tuning too as I have done over the years.