Techniques for Playing Hymns for DADGAD Guitar

Today's blog will discuss a few techniques for playing hymns for DADGAD guitar using the fingerstyle technique.

I will be using some short excerpts from my arrangement of the Hymn "This Is My Father's World" which will be included in the upcoming Hymns For DADGAD guitar songbook to be released early 2019 by Steve Massey.

The first video below is a short part showing some techniques for DADGAD fingerstyle or fingerpicked guitar. This video shows both the right and left hands.  The first thing I would like to point out is the use of a quick arpeggio on the first chord. Refer also below to the songbook notation to see the arpeggio defined as that squiggly line. (This notation is not yet a perfect match to my playing but that will be fixed on a new video release coming in a few weeks.)


This technique will be used in many of the songs in the upcoming Hymns For DADGAD guitar songbook. This use of the quick arpeggio is totally optional. While it does add some color and interest to the arrangement it is not required. You can simply play that chord in DADGAD normally with all notes played at the same time. 

The second DADGAD technique I would like to point out is the use of the dead note x in the third measure as shown above in the guitar notation example. This is also optional but does add some interest to the arrangement.  It sounds a bit like snare drum rim hit. I learned this technique from Alex De Grassi at one of his weekend seminars I attended some years back. The video below shows a closeup of the right hand and how it stops the string sound with a percussive hit again noted with the X in the guitar notation. This is a fun technique and should not be over used, but can add some color to the song. 


The final technique for DADGAD fingerstyle or fingerpicked guitar in this blog is shown now in the video example below. This is the left hand close up of the same portion of my arrangement of "This Is My Father's World".  This technique is the hardest to explain and at the same time the most important of all the techniques discussed in this blog entry. With practice you should be able in time to move from string to string (sometimes called Cross String in fingerstyle guitar) with ease and with no gaps so that it all sounds together and seem-less. I will be writing a blog soon on some practical examples of how to learn this. This is important for overall flow of the song. 


While this blog is short it does contain some valuable DADGAD fingerstyle or fingerpicked guitar techniques for playing Hymns for DADGAD guitar.


How to Tune Your Guitar to DADGAD


This is Blog 1.1 in the series of how to play DADGAD guitar. Refer back to my blog on How to Play Fingerpicked Guitar for beginners 1.0 for the first blog in this series.  This is the next blog with more information now. As noted in the 1.0 blog I am going to switch over to DADGAD guitar tuning now for this lesson and for all lessons going forward.

Let's start with your guitar already tuned to standard tuning and then I will show you how to tune to DADGAD. Standard tuning is EADGBE starting with lowest E string. Let's start with the highest E string.  Here is a quick chart to show your guitar in standard tuning:


6 5 4 3 2 1

So let's take that first E string - or string number 1 and de-tune that down to a D note. Next let's take the second string - or string number 2 and de-tune that down to a A.  The third string or string number 3 will remain as G.  The fourth string - or string number 4 will remain as D. The fifth string or string number 5 will remain as an A. And finally the sixth string or string number 6 will be detuned down to a D.

Now what you have is DADGAD tuning.  Here is a quick diagram to show our new DADGAD tuning.


6 5 4 3 2 1

I think you will have tons of fun playing in DADGAD. I have focused primarily on DADGAD tuning now for almost 20 years. I find it still challenging and so enjoyable now even more then when I started. 

My upcoming blogs will dive deeper into how to play DADGAD and will include YouTube videos also from time to time.

How to Play Fingerpicked guitar for beginners 1.0

This blog will discuss how to play fingerpicked guitar for beginners. While many of the blogs written on this website are for playing more intermediate DADGAD Hymns I will expand my writing a bit to include just beginner fingerpicked guitar.

There are many "correct" ways to fingerpick a guitar and there are many great websites that already discuss these options. This blog will discuss my own approach to fingerpicked guitar which hopefully will be helpful for you as a guitarist.

Here is my own approach to fingerpicked guitar that I have used for years:

  • I use a Dunlap Medium Thumb Pick for all fingerpicked guitar songs. I am right handed so this thumb pick goes on my right hand on the thumb with the open pick portion facing down. 
  • There are worlds of different ways to fingerpick a guitar as I am sure you have seen on both websites and on YouTube videos. I am going to show you a simple pattern for your right picking hand for the very beginner. Kind of an easy way to start off learning the fingerpicked guitar method.
  • I am going to have you plant your right pinky finger on the guitar just below and to the right of the sound hole. Right now there are many trained guitarists that will want to stop this method right now, but keep in mind great players like Tommy Emmanuel that do still play with their pinky planted on the guitar. I have done this for almost 58 years now, so I am just going to teach this method even though it is frowned on by many fingerstyle guitarists today. 
  • Having planted the pinky then on the guitar you now have the thumb, the index finger, the middle finger and the ring finger for your fingerpicking.
  • I will start you off now with a very simple pattern just to get the idea of fingerpicking in general. While this website is dedicated to the DADGAD guitar tuning, I am going to use standard guitar tuning for this lesson on guitar fingerpicking.  So strap on that thumb pick and let's get started
  • I will be using just the D chord for this lesson. For absolute beginners the D chord we will use is Index Finger on the third G string second fret and the middle finger on the first E string on the second fret and the fourth ring finger on the second B string third fret.  Then notes in the D chord are D F# A.
  • The pattern will be the thumb, index finger, middle finger and ring finger and then repeat in reverse order, one note at a time. 
  • Here is a short video to show this pattern in more detail.
  • So again you play the thumb first then the index finger then the middle finger and then the ring finger and then reverse that order.  It is a good idea to practice this alot and get to where it is somewhat natural to play. This will take some time and each day as you practice you will become more and more confident in playing this.  
  • Future videos will add some more complexity to the pattern.  I also will be changing over to DADGAD guitar tuning in the next video.
  • Happy fingerpicking and thanks for stopping by!

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 to Help With DADGAD Tuning Playing

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!

DADGAD Guitar Cross String Technique

DADGAD guitar cross string technique is a very deep subject and one could easily write an entire book on just this one element of fingerstyle guitar. Before I dive in with a few details on DADGAD cross string technique I want to say that without this technique I don’t think I would have ever moved from standard guitar tuning to DADGAD. Cross string technique is so foundational to the DADGAD tuning that it would be hard to have one without the other.

Ok that is fine, but what exactly is cross string fingerstyle guitar with DADGAD?  Let’s take a slur pulloff for example in DADGAD.  I have my guitar tuned to DADGAD and have a capo on fret number 2 right now. You don’t have to do this, but I like playing a lot with second fret capo because it is a bit easier on my left and right hand after playing for awhile. Anyway cross stringing lends well to arpeggios.Basically the way I look at cross string DADGAD technique is playing either a chord note by note or even a scale note by note but not staying on the current string but borrowing the next consecutive note in the arpeggio from a neighboring string. Kind of magical really and I think the primary benefit of cross string technique with DADGAD is simply that you can play a nice arpeggio and let each individual note ring out from each string and thus create a delicate and very interesting ringing tonal sound that for me is very addictive actually.

Below here now are two very quick videos I just created that show the right hand and left hand technique for a very simple DADGAD arpeggio using cross string with just one note change.

The cross string left hand example above here shows in DADGAD the F# note on first string 4th fret and then and same time A note on 4th string on 7th fret play at same time followed then by second set of D note on second string 5th fret then next the C# note third string 6th fret and then repeat that whole thing again but this time just take your finger off that first string F#note and play open first string which is an E note since we have capo set to 2nd fret all tuned to DADGAD. this kind of provides a very simple cross string example of a note change in a simple arpeggio.

So again just above here is a short video I created showing what is happening above but this time with the right hand.


This has been a very simple and perhaps too short of a blog on cross string DADGAD guitar technique. I will try and show more examples too. I have to say that DADGAD along with cross string has forever changed my approach to the guitar.

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!!

Finding Your Own Voice With DADGAD Guitar and Finding Your Own Guitar’s Voice!


The title of this blog is a bit strange, but hang in there with me and I think you will be glad you stayed with this.  I have learned recently to let my guitars just be an expert at what they are, and not to try and make them into something they are not. All my guitars are tuned to DADGAD pretty much all the time, and in fact my Collings OM1A Deep Body has never been out of DADGAD from day one!  I have been trying different guitar string brands on the Collings for some time now but am back to just simple DAddario Phospher Bronze light EJ16 strings. The OM1A does one thing really well, it plays with authoritative, clarity and has great ringing tone with excellent sustain. I tried some other strings to kind of tame the sound a bit , but the OM1A does not want to be tamed!  It has an authoritative clear tone and will always have that. I have learned to more then accept this, I have learned to really enjoy this unique voice that it has.  The guitar does reward good clean playing in DADGAD and is a joy to play. But there is more to this.  I have found from practice recording that the OM1A really comes alive when I use a more authoritative right hand with DADGAD and kind of pick with more intension and dynamics. I have this one recording where I played with more power like this and it is by far the best the OM1A has ever sounded, not even a close second.  So there is kind of a marriage between letting the Om1A have it’s unique and strong voice but also letting the guitar reward the player with DADGAD tuning right hand picking technique to bring out that unique voice and certainly not try to hide it!

So in summary I have recently found that letting my guitars have their own unique voice and then playing , particularly with right hand technique so as to bring out that unique voice is a very rewarding experience.

Guitar Playing In Other Music Keys While Tuned To DADGAD


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.

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.