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.