The first thing we notice when we start playing open tunings after playing in standard tuning is that the guitar suddenly relaxes. It’s a bit like wearing a suit and tie and then suddenly being barefoot on the beach wearing shorts.
I was ready to post an article on something else today but I received a question from a blogger called MulledVine, it got me thinking. He was wanting to find some online resources e.g. good basic arrangements of DADGAD songs. OK, on the spot I couldn’t answer that because I write my own arrangements if I want to play a song. But I’ll see what I can find in the near future. But the question had a number of things that prompted me to write this article.
I had a great teacher (and many others) Ike Isaacs (Stephane Grapelli Quartet), I’d been playing 20 years when I met him and what he said was ‘you only need to learn about three songs (contrary to popular opinion)’. What he also said was you need to learn them inside out, play them in every key, play them with lots of chord substitutions and improvise over them. If you do all this to three good songs that have great chord changes, by the end of it you’ll be a great player.
Getting back to DADGAD. If you play an open chord in DADGAD it will give you a chord that I would call a Dsus4(no3rd).
This chord is neither minor or major because it doesn’t have a 3rd; a 3rd being the defining factor of whether it is min or maj. It has the first, a D note, a 5th an A note and the 4th note of the D scale G ( D, E, F sharp, G, 1234).
A lot of people would like the 3rd ( an F sharp) to make a standard D chord, me I don’t mind, it’s implied in some way, the ear fills in the gaps. One of the beauties of DADGAD is that it doesn’t sound like normal tuning. But if you want a D sounding chord without the frills, the added G note, all you need to do is add a finger at the second fret on your 3rd string and it will give you another A note, so what you have now is a stack of D’s and A’s. This is very useable regardless of all the repeated notes.
Lots of songs have 3 chords, so for this post I’ll add a couple of other chords. To play a G (type of) chord is very simple, just add three fretted notes, one to the 3rd string on the 4th fret, one to the 6th string on the 5th fret, and also a note at the 5th fret of the 2nd string. The notes you would have then would be G A (avoid this low A when you strum) D B D D. This is a G chord. In some tunes, leaving the 2nd string open and adding that high A is quite sweet and useable.
The next chord we add will be an A chord. All you need to do is slide the fingers up two frets.
You’ll have A A D C sharp E D. You can use the added high D note depending on the tune.
Now, above we have three foundation chords in the key of D, with 3 chords we can play a lot of simple tunes.
Many classical players have a glorious guitar technique, but sometimes ( not always) they haven’t developed an ear because when they studied guitar they learnt to rely on dots, dots are a bit like training wheels, there’s a time to get rid of them. The remedy that I find is useful for fixing this is to sit with a guitar, hum a few notes and then play them. Then gradually get to the point where you can hum a whole melody and then play it. Whenever I work with a singer I always learn to play a complete arrangement of a song that includes the melody and the chords together. If the singer falls off the stage or falls in love with someone in the audience and runs off, I can keep playing.
If you are interested in DADGAD. I highly recommend two things, artilcles from acoustic guitar magazine Oct 2007 edition and also the April 1997 edition if you can get your hands on it. Also the Mel Bay Complete Celtic Fingerstyle Guitar Book By Stefan Grossman, Duck Baker and El McMeen has some good arrangements. update I have checked the book this evening and I have noticed there are only three tunes in there that are DADGAD, but there are numerous arrangements by El McMeen in CGDGAD, these tunes are beautiful to play. There is a simple arrangement at http://www.guitarnoise.com/article.php?id=548. which is worth a look and could easily be developed into something much larger.
In a nutshell, what I’m implying in this article is:
- Develop an ear for melody and the ability to play what you here
- Learn some basic chords in DADGAD
- DADGAD is different to normal tuning and chords are implied not necessarily played
The idea of playing in DADGAD is to broaden your musical possibilities. Take a simple 3 chord song that you know and try and put it into the key of D.
To be continued…