“Dad-Gad” (DADGAD) is a popular alternate tuning used in Celtic, New Age, pop, rock, and folk styles. DADGAD is the most
well-known modal tuning and can be seen as an open Dsus4 (suspended 4th) chord. The resultant open, unresolved sound is a big part of its
charm. DADGAD is particularly well-suited for playing modal melodies with droning open strings.
DADGAD reached the mainstream through a circuitous route. Celtic folk singers and UK guitarists like John Renbourn and Bert Jansch
caught the ear of future rock god Jimmy Page, who began using the modal tuning in a rock setting—first, with the Yardbirds, and later, in Led Zeppelin.
Since the sixties, DADGAD has flourished across genres and has found a particular niche within the New Age movement, where it is especially
prized for its otherworldly modal quality. DADGAD is the sound of the Yardbirds’ “White Summer,” Led Zeppelin’s “Black Mountainside” and
“Kashmir,” Michael Hedges’ “Ragamuffin,” Phil Keaggy’s “Country Down,” Adrian Legg’s “Coging’s Glory,” Bert Jansch’s “St. Fiacre,” and many
pieces by Pierre Bensusan.
DADGAD is accomplished by lowering the sixth, second, and first strings in standard tuning a whole step, to D, A, and D, respectively.
This phrase conveys the unusual, vaguely ethnic quality associated with DADGAD tuning. There are allusions to Celtic and Eastern
modal sounds throughout the folksy figure, and the parallel octave passage, with droning open strings at the phrase ending, is absolutely definitive.
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The rock and pop side of DADGAD is presented in this chordal figure. Ringing open strings are a prominent part of every chord in the phrase,
which is the essence of the drone. Note the uncommon fingerings of typical suspended chords and triads, as well as the D5 power chord.
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This lesson comes from:
Stuff! Good Guitar Players Should Know