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Dadgad Tuning on Guitar

Updated on December 26, 2021
Jon Green profile image

Definitely the cheapest way to expand your range of guitar sounds, try open tunings.I dedicate a guitar to each tuning and leave it.


DADGAD is a tuning developed by Davy Graham in the early 1960s. To change your guitar from normal tuning EADGBE just do the following:

Tune strings 1, 6 down from E to D. You can use string 4 (D) as a reference note.

Then tune string 2 down from B to A : reference note is open string 5 (A). That's it.

My new hub Guitar Tunings has an overview of the most useful open tunings for guitar. Using a Snark tuner or similar can help with the tuning change.

See also DADGAD tuning for guitar, another new hub - also DADGAD chords.

DADGAD basics

My new hub Guitar in DADGAD Tuning- chords has chord pictures for this tuning, and more info added.

First, try to forget about normal tuning chord shapes, they won't work. String numbers: string 1 is the thinnest string, string 6 is the thickest.(and lowest in pitch)

Play fret 2 (string 3) and fret 4 (string 4) with all the other strings open = D chord.

Play fret 2 strings 5 and 6, all others open = Em chord (same as normal Em but across one string)

Play fret 5 strings 5 and 6 with fret 4 string 3, others open = G chord. Move everything up 2 frets for an A chord. Tip: I think of this as a kind of E shape, but mangled. You could get away with two notes, leaving out the 5th string, or muting it.

D major scale: 0 2 4 5 (string 6) 0 2 4 5 (string 5)

Try using these elements together, using open strings as much as possible.

It should start sounding Celtic and enchanting!

The link below is for subscription to Acoustic Guitar magazine - a highly recommended publication that I'm an affiliated to - there is a back catalogue of lessons on DADGAD that is well worth studying.

DADGAD in use

Many guitarists use this tuning, and it's very common in Irish music as it enables you to play melody and chords together, as in Pierre Bensusan's piece on the video. He's such a great player but French - nobody's perfect. Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) uses it on acoustic tracks.

Personally, I think DADGAD is really useful and use it as much as open G - which is covered in my other hub, Guitar in open G tuning. Both tunings are great for coming up with new ideas for compositions, partly because they force you to think about guitar in a different way, partly because the sound is so nice and brings out the tone from acoustics.

Playing in different keys is also easy, by using a capo.

If the capo is at fret 2, the key will be E

At fret 3, the key will be F

At fret 5, it will be G

At fret 7, it will be A.

In an ideal world, have a guitar dedicated to open tunings, and leave it there. This can give you the extra options on string gauge for example - as the pitch is lowered it's worth trying heavier string gauges. Possibly a .13 set.

Open D tuning

Joni Mitchell uses a similar tuning: D A D F♯ A D. As you can see, only the third string is different, and is tuned down one semitone. This is a nice tuning, used for Both Sides Now and other songs, Big Yellow Taxi may be the best known song to use this tuning. For a solo guitarist, the open D, Open G and DADGAD tunings create a powerful and full-range sound.Try the website, where there is a wealth of information about Joni and her many tunings, and lots of chord charts for her songs.

It's a great website and a fantastic resource for guitarists and songwriters.

Also highly recommended, the book by hal Leonard, Joni Mitchell Complete So Far. There are numerous inaccuracies, but despie this it is a great resource for songwriters, pianists and guitarists.

I also have a new hub called Guitar in Open D tuning, with the chord shapes to get you started.


You could take some easy songs (such as Hey Jude) and work out how to play them in this tuning. It's a great way to get a handle on it. Then work out how to play a harmonised scale of D:

D Em F#m G A Bm C#m7flat 5 D (Chord grids are on the other hub)

Which gives you the building blocks of songwriting - 3 major and 3 minor chords, plus a strange left-over one!

NB Chord pictures for DADGAD Tuning are now in my hub Guitar in DADGAD Tuning: Chords

Chord pictures for open G tuning, which is equally useful, are in my hub Chords in open G


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