author: hounddogmusic12 date: 09/14/2009 category: the basics
rating: 9 / votes: 20 
Playing an alternate tuning can be somewhat intimidating to beginning and even intermediate guitarists, but with just a little work, you will be amazed at just how versatile the DADGAD tuning can be. You can play some of the most beautiful major chord voicings along with some of the most haunting minor voicings, and it's not that difficult to pick up. Let's get started. First, let's learn how to tune the guitar. You simply lower the 1st, 2nd, and 6th strings one whole step. If you tune the guitar to itself without a tuner it looks like this....
Ok, now that we can tune the guitar, how do we play it? First, undertand the notes of the open strings played together form a Dsus4 chord, so the best place to start is the key of D since you can play any of the open strings at pretty much anytime, which makes for some really nice "drone chord" voicings. Let's learn a few chords in the key of D Here's a pretty common chord progression.
  D5    A5     Bm7     G5 

Here are a few other chord voicings within the key of D major
Em11   224000
F#m    xx4244
C#dim  x4567x
Ok, now that we have some chord shapes under our belts, let's learn a few tricks to make them more interesting. First, when you are playing the D5 chord, or any other 5 chord, understand that it is neither major nor minor, it is what's called a power chord. To make the D5 chord major, we need to add an F# note, and to do that, simply add the 4th fret to any of the open D strings and it will function as a major chord. Or to make it minor add the 3rd fret to any of the open D strings.
   major 3rds          minor 3rds 

If you don't understand what I mean by major and minor 3rds, I highly recommend that you take some time to look at my other lessons. A technique I like to use when strumming the D5 power chord to give it a major feel is to pull-off 4th fret to open on the first string and hammer-on from open to 4th fret on the 2nd this...
Try the same example, but instead of pulling off from the 4th fret to open on the 1st string, pull off from the 3rd fret to open on the first string and hammer on from open to the 3rd fret on the 2nd string for a minor feel. If that is too confusing, just look at the tab above and where you see the two 4's....change them to 3's. Let's look at some alterations to the A5 chord. The most obvious would be to go from an A5 to an Asus4, you simply lift your finger off the 1st string and play the open D. x02200 Or to play a true Amaj chord, you can barre the 2nd fret up to the 4th string and pick up the C# note at the 4th fret 2nd string. x02242 (drop the open 5th string and that is a moveable shape with the root on the 3rd string) Now the G5 chord...lift your fingers off of the 1st and 2nd strings and play them open to get a Gsus2 5x0000 or 550000 To play a Gmaj chord, add the B note at the 4th fret, 3rd string 5x0455 Let's examine another easy technique that makes this tuning interesting. Look at the tuning itself, you have 3 D notes on open strings, the 1st, 4th and 6th strings. So you know when you move up the neck to play octaves you simply play those strings on the same fret... Something I like to do when playing is to walk down the D major or minor scale using the octaves on the 1st and 4th strings and letting the open 2nd string ring through as a drone tone, or pedal tone...
Kind of sounds like Zakk Wylde's idea on Momma I'm Coming Home Now try the same principle using the D minor scale
You can also mix up the order of the scale rather than walking straight up and down. And you can also strum these examples picking up some open strings rather than play single notes...whatever sounds good to you is right! One last idea for this lesson...for the "metal heads"...or for anyone looking to add a slightly heavier feel to their playing...alot of people already know about dropping the 6th string E note down a step to a D note..or a "dropped D" reason behind this is to get a lower bass note, which gives a deeper, heavier sound...another reason is because it makes playing power chords on the lower strings extremely easy and can allow for some really fast changes. To play a power chord on the 6th and 5th strings you simply barre the two strings and play them at the same's an example of a simple riff using power chords
You can also play power chords by barring the 4th, 5th and 6th strings, you just add an octave of the root and if you want a really deep sound go up 2 frets from the barre and play an octave of the this... F 4446xx or barre all 6 strings, just like the original D5 chord F 444644 Now try coming up with your own songs using some or all of these ideas. If this lesson goes over well, I may do a short series on some more advanced chord voicings and playing ideas using the DADGAD tuning. As always, feel free to post questions or comments and I will answer all questions to the best of my ability. Now get to practicing.
More hounddogmusic12 lessons:
+ Modes And Diatonic Chord Progressions The Basics 07/21/2010
+ Chord Building 101 Chords 08/25/2009
+ Playing With Triads For Beginners 07/13/2009
+ Learning The Fretboard Chords 06/22/2009
+ Understanding Guitar Triads Chords 06/19/2009
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