A ukulele player may quickly find that some tunings can make it quite a bit easier to play the instrument than Standard Tuning (EADGBE). For instance, in Double Drop D Tuning (DADGAD), many chords can be played with a single finger.
Note: Dropped D tuning comes in two forms: DADGBE and its variation DADGAE. Double Drop D tuning has two forms because of the two forms above, i.e., DADGBD and DADGAD.
What is DADGAD Tuning
DADGAD tuning is also called D suspended 4th tuning since the ukulele is tuned to the D suspended 4th chord. A player who strums all the six open strings of the guitar when tuned to DADGAD is strumming a D suspended 4th chord (notes: D, G, A).
DADGAD (pronounced: “DAD”…”GAD”) tuning opens up a new avenue for ukulele playing and song composition. A player can be inspired to create a whole new collection of songs simply by trying another tuning. This tuning particularly works well with folk music, but can cover any style of music, from A to Z.
Black Mountain Side and Kashmir by Led Zeppelin
The songs Black Mountain Side and Kashmir by Led Zeppelin are good examples of DADGAD tuning. The song Kashmir can also be played with Dropped D tuning (DADGBE), but the entire song is better arranged using Double Drop D tuning (DADGAD).
The song by London’s famed Nick Harper called Caterpillar on a Cocoa Leaf serves as another example of the use of DADGAD tuning. Harper uses a variety of Altered Tunings. In Caterpillar on a Cocoa Leaf he changes his tuning in mid-song to DADGAD.
How to Tune to Double Drop D Tuning
Double Drop D tuning is a distinctive tuning in the key of D. When tuning, a player will start at the low six string on their guitar and tune it to D, then the fifth string to A, then the fourth string to D, then the third string to G, then the second string to A, and finally the first string to D. An electronic chromatic tuner works well for this.
Note: Since Standard Tuning is E, A, D, G, B, E a player just has to tune down the two E strings to D (hence the name, Double Drop D Tuning) and then tune down the B string to A. The other three strings are still in Standard Tuning.
How to Play DADGAD Chords
One Finger Chords are very useful. The nice thing about this tuning is the fact that a player can play many chords with just one or two fingers. Also a player usually does not have to worry about what strings to strum. They can strum all or some of the strings to get a decent sound. They can also play individual notes and arpeggios with the DADGAD chords.
An ukulele player can use the Standard Chord Progressions in the Key of D (D, E, F# , G , A, B, C#) effectively when tuned to DADGAD, that is:
ii, V, I ……………..= Em, A, D
I, IV, V, I ………….= D, G, A, D
I, vi, ii, V, I ……….= D, Bm, Em, A, D
I, iii, vi, ii, V, I …..= D, F#m, Bm, Em, A, D
I, vi, IV, V ……….= D, Bm, G, A
How to Play DADGAD Scale Patterns
The following scale patterns will assist a player in learning the fretboard in DADGAD tuning. The scales will generally sound nice over many of the basic chords mentioned above. A player should try these scales over a I chord (D major variety) and a vi chord (B minor variety). They should record a chord progression mentioned above an improvise over it with the scales below.
D Major Scale (D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#)
B Pentatonic (5 tone) Minor Scale (B, D, E, F#, A)
B Harmonic Minor Scale (B, C#, D, E, F#, G, A#)
B Melodic Minor Scale (B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A#)
Finger Picking DADGAD Chords
DADGAD tuning is also great for finger picking. Note: T = Thumb, I = Index finger, M = Middle finger, and A = Ring finger. A player should practice the finger picking patterns below with DADGAD chord progressions. They should try to use the thumb on the Bass Strings (thick strings 6, 5, and 4) and the fingers on the Treble Strings (thin strings 3, 2, and 1).
Finger Picking Patterns:
T, I, M, A, M, I, …
T, I, A, I, M, I, …
T, I, T, M, T, A, …
T, I, M, A, M, I, T, I, …
T, I, A, I, M, I, A, I, …
T, I, T, M, T, A, T, M, T, I, …
Don Ross and Andy Mckee
There are many notable players today that use altered tunings. In particular, one should check out Canadian Don Ross and his tuning data base. His song Brand New Day uses DADGAD tuning. He has described his style of music as “Heavy Wood.”
In addition, the American player from Kansas, Andy McKee uses altered tunings and modern acoustic guitar playing techniques. He was popularized by his many YouTube videos, especially his performance of the song Drifting in which he uses some interesting tapping/percussion techniques.
There are many altered tuning options for a player. A whole new world of possibilities can open up to a player simply by experimenting with a new tuning. A new tuning will force a player to try something different and not to be enslaved to old patterns. It will force a guitarist to listen to what they are playing and try new patterns and techniques. There is an enormous amount of possible useful tunings and thus an enormous amount of untapped creative potential. DADGAD tuning is only one of many useful possibilities.
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