As you progress in your guitar journey, you might hear the terms “DADGAD chords” or “DADGAD tuning” and wonder, what on earth does that mean?
In this guide, we’ll discuss what DADGAD is, how to tune your guitar to DADGAD, why you should try it, and some common chords that you can play with DADGAD tuning. You will see how easy and versatile DADGAD tuning is, and become familiar with this popular alternative tuning pattern.
What is DADGAD?
DADGAD tuning is a style of tuning common in Irish/Celtic music. In it, the guitar strings are tuned to D, A, D, G, A, D instead of E, A, D, G, B, E. This playable tuning variation adds depth and character to your guitar playing, and you’ll get to impress your friends and family with your guitar knowledge and skill (hey, bragging rights are always fun, right?)
DADGAD tuning is similar to open D tuning, with one difference. In open D tuning, the strings are tuned D, A, D, F#, A, D, while in DADGAD, the strings are tuned D, A, D, G, A, D. When open D tuning is used, strumming all six strings together creates a D major chord. In contrast, when DADGAD tuning is used, strumming all six strings together creates a Dsus4 chord. (Typical EADGBE tuning creates an Em11 chord when strummed open, which does not sound good.)
How to tune your guitar to DADGAD
Tuning your guitar to DADGAD is actually pretty simple. In typical guitar tuning, the strings are tuned to E, A, D, G, B, E. For DADGAD tuning, three of the strings stay the same – the A, D, and G strings. The low E gets dropped to a D, the B gets dropped to an A, and the high E gets dropped to a D. It looks like this:
A = A
D = D
G = G
Once you have tuned your guitar to DADGAD, when you strum the open strings you are playing a Dsus4 chord.
Why should you try DADGAD tuning?
DADGAD tuning opens up a world of possibilities. Many chords are possible to be played with only one finger. In a way, DADGAD tuning makes the guitar even easier to play than standard tuning!
DADGAD tuning also gives the guitar a rich, evocative sound that you won’t get with standard tuning. Playing the open strings on DADGAD doesn’t sound as harsh as playing the open strings with standard tuning.
Plus, aforementioned bragging rights. It’s very important to keep those in mind.
Hopefully this quick lesson on DADGAD chords and tuning will open your eyes to the world of possibilities there are in guitar playing!
Some common (and extremely simple) DADGAD chords
The D chord in DADGAD is played with just one finger. Place your first finger on the G string at the second fret and strum all the strings together. You just played one of the simplest D chords ever!
Technically, this is a D5 chord, but for DADGAD chords this works well as a D.
A G chord in DADGAD is slightly more complicated than the D chord is, but is still not hard. It is more similar to a typical guitar chord, because you need to use three fingers to play it. To play it, place your fingers like this:
First finger on the G string at the fourth fret
Second finger on the low D string (former low E string) at the fifth fret
Third finger on the low A string at the fifth fret
Strum all six strings
This is technically a Gadd9 chord, but it works well as a G chord with the distinctive DADGAD character.
To play an A chord with DADGAD tuning, all you need to do is place your fingers for the G chord and slide them two frets up the neck of the guitar. It will end up looking like this:
First finger on the G string at the sixth fret
Second finger on the low D string (former low E string) at the seventh fret
Third finger on the low A string at the seventh fret
Strum all six strings together
This is technically an Aadd4 chord, but works well as an A chord in DADGAD tuning.
B chords in DADGAD tuning are much simpler than typical B chords. No barre chords necessary here!
To play B minor, slide your fingers up the neck of the chord so they land as follows:
First finger on the G string at the seventh fret
Second finger on the low D string (former low E string) at the ninth fret
Third finger on the low A string at the ninth fret
Strum all six strings together
This is technically a Bm7 chord, due to the second open A string.
With these four chords, you can play most songs in DADGAD. How easy is that?
Some Common DADGAD Questions
What key is DADGAD in?
DADGAD tuning is extremely versatile because it is not specifically in major or minor key, so it can be used to play either. DADGAD is extra suitable for playing in the D key.
Is DADGAD an open tuning?
When DADGAD-tuned strings are played open, they result in a D suspended fourth chord. Since it is a suspended chord, it is considered open, neither major nor minor.
What are some songs in DADGAD tuning?
Some famous songs that were played in DADGAD tuning are Ed Sheeran – Photograph (Live version), Led Zeppelin – Kashmir (version 3), Jon Foreman – Your Love is Enough, Fink – All Cried Out. To see more DADGAD songs, check out this list.
What is DADGAD tuning used for?
DADGAD tuning is most often used in Celtic music, although it has also been used in rock, folk, metal, and many other genres. It can really be used in any type of music.
If you want to learn how to play even more DADGAD chords, check out this chord chart that can be found here.
DADGAD also sounds really great when played fingerstyle. Check out our guide to the best fingerstyle guitars!