Saturday, November 8, 2008

DADGAD tuning

DADGAD, D modal tuning or Celtic tuning is an alternate guitar tuning most associated with Celtic music, though it has also found use in rock and other genres. Instead of the standard EADGBE tuning, the six guitar strings are tuned, from low to high, DADGAD. When tuning to DADGAD from standard tuning, this is accomplished by tuning the first and sixth strings down a whole tone (two steps) from E to D, as well as the second string from B to A.

DADGAD was popularised by British folk guitarist Davey Graham. Graham employed the tuning to great effect in his treatments of celtic music, but also the folk music of India and Morocco. The first guitarists in Irish traditional music to use the tuning were Mícheál Ó Domhnaill and Dáithí Sproule; today it is a very common tuning in the genre. Other proponents of the tuning include Russian Circles, Stan Rogers, Jimmy Page, Artie Traum, Pierre Bensusan, Eric Roche, Laurence Juber, Tony McManus, Bert Jansch, Richard Thompson, Dick Gaughan, Soig Siberil, Gilles Le Bigot, Imaad Wasif, Jeff Tweedy, Paul McSherry, Ben Chasny and Trey Anastasio.

The suitability of DADGAD to Celtic music stems from the fact that it facilitates the use of a number of moveable chords which retain open strings. These act as a drone on either the bass or treble strings, approximating the voicings used in traditional Scottish and Irish pipe music.

The DADGAD tuning was used extensively by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and The Yardbirds in the late '60s and '70s. While with The Yardbirds, Page recorded an instrumental entitled White Summer, itself heavily derived from the first recorded DADGAD tune, Davey Graham's arrangement of the traditional Irish tune 'She Moved Through the Fair'. On Led Zeppelin's eponymous first album, Led Zeppelin, he used this guitar tuning to perform "Black Mountain Side", though he detuned the entire guitar by one-half a step for the recording, so it was really Db-Ab-Db-Gb-Ab-Db (where the 'b' denotes a flattened note)--the piece which was strongly influenced by Bert Jansch's earlier arrangement of a traditional Irish song called "Blackwater Side" (though Jansch actually used a simpler 'drop D' tuning). Page later revisited the DADGAD tuning for the song "Kashmir", which appeared on the band's sixth album Physical Graffiti.

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