Thursday, March 17, 2011

Guitar Workshop: D Modal Tuning (DADGAD)

You just got back from the local Irish pub for the usual Saint Paddy's Day soiree, and there was a band there with a guitar player doing an unusual tuning, and you said to yourself, “Dude, I have GOT to learn how he does that!” Well, if you can master this in the next 24 hours, you may be ready for when the festivities continue over the weekend (and you know they will), and on to Gaelic festivals all summer. Welcome to the world of Celtic backup guitar playing with “DADGAD” or D Modal tuning.

This tuning gets its name from how the guitar is tuned, from the sixth to the first fret -- D, A, D, G, A, and D. Only the sixth, second, and first strings are tuned down a whole step. In Part 1, instructor Rob Schumann gives an overall view of the chord system. As most Irish fiddle tunes are in the key of D, making D Modal tuning the staple for playing second fiddle to -- well, the fiddle. This clip shows how it goes from low to high, to give you the basic idea.

In Part 2, the instructor goes into more detail. While there is a barre chord system at work here, some of the strings remain open regardless of position. This is to maintain the "drone" quality that is distinct to the genre. In Part 3, the focus turns to the minor scale. This clip ends with a rendering of an unnamed original composition, which while not strictly Irish, does show the possibilities for ambient "new age" genre.

But, hey, you wanted to know about that Irish thing, right? So here's a clip of the brother/sister duo of Qristina and Quinn Bachand performing a medley of Scottish (!!!) tunes -- Haste to the Wedding, Banish Misfortune, Little Miss Susan Cooper, and The Wedding Reel -- at "The Creamery" Ceilidh Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, on August 14, 2007.

Party on, while there's still time.

1 comment:

Marka said...

Good videos, but Pierre Bensusan did NOT develop DADGAD tuning. It existed well before he started playing. British guitarist Davy Graham popularized it in the mid-'60s but her certainly didn't invent it either. No one really knows who came up with it, and the tuning has been around Irish music for at least the last century. Cheers.