Alternate tunings are a way to explore your melodic and songwriting capabilities, and DADGAD is a great one. This alternate tuning is easy for guitarists of all skill levels and is great fun to play and compose on. Not to mention, you will find some of the most iconic songs by bands like Led Zeppelin are in DADGAD. Need we say more?
Scroll down to find out how to tune your guitar in DADGAD, interesting chords you can play in this tuning, and 21 songs in DADGAD tuning by some of the most popular musicians across the world. Let’s get started!
What is DADGAD Tuning?
DADGAD is a pretty easy tuning to get started with a very versatile sound, in case you’re thinking of playing around with alternate tunings. To put it simply, when you play all the open strings in DADGAD tuning, you are playing the Dsus4 chord.
This tuning was made popular by 1960’s folk guitarists like Bert Jansch and Davey Graham, and it truly exploded into public consciousness when bands like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd began using it in their tracks.
The open-ended sound of DADGAD is brilliant for musicians to get inspired by – it allows you to let go of typically repetitive chord shapes, and create new voicings and progressions by experimenting with your very own chord shapes and patterns.
List of Popular Songs in DADGAD Tuning
1. Kashmir by Led Zeppelin
Let’s kick off with one of the most iconic tracks to have ever been played in DADGAD tuning. Legendary rock band Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” is one of those epic crowd-pleasers that must be a part of your repertoire! Its hypnotic riff, mesmerizing string melody, and intense lyrics showcase the phenomenally successful band’s quintessential style. Despite its nearly eight and a half minute length, the track is pretty much made up of only four guitar riffs, including the signature opening riff. Apart from terrific riffs and superb singing, what works well are the varied rhythms going on. While the guitar is in triple metre, the vocals go in quadruple metre, with the drumming beautifully complimenting the two.
It’s odd how the band zeroed in on the title as none of the members had ever visited the place the track is named after. It was, in fact, a drive through a stretch of desolate Sahara desert in southern Morocco that inspired lead vocalist Robert Plant to pen down the lyrics in 1973. Recorded in 1974 and released in the band’s sixth album Physical Graffiti in 1975, “Kashmir” became a live staple and featured in Rolling Stone Magazine’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
2. Photograph by Ed Sheeran
A spell-binding composition crafted by the hugely popular singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, “Photograph” is a beginner-friendly song that’s played in DADGAD tuning. The track was originally played in standard tuning with the G string tuned down to E, but Sheeran chose to tune his guitar to DADGAD in the later live versions. We don’t know why he made the switch, but whatever the reason may be, it sounded fantastic in the new tuning! This 2015 single charted well, reaching the top five in many countries peaking at number ten on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Lyrically, this beautiful ballad describes the heartache of being apart from the beloved and was inspired by Sheeran’s long-distance relationship with his then-girlfriend. With only four chords and a fairly straightforward chord progression, the song stays simple without getting monotonous. Sheeran’s use of a lovely arpeggiated intro, some palm-muted strumming paired with his tender voice makes “Photograph” a real treat for the ears.
3. Circle by Slipknot
A classic folk tuning in a heavy metal song is a rather unconventional choice, but that’s what Slipknot is all about- making music that stands out! With grunge meets folk and a foot-tapping vibe, “Circle” is way different from what we are used to hearing from American metal giants. “Circle” and “Vermilion Pt.2” from their third album is incidentally the first time that band plays in an acoustic-driven avatar instead of their typical electric fare.
In our opinion, this softer, more melodic track is an underrated gem by Slipknot that will undoubtedly boost your guitar repertoire. “Circle” is powered by solid melodic vocals, muted drums, and some amazing acoustic work that’s played in the unusual D-A-D-G-A-D tuning with a capo on the second fret. So remember to tune it right whenever you are ready to learn this song.
4. Ain’t No Grave by Johnny Cash
Only a few rival the universal appeal and versatility of Johnny Cash! With a phenomenal career spread across genres ranging from country, folk, blues, and rock and roll and selling over 90 million records globally, Cash was America’s national treasure. The title track of his posthumous album American VI: Ain’t No Grave is a moving gospel originally written by Claude Ely when he was battling tuberculosis in 1934. Countless artists covered the song, but Cash’s cover of the tear-jerker truly stands out.
By the time “Ain’t No Grave” was recorded, the country legend’s health and voice were rapidly deteriorating, and he was months away from his death. Despite being impacted by poor health, Cash’s voice was as captivating as ever. This beautiful song was played in DADGAD tuning with two guitars. To play it, you’ll need to retune your acoustic from standard tuning by adjusting the sixth, second and first strings. The three strings will go down by two semitones to arrive at DADGAD.
5. Dear Maria Count Me In by All Time Low
A pop-punk classic that became famous for its wicked chord progression, fantastic harmony, and a quirky music video, “Dear Maria Count Me In” by All Time Low, certainly deserves mention here! The emo anthem was released by the American rock band in 2008 and fetched them the recognition that paved the way for an even more successful album Nothing Personal in 2009.
“Dear Maria Count Me In’s” success was revived in 2021 when it went viral on TikTok and made it to Spotify’s “Viral Hits” playlist as well as number three on UK Rock & Metal Singles Chart. The electric guitar in the song is played in DADGAD alternate tuning (Some versions – like this tutorial – tune the guitar to a half step lower than DADGAD and put a capo on the 1st fret), but you can just as well try it out on your acoustic first. If you haven’t heard this catchy track already, give it a listen, and we are certain you’ll be reaching for your six-string before it even ends!
6. Black Mountainside by Led Zeppelin
Another pure gold by one of the greatest rock bands of all time, Led Zeppelin, “Black Mountainside,” is a stunning piece of instrumental that uses DADGAD tuning. At just over 2 minutes, this is the shortest track on their self-titled debut album Led Zeppelin that was released in 1969. The song was inspired by an Irish folk song and perhaps the first time the band recorded something in DADGAD tuning. During their live performances, “Black Mountainside” was often combined with another instrumental masterpiece,” White Summer.” Together the two compositions were eleven minutes of epic guitar playing that left the crowd enthralled.
Led Zeppelin’s lead guitarist Jimmy Page was well known for experimenting with alternate tunings. For the tracks that had Celtic, Indian, or Arabic influence, Page would usually opt for DADGAD tuning. With the use of traditional Indian tabla, an overdubbed rapid guitar lick that sounds like a sitar and Irish folk roots, “Black Mountainside” is an excellent example of east meets west. This is easily one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs in DADGAD tuning.
7. That’s When You Came In by Steel Panther
“That’s When You Came In” by American rock band Steel Panther is one of the lesser-known tracks on this list that makes use of the unusual DADGAD tuning. Part of their 2016 live acoustic album From Lexxi’s Mom’s Garage, this song packs a sonic punch! Steel Panther’s Michael Starr’s powerful vocals and some fantastic acoustic work by Satchel make it thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.
But what we loved the most about the track is that easy to play and has a great rhythm. The lyrics, though, are crude and profane with a touch of humor, which’s pretty much in keeping with Steel Panther’s style. All in all, it’s a relatively simple composition with a straightforward chord progression, at least till the distortion bit begins. Check out this video tutorial to learn it from Satchel – Steel Panther’s guitarist himself!
8. Sligo Creek by Al Petteway
If you want to pick up some beautiful Celtic pieces in DADGAD tuning, be sure to check out Grammy-winner Al Petteway’s fantastic repertoire. Petteway’s revered fingerstyle playing is strongly influenced by the Celtic and Appalachian styles. You’ll find him employing a host of traditional techniques in his compositions, such as strong syncopated rhythm to harp-like cross string picking.
Released in 1997 as one of the tracks on Petteway’s Caledon Wood album, “Sligo Creek,” is a captivating melody with beautiful harmony. The song is propelled by Petteway’s catchy rhythm work and famous folk artist and his wife Amy White’s percussion. Other than “Sligo Creek,” the American folk guitarist’s notable compositions in the Celtic tuning include “Rise Up My Love,” “Wayfaring Stranger,” and “Chesapeake,” among many others.
9. Dueling Ninjas by Trace Bundy
Next up is a percussive fingerstyle marvel by Trace Bundy, aka “The Acoustic Ninja.” Released in 2004 as a part of Bundy’s studio album Adapt, “Dueling Ninjas” is a brilliant instrumental piece that is teeming with hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, harmonics, and other exciting techniques. “Dueling Ninjas” is without question a superb masterclass in percussive fingerstyle playing, and it is for this reason that we feel it is better suited to slightly more proficient players.
If you are in for a challenge, you should try picking up this song. In addition to the intricate acoustic skills we already mentioned, you’ll also be trying your hand at finger tapping and fast-paced arpeggios. Bundy plays “Dueling Ninjas” in DADGAD tuning with a capo on 4th Fret. To arrive at this tuning, you’ll have to retune your guitar from standard tuning by tuning down the two “E” strings down one tone and the “D” and “B” string down one tone to “A.”
10. Dia Libre by Pierre Bensusan
French-Algerian Guitarist Pierre Bensusan is arguably the master of fingerstyle playing in DADGAD tuning. Bensusan is so remarkably good at this alternate tuning that he now performs exclusively in it. Basically, any of Bensusan’s compositions offer excellent insights into different ways of playing in the Celtic tuning but for now, let’s jump to one of his more recent releases, “Dia Libre.”
The song features in Bensusan’s 2020 album Azwan that is an alluring blend of Celtic, jazz, and world music. “Dia Libre” kicks off with a magical light ringing that has a melancholic vibe to it. Complex harmonies and breathtaking violin by Christophe Cravero follow along with Bensusan’s signature jazz-inspired scat singing. It’s one of the slower tracks on our list and if you haven’t heard it already, check it out. You won’t be disappointed!
11. Black And White by Niall Horan
Released in 2020, “Black and White” by One direction’s former member Niall Horan is a pop-rock love ballad that’s played with a guitar tuned to DADGAD. It’s an upbeat, catchy single that showcases Horan’s vocal prowess and is a part of Horan’s second studio album Heartbreak Weather. The song’s love theme and arena singalong style have made it popular, especially with One direction fans.
In “Black and White,” Horan’s beautiful voice with a fast-paced acoustic guitar in the background brings out the urgency of his emotions really well. Playing the track is not very challenging with an easy chord progression and strumming pattern, making it a perfect pick for beginners. The entire song has been played with just four chords and two strumming patterns, one each for verse and chorus. You can use your index and middle finger to play the lovely arpeggiated intro on the 3rd and 4th strings. Check out the video to learn how to play this awesome track by Niall himself! This is one of my favorite DADGAD tuning songs.
12. Drifting by Andy McKee
Behold! Fans of fingerstyle for we have yet another master of the craft for you! Andy Mckee is an extraordinary guitarist with a fanbase in many countries thanks to his YouTube videos that have garnered over 100 million views! His 2001 instrumental piece “Drifting” is an absolute gem that focuses on the magic Mckee can spin with his renowned percussive fingerstyle.
Guitar enthusiasts who want to work on acing complex acoustic techniques like tapping, percussive slaps, harmonics, partial capos should explore McKee’s rich body of work. In “Drifting,” you’ll hear several of these fascinating techniques along with hammer-ons and pull-offs in DADGAD tuning. Before you get started, you’ll have to tune the sixth string down to D, the second string down to A, and the first string down to D. Like other renowned fingerstyle players, Mckee too favors using alternate and open tunings in his work. He often these tunings with a regular or a banjo capo.
13. Norwegian Wood (Acoustic) by Colin Hay
Australian singer-songwriter Colin Hay’s rendition of the Beatles’ classic “Norwegian Wood” is a great song to learn in Celtic tuning. While the original was recorded in standard tuning with a capo on the 2nd fret, Hay tunes his guitar to DADGAD to play his version. The use of an alternate tuning combined with his signature ringing guitar and thick Scottish-Australian accent adds an interesting twist to the classic.
The cover was recorded at a live session with Rolling Stone magazine in 2011. You can check out the video where you’ll hear Hay describing the song passionately at length before jumping on to the playing. Hay rose to prominence as the frontman of the famous Australian rock band Men at work in the ’80s. After the band broke up in 1986, Hay decided to carry on his musical journey as a solo artist.
14. White Summer by Led Zeppelin
We love how Led Zeppelin keeps popping up on our list! It’s not surprising considering their iconic guitarist Jimmy Page’s well-known penchant for unusual tunings. This composition shares many similarities with “Black Mountainside,” and probably for that reason, the two were often paired together during live gigs. A mesmerizing instrumental piece that infuses an old Irish folk tune with Indian and Arabic musical styles, “White Summer” showcases just how brilliant and innovative a guitarist Page is!
Interestingly, the song was initially recorded in 1967 by Page when he used to be a part of the English rock band The Yardbirds and featured on their last album Little Games. Although frequently performed on most of the tours, the instrumental wonder did not become a part of Led Zeppelin’s official repertoire until 1990 when “White Summer” was recorded and added to Led Zeppelin Boxed Set as a medley with “Black Mountainside.” For this track, Page picked DADGAD, which he also referred to as “C.I.A” tuning for its Celtic-Indian-Arabic appeal. Incidentally, this tuning was also used in the traditional Irish folk song “She Moved Through The Fair,” which was the main inspiration for “White Summer.”
15. Knock on Wood by Justin King
While searching for some nice songs in DADGAD tuning, we chanced upon “Knock on Wood” by the American guitarist Justin King. Recorded and released in his 2001 album Le Bleu, the track is a charming piece of acoustic instrumental that’ll make you sit up and take notice of King’s brilliant percussive flair. Not associated with a music label, the album is only available on King’s website. It’ll give you a glimpse into his unique style that is a beautiful blend of Flamenco, Jazz, Celtic, Classical and African music. King is also known to play on a wide range of guitars, including seven-string, classical, steel-string, and flamenco.
True to its title, “Knock on Wood” is all about the incredible music that can be crafted using the acoustic guitar’s body. Along with some fantastic fingerstyle playing, you’ll hear how effortlessly King taps and slaps the guitar. If you aren’t already familiar with tapping, this composition will inspire you to explore this fascinating technique. We recommend this track for more proficient players who already possess some degree of percussive acoustic know-how.
16. Given To Fly by Pearl Jam
Make way for an awesome rock ballad in DADGAD tuning by the wildly popular rock band Pearl Jam! Recorded and released in 1997, “Given to Fly” went on to become one of their most loved compositions. Chart-wise it did remarkably well in several countries around the globe, including number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
Lyrically, it is a beautiful song that revolves around rising above the negativity and giving away love. While the words were penned down by the frontman Eddie Vedder, band’s guitarist Mike McCready worked on the music part. He wrote the main riff in DADGAD while imagining the song as a wave in the ocean that starts off slowly, becomes larger and larger before crashing down. If you listen closely, you’ll easily get the analogy. The opening riff is subtle and melodic, moves into a whirlwind of a chorus, and then goes back to the sublime riff you heard at the beginning. This is another one of the more popular rock songs in DADGAD tuning.
17. One Brown Mouse by Jethro Tull
Legendary rock band Jethro Tull’s “One Brown Mouse” is a quaint little tuning that deserves a spot here. Composed by frontman Ian Anderson, the bright and playful track was inspired by Scottish poet Robert Burns’ “To a Mouse.” On the face of it, “One Brown Mouse” seems like Anderson is in an animated conversation with a pet mouse that sleeps and runs about in a cage. Listen closely, and you will find that the poignant lyrics cleverly hint at the rampant and senseless encroachment of humans on nature and the wildlife.
The track is driven by John Evan’s piano and a simple yet infectious rhythm that is played on a guitar tuned to DADGAD. The band has used Capo on 2nd fret in the original recording and Capo on 1st fret on some of the track’s later versions. You can arrive at the tuning by dropping the 1st, 2nd, and 6th string down to a whole step.
18. Abacus by Fionn Regan
Played in Celtic tuning with a Capo on the 4th fret, “Abacus” is a beautiful piece by Irish folk singer-songwriter Fionn Regan. It’s easy on the ear and features his mesmerizing fingerpicking and calming vocals. The song was released in 2006 as the 11th track from Regan’s debut album “The End of History.”
“Abacus” is one of the easier fingerpicking songs that feature in this list. It does not have any complex techniques going on, only a couple of soulful fingerstyle patterns. The first pattern continues from the intro through to the verse and switches to a different one for the chorus.
19. Tell Her This by Del Amitri
Fans of the American medical sitcom Scrubs would have probably heard this track feature in one of the episodes. For the benefit of others, “Tell Her This” is a popular single by Scottish alt-rock band Del Amitri. It’s one of those light yet moving songs that instantly tug at the heartstrings. And what’s not to love? It’s soulful, melodic, and incredibly easy to play. Despite being a four-chord melody and having no chorus, bridge, or solos, only five verses, the song never gets monotonous. With vocalist Justin Currie’s emotive voice and some catchy guitar playing in unusual DADGAD, it sails through smoothly.
“Tell Her This” featured in Del Amitri’s fourth studio album Twisted that released in 1995. The Overall chart performance of the entire album was pretty good, making its way to number three in the UK Albums Chart and getting ranked by Q Magazine in their top 10 albums of 1995 list. To play this composition, the band tuned to DADGAD with a capo on the 6th fret. The song’s four chords and a beginner-friendly strumming pattern that goes D-DUD-D-DUD, make it a great pick for new learners.
20. The Only Boy Awake by Meadows
Featured in the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why “The Only Boy Awake” is a touching love song by Swedish singer-songwriter Christopher Wadensten. If you are wondering who Meadows is, it’s an alias used by the gifted musician to record and release his music. This sweet composition is the title track of Meadows’ 2016 album The Only Boy Awake.
We found it to be a beginner-friendly track that can be played with two easy fingerstyle patterns and some basic open chords. However, to play in the same tuning as Wadensten, you’ll first need to tune your guitar from low to high: D-A-D-G-A-D and place a capo on the third.
21. Treetop Flyer by Stephen Stills
The last entry on the list is an outstanding composition by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Stephen Stills. Released in Stills’ seventh studio album, “Treetop Flyer” is an ode to a Vietnam war combat pilot who returned home with the ability to fly under the radar. With no help by his side or a job in hand, the veteran puts his skill to use by smuggling drugs and contraband. The depth of the lyrics almost makes you think that Stills knew someone with a similar life story. The entire album has Stills with minimal backing or unaccompanied, just his passionate voice and flawless guitar work.‘Treetop Flyer” is no exception.
Played in DADGAD tuning, the track features Stills breezily fingerpicking through six verses without any chorus or bridge, creating a simple yet magical piece of music. Vastly talented with an imaginative and versatile style of playing and songwriting, Stills inspired the musical journeys of many artists, including Ray LaMontagne. In 2003, Stills was ranked 28th by Rolling Stone magazine in their list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.
Unlike other alternate tunings like Open C and Open G, the answer to how to tune to DADGAD is in the name itself – its name itself tells you exactly how you need to tune your guitar:
Let’s first take a look at what the standard E tuning looks like:
- 6th (fattest) string: E
- 5th string: A
- 4th string: D
- 3rd string: G
- 2nd string: B
- 1st (thinnest) string: E
However, after you tune your guitar from standard E tuning to DADGAD tuning, the individual notes for each string will look like the following:
- 6th (fattest) string: D
- 5th string: A
- 4th string: D
- 3rd string: G
- 2nd string: A
- 1st (thinnest) string: D
What Is DADGAD Tuning Used For?
DADGAD is also known as the Celtic tuning because it’s heavily used in traditional Celtic music. But that’s not all at all – this tuning is essentially a suspended chord – it is neither leaning towards the major or the minor key.
This is because while D and A major chords have A, D, and F# in them. However, in this tuning, the F# is replaced by the G note that gives it this open, broad suspended sound. This versatile sound is quite open-ended and allows you endless freedom to create your own chord voicings and sounds. This is a big reason why DADGAD is so popular amongst various genres of music.
How Do You Tune A Guitar To DADGAD?
To go from standard E tuning to DADGAD, you have to tune the 6th, 2nd and 1st string of your guitar – each by a whole step down. Check out the step by step guide below for detailed instructions:
- 6th (E) string: Pluck your 6th string, and tune the string by a whole step down (two semi-tones down) all the way from E to D.
- 5th (A) string: The 5th string (A) string stays as it is. No re-tuning needed.
- 4th (D) string: The 4th string (D) stays as it is. No change in tuning needed.
- 3rd (G) string: The 3rd string (G) stays as it is. No change in tuning needed.
- 2nd (B) string: Pluck the 2nd string, and tune it down all the way down by one whole step (two semi-tones down) all the way from B to A.
- 1st (E) string: Strike your 1st (E) string and tune it down by one whole step (two semi-tones down) from E to D.
Common Chord Shapes In DADGAD
Now that we know how to tune our guitars to DADGAD, let’s get down to chords. You’ll find that all the chord shapes you’ve learned so far on standard tuning will sound completely different when played on DADGAD – giving you a lot more creative juice to play around with.
Cool Chord Progressions On DADGAD
Knowing a couple of simple chord progressions is a great way to get started on any alternate tuning. Here are a couple for you to play around with on DADGAD:
- Bm7 – Gadd2 – Add4 – D
- Em7 – F#mdd – Gadd2 – D
- D – Gadd2 – Add4 – D
Of course, this is barely scratching the surface. Once you spend a little time on this tuning, you’ll find mind-blowing chord progressions yourself!
Is DADGAD Easier Than Other Alternate Tunings?
We’d argue it is – for many reasons. Firstly, the name of the tuning itself tells you exactly which notes you need to tune each of your strings to – taking the guesswork out of how to tune. Secondly, the open and evocative sound of DADGAD makes it very versatile – it can just as easily work with fingerstyle folk as it can with rock and even metal! The vibrant and diverse genres in the song list below is testimony to just how many genres DADGAD can effortlessly lend itself to.
We hope this blog gave you everything to get started on your wonderful DADGAD journey. If our personal experience on this tuning is anything to go by, then trust us when we say that you’ll be hooked to it!
My name is Chris and I’ve had a passion for music and guitars for as long as I can remember. I started this website with some of my friends who are musicians, music teachers, gear heads, and music enthusiasts so we could provide high-quality guitar and music-related content.
I’ve been playing guitar since I was 13 years old and am an avid collector. Amps, pedals, guitars, bass, drums, microphones, studio, and recording gear, I love it all.
I was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania. My background is in Electrical Engineering, earning a Bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University. With my engineering experience, I’ve developed as a designer of guitar amplifiers and effects. A true passion of mine, I’ve designed, built, and repaired a wide range of guitar amps and electronics. Here at the Guitar Lobby, our aim is to share our passion for Music and gear with the rest of the music community.