1. Getting Started
2. Right Hand
Finger Freedom
3. Harp Style
Examples and Chords
4. Celtic Ornamentation
Triplet Variations
Thumb Triplets
5. Related Tunings
6. Scales in DADGAD
Detailed Charts
7. Chords in DADGAD
Detailed Charts
8. Tablature
Performance Notes
Notation Guide
9. Articles
Miscellaneous Topics


Play DADGAD - Simon Fox

7. A Winter’s Tale and Night Fishing CDs
     Selected Tablature/Notation Performance Notes

This page describes the interesting points about each tune that is included in the tablature collection that this book is based around. Each tune is also rated for difficulty to help in choosing which tunes to learn next. This is a rather subjective rating, roughly as follows:

* Plenty of easy bits.
** Accessible with some more challenging sections
*** Lots of tricky fiddly bits
**** Variety of amenities, pool, cable and excellent location


Tune List - Click to Find


**** The Deep North ** Eleven Icebergs ** Early Hours
*** The Gathering Storm * Purple Turtle ** Smithy's Porridge
** A Winter's Tale *** Inlander **** Powderhorn
*** All At Sea *** Sleep *** Ninety Mile Beach
* Any Day Now *** The Fisherman **** Outpost
**** Tromso *** Martingale *** Off the Grid
**** Kettle of Fish *** Murren *** A Month of Rain
** The Ullapool Decision ** Topanga ** The Nightwatchman
*** The Potato Van ** Night Fishing    
** Airwell *** Mapping the Paddocks    

A Note about Capos

Whenever we talk about chords, scales and keys, were always ignore the fact that there is a capo on the guitar. This makes everything a lot easier !

The Deep North” – A Winter’s Tale - DADGAD

This is a bright tune with two main parts. The first half has a 6:8 Celtic feel and uses a great deal of left-hand ornamentation to complement the bass-line underneath. When playing this tune, pay attention to the many notes hammered directly onto the string with no preceding note. This is the key technique in playing the melody and bass parts at the same time.

The second part of the tune switches into 4:4 time at measure 61 to create a sense of release after the first section. There are several switches between the keys of D major and G major, for example measures 77 to 90 are played in G major, before changing back to D major. This section also combines strumming with picking. The key here is to minimize hand movement on the strum, keeping it to a wrist motion only. If there hand moves too much here, it is too difficult to come back in time for the picking.

The Gathering Storm” – A Winter’s Tale - DADGAD

This tune opens with a moody aire which explores the use of the A Ionian and A Mixolydian scales in DADGAD. The tension in this section is maintained by avoiding any resolution between the two scales. Note that the A Mixolydian scale contains the same notes as the D major scale, and the DADGAD tuning seems to suggest a resolution to the D major key. Holding this resolution back is a good way to build suspense in the piece.

The second section beginning at measure 19 is a drone with the A Mixolydian scale, which sets up the resolution to D major finally at measure 26. The remainder of the song further explores this ambiguity between A Mixolydian and D major, with a great deal of left-hand ornamentation combined with moving bass underneath. The tune presents some interesting ideas with the key of A, which is an area of great potential in DADGAD.

A Winter’s Tale” – A Winter’s Tale - DADGAD

This is a flowing tune which uses the harp-style technique to fill out the melody. The opening part of the tune again explores the key of A major in DADGAD, with some unusual chord shapes. Instead of allowing the G string to ring open, the 6th fret remains covered throughout the section. Some stretching is required here, however the capo makes this a little easier.

Measures 16 and 19 show a useful chord shape in DADGAD which sets up the various parts of the spacious melody that follow. In this section of the tune, the key changes to D major with some fairly common DADGAD ideas with harp-style picking. To make this tune work, give it as much space as possible and experiment with the free-time nature of the melody.

All At Sea” – A Winter’s Tale - DADGAD

This tune uses some fairly typical DADGAD ideas, using the open-strings to create a rolling feel. The melody switches between the bass and treble ranges in order to keep the tune interesting. For example, the melody opens on the lower strings, before moving to the top strings in measure 20 where a Celtic type melody begins, using ornamentation such as the finger triplets covered in section 4. Take care to keep the tempo from increasing in this section.

Some interesting chords are used in the section starting at measure 33. Here, open strings are use to fill out the spaces which occur when combining bass and melody movements at the same time – a common DADGAD idea. The tune finishes with the section at measure 68 which uses the light percussive thud technique outlined in section 4, creating an interesting backbeat feel.

Any Day Now” – A Winter’s Tale - DADGAD

The first half of this tune was inspired by Will Ackerman’s tune “The Bricklayer’s Beautiful Daughter” attempting to recreate that simple cascading type of melody. Mostly the tune uses the G major scale, with some accidental notes in places. In particular, measure 6 adds an unexpected direction to the melody with the D# passing bass note. The first half uses left-hand ornamentation to add detail to the melody, which is a good way to bring a simple melody to life.

At measure 20 the tune shifts into a repetitive rhythmic section. A simple version of the idea is established in measures 21 to 24, before releasing to full bass and melody combined. This section can tangle the left-hand fingers somewhat, so it is helpful to follow the fingering guide in the notation. Again, the light thud percussive technique is used from measures 20 to 24 to add some groove to the section.

Tromso” – A Winter’s Tale - DADGAD

This tune is an example of the minor scales covered in section 6. The first half of the song switches between the D Aeolian (natural minor) scale and the D harmonic minor scale. This is achieved by varying between use of the C or C# note in the scale. Note that in both scales the flattened 6th (Bb) is present, lending a dark feel to the song. A number of accidental notes are used, particularly in the bass-line, to add an element of surprise to the tune’s progress.

At measure 105, the second main section begins in the key of G minor. This section again switches between the G natural minor scale and the G harmonic minor scale. The fingerings for these scales are respectively, the D Phrygian and D Freygish scales. The section shows that less commonly used DADGAD voicings are easily accessible such as Bb major, G minor and Eb major.

Although the fingerings move fairly quickly in this tune, try to accentuate the spaces where they exist and vary the intensity and dynamics as much as possible.

Kettle of Fish” – A Winter’s Tale - DADGAD

This tune shows how DADGAD can be used for bluegrass guitar. Typically guitarists might prefer to tune the G string to F# for this type of music, with the G potentially getting in the way of D chords. However, it is easy to avoid the open G for these chords, and the G string comes in very handy when the tune requires any kind of G, C or A voicing. The light thud percussive technique described in section 3 is used for the notes marked with an X in the notation. Note that you can leave this trick out and still make the tune work. The thud is executed very quickly and takes a lot of repetition practice to nail down. As described in section 4, the thud lands on the string at the same time as the bass note is plucked, in one single movement of the right-hand. If this technique is proving difficult, just leave out these thuds and the tune will still work well since the effect is quite subtle.

The tune uses a great deal of hammer-ons and pull-offs to create the feel of several guitars playing at once. Try to pick the bass notes with the thumb where possible in a Travis picking, alternating bass style. The tune never settles for very long into this standard pattern, but the idea of separating bass out to the thumb is still helpful in learning the piece.

The ending to the song is a good example of harp-style guitar combined with blue notes to create a neat cascading run. By picking the run across several strings and adding hammers and pull-offs, the illusion of speed is created.

The Ullapool Decision” – Night Fishing - DADGAD

This is a tune in two parts essentially. The opening part uses harp-like open-string chords creating a very spacious sound. The picked chords are combined with some Celtic ornaments on the top D string to add some melody to the tune. There is some left hand stretching here and the fingering guide in the notation is provided.

The second section is like a flat-picking tune. The basic riff repeats 8 times. At repeats #3 and 7, the riff is played as a solo guitar line using the Celtic ornaments extensively. During the other repeats, a bass line and some chords are picked to provide the impression of an accompaniment for the melody line over the top.

At the end of each repeat in this section there is a percussive thumb slap played in a manner similar to a bass guitar slap (see the section on Celtic ornamentation).

The Potato Van” - Night Fishing - DADGAD

This is an up tempo melody which combines a lot of strumming and fingerstyle picking. It creates the effect of two people playing at once, and is greatly aided by the DADGAD tuning. The riffs in the song are picked across several strings, always allowing an open string to ring out with a flowing result.

The song changes from D major to G major several times, for example at measures 13 and 73. At measure 21, the song changes from D major to a D Mixolydian section where the 7th (C#) is flattened to C. Coming out of this section at measure 29 the song returns to D major again.

Thumb triplets are used from measure 37 onwards. This particular riff can be easily played without the triplets if they prove to be a headache. The challenge is to have the 3 notes sound clearly and distinctly. Thumb triplets are also covered in the section on Celtic ornamentation.

Airwell” – Night Fishing - DADGAD

In the first part of this piece, the bass strings play the melody and a simple arpeggio is repeated over and over on the top strings just to provide a platform for the melody. The pinky finger gets a good workout in this section, and the fingering indications in the notation help to co ordinate this.

The arpeggios that follow in measure 23 are an example of harp style guitar in DADGAD. Again, the left hand fingering will help here and some left hand stretching is needed. The descending bass line amongst the arpeggio in this measure adds a sense of motion to the tune after the fairly static opening.

Eleven Icebergs” – Night Fishing - CGCGCD

This tune uses the CGCGCD tuning with the open strings creating a fluid, ambient sound. A delayed pull off technique is used in the opening measure. The hammer onto the 4th fret is played and then held down. The next note is the open C string being plucked. After voicing this note, the note at the 4th fret is released as a pull off. This creates a kind of cascading sound.

In measures 33 to 35 a chromatic bass line is used to break out of the major scale and add some movement to the tune. The same idea is used through measures 84 to 86.

Purple Turtle” – Night Fishing - DADGAD

This is a simpler tune that is a good place to start for people less familiar with DADGAD. It shows some of the more obvious DADGAD ideas that are commonly heard and introduces positions up the neck. The opening phrase of the tune is a very simple melody, with an ascending bass line.

The final section is also a good introduction to picking out Celtic melodies and maintaining accompaniment at the same time. The ornamentation is relatively simple here.

Inlander” – Night Fishing - CGCGCD

This tune is in several parts and shows a range of ideas possible with the CGCGCD tuning. The opening is a spacious and ambient section which is aided by the low tuning. This section begins with F major key signature for the C Mixolydian scale. Then at measure 10 the tune switches to the C major scale. The opening changes between these two key signatures are the result of changing between the 3rd and 4th frets on the G strings, being the Bb and B respectively.

At measure 77 the tune settles into to the C Mixolydian mode for the remainder. This change is an effective way of changing from an aire like piece to a more rhythmic up tempo section. In the repeating phrase of measures 93 to 100, the bass notes can be played as hammers directly onto the bass strings. The notes are not plucked, rather just sharply hammered by the appropriate left hand finger to add a mild percussive thwack. The left hand finger is quickly lifted to give the note a short, stacatto voicing.

Sleep” – Night Fishing - DADGAD

This tune starts off in the key of F major and uses a fairly chromatic range of notes. This means that no firm scale is maintained for very long. At times the bass notes ascend in semitones as in measures 6 to 8.

There are no particular techniques in this piece, though it is a good workout for the right hand. Avoid using the same picking finger twice in a row. The tune settles into more familiar DADGAD territory for the ending section at measure 43.

The Fisherman” - Night Fishing - DADGAD

This piece shows how a very simple melody can be developed into a solo piece in DADGAD. A lot of left hand Celtic ornaments and grace notes are used to add interest to the main melody, for example in measures 5 to 8. The Celtic ornamentation section describes these techniques in more detail.

The main melody repeats at measure 10 in the lower octave. This is an idea that is greatly helped by the DADGAD tuning, with the many D and A strings. The timing of the melody throughout the tune uses many dotted notes. These dotted notes along with the ornamentation are the key to making this piece work.

The final section starting at measure 49 uses some arpeggios with the top note in each chord sustaining a melody. The arpeggios follow a simple ascending bass line for the most part. The top note also ascends, however, staying one step ahead of the bass. For example, the first chord is D major and the top note is the 2nd fret on the D string, being E. This is the 2nd degree in the scale, so the chord is a Dsus2. The next chord is the Emin7 with the top note being the F# at the 4th fret on the D string. This chord then becomes Emin7add9. This pattern continues for the first 4 chords and brings a little color to a section that might otherwise be a little predictable.

Martingale” – Night Fishing - DADGAD

This piece uses the C major scale in DADGAD and includes many variations on chords such as F, Amin and C. The use of C major in DADGAD is very useful to know, especially when playing an accompanying role with other guitarists tuned to standard. At measure 37 the key switches to D major. Throughout the tune the left hand pinky finger is used and fingerings are given in the notation to help with this.

Murren” – Night Fishing - DADGAD

This is an earlier composition of mine, here played in DADGAD. It is intended to be played quite freely without any particular time signature. The tune is played in D major and uses some positions higher up on the neck in combination with open strings to create a flowing effect.

Topanga” – Night Fishing - CGCGCD

This tune has 3 distinct parts which are a good illustration of the CGCGCD tuning. The opening section is a gentle aire typical of DADGAD that shows the similarity between the tunings. The second section makes use of the suspended top D string to play a catchy melody while playing the chord progression underneath. This piece would be much more difficult to play in DADGAD, since the separation between the chords and the melody fingering would be an extra 2 frets.

The final section shows how the CGCGCD tuning allows strumming and picking combined together, in a similar manner to “Potato Van”. However the CGCGCD tuning makes this a lot easier if we compared to strumming in the key of D in DADGAD. In DADGAD, there is always the risk of having a muddy 4th floating in the chords if the G is allowed to ring open. In CGCGCD it is easier to strum freely while using the top D string to add some interesting melody notes.

Night Fishing” - Night Fishing - DADGAD

This is a rather wistful piece which uses a great deal of harp style picking. Some of the arpeggios require left hand stretches and some planning about which left hand fingers to use. It is helpful to note the suggested fingerings, particularly in measures 9 and 13.

The piece opens with a simple idea of a pedal note, played on the open D string. A pedal note is a bass note that is maintained beneath several chord voicings over time. In the first measure there is the open D string ringing out over an embellished D chord. Then in measure 3 it again follows the fairly obvious A chord. Instead of beginning the arpeggio with the expected A bass, an interesting effect is created by maintaining the D bass note to create an A add 11/D chord.

The tune has some modulations to give it some sense of movement and to avoid stagnating in open D. The song starts in the D major key, then at measures 9 to 15 briefly switches to D minor based on the D Aeolian scale. In the final section, the key signature shifts to G major by lowering the C# to C natural.

Mapping the Paddocks” – Night Fishing - DADGAD

With several parts and a few tricks along the way, this is a fun tune to play. The tune starts off in D minor, with the 6th degree of the scale switching from B to Bb to add some variation. At measure 65 the key changes to D major key and picks up tempo a little. In measure 67 the G bass note is hammered directly with the 2nd finger of the left hand. The right hand does not pluck the string. The idea is to give a slight percussive thud to the note.

The thumb triplet technique is used in measure 105. The strummed chord before each triplet is played with a sharp down stroke using the right hand index fingernail as a kind of plectrum. Moving from the strum into the thumb triplet can be difficult and too much right hand movement makes it very hard. The strummed down stroke needs to be a short, quick sharp movement.

Early Hours” – A Winter's Tale - BADGAD

This is a candle-burning tune played in BADGAD, where the bass D is tuned down to B. The Related Tunings section talks about this tune in some more detail. The most difficult part about this tune is being very delicate with your left-hand on the bass strings. With a low guitar action many of these bass notes can be played without plucking, instead just a light hammer on. The bridge section between measures 23 and 31 is a free-form section which tries to be a little restless. It's a great place to improvise and just follow your ear.


Tunes Not Covered by the Book Content

The following set of tunes are not referenced in this online book. Brief performance notes are included for those interested in the tablature, some of which is free on the Instructional page or in the Scrapbook page.

Smithy's Porridge” – Night Fishing - F A# D F C D#

This tune is played in a very bizarre tuning: F A# D F C D#, with the capo at the 4th fret. It's a tune with nearly no left-hand ornamentation and uses the strange sounds that the tuning offers to build a melody. The trick to playing this song is to keep the tempo steady and rolling along without letting your left-hand fingers mute any open strings.

Powderhorn” – A Winter's Tale - CGCGCD

This is a probably the most difficult tune to play on this list. The underlying technique is called "frailing", which is a banjo claw-hammer technique adapted to the guitar. This is a whole book in itself, and indeed the brilliant Steve Baughman has done just that.

For me, the only way to make this tune work is to keep a very slack right-hand and be almost languid and casual about it. Otherwise it is too hard to keep the frailing groove running. Frailing is a great technique but takes some time to get used to.

Ninety Mile Beach” – A Winter's Tale - CGCGCD

Ninety Mile Beach is a great left-hand workout in CGCGCD, completely filled with Celtic type ornaments. The recording plays it a fairly quick pace but I would suggest slowing it down quite a bit when learning the tune and focusing on the mixing of hammers and pull-off combinations. These days I prefer to play it a little slower.

In the main opening theme of this tune, note how the treble strings play out the same idea over and over, while the bass moves around. This is a nice way of creating a rolling tempo in a piece while the bass notes add the color.

Outpost” – A Winter's Tale - CGCGCD

Outpost is a challenging piece played in CGCGCD. From start to end the left-hand ornamentation is very busy and later combines with light strums. The key to the strumming is to keep your right hand movement very compact. Hold your thumb and index finger together like holding a plectrum and brush down with your index fingernail. Just a quick roll of the wrist.

The opening is a Celtic aire section which introduces right-hand finger triplets at measure 25. They aren't necessary to play the section well, so at first leave them out while learning the piece. Measure 39 starts a brief drone which transitions to the active section following. If possible hammer-on the bass notes directly where marked in the tablature so that your right hand has less to do. A low guitar action helps here. Finally, this tune is about steady tempo and falls off the rails if you start speeding up.

Off the Grid” – A Winter's Tale - CGDGAD

This is the only tune I play in the CGDGAD tuning. The main point of interest in this tune is the section starting from measure 61 using the percussive middle finger thud technique to set up a slight backbeat groove. This technique is covered in the Percussive section.

A Month of Rain” – A Winter's Tale - CGCGCD

This is a delicate tune which starts off in a normal CGCGCD major key. At measure 17 the key changes from C to Bb and some unusual fingerings arise. This section has little rhyme or reason and came about from just trying to hear what should come next away from the guitar. For example, the measures 22 to 27 move the bass around with several accidentals (notes that don't fit the key signature).

The final part starting at section 33 uses the old standard descending bass theme. Generally it's good to tread carefully with these commonly used ideas, but this time the tuning brought some life to it on the middle C bass string. Try to keep the left-hand ornaments very light here and avoid any sudden releases on pull-offs.

“The Nightwatchman” – A Winter's Tale - CGCGCD

This is a good tune to learn while still getting used to CGCGCD. The two main sections can be played slowly to make the the left-hand ornaments manageable. The bridge section starting at measure 25 makes a simple key change from C major (Ionian mode) to the C Mixolydian mode and then goes back again for the final repeat. This idea is discussed in more detail on the Mixolydian mode page and is a common theme through these tunes.


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