5(a) Related Tunings – CGCGCD - Cousin of DADGAD
Among the endless open tunings, there are some that are particularly
interesting to DADGAD players. A very useful tuning is CGCGCD which has much in
common with DADGAD. Both tunings have 3 strings tuned as the main root note of
the tuning, 2 strings being the 5th, and one odd string out. In DADGAD, the odd
string out is the G which in the key of D is the 4th. In CGCGCD, the odd string
is the D which in the key of C is the 2nd.
Both tunings have an extra string which does not establish a major or minor
key. Instead, it creates an ambiguous unresolved feeling. The notes DADGAD form
a D suspended 4th chord, where the CGCGCD notes form a C suspended 2nd chord.
The key difference between the tunings is the positioning of this odd string
The following table helps to compare the two tunings, with the odd string out
||<--- Bass String
Scale Degree Treble
In DADGAD it is sometimes tiring to hear the G string ringing out in the
mid-range, not quite part of the bass line or the melody. This can lead to a
very muddy sound, particularly if the piece is in the key of D major and the G
always sounds in dissonance against the commonly played F#. The advantage of the
CGCGCD tuning is that the suspended string is at the top, and can be more easily
avoided if necessary. Hammers and pull-offs on this string together with the
Celtic ornaments produce an interesting airy result. This is because the
ornaments are ending on an unresolved note.
Combining strumming with picking is simplified in CGCGCD when playing in the
key of C. The bottom 5 strings are all 1sts and 5ths so it is nice to be able to
strum these and isolate the melody on the top D string without worrying about it
upsetting the chords. There is also a distinctly different timbre from a guitar
tuned down to C as opposed to D, regardless of the position of the capo. It can
be problematic on some guitars to have strings tuned so low, and it may help to
use heavier-gauge strings. A lot of tunes played in DADGAD are easily translated
to CGCGCD and vice versa. The CGCGCD tuning is used on the Night Fishing CD for
the tunes: “Eleven Icebergs”, “Topanga” and “Inlander”,
and the Winter's Tale album for the tunes: “A Month of Rain”, “The Nightwatchman”,
“Powderhorn”, “Outpost” and "Ninety Mile Beach". Tablature for these tunings is
available from the Online Store.
CGCGCD - Chord Charts
The following set of chords are missing a 3rd which means there is no major
or minor designation. This ambiguity lends an unresolved, or "suspended" sound
to the chord.
When the 3rd is present, as in the next examples, a 4th is written as an added
11th. This is because it is now an "extension" to the chord and the 4th is
notated in the next octave along (hence 11th). Similarly, the 2nd is written as
an added 9th. In these cases, the 3rd is present and the lack of resolution is
less pronounced. Instead, these chords are very colorful and expressive,
particularly for finger-pickers as they allow melodies to be played across
As we tend to favor open-strings when using these tunings it is natural that
these suspended notes will be the signature sound for the tuning. With DADGAD we often get the
open G ringing away over a D chord giving that familiar suspended drone. In
CGCGCD, the open D rings as a milder suspension. Firstly, the suspended 2nd is
not as obvious as a suspended 4th. And secondly, the open D is positioned above
the other 5 strings which keeps the drone out of the way of the other strings.
This helps avoid muddiness in the mid-range and gives a warm bright ambience
that is unique to this tuning.
Here are some more unusual chords to experiment with. Remember to keep
hunting for ideas beyond what the tuning initially suggests.