5(c) Related Tunings – BADGAD, DAD?AD, CGDGCD and CGDGAD
Multi-Modal Tunings - CGDGAD and CGDGCD
Tunings such as DADGAD and CGCGCD have a very obvious natural key center (D
and C respectively). Some prefer to use tunings which are less clear and open
multiple key centers very naturally. For example, if we take DADGAD and change
the bass strings we form CG-DGAD. This tuning is wide open for
interpretation. An example of this tuning is "Off the Grid" from my Winter's
Tale album. This tune is based around the key of G which is probably the most
A more complex tuning perhaps is the “Orkney” tuning, so named after the
Orkney Islands in Scotland. This tuning varies the CGCGCD tuning by raising the
4th string C by one tone to produce CG-D-GCD. Orkney perhaps
offers greater versatility and complexity than CGCGCD and requires some effort
to become familiar with. American guitarist Steve Baughman has used this tuning
to great effect in arranging Celtic tunes and adapting the clawhammer banjo
picking technique to the acoustic guitar.
An obvious variation on DADGAD is the open D tuning DADF#AD. This very common
tuning is naturally biased towards playing in the key of D major; likewise the
tuning DADFAD is biased towards D minor. An interesting variation might be
DADG#AD. The Lydian Mode is a scale common to dreamy film-score music. With the
G string tuned up to G#, it is possible to play this string open in the key of D
and remain in the Lydian mode. This helps to free up the left hand for playing
Lydian melodies on the top strings.
BADGAD - An oddity
This is an example of a one-off oddity tuning. Sometimes it's interesting to
change one string from a well known tuning and see if something unexpected
happens. In this case we drop the bass D in DADGAD down to B. In they key of D,
the B minor chord is the "relative minor" and so this tuning suggests a certain
melancholy which the deep bass notes only enhance.
An example of this tuning is my tune "Early Hours" from the Winter's Tale CD.
You can listen to this tune by opening the music
player and then take a look at the free tablature at this link
Download Early Hours
The tune is played with the capo at the 3rd fret, but when talking about the
notes we always assume there is no capo. The main theme of the tune based around
the progression: C - Dm - Em. Note the first note of the 2nd measure has the arrow,
indicating that the 5th fret is hammered directly with the left-hand finger.
The second time around the bass notes are played with normal pull-offs and
hammers. Go lightly with these, or else you lose the delicacy of the tune.
Here is the opening theme tablature:
The next part of the tune starting on measure 9, uses fairly standard DADGAD
fingerings. The low B is used on the bass quite often, while the melody plays
around between D major and C major. There is an ambiguity there centering around
the 3rd fret on the A strings. This note, being a C, suggests the C major scale,
where the C# on the 4th fret, suggests the D major scale. While the 4th fret C#
is never used, the other notes are used in a way you often hear with D major in
DADGAD, up along the top D string 0,2,4,5 and 7th frets. And with the B on the
bass, it feels like it really is D major. When it resolves though, it always
ends up back in C major. These are ways to keep DADGAD fingerings from getting