6. Scales in DADGAD
Scales are the key to opening up DADGAD and making many key signatures
accessible. Even in the obvious key of D, there are a great many variations
available just by selecting certain notes within that key. By using the modal
scale system, it is easy to use these same D scale fingerings to readily play in
many other keys not usually associated with DADGAD.
A lot has been written about modes. It's an open-ended topic that can easily
get confusing and distracting from the actual goal of playing music. The first
thing to say about modes, is that they are just scales. One of the modes is
nothing more than the major scale, another is the natural minor scale. The
others are variations created by altering various tones in the scale. Each mode
has a distinct feel of its own, and a funky Greek name to go with it.
This is a DADGAD oriented explanation of modes, with two purposes. Firstly the
focus is on the key of D. With DADGAD it is easy to noodle about in the key of
D, and accompany oneself. By nailing down the root note for each D modal scale,
it is easier to compare the various modal scales. For each mode, a fingering
chart is provided for the first 7 frets. Also, each scale is harmonized to
produce a set of 7 chords that can be used when playing within that scale.
Secondly, it is shown how each mode provides access to a number of other
keys, using the exact same fingerings. This applies to the chords diagrams also.
As a brief example, the fingering and chords are given for the D Phrygian mode.
This is a Spanish-sounding scale and is easy to play in DADGAD with all of the
open strings being available. With the fingering and chords for this scale
learnt, you can now readily play in the keys of G minor and Bb major.
These two keys are not usually associated with DADGAD but are not difficult at
The modes provide a framework within which to think about note selection. In
DADGAD this framework will generally be centered around the key of D initially.
Players quickly familiarize themselves with the 3rd to control the major or
minor tonality of a piece. However, there is great potential for variation among
the other notes and without some kind of system, note selection becomes random.
A single variation such as flattening the 6th in the D minor scale makes an
enormous difference to the feel of a tune.
In this book, each mode is accompanied by a brief summary of its qualities,
as well as a harmonization that produces a set of chords. There are a
lot of other scales that do not fit into the Greek modal framework, for example
the harmonic minor scale. A page is given over to this scale, as well as an
interesting scale from the Jewish Klezmer mode system.