Alternate tunings are a brilliant way of exploring your guitar playing and songwriting skills and DADGAD is a great one for you to learn. It’s one that can be picked up by guitarists of any skill level, with legendary bands such as Led Zeppelin using this tuning in their own songs.
The tuning was first made popular in the 1960’s by various folk guitarists such as Davey Graham and Bert Jansch. It then exploded onto the music scene when huge bands such as Pink Floyd began to use it in some of their biggest hits.
DADGAD tuning gives you a more open-ended tone which allows the musician to get rid of repetitive chord shapes. More chord voicings and progressions are opened up with this tuning which is why so many songs are written using it.
In our in-depth guide to DADGAD tuning songs (or Celtic tuning as it is sometimes known), we are going to help you achieve DADGAD tuning on your guitar. It can be used on both acoustic and electric guitar for natural harmonics and brilliant playing. First, we will tell you how to tune your guitar, then we will follow this with a list of songs that use this tuning for you to play. Let’s take a look.
How to Tune Your Guitar to DADGAD
First of all you will want to have your guitar in standard E tuning to use the guide with detailed instructions we have included below. Let’s get tuning.
- Sixth string (E) – Play your sixth string and tune this string a whole step down which would also equal two semi-tones so that it goes from an E to a D.
- Fifth string (A) – No re-tuning is needed for this string, it stays as it is.
- Fourth string (D) – Another string that stays the same with no change of tuning needed.
- Third string (G) – Yet another string that stays in the same tuning.
- Second string (B) – Tune this one down an entire step which is two semi-tones so it goes from a B to an A.
- First string (E) – Tune your first E string by a whole step so that it goes from an E to a D.
Popular DADGAD Tuning Songs
1. Kashmir – Led Zeppelin
One of the most iconic tracks to have ever used DADGAD tuning is Kashmir by Led Zeppelin. The string melody and hypnotic riff along with the really intense lyrics show off the band’s style to a tee. It’s a long one, being almost eight and a half minutes in length, but it actually only includes four different guitar riffs. What makes this song work so well is the various rhythms that change up throughout the song. The guitar works in triple metre but the vocals that go along with it are in quadruple metre, with the drum complimenting them both and bringing everything together.
The way that the title of the song came around is quite strange because none of the band had ever actually been to Kashmir. It was a drive that they took through Morocco that made Robert Plant want to write the lyrics back in 1973. The song was then recorded in 1974 and it appears on the sixth album from the band titled Physical Graffiti which was released in 1975. It quickly became a staple for the American rock band and was featured in The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in Rolling Stone Magazine.
2. Photograph – Ed Sheeran
Photograph by Ed Sheeran is a great song for beginners that uses DADGAD tuning. It was originally played using standard tuning with the G tuned down to an E but the later live versions Sheeran uses the alternate tuning. We have no idea why he decided to make this change but the new way sounds a lot better. The single from 2015 performed well in the charts and reached the top five in a lot of countries.
Lyrics wise the ballad tells us about the heartache of being separated from your love, which Sheeran was from his long-distance girlfriend at the time. The chord progression has only four chords which makes it simple but it’s not monotonous. The intro uses arpeggios and palm-muting which goes very well with Sheeran’s soft voice.
3. Circle – Slipknot
DADGAD tuning in heavy metal songs is almost unheard of (typically using drop D) because it is more suited to folk-style music but here we are with a Slipknot track to add to these tuning songs. In Circle grunge meets folk music which is completely different from what we would normally hear from Slipknot. Another one from their third album is Vermillion Part 2 and both of these songs are the first for the band that used a more acoustic instrumental style. You’ll want to place your capo on the second fret.
4. Ain’t No Grave – Johnny Cash
There are very few music artists out there that rival the complete appeal and musical versatility that Johnny Cash offered the world. He had an amazing career that consisted of many different genres including folk, country, rock and roll and blues. Cash sold over 90 million records around the world and he is known as a national treasure in America. Ain’t No Grave was the title track from the album American VI which was released after his death. The original is a gospel song that was written by Claude Ely during his tuberculosis illness in 1934. A lot of artists have covered it by Cash’s is probably the best.
5. Dear Maria Count Me In – All Time Low
All Time Low became known for this track because of the great chord progression and the unusual music video. Originally released in 2008, Dear Maria Count Me In features DADGAD chords and got the band recognition for their 2009 album, Nothing Personal. The song got another boost of fame in 2022 when it was included in a viral video on TikTok. The original song was played using DADGAD but some versions take it a half step lower than this and place a capo on the first fret.
6. That’s When You Came In – Steel Panther
Steel Panther are an American rock band and That’s When You Came In is one of their lesser-known songs in DADGAD tuning. It came from their live acoustic album in 2016 titled From Lexxi’s Mom’s Garage. There is some great acoustic ninja work here from Satchel and powerful vocals that make playing guitar to this track really fun.
What’s great about this song is that it’s easy to play and the rhythm is a strong one. Be wary of the lyrics because they are a little crude and can get a bit profane at times, but this is very much the style of this fun band. You’ll be using some easy chord shapes and strumming pattern variations until the distortion part kicks in.
7. Given to Fly – Pearl Jam
If you’re a fan of awesome rock ballads and want to learn more songs with DADGAD tuning then Pearl Jam’s 1997 record Given to Fly is definitely the choice for you. It hit the charts all around the world and reached number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks.
In the lyrics of this beautiful piece, you will hear all about how to rise above negativity and give away your love. The words were written by Eddie Vedder, the frontman for the band, while the music was created by the lead guitarist Mike McCready. He intended the song in DADGAD tuning to be like a wave that starts off slowly, becomes larger and then crashes down to the shore. If you really listen to this you can hear this analogy.
8. Black Mountainside – Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin appears on our list again with another of the DADGAD tuning songs. Black Mountainside is a great piece of instrumental music that uses this tuning. Being only two minutes long, it was the shortest track to feature on their self-titled 1969 album. The original song was inspired by Irish folk music and this is probably what influenced them to use this type of tuning. When it is played live Led Zeppelin often combines it with another instrumental piece called White Summer which gives the listeners eleven minutes of pure amazingness.
Jimmy Page is known for experimenting around with his guitar and trying to stay away from standard tuning as much as possible. For any tracks that took influence from Indian, Arabic or Celtic culture, Jimmy Page would usually opt for DADGAD tuning. Black Mountainside has both Irish and Irish folk roots giving us a flavor of when east meets west.
9. Sligo Creek – Al Petteway
If you like the Celtic feel to your DADGAD tuning songs then Sligo Creek from Grammy award winner Al Petteway is definitely a song you will want to add to your repertoire. Petteway has a signature fingerstyle way of playing which has strong influences from Celtic and Appalachian music. He uses a lot of traditional techniques from many different cultures in his music, and in this one there is a harp-like syncopated rhythm to keep up with.
Released back in 1997 from the Caledon Wood album, the catchy rhythm is paired up with Petteway’s wife on percussion. There are lots more of his songs using DADGAD tuning including Wayfaring Stranger, Rise Up My Love and Chesapeake if you want to play similar songs to this.
10. Dueling Ninjas – Trace Bundy
Trace Bundy released Dueling Ninjas from his 2004 album Adapt. It’s a great instrumental piece full of techniques like slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs and harmonics. The song is there to give you a masterclass in fingerstyle playing which would be more suited to players of a higher level.
If you think you want to challenge yourself with this one then you will also be using fast arpeggios and finger tapping as well. The song is played in DADGAD tuning with a capo placed on the fourth fret.
11. Black and White – Niall Horan
A fairly new DADGAD tuning song to hit the scene in 2020 is Black and White which was performed by the former member of One Direction, Niall Horan. It’s a popular love ballad with an upbeat style which shows off how good Horan’s voice is. It came from his second studio album Heartbreak Weather and it has become widely popular amongst fans of One Direction.
The acoustic guitar that accompanies Horan’s voice is fast-paced but the track itself is fairly easy with a standard chord progression and strumming patterns. It will be a great song to pick from this list for a beginner as you only use four chord shapes and two strumming patterns in the verses and choruses.
12. Drifting – Andy McKee
Fans of fingerstyle guitar playing will love this song from Andy McKee. With a fanbase spanning many countries thanks to the power of YouTube, he has reached over 100 million views over on his channel. The 2001 piece called Drifting is purely instrumental and it focuses solely on the man’s skills on percussive acoustic guitar.
If you are a guitarist who wants to work on their techniques such as percussive slaps, tapping, partial capos and harmonics should explore further into McKee’s body of work. He uses some of these in Drifting along with some hammer-ons and pulls offs for good measure, all in DADGAD tuning.
13. White Summer – Led Zeppelin
As we mentioned earlier, when Led Zeppelin play Black Mountainside live they pair it up with White Summer so we had to include this one on our list too. Jimmy Page uses the unusual DADGAD tuning again here to provide an instrumental with influences from Arabic and Indian music.
The song was originally recorded in 1967 by Page when he was in The Yardbirds and it featured on their Little Games album. It was later picked up by Led Zeppelin and Page often referred to it as using CIA tuning because of the Celtic-Indian-Arabic influences.
We hope that you found everything you need to achieve DADGAD tuning in our blog. It’s safe to say, from our experience, this tuning is one that will have you completely hooked after the first time you try it. Remember to try out other tunings on our website which include drop D, open C and open E. Have fun learning DADGAD tunning songs and happy playing to you all.
What songs can you play in DADGAD tuning?
All of the songs we have included above are ones that you can play in DADGAD tuning. There are plenty others out there as this is one of the most popular alternate tunings for the guitar.
Can you play any song in DADGAD?
No, not every song can be played in this tuning but there sure is a lot that can be. When playing songs from tabs or online videos make sure to check what tuning they are using before you begin, otherwise it will sound all sorts of wrong.
What is DADGAD tuning good for?
The tuning offers a broad suspended sound that is incredibly versatile and offers you endless freedom to create your own sounds and voicings. It’s a big reason why the tuning is used in almost every genre of music out there.
What is DADGAD tuning called?
DADGAD is often called Celtic tuning because it was used a lot in traditional Celtic music. So if you ever hear the term Celtic tuning, know that they are talking about the alternate tuning of DADGAD.