Category Archives: BRIMS Intro to DADGAD Guitar

Tunes, notes and other information from my 6 week intro to DADGAD Guitar Class

DADGAD Tuning Tip

I’ve been struggling with keeping my intonation solid in DADGAD tuning as I move up the neck and have messed with different strings, slightly compensated tuning, etc. It really makes me crazy because it can be a significant pitch problem. This evening as I was searching for someone who made compensated saddles or nuts, I came across this post on acoustic guitar forum by Doug Young. I tried it out and it seemed significantly improved over electronic tuning.

I’ll quote here in case the forum goes poof.

“You could also try my tuning method for DADGAD and see if it helps:

The basic idea is to tune all strings relative to the 4th string, so there is no accumulation of errors:

1. get 4th string in tune with a tuner
2. Tune the 1st string to the 12th fret harmonic of the 4th
3. Tune the 12th fret harmonic of the 6th to the open 4th
4. Tune the 2nd string 12th fret harmonic to the 4th string 7th fret harmonic
5. tune the 5th string 12th fret harmonic to the 4th string 7th fret harmonic – this will be an octave
6. tune the 3rd string, 7th fret harmonic to the 4th string 12th fret harmonic.

double check your D’s – 12th, 4th, 6th strings at the 12th fret, and double check strings 2 and 5 against each other with 12th fret harmonics.

Sounds complicated in writing, but it’s fast and simple, and for me, never fails to produce good intonation for DAGDAD.”

Classes for this Fall

Hey folks – here’s what I’ll be teaching at BRIMS this Fall. First half of semester will be Session I, 2nd half will be DADGAD Guitar. Not finalized yet is the timing, but probably in the 6pm time slot. I expect all the classes and times to be published on the BRIMS homepage soon. Hope you’ll be able to join us for one more classes!

If you are considering taking either of these classes and have any specific requests or questions, please let me know through a comment to this post – thanks!

Session Workshop Class I (8 Week Class)

This 8 week class will focus on playing well-known session tunes as a group. We will learn tunes from three sources – most popular tunes from, tunes that are played locally, and tunes that people in the class want to learn. To take this class you should have some experience with a melody instrument (e.g. can play at least a few Irish tunes), be eager to work on playing better, and be able to learn a tune on your own from a recording with perhaps a little help from music notation if you’re new to learning by ear. We will also have room for 1 or 2 guitars / bouzoukis / bodhráns for accompaniment. Ages 12 and up are welcome. We will cover a new tune each week so that by the end of class, we’ll have 3 sets of tunes that you can play. Our goal will be to play those tunes well and in a consistent rhythm.

Introduction to Irish Accompaniment on Guitar (DADGAD tuning)

In this five week class, students will learn the fundamentals of accompanying Irish traditional tunes on guitar. We’ll cover two of the basic rhythms (reels and jigs), chord shapes, and some common major and minor progressions. We’ll also be using DADGAD tuning; an open style guitar tuning that is very popular for backing Irish musicians. Ages 12 and up are welcome. Some experience on guitar is helpful (simple chords and strumming in standard tuning). You will need a guitar, capo, and pick.

DADGAD Guitar Fall 2012

Between Weeks

Here are some tunes that you can work on over the holidays if you feel inspired. Probably won’t be the ones we work on in class, as I’ve just compiled some tunes that were already available on the website and what I’d like to do in January is work up tunes that we’ll also work on in Session I class (but those are yet to be decided). Anyway, without further ado, are some practice tunes:

Mountain Road (Reel in D) Fast Slow
Silver Spear (Reel in D) Fast Slow
Wise Maid (Reel in D) Fast Slow
Maid Behind the Bar (Reel in D) Fast Slow

Lilting Banshee (Jig in Am) Listen
Tommy Mulhair’s (Jig in G) Fast Slow
Cliffs of Moher Listen

Also, the KGB Practice links have a ton of good tunes – maybe slightly out of tune, but also played in sets of 2 or 3 (though only 1x each).

Week 3

Will post more soon, but for now, quick reminder. Practice the 2 and 3 finger chord progressions in both reel and jig rhythms. If you find you have mastered that, then change chords every 2 beats instead of every 4.

Jig Backing Exercise: For the tune, Connaughtman’s Rambles, work on the alternative backings that I passed out in class. Note that I provided 3 for the A part and 3 for the B part. This link is nice and slow and very steady, so it should allow you to work through both the chord changes and the jig strumming pattern safely.

Here’s are a couple of jigs on guitar that I ran across this morning – just to get you into the jig modd. Some fabulous picking. The Monaghan Jig (first one) is one that KGB often plays. Great minor jig.

Monaghan Jig / Tipperary Temptress (Note: I’m pretty sure the 1st tune that is listed in the description was cut off)

Week 2

First! Two items for your calendar – BRIMS session at C’ville Coffee Thurs, Dec 6th at 7pm. First hour is played at a measured pace, 2nd hour pace is appropriate for the group as a whole. I will at least be there for the first hour and if you’re interested, we can sit together a little away from the group and talk through some of the accompaniment.

Second item is that John Doyle is coming Wed, Dec 12th at C’ville Coffee. John is one of the finest guitarists in the world and it is a real treat to have him coming back to Charlottesville. He’ll be playing solo, so the emphasis (perhaps entire?) will be on song. Sure to be enjoyable (and probably crowded, so come early!)

Okay, on to class topics…

In the email to you, I’ve sent an updated intro to the course that includes an additional page of chord charts that have the D / Em / F#m / G / A walk up that I quickly introduced in class. It also has the basic minor chord shapes that we’ll go over in class next week.

This week spend time going over the exercises we introduced in class:

Rhythm Exercise: 4 measures on first beat followed by 4 measures on 2nd beat followed by 4 measures on 3rd beat and 4 measures on 4th beat. Repeat until you’re bored. Then go to exercise 2!

1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 etc.

Can also try emphasizing beats 1 and 3 and then 2 and 4.

This rhythm exercise is good to practice regardless of which tuning you ultimately choose to pursue. It helps you learn control the emphasis in your strumming hand and it is not easy to do for most people!

Chord Shapes Exercise: For whatever chord progressions you want to practice, do 4 beats with the 1st chord, 4 beats with the 2nd chord, etc. For example:

D1 D1 D1 D1 A1 A1 A1 A1 D2 D2 D2 D2 G2 G2 G2 G2 A2 A2 A2 A2 D2 D2 D2 D2

Where 1s represent the single finger chords, and 2s are the two finger chords moving up the scale (note that the 2nd D2 is the one just above the two finger A chord). Make sure to practice the “jump” back to the 1st D shape. Try it going up the scale and then practice going down.

Alternative Backing Exercise: For the tune, My Love is in America, try at least the first 4 alternative backing approaches that we did in class. Feel free to give the last two a whirl as well, but definitely practice the first 4. Make sure you feel really comfortable with knowing where those chord changes occur. The link above is to a recording of the full tune, you can just reset each time or try playing along with both the A and B parts. See if the same backings work for both parts! What do you think?

If you’re still with me – give the jig rhythm a try (pick direction also in the email). Down up Down Down up Down. Yep, that should keep you busy this week!!

Week 1

It’s great to be teaching guitar again after a lengthy layoff while getting the session classes underway. Seems like we’ve got a group with a fairly common set of backgrounds and knowledge and I appreciate everyone being willing to play a little yesterday so I have a better understanding of where we are and where we might go together.

To review some of the key points from yesterday’s class:

#1 – Rhythm. Lots of different types to keep it interesting – Reels, Jigs, Polkas, Hornpipes, Slides, etc.
#2 – Rhythm. It is THE priority in backing Irish music.
#3 – Rhythm. Examples from some of the best! Listen!

Reels: (Note not all play DADGAD – doesn’t matter)
Arty McGlynn
Arty McGlynn (great melody work on guitar on the 1st tune)
John Doyle (Drop D)
Dennis Cahill
Owen Marshall (note how the tunes sound with / without guitar)
Eamon O’Leary
Pat Egan (Standard)
Josh Dukes (great view of strumming hand – rock solid steady!)

#4 – Communication. Listening and coordinating with the melody players. Verbally prior to playing the tunes, but more importantly, once the set begins. Let your instruments and natural rhythms get in synch with each other. Support one another musically. If you don’t believe me, check out this article!

DADGAD Guitar Week 4 (Fall 2010)

Thanks again to Sean Deighan for his guest appearance in our class. It’s important to recognize that melody players each have their own unique style. I actually find that my accompaniment will be different depending on whom I’m backing up. For example, generally fiddle players have more “swing” to their playing than string players (such as mandolin or banjo) due to bowing (and slurring) vs. pick. So, if you find yourself playing somewhat differently, that’s not only okay, but encouraged. It means you’re really listening to the melody player and picking up on their unique style.

I also encourage you to find people to play with. Playing along with a recording is great for practice and learning chord positions, etc. But it is extremely important to learn how to play with other people (and, it is a heck of alot more fun!). It will also stretch you and that is an important elemen to improve your playing ability.

I’m hoping that our last class encouraged you to explore the upper part of the fretboard, especially when playing out of D or Em (capo 2). Just to drive the point home, it is another way to bring out new sound combinations when playing a tune multiple times. And, once you get more confident in the upper half of the fret board, it is fun to venture up there.

The Em chord progression shown below is the one I showed you and is an alternative to the minor progression that we worked on out of the Am (7th fret position). It is also a really nice example to show the importance of fingering (1s for minors, 2 for majors in this pattern). Once you practice it some, the patterns become second nature and much more logical than how we typically play out of standard position.

Play along with and practice the Em progressions on Sheep in the Boat

DADGAD Guitar (Fall 2010 Week 3)

This past week, we kept with the jig theme and talked about the use of the Em chord in a G tune. In our case we tried it in the B part of Mulhaire’s Jig. This is a fairly common pattern in Irish G tunes where the A part is very clearly major and the B part can have a more minor flavor to it. Here’s an example of another tune you can try it with.

Play along with Out on the Ocean

The second half of class was devoted to minor progressions which we played out of the A position (just to change things up again). So place the capo at the 7th fret. Here are the finger positionings for review.

As an example, we learned a well known jig, “Lilting Banshee”. It is sometimes known as Killaloe Boat. It is a two-part jig in Am. (Note: Thanks to BRIMS and Tes for this recording… much better than my mandolin version).

Play along with Lilting Banshee

Accompaniment Hints:
A Part: Try D, C, A shapes capo 7
(or actual chords Am, G, Em)
B Part: Same as A part will work, but a nice alternative is Bb, A, Bb, C shapes capo 7
(or actual chords Fmaj7, Em7, Fmaj7, G)

DADGAD Guitar (Fall 2010 Week 2)

In last Tuesday’s class, we added some new fingering patterns to the basic D scale progressions we learned last week. Below are some of the fingerings for those chord positions.

Note that although I didn’t include it in the above image, an “A” chord is the same pattern as the G chord shown, but moved up the neck two frets. Also, recall that another very similar approach is to leave the lowest D string open and move the two fingers that are close together (ring and pinky / 3 and 4) one string higher for an alternative voicing.

Next we saw how using the capo made it very easy to play in different keys. In our class we placed the capo on the 5th fret to play in G. To play in A, we could put the capo on the 7th fret. G and A are the two other most common major keys. The other fairly common capo position is on the 2nd fret to play Em tunes, though we will cover another approach next week in class.

The last thing we covered was an introduction to the jig rhythm. Jigs are in 6/8 time, which means beats are grouped in 3’s, which some people refer to as deee – ya – das or pine-ap-ples. While different guitarists use different strum patterns to play jig rhythm, we all started with a down-up-down down-up-down approach as shown below (note, I’ve also created a diagram for the reel pattern we covered in the previous class).

You’ll want to practice this pattern a fair amount. If you haven’t done new strum patterns much in your guitar playing, playing a jig pattern can take a little while to get down cold.

To practice jigs, try playing along with Claire and Breda again this week with Mulhaire’s jig, one of my new favorites!

Play along with Mulhaire’s Jig

DADGAD Guitar (Fall 2010 Week 1)

My apologies for the long break. Still have some catching up to do with some tunes from Ireland, but will hopefully fill those in during the coming weeks. For now, it is back to BRIMS classes. So, a few notes from our first DADGAD class (and I will catch up with Alex’s fiddle class when she returns from her tour).

Key points:

Four main aspects to learn for guitar backing (applies to all tunings – DADGAD, Drop D, Standard):

• Rhythm (jig, reel, polka, etc.)
• Root Note or Tonic (D, E, B, G, A)
• Mode (major, mixolydian, dorian, minor)
• Chords (fingering/shapes)

Understanding these will take you a long way. Practice, ear, improvisation, and experience is the rest of it.

Listen to ITM so that you know the tunes. As you go through the DADGAD course, learn to recognize if tunes are major or minor, their rhythm (jigs, reels, hornpipes, etc.), their root drone (key), where they are going, and recognizing when they don’t fall in typical patterns. These skills are essential for you to develop as you begin playing in sessions.

Here is a link to the handout provided in class that provides some helpful background information on guitar accompaniment and DADGAD in particular (with a big thanks to Kent!)

Chord Fingering / Shapes:

Here’s one nice D scale pattern (can be used ascending or descending)

Today we’ll work on a well known reel, “My Love is in America”. It is a two-part reel in D.

Play along with My Love is in America

Once you’ve mastered that, try O’Connell’s Trip to Parliament, a tune we learned in Ireland from Breda and Claire Keville.

Play along with O’Connell’s Trip to Parliament

It’s not often you get to play along with world class musicians, so enjoy… see you next week!

DADGAD Guitar – Week 5

So today we reviewed the minor progressions using the key of Emin and also recalled the new chord progression moving up the scale (Em, Bm, C, D).

After that we worked on two hornpipes. The first was “The Boys of Blue Hill” – a hornpipe in D major. You may remember the nice little scale up (D, A, D, G) at the end of the 2nd phrase. The second hornpipe we covered was “Off to California” in G major (capo 5th fret). You may recall the nice little Em / D / C walkdown followed by the Am, Bm, C, D walk up in the B part before returning to the dominant G.

Practice playing along with The Boys of Blue Hill

Finally, we talked about how to quickly find the root key of the tune and then we practiced picking out the root chord on some tunes.

Next week, we’ll hopefully be able to have a little session so you can practice in a more “live” environment. If I can’t round up some vict… er… volunteers, we’ll learn to pick out a tune on the guitar.

DADGAD Guitar – Week 4

Just to review what we covered on Thursday, I had two main goals for you. First was to think about how you might accompany tunes that had two parts in different keys where you can’t move the capo up and down. We used Out on the Ocean to explore that (noting a change from G major in the B part of the tune). We then followed that up with trying to play an E minor tune, “Sheep in the Boat” with the Capo still on the 5th fret (G position).

The second goal was to learn play out of the E minor position (2nd fret) and show you a third alternative run that could be used in minor tunes. As you may recall, it started with the same E min chord that we’d use to move down the fretboard (Open/Open/5/7/7/Open/Open), but instead of shifting our shape down two frets, we kept it on the same fret, but “switched around” the position to the shape we would use moving up the fretboard (Open/7/7/5/Open/Open) and moved up from there with the appropriate major and minor shapes.

So that gives us two alternatives for playing Emin tunes – out of the usual Capo 2 (same shapes as Amin / Capo 7) and out of G (Capo 5). During this week, see if you can come up with a way to play Emin tunes with no capo (D).

Here is Sheep in the Boat to practice an Emin tune. Note that I found out that it is better to play mandolin with a plastic paperclip than a credit card while recording this one at work.

Listen to Sheep in the Boat

DADGAD Guitar – Week 3

You all sounded great this week on the jigs. Keep practicing a little each day! The difference from the beginning of the hour until the end was really significant this week. You both really started to get a good feel for the jig rhythm and chord changes on those last few times through Cliffs of Moher!

In the last 5 minutes of class, I introduced a new tune, “Out on the Ocean” which is a “G” tune. But as you recognized in class, something a little different is happening in the B part. During this week, work on two alternative chord approaches for the B part and we’ll go over it next week along with some potential variations on jig strum patterns.

Also don’t be afraid to try playing along to other tunes on this site or on the BRIMS site ( The more you practice and experiment, the quicker you’ll pick up the accompaniment. Also, this week I’m posting the notes to the tune, so if you can read music a little, potentially use the notes to help you determine some chord options. Have fun!

Listen to Out on the Ocean

Added Sunday: And for a little inspiration, I came across this YouTube video today – two of the best playing together. Watch what Paul does to emphasize different parts of the tune by changing up the strumming patterns.

Listen to Arty McGlynn & Paul Brady