DADGAD Guitar – Winter 2013

One last goody thanks to John F. from class. Great interview with John Doyle – when you get bored practicing what we covered in class, check out this interview / lesson!

John Doyle Article in Acoustic Guitar

Last Class

The new topic for our last class was capo challenges. Drowsy Maggie was a good example to explore as the A part is clearly Em and the B part is clearly D major which requires playing the tune without the capo. It is also a good example as to why you ultimately need to know the tunes. If you quickly recognized it as an Em tune in the A part but didn’t know the tune, put the capo on and played, you’d find yourself in a difficult position when the B part came around. Whereas if you recognized, “ah this is Drowsy Maggie, that tricky D / Em tune that is a single reel,” you’d be ready for the B part.

The other capo challenge comes from playing sets of tunes where the first tune might be in the key of G and the second in the key of D and the 3rd in the key of Am. Basically, there are 4 approaches to how to manage this long-term. First, when the tune changes, drop out for the A part of the new tune and come in on the B part (or the 2nd time through). This is actually a very lovely musical effect as the melody players kind of get the tune going (and can hear each other slightly better) and then guitar comes in to add another layer of sound. With this approach, I’ll often start to strum a bit (muted) to get my own internal rhythm in synch before coming in on the B part. I also think it is very effective opportunity to build the accompaniment. For example, come in softer and simpler, and increase the dynamics (volume, rhythmic variation, chord substitution) as the tune progresses. The second approach is to hit the first chord (root chord) of the next tune at the beginning to get the transition to feel strong, then move the capo quickly and be there for the beginning of the next phrase. Basically, a strong first beat and then silence for the rest of the phrase (other than misc. capo moving sounds… hahaha). This takes a bit of practice and I would say it works best when going from D to other keys. Third approach is if you’re very good with a sliding capo (like I have), you can actually keep the rhythm going while changing the capo in a single beat (without a sliding capo, the equivalent approach is probably to drop out right at the end of the previous tune and move the capo quickly). The last approach is to play all the tunes out of the D position (no capo). This generally requires you to be very good at choosing the particular strings to play/strum and/or muting particular strings. There are some sets (for example, sets that go D-G-D or D-Em-D or D-Am-D) where I’d encourage you to consider it. Long-term, it is a good skill to work toward as it also helps (ummm… is required) on tunes that change keys between the A part and the B part.

The last point I made in class is the importance to continue playing with people. You’ve been introduced to all of the basic tools you need for accompaniment in this class (regardless of tuning chosen). If you can find a group of folks to play tunes with on a weekly basis, and struggle through the gaining experience part of accompaniment, you’ll get to the point where you have a better sense for the structure of tunes and your role in the session/group. And, I’m here to tell you, when you get there, it’s a bunch of fun!!

Many thanks for taking the class and supporting BRIMS! Hope we’ll have the chance to play together again in the near future!

Third Class

We spent most of our time just playing in the last class and that will be the plan for week 4 as well. I did throw in a few items along the way which are explained in a bit more detail below.

1) Because we’re in DADGAD, the root chord (if you’re playing with the capo) will typically be played neutrally – that is, without the 3rd note of the scale being played. For example, for the one finger D chord, the notes that are played are DADAAD – no Fs or F#s (the 3rd note of the D scale which is what determines if the chord is Dmaj or Dmin). Therefore, when you play that D chord in a D tune, it will work for a D tune in any mode (or more generally, in major or minor modes). This buys you a little time to get your bearings, but it does make the 2nd chord choice an important one because then you are making more of a commitment to the mode. What you’ll generally find is that for tunes in the Major (Ionian) mode, that 2nd chord will likely be a G or an A shape. In the other 3 modes, the most likely chord will be a C shape. So, as you listen and try to figure out accompaniment, think about that 2nd chord choice. While there may be many other substitutions that work, that 2nd chord shape goes a long way toward determining a workable accompaniment.

2) I also mentioned (almost in passing) about an alternative rhythm for jigs to consider once you feel really comfortable with first one we did. This rhythm goes down (quarter note) – up – down – up – down (all 8th notes). This emphasizes the first downbeat in a jig phrase more than the other pattern we used, but still has the same underlying down-up-down-down-up-down rhythm.

3) Our new tune for the week, Drowsy Maggie (reel), threw us two curve balls to be aware of in session playing. One is that there is a clear change of key between the A part and the B part. So, again, in DADGAD we have to make a choice about capo position and work around the fact that in one of the parts, we’ll be working “against” our capo position choice a bit. The second curve ball is that it is a single reel, meaning that you only play the A part and the B part once each, so it goes by twice as fast. While most tunes follow the AABB pattern, some are AB (single reel, for example) and others have more parts (AABBCCDD or ABCDE, etc.) Ultimately, you have to know the tunes, but the structure of the tune is something to listen for!

Here’s Erin playing Drowsy Maggie, a very popular session tune.

Drowsy Maggie

Since I’ve been pounding you with theory… a little something to lighten the mood thanks to Facebook and multiple friends sending it on. And it is “relatively” accurate. Enjoy.

C, E-flat, and G go into a bar. The bartender says, “Sorry, but we don’t serve minors.” So E-flat leaves, and C and G have an open fifth between them. After a few drinks, the fifth is diminished, and G is out flat. F comes in and tries to augment the situation, but is not sharp enough. D comes in and heads for the bathroom, saying, “Excuse me; I’ll just be a second.” Then A comes in, but the bartender is not convinced that this relative of C is not a minor. Then the bartender notices B-flat hiding at the end of the bar and says, “Get out! You’re the seventh minor I’ve found in this bar tonight.” E-flat comes back the next night in a three-piece suit with nicely shined shoes. The bartender says, “You’re looking sharp tonight. Come on in, this could be a major development.” Sure enough, E-flat soon takes off his suit and everything else, and is au natural. Eventually C sobers up and realizes in horror that he’s under a rest. C is brought to trial, found guilty of contributing to the diminution of a minor, and is sentenced to 10 years of D.S. without Coda at an upscale correctional facility.

Second Class

Ionian (major), Mixolydian (majorish), Dorian (minor), Aoelian (minor)
For those that are interested, there’s a nice introduction to modes here.

How to find modal scales:
Start with major (Ionian) scale
Mixolydian – flat the 7th note of the scale (in D major scale, make the C# a C natural)
Dorian – Mixolydian scale except flat the 3rd (in D, make the F# an F natural)
Aoelian – Dorian scale except flat the 6th (in D, make the B a Bb)
Generally, moving from Ionian to Aoelian goes from “happy” sound to “intriguing” sound (think movie soundtracks!)

With this in mind, note that both the Dorian and Aoelian modes have a “flat” 3rd which is what makes them considered minor. In other words, the primary chord (1 chord) for D is D minor rather than D major. In DADGAD many of the D shapes are major/minor neutral, meaning there is no F note (3rd) played at all in the chord (no F# – major, or F natural – minor). Very handy (and forgiving)!

What modes are in play in various keys?
D tunes – All modes are in play – most tunes, however are major and mixolydian
Em tunes – Minor modes (both dorian and aoelian)
G tunes – Mainly major (ionian)
A / Am tunes – All modes are in play
Bm tunes – Minor modes (mainly dorian)

The modes of tunes are the last piece of theory / information you need to consider in tune accompaniment. And again, your ear is your best ally (but a little theory is helpful to understand the reason why certain chord patterns work).

So, the quick list of questions for tune backing is:
1) What is the rhythm? (reel, jig, hornpipe, polka, slip jig, slide, waltz, etc.)
2) What is the root key or tonic? (D, Em, G, A, Bm)
3) What is the mode? (Ionian, Mixolydian, Dorian, Aeolian)
4) What chords do I choose to play?

First Class

Welcome back! Let’s review what we covered in our first class of 2013:

How to find the key. Use the bass note (low D) or two bass notes together (low D and A) on your guitar to find where the tune sounds in synch with the underlying root chord or tonic (key). Usually most effective to find during the first phrase of the A or B part, but watch for tunes (about 10-15%) where the first phrase is not the 1 chord. Finding the key (and, of course, the rhythm) is the first step in creating your accompaniment for a tune.

What bass notes do I try? 98% of the tunes will be in D, Em, G, A or Am, or Bm, so try the D (open), E (2nd fret), G (5th fret), A (7th fret) and B (9th fret).

Alternative approaches: Move your capo to each of those frets and use the single finger version of the D chord, or, if there are other guitarists in DADGAD tuning, check out where their capo is placed (not always effective as we’ll later see, btw). While you can also usually find the key on-line, it is REALLY important to develop this skill by ear, and practice is the only way to get there!

Be careful: If you happen to catch a phrase that strongly suggests a chord that is different than the underlying key, you may get a “false positive”, hence the reason to try to catch the first phrase. Also, on many guitars, as you move up the neck or possibly bend the strings a bit, you may find yourself slightly out of tune (or if you weren’t in tune with the melody player to begin with) and your ear will pick up on that and perhaps think it that didn’t sound “in synch” when, in fact, the issue was being slightly out of tune.

When I slap the capo on, how do I know what chord I’m playing? As I so deftly described in class, just count up the scale from the chord in D position by the number of frets where you’ve placed your capo. So, starting with D, here are the notes in a chromatic scale:

D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Interestingly enough, that also corresponds to the capo position, right?

So, if you’re playing D position with the capo on the 5th fret, you count up the scale 5 places from the chord form you’re playing – D (D#, E, F, F#, G), then you’re playing a G chord. If, as we discovered in class, you’re playing a G form chord with the capo on the 5th fret, count up 5 notes on the scale from G (G#, A, A#, B, C), and voila, you’re playing a C chord. Note that the scale repeats after the C# going back to D, D#, etc. So, if you’re playing a Bm chord form with the capo on the 5th fret, count up 5 notes from B (C, C#, D, D#, E) and you’re playing an Em chord.

This is called “transposition” in music theory and is also very important to understand when backing up a singer (or perhaps yourself, if you sing). For example, you might look up your favorite Irish song, write down the chords, and then try to sing along with it and realize it doesn’t work so well for your voice range. This is when your trusty capo comes in handy. Instead of learning new chords, you can just put on the capo and try a different key.

For our purposes in class, when I make chord notation on a tune, I will generally make the notation based on key of D fingerings (forms) even if the tune is in a different key. Thus, if a tune is in G and the first chord is G, I will show it as D, but because we have the capo on the 5th fret it will be a G chord. That probably sounds somewhat confusing right now, but you’ll find it is easier to refer to the chord forms that way (e.g. play Em form with your capo on the 5th fret (which is an Am), rather than having to figure out in your head how an Am chord would be fingered with the capo on the 5th fret).

Last, I’ve asked that you try to figure out your own accompaniment for Out on the Ocean (a jig) and bring that to class next week. This is likely to be a struggle, but a worthy one! Long term, your goal is to be able to figure out fairly quickly what sounds good with a tune and trust me, most people can’t memorize all the chords to all the tunes (and plus, you’ll want to throw in a few variations), so you have to start on the journey of gaining the experience of recognizing patterns that work.

So without further ado, here’s Erin!
Out on the Ocean

And if you figure that one out and are now bored, here’s another one!
Father Kelly’s

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