Exploring the guitar goes far beyond your fretboard. Part of the beauty of guitar is that you can tune it to different keys and achieve different sounds!
These tunings typically referred to as alternative tuning is widely used across multiple genres and will expand your mind about what you can do with your guitar!
Today we explore songs in one of the most famous tunings, DADGAD tuning! That’s D-A-D-G-A-D from top to bottom. DADGAD tuning has been used by countless artists and bands such as Led Zeppelin. Johhny Cash, and more. Let’s check some out!
But wait I still don’t understand what DADGAD tuning is!?
No worries my friend! DADGAD tuning will change your typical E Standard guitar tuning to a new and fresh range of available notes on your fretboard.
DADGAD tuning is used mostly in folk music before it made a debut in rock’n’roll that shook the world. DADGAD tuning is a simple but powerful tool to enhancement your creative arsenal.
When you strum it out you will play a perfect Dsus4. to spell it out for you on the guitar:
Now let’s hear the music! Starting with:
Ain’t no grave – Johnny Cash
Starting from DADGAD’s roots in folk and blues. “Ain’t no grave” is a moving piece covered by Jonny Cash and originally written by Claude Ely back in 1934 and covered by many artists. Johnny Cash recorded his version of ‘Ain’t no grave” right before his death in 2003. but the song wasn’t released until 2010. it has been featured in multiple shows and performances since its release date.
Expert Tip: Johnny Cash plays his specific version in DADGAD tuning, using a steel slide for the hook to capture the old-school blues sound and feel.
I would highly suggest you defiantly take your time and check it out. there are lots of versions of this song to listen to and get inspired by. who knows, maybe you will write your version!
Kashmir – Led Zeppelin
Now taking a trip across the pond we come to London and the song “Kashmir” written by Led Zeppelin! This rock’n’roll classic by the English band will take your breath away with its every second!
“Kashmir” was written in 1973 by Lead guitarist Jimi Page, by lead singer Rober Plant, and with contributions from Led Zeppelin’s drummer John Bonham. ’Kashmir” is a vibrant piece made up of multi-cultural influences.
“Kashmir” made its world debut on the album Physical Graffiti in 1975. along with other classics, this song was destined to go down in the history books. With hard-hitting guitar riffs, screaming vocals, and thundering bass and drums “Kashmir’ is an excellent song to add to your repertoire or just your playlist!
Black Mountain Side – Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin kept the trend going with more songs in DADGAD tuning. “Black Mountainside” takes more of a folk and country approach to the use of DADGAD tuning.
Written in 1968 by Jimi Page and first featured on their debut album Led Zeppelin / “Black Mountainside” was inspired by a traditional Irish folk song called “down by blackwaterside.”
“Black Mountainside” easily presents the potential of DADGAD tuning as an invaluable advantage in folk stylings as well as acoustic guitar playing. “Black Mountain Side” is one of my personal Led Zeppelin favorites, consider giving it a listen if you haven’t heard it already.
White Summer – Jimi Page
Last but not least on the list of Led Zeppelin songs written in DADGAD tuning. ’White Summer’ was a guitar instrumental composed by none other than Jimi Page in 1967 while he was originally in the Yardbirds.
Often performed along with “Black Mountain Side,” “White Summer” was recorded in London with Jimi Page as the sole band member on the recording, accompanied only by Chris Karan on tabla and an unidentified obe player, although Jimi is often accompanied by the band on stage.
Influenced by Indian and Arabic influences, “White Summer” is another incredible piece from Led Zeppelin that is sure to take you on a journey.
Dear Maria Count me in – All Time Low
Released from All-Time Low’s second studio album in 2008. “Dear Maria Count me in” was the American rock band’s first song to reach the top 100 billboards coming in at number 86!
Expert Tip: DADGAD tuning proves how capable it is for being used for all genres again, and you can see that clearly in this punk rock classic that perfectly utilizes those lower tones and chord fingering that DADGAD tuning makes accessible.
This song also just recently went viral on Tik-Tok this past January 2021 allowing the emo and punk youth of our time to express themselves as if they were back in punk-rock’s peak, crossing boundaries and uniting generations.
Dueling Ninjas – Trace Bundy
Folk, Rock, Punk what other genres can you play in DADGAD tuning? Well. I would have to say just about anything you can think of! Released on October 5. 2004. ‘Dueling Ninjas’ is an entrancing solo guitar piece that will place you in the mountain tops of ancient warriors watching as they duel with elegance and grace.
Using a two-handed percussive fingerstyle guitar style this is played only on acoustic to achieve the drums and sounds needed to perform this masterpiece known as “Dueling Ninjas.” A clear challenge to any aspiring guitar player in percussive finger styles. “Dueling Ninjas’ also strikes as an emotional tune that will be a memorable addition to your playlist.
Drifting – Andy Mckee
Another one-of-a-kind guitarist when it comes to the realm of fingerstyle playing. Andy Mckee is an expert of his craft of playing the acoustic guitar and he is happy to share his work.
“Drifting” was released in 2001, this song uses unusual guitar percussion as well as the DADGAD tuning, creating a magical and enchanting experience for the ears.
If you are here to learn, “Drifting” is a great song to extend and sharpen your chops, if you are here to listen I would certainly suggest adding this to your library and allow yourself to be drifted away by the insightful instrumental guitar playing of Andy Mckee.
Given to Fly – Pearl Jam
Leaving no stone unturned with these Rock’n’Roll greats, next on the list is pearl jam! “Given to Fly” was released in December of 1997 right before Christmas, coming in at no.21 on the top 100 hottest billboards.
“Given to Fly” was written by vocalist Eddie Vedder. and guitarist Mike McCready on a snowy day in Seattle. Exploding in the pop-rock domain this was the most successful song on the album Yield released later that year, this is also another great example of the abilities that DADGAD tuning will offer you and your guitar playing.
Circle – Slipknot
Slipknot the popular nu-metal band, takes a different approach to the song ’Circle” than most of their other music. Sounding more Folk-Rock and sentimental this song brilliantly makes use of the powerful harmonies that DADGAD presents. “Circle” was released in May of 2004. off of the album Vol.3 (the subliminal verses).
“Circle” shows another side to the members of slipknot from the otherwise heavy and vicious guitars and drums that will rumble the earth beneath you.
I would certainly add this to the list of DADGAD songs to learn, or if you don’t play (yet) start listening to Slipknot today, you won’t be disappointed.
Photograph – Ed Sheeran
A song all about heartbreak, “Photograph” by Ed Sheeran makes the list, with this pleasant little tune being played in DADGAD tuning. Written in May of 2012 by Ed Sheeran and Johnny Mcdaid in a Kansas hotel room. Ed Sheeran started to hum and Johnny put a beat to it, after a few hours it was composed.
Ed Sheeran finished “Photograph” in Denver. Colorado, and the song made his x (pronounced multiply) album. “Photograph” was released as a single and was favored by Ed Sheeran himself.
Peaceful and motivating if you’re not already a fan of Ed Sheeran this is a perfect first step into hearing his discography.
Black and White – Niall Horan
Niall Horan wrote “Black and White” pop-rock ballad with the DADGAD tuning to take full advantage of the D major scale on his guitar.
A beautiful and heartwarming story is played out by Niall Horan first on solo acoustic guitar and then accompanied by more instrumentation from the band to bring it home.
A similar song to an Ed Sheeran or One Direction song, One Direction being Niall Horan’s original group. “Black and White” was first performed on The Late Late Show with James Cordon in March 2020 and was officially released on the album Heartbreak Weather released in April of 2020.
County Down – Phil Keaggy
Peaceful and tranquil. “County Down” written by Phil Keaggy and is a song where you may envision yourself walking through a forest, or along a stream while listening to its cadence.
Sure to move your heart and calm your mind Phil Keaggy wrote “County Down” song in DADGAD tuning continuing to demonstrate the flexibility that this tuning will offer you when playing your guitar.
Released in 1991 Phil Keaggy has been around for a long time, telling stories with his guitar like “County Down” that will open your mind to what DADGAD can achieve.
Wu Wei – Pierre Bensusan
Pierre Bensusan is a French guitarist and composer, and he has almost exclusively made his entire style in DADGAD tuning, pouring out song after song with no lack of creativity or poise. “Wu Wei” was released in 1994 and recorded in 1993. a piece of music mixing jazz, world music, and new-age sounds.
Exquisite emotional, enlightening, these are all words that may come to mind when listening to Pierre Bensusan’s composition.
‘Wu Wei’ a bright progression of harmonies and melodies in DADGAD tuning. Be sure to check out his website where you can find tabs, tour dates, and merchandise for Pierre Bensusan.
Veilleuse – Pierre Bensusan
Considering Pierre Bensusan has shaped his guitar style around DADGAD tuning he has to get at least one more song on this list. Timeless. “Veilleuse” is a short piece, ending at around only a minute and thirty seconds long, but it will quickly lift your spirits and give you a positive outlook for your day. “Veilleuse” was recorded and released in 2008 on Pierre Bensusan’s album Vividly following his award-winning 9th solo guitar album.
Expert Tip: Truly mastering the potential of DADGAD tuning Pierre Bensusan’s “Veilleuse” is no exception when it comes to his artisan craftsmanship of this tuning.
Please take your time to listen to this piece, and allow it to fill your current room with waves of restoration, and remember, if you are a guitar player, you can find all the tabs for Pierre Bensusan’s “Veilleuse” and the rest of his songs on his website!
Goin’ Back – Neil Young
Last on this list is “Goin’ Back’ by Neil Young bringing us back to the classic English rock sound. Listening to “Goin’ Back” we find ourselves with a kind sounding guitar progression, soon accompanied by Neil singing, as well as bass, drums, and keyboards.
Released on Neil Young’s ninth studio album Comes a time in October of 1978 this song is a classic rock and roll tune played in. you guessed it DADGAD tuning, perhaps the most used tuning besides E Standard.
If you are a guitar player ‘Goin’ Back” is certainly a great song to have learned for the gig. but if you’re just listening, please take some time and serve your ears a delightful sound with the stylings of Neil Young and his band.
Cue the Fade out to Black
As you can see here DADGAD tuning has been used for countless years, emerging in Celtic folk music, and reaching across the globe inspiring all cultures and genres to apply its structure to their artistry, now it’s time to tune up and see what you may achieve with DADGAD tuning!
Thank you for reading our list of songs and artists that use DADGAD tuning, if you are an aspiring guitar player you have some homework to do. otherwise please enjoy the large new pallet of sounds now available to your ears.
Rock on, and keep it rolling!