From Here to There

I was going to touch on something about the tuning I use for my guitar, and yes it’s the only tuning I use, no big deal, I just seem to think better in it.  But it occurs to me that I’ve never really walked through with you how I go about taking a guitar from standard tuning to dadgad.  And maybe more important–how to get it back to standard tuning again so your friends don’t never let you touch their guitar again.  (In my early years I would sometimes forget, I’d get up from my seat at the party and someone asks if they can use my guitar, I say of course then go out to the kitchen for a bit.  I come back into the livingroom and buddy is sitting in the corner still unsuccessfully trying to get the strings to make the right sounds without knowing exactly why it’s not working.  And that’s not a very nice thing to do to someone.  I usually remember now.  Usually.)  And I know not everyone has the inclination to tune their guitar to dadgad and leave it there like I did, so being able to go back and forth between the two different ways of tuning the guitar is maybe a good skill to develop.  And happily it doesn’t take much to get the hang of it.  Maybe now’s a good time.  Won’t take long.

kbsitepicinstrument006It might be best if I assume that your guitar is in standard-issue tuning just now.  If it’s not, or if it’s tuned to something else maybe grab a tuner and get it close to normal, it’ll be way easier.  I’ll wait.

Okay…So first let’s walk through getting from where you are now to dadgad.  Some people begin the process by tuning their lowest-sounding string down from an E-note to a D-note using a tuner.  Somehow that doesn’t work so well for me.  So I’m going to suggest that you begin by playing your D-string (the 3rd-lowest sounding string) and listening to how it sounds.  No really.  If you’re going to spend any time in this tuning at all you want to train your ear to recognize what it sounds like.  Checking it with your tuner is maybe a good idea too, but do spend a minute or so just playing that D-note and listening to it.  Trust me, it’ll pay off.

Now, we’re only going to change three strings.  First I’d like you to take your lowest-sounding string (which is an E-note) and tune it down a whole tone so it sounds like it’s the same note as your middle D-string only a whole octave lower.

(A brief explanation that might be helpful.  If you sing a doh, re, mi scale from bottom to top, an octave is the distance between the doh on the bottom and the doh on the top.  Same note, different octaves.  Good to know, too, that a ‘tone’ is also a measure of musical distance–if you play a note on your guitar and then play another one exactly two frets higher, the distance between those notes is called a tone.  If you want to get fancy you could also remember that half of that, a movement of one fret, is a semi-tone.  But stress not.  The octave is the important bit to remember just now.)

So get your bass string (that’d be the lowest-sounding one) reading a D-note on your tuner, and also notice when it’s sounding like it’s in tune with your middle D-string.  Got that?

Now we’re going to do the same thing with your highest sounding string.  Your going to tune it down a tone (again, that’s 2 frets-worth of downage) to a D-note.  Get it close then check it with your tuner.  And once again notice when it’s sounding in tune with your middle string.  That comparing bit is really important.

The last string I tune is my second-highest-sounding string.  That’s currently your B-string.  I’m going to ask you to do the same ‘move it down a tone’ trick as the other two.  Only this time after you check it with your tuner I’d like you to notice that it’s the same note as your second-lowest-sounding string only an octave higher.  That’s your A.  Check how your two A-strings sound with one another.

And you’re done.  At this point I usually play our one-finger D-chord to make sure it’s all good.

Just before we finish I’d like you to notice two things.  In each case you moved your string down the same amount–a full tone.  And in each case there was another open string to compare with the newly tuned one. That last thought is kind of special because once you get the hang of comparing two notes with the same name but in different octaves you’ll be able to get to dadgad fairly easily.

That’s probably enough for now.  If you think it would be helpful for me to walk you through getting from dadgad back to standard tuning let me know.  You mostly just reverse the instructions, but there are a couple of things I can show you to make it easier.  In the meantime I hope this helps.