A close up of someone tuning a guitar.

25 DADGAD Songs: A Deep Dive into the World of Alternate Tunings

DADGAD tuning, a form of alternate tuning for the guitar, has significantly influenced the music industry, especially in genres like Celtic music, world music, indie, and rock. This comprehensive guide will delve into the best songs in DADGAD tuning. We’ll highlight some of the most iconic tracks that have harnessed this unique tuning to create memorable and beautiful songs.

1. Count Me In – All Time Low

All Time Low is a band that skillfully blends pop-punk elements with modern rock. Their iconic track Count Me In uses DADGAD tuning, characterized by its engaging rhythm and melody, making it a favorite DADGAD song among fans of the band and genre.

The tuning in this song allows for simple chord progressions that add a distinct flavor to the song, differentiating it from typical pop-punk tracks. It provides a fresh twist, demonstrating the band’s willingness to experiment with different sounds and techniques.

2. Kashmir – Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin, a band that needs no introduction, has one of their most iconic songs, Kashmir, utilizing DADGAD tuning. This track from their 1975 album Physical Graffiti is a testament to the band’s innovative approach to music.

The song stands out for its unique blend of rock and Middle Eastern influences, partly attributed to the DADGAD tuning. It’s a prime example of how DADGAD tuning can be used to create a powerful and mesmerizing sound that transcends traditional genre boundaries. In fact, Kashmir is often cited as one of the greatest rock songs of all time.

3. The Only Boy Awake – Meadows

The Only Boy Awake by Meadows is a beautiful song that exemplifies the use of DADGAD tuning in creating atmospheric and emotive acoustic music. This track is a staple in the world of fingerstyle playing, where DADGAD tuning allows for a rich and resonant sound. Meadows’ skillful playing and heartfelt lyrics make The Only Boy Awake a standout track amongst songs in DADGAD tuning, resonating deeply with fans of acoustic guitar and folk music.

This track gained popularity after being featured in the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, introducing a wider audience to the haunting beauty of these types of songs.

4. Norwegian Wood – Colin Hay

Norwegian Wood was originally performed by The Beatles, but Colin Hay’s version is a prime example of how DADGAD tuning can breathe new life into a classic song. Known for his intricate guitar work, Hay’s version adds a fresh perspective to this well-loved track. The DADGAD tuning enriches the song’s harmonic depth, making it a great song for those interested in exploring the possibilities of alternate tuning in well-known tracks.

5. Knock On Wood – Justin King

Knock On Wood is a track that brilliantly showcases the capabilities of DADGAD tuning. Justin King’s composition is a masterful blend of rhythm and melody, making extensive use of this tuning to create a complex and captivating soundscape. This track is not only a great song for guitar enthusiasts but also an exemplary piece of how these songs can push the boundaries of acoustic guitar music.

Knock On Wood is celebrated for its innovative percussive techniques and intricate fingerstyle, which are enhanced by the use of DADGAD.

6. Neil Young – Goin’ Back

Neil Young’s Goin’ Back is a reflective and emotive track that utilizes DADGAD tuning to add depth to its acoustic arrangement. Known for his contribution to folk rock and his skill in playing guitar, Young’s use of DADGAD tuning in this song allows for a more expansive and resonant sound. This song is a testament to how alternate tuning can be used to enhance the narrative and emotional impact of a song, especially when it comes to folk rock.

7. Xavii – Russian Circles

Xavii by Russian Circles demonstrates the versatility of DADGAD tuning beyond the realms of folk and acoustic genres. This instrumental track stands out for its ambient and post-rock influences, with DADGAD tuning playing a crucial role in shaping the atmosphere of the song. Russian Circles’ ability to create a powerful and immersive soundscape using alternate tuning makes Xavii a notable addition to the list of these songs in contemporary music.

8. Drifting – Andy McKee

Andy McKee’s Drifting is a standout piece in the world of fingerstyle guitar music, heavily reliant on the use of DADGAD tuning. This track is renowned for its innovative playing technique and the mesmerizing melody that McKee creates. Drifting not only showcases the technical skill involved in playing guitar but also emphasizes how DADGAD tuning can be used to craft a beautiful song that resonates with listeners worldwide.

Drifting gained viral fame on the internet, highlighting the appeal of DADGAD tuning and fingerstyle to a global audience.

9. County Down – Phil Keaggy

Phil Keaggy is a virtuoso guitar player and a highly regarded figure in Christian music. County Down is a track that beautifully illustrates the charm of DADGAD tuning in creating melodic and harmonious music. Keaggy’s expertise in playing guitar shines through this piece, where DADGAD tuning aids in crafting intricate melodies and lush soundscapes. County Down stands as a testament to the serene and spiritually uplifting qualities that these song types can embody. It’s celebrated for its blend of spiritual lyricism and masterful guitar work, showcasing how DADGAD tuning can enhance the spiritual and emotional depth of a song.

10. Merrily Kissed The Quaker – Pierre Bensusan

Merrily Kissed The Quaker by Pierre Bensusan is a traditional Irish folk song brought to life through the unique sound of DADGAD tuning. Bensusan, known for his exceptional fingerstyle, utilizes DADGAD tuning to add a distinctive flair to this Irish folk tune. The song is a delightful example of how DADGAD tuning can be used to revitalize traditional music, giving it a fresh, contemporary feel while maintaining its cultural essence.

Pierre Bensusan’s rendition of Merrily Kissed The Quaker is a favorite among enthusiasts of Celtic music, illustrating the versatility of DADGAD tuning in preserving traditional music genres.

11. Bless The Weather – John Martyn

John Martyn, an influential figure in British folk music, presents Bless The Weather, a song that effectively utilizes DADGAD tuning to create a rich and emotive acoustic experience. This track is a fine display of Martyn’s skill in blending folk and jazz influences, with DADGAD tuning playing a crucial role in producing its distinctive sound. Bless The Weather is a prime example of how DADGAD tuning can enhance the depth and texture of folk-rock compositions.

12. Out Of The Woods – Nickel Creek

Nickel Creek, known for their innovative approach to bluegrass and folk music, uses DADGAD tuning in their song Out Of The Woods to create a captivating and layered musical piece. This track shows off the band’s ability to blend traditional elements with modern sensibilities, using alternate tuning to add depth and complexity to their music, enhancing the narrative. This is a gorgeous song in the realm of modern folk, highlighting the versatility and richness of DADGAD tuning.

13. Barton Hollow – The Civil Wars

The Civil Wars, a duo known for their haunting harmonies and poignant songwriting have written a range of beautiful songs. But Barton Hollow is a tune that stands out in the realm of modern folk music for its masterful use of DADGAD tuning. It uses the unique sound of DADGAD tuning to create a tense and atmospheric backdrop for its storytelling. Barton Hollow exemplifies how DADGAD tuning can be used to enhance the mood and narrative of a song, making it a memorable and powerful piece in the duo’s repertoire.

In fact, Barton Hollow gained critical acclaim for its evocative lyrics and the duo’s harmonious blend, with DADGAD tuning playing a significant role in creating its distinctive sound.

14. Ain’t No Grave – Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash, the legendary country music artist, created a raw and powerful rendition of Ain’t No Grave using DADGAD tuning. This song is part of one of the posthumous albums that was released after he died. This song showcases Cash’s deep and resonant voice against the backdrop of the distinct sound provided by DADGAD tuning. The use of alternate tuning in Ain’t No Grave adds to the song’s gritty and soulful character, making it a standout track in Cash’s extensive catalog.

This rendition of Ain’t No Grave is particularly poignant, as it was one of the last recordings made by Johnny Cash.

15. Your Love Is Enough – Jon Foreman

Jon Foreman, the frontman of Switchfoot, showcases his solo artistry in Your Love Is Enough, a track that utilizes DADGAD tuning to create an uplifting and resonant sound. This song is a beautiful blend of acoustic guitar and heartfelt lyrics, with DADGAD tuning enriching its harmonic texture. This song perfectly shows how DADGAD tuning can be used to create songs that are both melodically rich and emotionally compelling.

16. Obligatory Folk Punk Song – Panucci’s Pizza

Obligatory Folk Punk Song by Panucci’s Pizza is a unique addition to the list of songs, blending the raw energy of punk with the acoustic sensibilities of folk music. By using DADGAD tuning, the band creates a track that is both energetic and melodically engaging. This song exemplifies how alternate tunings like DADGAD can be effectively used in genres beyond traditional folk, bringing a fresh perspective to folk punk music.

The fusion of punk energy and acoustic elements in this song showcases the broad applicability and appeal of DADGAD tuning across various music styles.

17. Photograph by Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran, a renowned singer-songwriter, incorporates DADGAD tuning in his heartfelt ballad Photograph. This song, known for its emotive lyrics and melodious tune, benefits greatly from the rich and resonant sound of DADGAD tuning. Sheeran’s skillful guitar playing and his soulful vocals are enhanced by the tuning, adding depth and warmth that make Photograph a stunning song and a favorite among fans of acoustic pop music.

18. Circle by Slipknot

Slipknot, primarily known for their heavy metal music, takes a surprising turn with Circle, a song that utilizes DADGAD tuning to create a more subdued and melodic sound. This track showcases the band’s versatility, demonstrating how they can skillfully incorporate an alternative tuning into a genre typically characterized by its intensity and aggression. Circle stands out as a unique and unexpected example of how DADGAD tuning can be adapted into different musical styles, including metal.

19. Mellowing – All Them Witches

Mellowing by All Them Witches is a track that uses DADGAD tuning to create atmospheric and psychedelic soundscapes. This song is part of the band’s larger body of work that blends elements of blues, rock, and psychedelia. It benefits from this tuning’s ability to add a layer of depth and texture.

Mellowing is a testament to how DADGAD tuning can be effectively used to enhance the mood and tone of a song, especially in genres like psychedelic rock.

20. Below The Salt – Unwound

Below The Salt by Unwound is an intriguing piece that demonstrates the versatility of DADGAD tuning in the realm of post-hardcore and experimental music. This track stands out for its innovative approach, where the tuning is used to create a complex and layered sound that challenges conventional music structures. Unwound’s exploration of this specific tuning in Below The Salt shows how DADGAD tuning can push the boundaries of musical experimentation.

21. Black Mountainside – Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin, a band that has left an indelible mark on rock history, showcases their versatility with Black Mountainside, a track that heavily employs DADGAD tuning. This instrumental piece, inspired by traditional Celtic music, highlights the band’s ability to blend diverse musical influences. The use of DADGAD tuning in Black Mountainside allows for a rich and intricate sound, which shows off the band’s innovative approach to guitar playing and their influence in popularizing these songs.

22. Dueling Ninjas – Trace Bundy

Trace Bundy, known for his exceptional guitar skills, brings Dueling Ninjas to life using DADGAD tuning. This instrumental track is a showcase of Bundy’s mastery over the guitar, with DADGAD tuning playing a critical role in creating its dynamic and intricate melodies. Dueling Ninjas is not only a technical marvel but also a demonstration of how DADGAD tuning can be used to craft complex and engaging compositions.

Dueling Ninjas is often praised for its innovative use of looping and percussive techniques on the guitar, all enhanced by the unique sound of DADGAD tuning.

23. White Summer – Jimi Page

White Summer, performed by the the legendary guitarist of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Page is a song that further exemplifies his expertise in using DADGAD tuning. This instrumental track, often performed during Led Zeppelin’s live shows, showcases Page’s skill in blending rock with influences from Celtic and Eastern music. The use of DADGAD tuning in White Summer contributes significantly to its hypnotic and ethereal quality, making it a standout piece in the realm of rock music.

24. That’s When You Came In – Steel Panther

Steel Panther, known for their glam metal style and humorous lyrics, incorporates DADGAD tuning in their song That’s When You Came In. This track is a fusion of hard rock and melodic elements, with DADGAD tuning adding a unique twist to their signature sound. That’s When You Came In demonstrates how DADGAD tuning can be adapted to fit even the more bombastic and theatrical genres like glam metal. It’s a testament to their musical versatility and willingness to experiment within their genre.

25. Given to Fly – Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam, a band synonymous with the grunge movement, utilizes DADGAD tuning in their song Given to Fly. This track is known for its uplifting melody and inspiring lyrics, and it benefits even further from the expansive sound that DADGAD tuning offers. Given to Fly is a prime example of how alternate tunings can add depth and richness to a rock song, enhancing its emotional impact and resonance with the audience.

Given to Fly stands out in Pearl Jam’s discography for its use of DADGAD tuning, which contributes to the song’s soaring and anthemic quality.

What Are DADGAD Tunes?

From D-standard to open-E, there’s a whole host of tunings out there to try. DADGAD refers to music composed or played using a specific alternate guitar tuning known as DADGAD. This tuning, characterized by tuning the guitar strings to D-A-D-G-A-D from low to high, offers a unique sound and tonal quality that differs significantly from the standard E-A-D-G-B-E guitar tuning.

Not sure how to tune your guitar? Check out these guitar tuners.

A close up of the tuning pegs of a guitar.

Origins and Usage in Music Genres

The origins of DADGAD tuning can be traced back to folk and traditional music, particularly from regions such as Ireland and Scotland. It was popularized in the 1960s by guitarists like Davey Graham, who used it to blend Western folk with Eastern music influences. Since then, DADGAD has become a staple in various music genres:

Celtic Folk Music: DADGAD, or “Celtic tuning,” is particularly prevalent in Celtic music, where its drone-like quality enhances the traditional melodies and rhythms of Irish and Scottish tunes. It is ideal for playing Celtic music due to its ability to create rich, resonant sounds that complement the genre’s melodic structures.

Folk and Acoustic Music: Many folk and acoustic musicians favor DADGAD for its versatility and the ease with which it can be used to create both simple and complex chord progressions. Celtic tuning lends itself well to fingerstyle, allowing guitarists to produce a wide range of harmonies and textures.

Rock and Blues: Rock musicians often use DADGAD tuning to add a unique sound to their music. Bands like Led Zeppelin have famously used it in songs like “Kashmir,” showcasing how it can be employed to create powerful and distinctive riffs that stand out in the rock genre.

World Music: The adaptability of DADGAD tuning has made it popular in world or African music, where it is used to mimic the sounds of instruments from various cultures or to fuse different musical traditions.

Experimental and Ambient Music: Artists in experimental and ambient genres use DADGAD to explore new soundscapes. The tuning’s open and drone-like qualities make it suitable for creating atmospheric and ethereal music. That’s right – you can play it on your electric guitar, too!

Characteristics and Appeal of DADGAD Tuning

Ease of Playing: DADGAD tuning simplifies the fretboard, making it easier for guitarists to play chords and melodies. It is particularly appealing to beginners and those exploring fingerstyle playing.

Rich Harmonics: The tuning allows for rich and resonant harmonics, providing a full and vibrant sound that enhances the musical expression.

Versatility: DADGAD can be used across various music genres, from traditional folk to modern experimental music, making it a versatile tool for musical creativity.

Unique Soundscapes: The tuning creates unique soundscapes that standard tuning cannot easily replicate, giving musicians a distinctive sonic palette.

Conclusion: The Enduring Charm of DADGAD Tuning in Music

As we conclude our exploration of these songs, it’s clear that this unique guitar tuning has left a mark on the world of music. From its roots in Celtic folk music to its widespread use in genres as diverse as rock, blues, and beyond, DADGAD tuning has proven to be much more than a mere novelty. It’s a versatile tool that has enabled artists to craft rich, resonant, and emotionally compelling music.

The beauty of DADGAD lies in its simplicity and the depth of sound it offers. It has provided musicians with a new canvas on which to paint their sonic landscapes, allowing for creative expressions that standard tuning might not readily afford. This tuning is not just a technique but an invitation to explore, to experiment, and to express.

For guitar enthusiasts, whether they are seasoned players or beginners, DADGAD offers a gateway into a world of new possibilities. It encourages exploration beyond the conventional boundaries of guitar playing, inviting artists to discover new melodies, harmonies, and textures.

We’ve discussed some of our favorite DADGAD tuning songs in this article by countless artists, ranging from the hauntingly beautiful Black Mountainside by Led Zeppelin to the soul-stirring Photograph by Ed Sheeran. Each track, with its unique style and emotional depth, illustrates how this alternative tuning can transform a simple string of notes into a profound musical experience.