30-day guitar challenge, day 3: Get your head around altered tunings

Beat creative plateaus by retuning your guitar

Altered tunings guitar lesson
(Image: © Bloomimage/Corbis)

30-day guitar challenge: It's day 3, and time to broaden your horizons – DADGAD tuning often goes hand in hand with acoustic guitar in folk circles, but it's equally at home on the electric.

The folk angle is mainly because of its modal sound, hence why it's also known as D modal tuning or Celtic tuning.

All this really means is that there are fewer obvious major and minor chord shapes due to the tuning, with a lot of chord shapes using ambiguous 2nd and 4th intervals (the open strings themselves create a large Dsus4 sound).

This can create a moody atmosphere that sounds great strummed or played as arpeggios. Jimmy Page was a big fan of DADGAD (check out Led Zeppelin's Kashmir and Black Mountain Side).

Open E (EBEG#BE) is the tuning of choice for many blues slide players, including the likes of Derek Trucks and Sonny Landreth. When strummed, the open strings sound an E chord. Open E isn't just for slide players, however, as bands such as The Black Crowes use this tuning extensively for a bluesy Southern rock sound.

DADGAD tuning


Because this tuning feels so alien, just by using your ears and a few relatively simple shapes, you can come up with some original and unusual-sounding chords. The final bar is reminiscent of a folk-style Jimmy Page line that's based around a D major sound.

DADGAD tuning tab (right-click to download)

Open E tuning


This whole riff should have a 'let ring' vibe throughout, and due to the tuning you needn't worry too much about open strings bleeding into one another. The pull-offs shouldn't be too tricky, but make sure you hit the relaxed 'swing' feel throughout.

Open E tuning tab (right-click to download)

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