Personal tricks and progressions in DADGAD

Personal tricks and progressions in DADGAD

I’ve been getting more and more into playing DADGAD backing guitar for sessions, but I feel I’m stuck with three or four progressions I’m using over and over, and on a 3 or 4 hour session, even if people find those progressions nice, I find that I should be varying more.

Meeting other guitarists in sessions I’ve seen people have very personal unique approaches to DADGAD that often are hard to write. In particular I met a guitarist who was heavily inspired by John Blake, and I’m still trying to understand exactly what types of chords he uses (often with the capo on the 5th fret even for songs in D). I’ve also seen people use very "jazzy" voicings instead of the usual modal no-third types of drone chords.

Have you seen any unique approach to DADGAD like this that left an impression on you? And also, where can I find more about John Blake’s DADGAD style? I’ve been going by ear and watching the videos 500 times, but the progress has been slow.

(example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2bHZbtwYAU#t=30s)

Re: Personal tricks and progressions in DADGAD

You just need to learn the tunes and play some appropriate chords. The melody players don’t really need to know how you have tuned your guitar.
If you wish to emulate another accompanist you need to find a fiddler, piper, flautist etc and back them: learn the tunes, work out a nice backing; can’t do it on isolation.
If you wish to play solo ITM check out Tony McManus or the like.
Enjoy.

Posted .

Re: Personal tricks and progressions in DADGAD

If you can convert the YouTube videos to MP3 then slow them down with one of the many apps that might help you. You could also find out if he does Skype lessons. Some of them do.

Re: Personal tricks and progressions in DADGAD

"If you can convert the YouTube videos to MP3 then slow them down with one of the many apps that might help you."

You can even do this in YouTube itself if playing the video in HTML5

Re: Personal tricks and progressions in DADGAD

The backing on The truckley howl album is great and the guitar is quite prominent. I’m not saying it would be easy to figure out. Paul mcsherry is another great player who uses DADGAD.

Re: Personal tricks and progressions in DADGAD

Re-read alan21. Learn the tunes. Doesn’t matter what "tricks" or progressions you use , what instrument you play, who you emulate, or what tuning you use. What matters is that you know the tune at least well enough to back it. If you don’t know the tune you can’t be any good. DADGAD is a valid, useful technique, not a shortcut.

Re: Personal tricks and progressions in DADGAD

Many backers use several solutions when playing a tune three-four times. Pay attention to which chords they use when, and then try to figure out why.

The tuning isn’t important, but your knowledge of the tunes is.

Now, to the video - John Blake happens to play each round more or less the same each time. Drowsy Maggie goes something like this:
|:Em |Em Bm|Em A|D Bm:|
||Em A|D |G D|D Bm|
G D|Em D|Em Bm|Am D||

This Em-A-D-Bm is a very handy progression. It also common in a four bar-scenario, e.g. Em |Em A|D |D Bm| (I think Arty McGlynn does smth like it while backing Matt Molloy on Mayor Harrison’s Fedora) You’ll find this and other useful progressions if you just listen carefully. They all should be part of every backer’s repertoire.

The second and third tune are very straight-forward.

Re: Personal tricks and progressions in DADGAD

One of the problems with DADGAD is that is hard to make it not sound like DADGAD. By that I mean it’s very easy to learn a few cool shapes and runs in D that can be applied to other keys with a capo. Trouble is then that each key sounds the same because you’re using the same relative voicings. DADGAD, in my opinion, is not as versatile as, say, dropD or standard so you have to work a bit harder to find ways of playing particular progressions and playing in keys other than D. Work on movable shapes, not just the droney open string ones.

Re: Personal tricks and progressions in DADGAD

Disclaimer: Speaking as someone who does play in DADGAD but usually backs in Dropped D
Of course you have to learn the tunes but I think this question is at another level. The challenge with DADGAD is to have enough different voicings of chords so that it doesn’t sound too much the same as mentioned by DonaldK. I have heard a few DADGAD accompanists where I didn’t spot that they were using DADGAD from listening (only when I looked closely)
Putting in bits of the melody where the open strings provide the Chord might be an example of a "trick".
I would love to hear of other things people do but I think it really comes down to looking for as many different ways to play chords up the neck of the guitar and playing some fingerstyle arrangements has helped me with this.

Re: Personal tricks and progressions in DADGAD

I don’t play in DADGAD so probably shouldn’t comment, but one thing I’ve learned in workshops is how little makes up a chord. I think that no matter what tuning you’re playing in it’s a mistake to think about chord progressions and better to think about what combination of notes (chords) will bring out the nature of the tune.

Re: Personal tricks and progressions in DADGAD

You were asking specifically about John Blake. He’s a very talented and experienced musician who also plays flute and keyboards to a high standard. Both of these instruments will educate and inspire his guitar accompaniment which is always highly sympathetic to the tune - he will be aware of the exact melody and the chords and associated runs will always reflect that.

I think John uses DADGAD more or less all the time for trad. backing, from what I can see he capos regularly at the fifth fret quite a bit, so this would make the tuning GDGCDG, allowing him to play both G and D tunes easily without needing to move the capo. Also, this arrangement reduces the bass response from the guitar, which can often be an issue when accompanying certain instruments with a guitar. (This is part of the reason why bouzoukis and similar instruments seem to "fit" the music better in certain contexts).

I don’t know John personally but he is a fantastic role model for any accompanist, and his musical skills are many and varied - he is also an experienced and sought-after sound engineer. Bear in mind though, from a guitar point of view, his style is heavily dependent on DADGAD. I’m assuming that you want to use this tuning for your own accompaniment. I would strongly recommend developing a knowledge of more advanced chord voicings in DADGAD as a means of extending your musical palette.

Hope that helps.

Re: Personal tricks and progressions in DADGAD

I always thought John Blake was dropped D but because he makes it sound like a piano rather than a bouzouki the way most people do.

One unique thing he does is play in an A shape for D ( capo 5 like you said) . He rarely plays in an open D shape.

My style is quite influenced by him but also Colm O’Caoimh. But I mostly play dropped D so achievable that way too. If you wanted some Skype lessons. I’m here anyway. I also play any tune on guitar.

There’s no progressions really. A minor and E minor can have more of a pattern . If you keep to 145 chords and get the rhythm right it’s very effective in major tunes.

Re: Personal tricks and progressions in DADGAD

Had a funny moment there where I misread last paragraph about having 145 chords. First reaction was that I never counted how many Chords I know - seemed an odd number to arrive at. Then it dawned on me 1-4-5 🙂

Re: Personal tricks and progressions in DADGAD

I spent a few years going rather deeply into DADGAD tuning, backing ITM, playing solo fingerstyle arrangements of traditional celtic tunes, writing my own compositions and playing both European and American folk.

Here’s some of the ideas I learned, was taught or discovered in that time. Not necessarily DADGAD-only, but that’s where I first applied them. If you want to get more in depth, get in touch and we’ll have a private chat sometime.

-Get the most out of your capo. You can play many keys in open position, and each has their own sound. But sometimes you want that G position but for a tune in D, or vice versa. Experiment lots.
-If you’re resting on a chord for a while, make it interesting by adding notes. On Am, alternate your octave A with a G and perhaps a riff on C down to B - all with a big fat A in the bass. Try stuff in higher registers also.
-Rather than thinking an entire tune in chords, think in basslines and substitutions. For instance, a Major tune is usually based on a I-IV-V progression. Trying playing the ii-chord instead of the IV, then go to the iii instead of back to the I, then throw a vii in the bass over your V chord. Very cool bassrun and interesting chords at the same time. The same applies to different keys.
-Vary the way you back your tunes. In a normal Em tune, you might switch between Em and D. Maybe the second time around, mix in a C instead of going back to Em. Sometimes, you can land on a Bm at the end of a melody, and not resolve to Em until the first beat of the next bar.
-Learn to play the whole dynamic range you can get out of your instrument, from Dennis Cahill to John Doyle to full-out open-chords bouzouki-style blasting.
-Mix in parts of the melody played as (partial) chords. The Silver Spear, for instance, ends every statement with the same 1-bar pattern, which you can double with a (1 beat per chord) G, D/F#, Em, D

Re: Personal tricks and progressions in DADGAD

As for the video you posted, maybe you should take the reverse approach: learn the tuning inside-out, step by step, and after a while you’ll realize you can easily come up with the kind of things that guitarist is playing, and much more. More effective, in my opinion, than trying to dissect something that is too far beyond your level.