history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

I am researching the history of DADGAD. I know Davy Graham came up with it originally:

1. When?
2. Why?
3. Who first applied it to Celtic tunes?
4. When?

Whle we’re at it:

1. Who first introduced the guitar itself to traditional Celtic music?
2. When?
3. Why?
4. How?

And the same for the bouzouki…?

Re: history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

>Who first introduced the guitar itself to traditional Celtic music?

Didn’t this happen in the US in the early 20th century, when Irish immigrants would congregate in large dance halls? As the theory goes, instruments like guitar — more commonplace in the US than Ireland, perhaps — and piano came into greater use because they could be better heard in the crowded rooms, which therefore made it easier to keep the rhythm going.

>And the same for the bouzouki…?

You can read for yourself in Andy Irvine’s autobiography at his Web site [http://www.andyirvine.com], but here’s the relevant passage:

Johnny Moynihan was at this time (1966) working in Roscommon. He had just introduced us to the Greek Bouzouki, not that we were very impressed at first…

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Re: history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

Buffy St. Marie was using DADGAD in 1965, but I assume she got it from Davy Graham. He was probably the first to use it to play traditional Irish tunes. I think this would be around 1964 or 65.

As for the second part, I doubt if anybody really knows who first used a guitar in ITM. Probably happened in America.

As a melody instrument, it was showing up in the mid 1970’s and was first recorded around that time. My guess is that the path starts with Doc Watson, who was the first big driving force behind the “revolution” of playing fiddle tunes on a flatpicked guitar in the mid-to-late 1960’s. There were suddenly thousands of wannabes struggling to play his Black Mountain Rag. The transition from American tunes to Irish tunes probably happened gradually in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

I was a fingerpicker and sometime strummer in the 60’s and I started flatpicking (first American and then) Irish tunes around 1975. I hadn’t heard anybody else doing it, but I noticed a few others not long after that. I didn’t distinguish so much between American and Irish tunes back then, so it didn’t feel like anything new. A few recordings appeared in the mid-late 70’s.

Why? Why not? My instrument at the time was the guitar and I liked the tunes, so I played them on my guitar. I assume that’s the same reason The First Irish Flatpicker did it.

Re: history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

I think it sort of doesn’t matter who first did it or when. What I mean is that the 1960’s and 70’s were a time when guitar playing (like so many things) was in a very robust, creative, passionate, experimental phase. Not to take anything from Davy Graham, but if he hadn’t done it, somebody else would’ve. It just might’ve taken a little longer to happen.

There were bazillions of guitar playing eclectic folk fanatics tuning in to exotic ethnic musics and experimenting and improvising with the main instrument at hand – the guitar. Innovation was inevitable.

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He-man-cat-thing; in your list of early names re the use of DADGAD for english folk, surely you meant MARTIN Carthy, and somewhere in the list you forgot Clive Woolf, one of the early great folk guitarists, founder member of Spencers Faete, the precursor to Five Hand Reel, which had to replace Clive with TWO people a musician and a singer, after he was laid low by a crippling brain haemorrhage in 75; and also Angus Baxter, another one in the chain of early, London-based experimental folk guitarists.
Richard Thompson -I’m a fan but he was a bit late in the field for his use of this tuning, even though I won’t discredit his current expertise, but not a pioneer.I even remember Bob Johnson, of course later of Steeleye, using a dropped D in about 68/69.
As to the origins of DADGAD, ask any 5-string banjo-picker. They’ll recognise the top 4 strings as a modal banjo-tuning.
Who first tried it for ITM accompaniment I have no idea.

Re: history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

Sorry, I forget I’m so old till I look in the bathroom mirror…now, where did I leave my plectrum ?
But it IS interesting, and it’s good you ask.
I think there were other people trying DADGAD, including Robbie Bassho in the US - I’ve only heard one recording of his, many years ago, but it sounded like that was what he was working with.
One of the funny things about DADGAD was there was a point where someone had asked Martin Carthy where he got it from ( this was before he went off into even weirder tunings ) and he absolutely denied it was from Davy Graham, when in fact there was a clear chain of musicians which linked the two, and I think I knew all of them ( I was there ).
Davy Graham I haven’t seen for a little while, but I’m afraid he’s a sad sight these days, a living example of why too many drugs are bad for you, and will destroy all your talent ( and your brain ).
As for the’zouk, I remember Andy Irvine and Johnny Moynihan turning up with them to Loughborough Folk Festival, probably in about ‘68, and originally being under-impressed myself too. I don’t think there was a decent ‘zouk, at least as far as acoustic volume and projection went, for several more years - Donal Lunny’s and Dave Richardson’s early ones were still quite quiet and didn’t sound very strong in the mix.

Re: history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

1. When?

1962.

2. Why?

He went to Morocco where he wanted to jam with the native oud players. He found it easier to tune like they did. As such he didn’t really invent so much as reinvent an ancient tuning.

3. Who first applied it to Celtic tunes?

Davey himself is certainly the most likely candidate, or perhaps John Renbourn who was following him around like a lost puppy at the time. At least if one discounts American "hillbillys" of the late 19th and early 20th century who weren’t the least bit shy about using modal tunings (often borrowed from slaves of African descent) and quite likely to be Irish or Scot immigrants themselves.

4. When?

Most likely very close to 1962. Once a basic idea like that is formed it doesn’t take very long for people to start experimenting and going through all the more obvious permutations.

1. Who first introduced the guitar itself to traditional Celtic music?

Unrecorded by history, but most likely a Gallacian. The guitar at the time had four double courses of strings. Basically a mandola.

The American guitar worked its way into Irish and Scots music as fast as the immigrants could acquire them..

2. When?

Probably in the 1500s for the Gallacians and the mid 1800s in America.

3. Why?

It was there.

4. How?

I don’t understand this question. You pick it up. You play it.

KFG

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Re: history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

The how question was not addressed to the tuning, but to the instrument itself.

KFG

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Re: history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

And remember, each time you get you guiter out of it’s case, you must relate all these stories to your freinds. Too keep the traddition alive, and Kerri happy

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Re: history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

michael,
I don’t think KFG needs a reminder to fill us in on the history. Sometimes I think he is hoping to be paid by the word for his contributions!
Or perhaps trying to impress Kerri…
Hmmm…
;-)

Re: history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

“well let me tell you bob someone is resposible for it happening and wavedc reserves the right to probe the subject without being brushed off with clichés “

Ouch! I guess I need to work harder on my qualifiers and disclaimers. 

I did, in fact, participate in probing the subject before adding, as an afterthought, my cliché, which I will now repeat in different words.

The innovators innovated out of (and into) the zeitgeist, not out of a vacuum. Davy Graham was an innovator and ought to be recognized for it, but if he hadn’t introduced DADGAD to a few guys who were poised, primed and spring-loaded to run with it, very few of us would know his name today. Those guys were looking for something like DADGAD and surely would have eventually come up with something like it [Warning: This is an opinion and not necessarily true]. If Davy Graham sped up that process, then I’m happy to write down his name in guitar history.

And I agree that “it doesn’t matter who invented the 12 bar blues sequence 1-4-5 as someone would have come up with it anyway” is a good presumption. I think, even if we could replay history, we’d be hard pressed to credit that development to a single person or time.

Re: history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

" " was supposed to be " :-| "

Re: history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

The first person that I heard using DADGAD in ITM was Daithi Sproule,on a Shannacie album recorded in the 70’s.I don’t have the album now,but I remember him saying in the sleeve notes that he was inspired to use the tuning by the playing of Bert Jansch.It seems that Daithi was a Pentangle fan.Davy Graham claims to have invented the tuning as a way of playing Indian and Middle Eastern music.He used to turn his back onstage when he was tuning,but the secret soon got out.I find that DADGAD has become a bit of a cliche.I find it hard to distinguish between players,except for the really top exponents of the genre.I’ve just been scouting around on the net and I found this:

"Daithi (pronounced "DAH-hee") is a native of Derry in the North of Ireland, a renowned traditional singer in both Irish and English, and one of the premier guitarists in the Irish tradition. When he played with Skara Brae in the late 60’s and early 70’s, he was the first person to use and develop the DADGAD tuning in Irish music, a style now widely used in Irish and Celtic music in general. Skara Brae recorded a ground-breaking album in 1971 involving intricate arrangements for guitars and keyboards of traditional songs in Irish — the other members of the group were Maighread Ni Dhomhnaill and her sister and brother, M icheal and Triona, later of the Bothy Band and Nightnoise. He had met the îDomhnaills first in Rannafast in Donegal where he learnt the Irish language and many old Gaelic songs while spending every summer there of his teens."

You can read the rest of it here:
http://home.earthlink.net/~randalbays/RBDS_Biographies.html

Hwyl nawr.

Re: history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

This is great fun, thanks to wavedc and all. When I play for folks who are not accustomed to the current context(s) of ITM (which I guess date from the early ‘;70’s, sort of…), the questions I am most often asked are about the guitar tuning I use (it is DADGAD, usually) and about the bouzouki and how it got started in ITM.

I have read lots of different accounts that all follow the same countour, but with other names than Davy Graham’s and Johnny Moynihan, so I just tell the tale in it’s shape without the names, but if pressed about who began these trends I just say that the some of the attributions that I’ve heard and seen vary.

A number of players who’ve taught classes that I’ve attended have been noticably distracted by interest in the tunings, and have worked to re-focus back on the music, which can be achieved in many ways, in spite of the tunings used.

So this is a good and proper place to talk about all this, and I find it fascinating. It’s great fun to see his name again and to remember listening to Robbie Basho’s records, and to be reminded of the name "CIA tuning", too!

Many thanks,

stv

http://cdbaby.com/Culchies

Re: history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

There seems to be a widely held perception that Daithi Sproule indedd was one of the pioneers introducing the tuning into Irish tunes. An article on Altan at http://www.folkmusic.net/htmfiles/inart553.htm dates his adopting it in 1966, inspired by Bert Jansch and John Renbourn.

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Yeah, it is an interesting topic. I hadn’t heard about Martin Carthy denying getting DADGAD from Davy Graham. Maybe he meant that he didn’t get it directly from Davy.

I know that some people will deny that sort of attribution when it’s not cool to be connected with a particular source or when they just want to claim some originality. In some circles, it’s definitely uncool to admit that you ever learned anything from Peter, Paul and Mary. [Full disclosure: They were my first big inspiration for learning to fingerpick. There, I feel better.]

Re: history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

While in confession mode, I’ll say that their "Gilgarra Mountain" (aka Whiskey in the Jar), on the 1965 album "A Song Will Rise", was the first identifiably Irish music I ever heard… I was 12…
[I’m not sure I feel better… we’ll see…]

stv

http://cdbaby.com/Culchies

Re: history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

It comes as no surprise to me to hear that Daithi Sproule was the first Irish musician to use dadgad because he is one of the few dadgad players I’ve heard that plays it well rather than go through the motions like so many since. Open G is my prefered tuning, Paul Brady introduced it to Irish music as far as I know. Don’t really understand why more people don’t use Open G, it gets much closer to the drone piping effect than dadgad

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Re: history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

The first I heard of it was Bert Jansch’s "Black water Side" , which Jimmy Page had a stab at as "Black Mountain Side" with Led Zep.
Clearly not the first, as the above posts show.
But still stands out as a strong and distinctive piece of guitar and song, unlike much of what folowed in that tuning.

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Well now, Bob himself, that’s a big confession. Applaud everyone ! Well said, Bob. I, too,first heard finger-picking from PP&M, back in 1900-and-frozen-to-death. You have to hear it first somewhere, and there wasn’t a lot of skill in the local musicians back home where I came from.
But I have moved on now. I have seen the light of ITM. PP&M’s albums sit out on the dusty shelves in the garage, consigned to outer darkness.

Re: history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

Pete Seeger and Frank Hamilton recorded a (mostly) instrumental album in 1957 called "Nonesuch & Other Folk Tunes" released on Folkways Records. It was a brilliant recording whose influences can be heard everywhere.

http://www.folkways.si.edu/search/AlbumDetails.aspx?ID=334

Pete played a fingerpicked guitar tune he wrote called "Singing in the Country", using Dropped D tuning. The next week 40,000 folkies around the world were trying to learn "Singing in the Country" in Dropped D. I think the rest is history, as they say. (You can hear an audio snippet at the Folkways site)

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G. Pete, I actually heard a fair amount of fingerpicking before PP&M, I just wasn’t captivated by it. As a teenager, I didn’t really give authentic roots music the respect it deserved. A common situation, I guess. But, as you said, you get the spark wherever you get it.

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Laughtonb -
Thanks for the reference for "Singing in the Country"! I’ve been looking for the original version for 25 years but was looking for the wrong title - Leo Kottke recorded both a studio & live version of this as "Living in the Country" (played at a Mach 3+ tempo, of course) & it never occurred to me he might have altered the name. All I knew is that it was based on a Pete Seeger tune.

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The first recorded example of DADGAD is on a record made in 1928 on the OKEH label,by ’ Moonshine Ernie and his whistling ferret ‘.
The two sides featured songs by Ernie ( A- side ) ’ Give me back my wig ’ and ( B -side ) ’ Call out the Brigade ( my hat’s on fire )’.
Ernie was one of the giants of ragtime guitar,but sadly he died in 1930 from injuries sustained after a shootout with his Grandma in Kansas city.
If you can find a copy of the record I highly recommend it.

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Now you’re being silly !

Re: history of DADGAD tuning for Celtic guitar

I think the Seeger Drop D tune was "Livin in the Country", from the start. I learned it at that time, (1959) and never heard any other title. But what the hey.

As to DADGAD tuning, I guarantee the country blues guitarists of the early 1900’s used it, as they pretty much invented all the current guitar fingerpicking styles.

Doc Watson was flatpicking way before the 60’s.

Adaptation and cross adaptation. Invention and reinvention. It is usually folly to credit any single source with invention…