For the last year or so I’ve been playing around with alternative tunings on my guitar for quite a bit. I’m so used to the standard tuning that I repeat myself a lot of the time. It’s such a habit. Because I know my way around the fretboard there are hardly any surprises left. I can play almost any chord or riff that comes to mind. Using alternative tunings helps me break that habit. It gives the fretboard a completely new layout, chords have to be played differently, scales can not be played the way I’m used to. It’s almost like learning to play the guitar all over again. Because of that I find myself stumble upon stuff that sounds really cool, but have no idea what it actually is. It’s very refreshing.
I remember when I just started playing guitar, I noticed that there were certain notes that worked pretty well when jammin’ on a 12 bar blues. It was a lot of fun to discover things like that, not knowing what I actually was doing. It just sounded cool. Later on when I started to study music more seriously, I found out that I was actually playing the minor pentatonic scale or blues scale. Go figure!
How much as I love to progress and learn more about music, you loose something of that innocence. Using alternative tunings brings back that feeling; at least it does for me and it’s a lot of fun.
One of the tunings I’ve been using is DADGAD. It’s called that way because that’s the way how you tune your guitar from the low string to the high string. It’s actually an open D chord, but more on that some other time.
Jimmy Page, one of my all time heroes, uses this particular tuning on ‘Kashmir‘. The song is not that hard to play. I’ve added the tablature below, so you can learn it yourself if you like.
This is a clip from the movie ‘It Might Get Loud’ where Jimmy Page shows the riff to The Edge and Jack White. There are so many things I like about this clip and in a way relates to my story.
For example, I love the excitement and passion Jimmy still has for music and the instrument. Hopefully I’ll still have that when I’m that age.
And I like the look on the face of The Edge at the end of the clip after Jimmy explains the theory behind it. It looks as if he has no clue whatsoever Jimmy just said. But it’s not a bad thing. He wrote some of the most memorable riffs, so why would he.
And this is how you play it. Don’t forget to tune your guitar to DADGAD first!
The main riff is basically the same thing over and over again. The only thing that changes is the top note that shifts around on the D string. Shouldn’t be that hard to master. It’s ok if you play it a bit sloppy and hit a few open strings every now and then. It adds to the fullness of the sound.
To play the second riff you move the same figure down the neck. To play that figure; place your ring finger on the 12th fret of the high E string, your middle finger on the 12th fret of the G string and your index finger on the 11th fret of the G string. Simply lift you middle finger to play the second part of that figure.
Once you have mastered that, just move it down the neck to play the whole riff.
Look closely at the clip and you can get a good idea how Jimmy plays it. Good luck!