• Ead-Gad tuning •



A high-slackened tuning that essentially forms a ‘half-DADGAD’ layout (6-5-4str=Standard, 3-2-1str=DADGAD). This gives an ambiguous ‘open harmony’ – it can be seen as either a seventhless D9sus4, fifthless Emin11, thirdless G6/9, secondless Am11, or rootless C6/9 – or an A7sus4 from the parallel octaves on 5+2str.


Great for creating complex chord inversions with the 2nd in the bass. Also also feel how the slackened 1+2str ring out a little less loudly than the others – a subtle but sometimes significant effect.

Pattern: 5>5>5>2>5
Harmony: Emin11 | 1-4-b7-b3-4-b7




Though simple to reach and remember, with no restring required, the tuning doesn’t turn up on record as much as you might expect (maybe we’d hear more of it if more people retuned to DADGAD by slackening the high strings first? Then it would occur ‘naturally’, along the way…and I wonder what else we miss as a result of our predominantly ‘low>high’ peg-twirling habits?).


Nevertheless, it has been put to fine use by various guitarists spanning multiple genres – including Ani DiFranco (Shameless), Sarah McLachlan (Building a Mystery), and Ben Howard (Keep Your Head Up – n.b. on other tracks, his instinct to combine different tunings manifests via frequent use of partial capos).


(I’m sure there are many songs I’m missing: my guess is that EADGAD tracks often get erroneously listed as being in DADGAD: it’s not always easy to hear the difference, and some search engines even autocorrect the former to the latter…send in your suggestions!)


  • Keep Your Head Up – Ben Howard (2011):

“And I saw a friend of mine the other day,
And he told me that my eyes were gleamin’,
Oh I said I had been away, and he knew,
Oh he knew, the depths I was meanin’…”


Despite its relative sparsity in the guitarcheological record, the tuning has found modern airtime via online discussion forums and home-recording experimentalists. A 2010 Art’s Angle blog offers some great practical tips: “Optimized for the key of D, this tuning has a very airy and open sound…while still allowing easy access to bass notes E, A, D (and F#,G, C#). Thus, it is excellent for both strumming and picking…[you can] hit dissonant note pairs (like C#-D and F#-G) which adds to the richness of the sound” (n.b. check out their own EADGAD experiment).


A 2009 article on the Chord Progression Library notes that: “you can get some really interesting voicings from those familiar chord shapes you might use in Standard“, while also detailing “a few drawbacks…It is more difficult to play certain voicings of F#m…and the A#dim chord is more complicated as well. On the other hand, there are interesting voicings for Am and Dmaj7…”. Meanwhile, guitarists continue to release sketches in the tuning on social media and beyond – e.g. Andy Martin.


  • Shameless – Ani DiFranco (2013):

“We’re in a room without a door,
And I am sure without a doubt,
They’re gonna want to know,
How we got in here,
And they’re gonna want to know,
How we plan to get out…”


6str 5str 4str 3str 2str 1str
Note E A D G A D
Alteration 0 0 0 0 -2 -2
Tension (%) 0 0 0 0 -21 -21
Freq. (Hz) 82 110 147 196 220 294
Pattern (>) 5 5 5 2 5
Semitones 0 5 10 15 17 22
Intervals 1 4 b7 b3 4 b7
  • See my Tunings Megatable for further such nerdery: more numbers, intervallic relations, comparative methods, etc. And to any genuine vibratory scientists reading: please critique my DIY analysis!


—Associated tunings: proximities of shape, concept, context, etc…

  • Open Dsus (this with 6str -2): the melodious DADGAD is close by
  • Funky Avocado (this with 6str -5): turning lower and looser
  • All Fourths (this with 1/2str +3): a straight line up from standard


—Further learnings: sources, readings, lessons, other onward links…

  • EADGAD ideas and sounds: learn how to play Sarah McLachlan’s Building a Mystery in Ryan Lendt’s lesson – and see more from the Art’s Angle blog (“Musings about metaphysics, machine learning, music, and other matters…”)
  • Hybrid tuning impulses: this tuning can be seen as a mix of ‘Standard + DADGAD’ – why not extend this ‘hybrid tuning’ concept further? Check out Ben Howard’s aforementioned use of partial capos in my Altered-Tuned Artists listing (which only press down some of the strings) – and also my article on ‘Double-siding‘ (i.e. capoing particular tunings very high, and plucking on ‘both sides of the bar’ for a 12-string harp effect…)


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rāga: ‘that which colours the mind’

George Howlett is a London-based musician, writer, and teacher. I play guitar, tabla, and santoor, loosely focusing on jazz, rhythm, and other global improvised traditions. Above all I seek to enthuse fellow sonic searchers, interconnecting fresh vibrations with the human voices, cultures, and passions behind them. Site above, follow below, & hit me up for…


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Dedicated to Nigel Tufnel – a true tuning connoisseur

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