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Flutopedia Symposium

Simple Guitar Accompaniment for Native American Flute
DADFAD Tuning

Terry Mack and Paul Bezooyen performing at the Nan Go Grannies Fund Raiser, Nanaimo, British Columbia

Terry Mack and Paul Bezooyen performing
at the Nan Go Grannies Fund Raiser,
Nanaimo, British Columbia Larger image

This page describes a variation of the Simple Guitar Accompaniment for Native American Flute developed by Mark McGourley. That page describes a simple way to play guitar accompaniments using one or two fingers and a capo.

In this variation, we use only one finger and there's no need for a capo. The idea is to re-tune four of the the six guitar strings down one whole step to get a tuning that makes it very easy to play minor chords. This alternate guitar tuning is called DADFAD or “Open Dm” tuning.

For background, you should probably read the version of this technique for standard guitar tuning first, then read this page (which only contains what is different about the two techniques).

Tuning

The core of this technique is to tune the strings of your guitar to different notes than the standard tuning. As you might guess, the DADFAD tuning uses these notes:

Standard tuning for the guitar

The notes shown in blue are the ones that are different from the standard tuning — in each case they are one full tone (two semitones) lower than the standard tuning.

DADFAD tuning has been used by many musicians, including early blues-man Skip James (1902-1969) in the 1930s

The Basic Chords

Playing all open strings - no fingers on the fretboard - gets you a D minor chord. You might guess that this is great for playing with a D minor Native American flute.

D minor DADFAD finger chart

Bar chord on the fifth fret

Bar chord - fifth fret Larger image

All the other chords in the DADFAD tuning will be based on a bar chord with the first (index) finger. You stretch your index finger across the fretboard, just behind the indicated fret. A picture of this is shown on the right for the Gm chord. The chord diagrams look like this:

G minor DADFAD finger chart   A minor DADFAD finger chart

With these three chords, you can do a lot with a D minor flute. Here's an example of just the guitar strumming:

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

I'm playing these chords starting from strumming on all open strings (no fingers), and then sliding my outstretched index finger up the fretboard to just behind the fifth fret. Later on, I'm sliding up to the seventh fret.

Here's the same guitar part with a flute improvisation over the top:

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

All the Minor Chords

You can play all the minor chords just by sliding your first-finger bar up and down the fretboard. Here's a table of the fret postitions:

Minor Chord Bar Position
D minor No bar
D# minor
Eb minor
Bar 1
E minor Bar 2
F minor Bar 3
F# minor
Gb minor
Bar 4
G minor Bar 5
G# minor
Ab minor
Bar 6
A minor Bar 7
A# minor
Bb minor
Bar 8
B minor Bar 9
C minor Bar 10
C# minor
Db minor
Bar 11

Extending the three chords for D minor, we get the general approach for a three-chord vamp: Start on the chord that is the same key as the flute, and then slide up five frets, and then seven frets. If you get to the twelfth fret, wrap back down to the nut at the top of the fretboard and keep on counting.

Major Chords

To convert a minor chord to major, all you have to do is add one finger below the nut or the bar. Here are the three minor chords from above, converted to major:

D major DADFAD finger chart   G major DADFAD finger chart   A major DADFAD finger chart

Here's a nice two chord vamp for playing with an F# minor flute:

F# minor DADFAD finger chart   E major DADFAD finger chart

Here are two recordings of this second two-chord vamp, without and then with an F# minor flute:

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

Chords for all Key Flutes

Finally, here's a table of chords and bar positions that work for each key of flute:

Key of Flute Minor Chords Major Chord
(add finger chart finger indication)
D minor Dm (no bar) Gm (bar 5) Am (bar 7) C (bar 10)
D# minor
Eb minor
D#m (bar 1) G#m (bar 6) A#m (bar 8) C# (bar 11)
E minor Em (bar 2) Am (bar 7) Bm (bar 9) D (no bar)
F minor Fm (bar 3) A#m (bar 8) Cm (bar 10) D# (bar 1)
F# minor
Gb minor
F#m (bar 4) Bm (bar 9) C#m (bar 11) E (bar 2)
G minor Gm (bar 5) Cm (bar 10) Dm (no bar) F (bar 3)
G# minor
Ab minor
G#m (bar 6) C#m (bar 11) D#m (bar 1) F# (bar 4)
A minor Am (bar 7) Dm (no bar) Em (bar 2) G (bar 5)
A# minor
Bb minor
A#m (bar 8) D#m (bar 1) Fm (bar 3) G# (bar 6)
B minor Bm (bar 9) Em (bar 2) F#m (bar 4) A (bar 7)
C minor Cm (bar 10) Fm (bar 3) Gm (bar 5) A# (bar 8)
C# minor
Db minor
C#m (bar 11) F#m (bar 4) G#m (bar 6) B (bar 9)

 
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