Laurence Juber has introduced many of us to different guitar tunings, especially DADGAD. He has also proven to be one of the foremost arrangers for the solo guitar, so Laurence Juber’s DADGAD Solos is a book that belongs on the music stand of any fingerstyle guitarist who wants the rich sound of DADGAD in their performances.
When I first became enthused about DADGAD, after a master class that LJ gave in Toronto, a friend asked me what was so special about that tuning, which seemed a lot of work to learn. “After all,” he said “they are the same notes, right?” Well yes, and no. DADGAD has several advantages but I will point out just two.
One is open strings. Many guitar songs and pieces (in standard tuning) are in E major or minor, because they allow the two E and the B strings to ring open in the tonic chord. Open strings give a tuning a unique sound, and they are most noticeable in the tonic, dominant and sub-dominant chords (I, IV, and V; or 1, 4, and 5). So in standard tuning, E major has 3 open strings and E minor has 4; A major or A minor has two open strings (3 if you are alternating the bass notes); and B7 has 1. In DADGAD, D major or minor can have 5 open strings (i.e. with no 3rd); G major can have 4; and A7 has 3. This gives DADGAD its ringing quality, akin to a 12-string guitar.
The second advantage is less obvious at first, but it is the major second between the 3rd and 2nd strings, now G and A. This allows for “close” voicings where, say, the 7th can sit next to the tonic on open strings, highlighting the dissonance. It can also allow for other chord shapes that are just impossible with standard tuning. Notice this as you play through LJ’s arrangements and you will see what I mean. (This major 2nd between strings was common in lute tunings, which makes some of them very difficult to play in the original versions while in standard tuning.)
Besides, DADGAD is not as “foreign” a tuning as you might think at first. Most fingerstyle guitarists are used to “Drop D” tuning, and two of the differently tuned strings in DADGAD are the E strings, so the “new” notes on the first string are in the same position as the bass notes in Drop D. This just leaves adjusting your brain to learning the notes on the 2nd string (A) which are the same names as the 5th string, and again most of us are used to using these as bass notes for chords. This is a good mental exercise, especially for those of us at an age where this is especially good for us. And of course you can depend on the TAB if you prefer.
Thus endeth the lesson on DADGAD. The songs in this book are standards and classics. They are taken from 4 of LJ’s recordings, and so the audio is NOT provided by Hal Leonard. Most LJ fans will have most if not all of these recordings, so this is not much of a hardship. And if you are missing one, you can listen to it on YouTube or another music streaming site. I suggest buying copies of any songs that you don’t have because most of these sites pay a pittance to the performer for streaming and they are not expensive to purchase. Listening to the originals is particularly important for this collection because although LJ has supplied both notation and TAB (with his usual precision of detail) there are no dynamics or other markings such as crescendo and decrescendo, and other nuances that notation just cannot capture. However, the melodies (and their embellishments) are indicated by stems that go up, while accompaniment in the treble clef has downward facing stems.
Here are the songs in the book, listed by the album they are on:
Fingerboard Road (2)
(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay
Georgia on my Mind
Indigo Sky (7)
All The Things You Are
As Time Goes By
Cry Me A River
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
Raining In My Heart
I’ve Got the World on Six Strings (2)
Over The Rainbow
Come Rain Or Come Shine
LJ Plays the Beatles (1)
A great collection of songs beautifully arranged. What more could you ask for?