I’ve played guitar for 40 years, and always in conventional tuning (EADGBE, low to high). For some reason, though, this past Monday I decided to take advantage of having three guitars and tune one of them, my vintage Ovation, to DADGAD (low to high). It’s an easy process, especially with an electronic tuner, that involves adjusting the pitch of only three strings. But the results of this small change are astounding! It yields a sound that is neither major nor minor, hence the other name of the tuning: “D modal.” It’s popular with Celtic and some bluegrass players, as well as modern artists like Pierre Bensusan. I love the richness of the tone, and the way the tuning makes it possible to play a melody over the drone of the high strings.


Making a small alteration in the way I approach guitar playing led me to reflect on how other little changes might enrich our lives and bring excitement and renewal. What if, say, you ate peaches one morning on your cereal instead of strawberries or I put a dill pickle spear on my hot dog instead of sweet relish? Suppose I came home the back way from the gym or you rode a bike to work, and we got in touch with each other by IM instead of email? How about tuning in some John Coltrane one evening on an Internet radio station instead of listening to Keith Urban or Coldplay on a CD? Or attending a Taizé prayer service in a church of a different denomination? (OK, maybe that’s a big one for some folks!)


Small changes–one here, another there. But they open us to larger possibilities. And pretty soon, we’ll be singing a different tune.


© 2008 Tom Cheatham