Watch the Drop D In Ballad Arrangements online guitar lesson by Tony McManus from The Celtic Journeyman

Let’s look at how we use this tuning in arrangements. The key of D is very much like “party central”- it’s not like standard where you can access lots of important keys very easily. It’s a very versatile tuning. The “key universe” in Celtic music is narrower- there are very few tunes in Bb, Eb or C# for example. So in tuning the bottom string down to D we have narrowed our focus considerably. So it’s useful to have some vocabulary in this tuning.

Your “cowboy D” chord now has an extended bass and if want a D chord with no 3rd you have a D power chord with roots and fifths- it’s just Ds and As. There are various voicing of the D chord from where you can get other chords very simply- Dsus2, D maj7, D 7, D minor. So it’s useful to have these chord positions at your fingertips as they will crop up as we arrange tunes.

One of the main attractions is the simplicity of these melodies. It’s not Mahler or Coltrane but it does speak very emotionally and very directly. What makes them speak is the ornamentation so it’s useful to think of the melody usually occurring on the top three strings and the rest is arpeggiating chords around the melody.

I just made that up! I’m just playing a simple melody on top and using the rest of the strings to support. So the chord positions above are going to be important- so have them ready!