The key of D is my favorite key to play on the guitar. In fact, as a routine, I will usually transpose any song in the keys of E-flat, E or F into the key of D and capo my guitar at the first, second and third fret accordingly so that I can use the key of D. In addition, all of the chords are accessible and flow nicely together.
Here is the major scale of the key of D:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
D E F# G A B C# D
You will note that it has two sharps. The typical chords which are used in a song written in the key of D are D, Em, F#m, G, A, and Bm. These sound beautiful together. In fact, arpeggio your way through this chord sequence:
||:D / A / | Bm / F#m / | G / D / | G / A / :||
Sound familiar? It should. It’s Pachelbel’s canon in D.
For our scale this time, we will consider the major pentatonic which consists of the following notes by number: 1-2-3-5-6, which in the key of D is the following notes: D E F# A B. The notes of the major pentatonic are also included in the major scale; so again, improvising over these notes will work in almost any song style.
Here’s the scale on the guitar neck, shown in several positions (I-III, and combined in IV):
The major chords that you will typically encounter in this key are D, G and A. Once again, feel free to try substituting a “2” chord for a more contemporary sound:
D2 – x00230 or 5577xx
G2 -300033 or 5×0035
A2 – 002200
The minor chords are Em, F#m and Bm. Both F#m and Bm require you to bar your first finger across the fretboard:
Em – 022000 (try Em7 – 020030 or 020000 or 022030 or 022033 or xx0987)
F#m – 244222 (try F#m7 – 242222)
Bm – 224432 (try Bm7 – x24232)
For the electric guitar, punch out a power 5 chord with some “crunch” added on your foot pedal and let the chord sustain through until the next chord change:
D5 (no 3) – 5577×5 or x00235
G5 (no 3) – 355xxx or 3×0033
A5 (no 3) – 577xx5
You can slide from the G5 chord to the A5 chord without lifting your fingers for a nice transition. Sometimes, you can even get away with hitting the transition Aflat5 chord as you slide from the G5 to the A5.
There are two great slash chords used in this key, namely the D/F# and A/C#. Learn these because you will need them often:
D/F# – 20023x (play the sixth string second fret with either your thumb wrapped around or with your second finger by abandoning its usual position on the first string second fret)
A/C# – 04222x (play by barring the second fret with your first finger and reaching the C# note with your ring finger)
Here are some D chord inversions (these sound nice if picked in the background by a second guitar):
D triad (upper position): 10-9-7-x-x-x (D F# A)
D first inversion: x-9-7-7-x-x (F# A D)
D second inversion: x-x-7-7-7-x (A D F#)
And lastly, one of my favorite tricks on the D chord is to take the open position C chord and slide it up two frets.
Here’s the chord patterns:
C – 032010 slide to 054030 (this makes a Dsus type chord)
Or, you can take a C/G and slide it up to form a D/A:
C/G – 332010 slide to 554030
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