The DAF Formation

The DAF formation shows you how to play any major chords all over the fretboard, using three major chord formations. It is very handy when a tune stays on the same chord for a few bars, because it allows you to automatically climb the fretboard playing rapidly ascending and descending licks and arpeggios. Even moreso, it allows you to ‘spice’ up that boring
standard formation. This is ESPECIALLY useful if playing with more than one guitar.

The chords on this fretboard diagram illustrate all D chords:

The three major chord shapes – D, A, and F are sometimes called fragments because they are sometimes played using only the top three or four strings (G, B, High E).

Here is each of these major chord shapes with the root noted:

The “4” in the D formation is in parenthesis because it is an optional note. The top three strings alone comprise a major chord. The root of the D formation is technically played with your 3rd finger. The root of the A formation is played with your 3rd finger. The root of the F formation is played with your 3rd finger.

The A formation is a variation of the basic, first position A major chord:

Here’s How This Works

  1. Play the first position D chord.
  2. Skip a fret and play the A chord form. This is the next, higher D chord.
  3. Skip one fret and play the D chord form again. It is still a higher D chord, which is an octave above your starting point.
  4. Continue the process until you run out of frets.

Memorizing the DAF formations:

Here’s a great way to remember it – D-Skip 1, A-Skip 2, F- Skip 

Here are all the F chords. Use this diagram to play all the F chords that appear:

Do you see that you can climb the fretboard starting with ANY chord formation? To play all the F chords, you start with an F shape, so the DAF in turn becomes F D A. It is simply a continuous
repetition of the three shapes in this order: D, A, F, D, A, F, D, A, F…… You can enter the loop at any point. The ‘skips’ are always the same: one skip after D, two after A, and one after F.

The drill this point in, here are all the C chords, starting with an A formation/C chord. Now it becomes A F D.

All of these variations can make a D-A-F ascending and descending progression more interesting. Here is an example using the ascending G chord.

In this exercise, you’ll be using the same tablature at two speeds/tempos.

Though the following doesn’t actually SOUND like two songs I want to mention, the same theory applies with both of these:

  • Intro to “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett
  • Intro to “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison

The same concept applies. They actually created a run using chord fragments! Neat huh?!

Exercise 1
at 60 bpm/Exercise 2 at 80 bpm:

  • The top lines are the chords.
  • The added text is:
    • Fadd9 formation – This means you are playing in the “F formation with added notes.” (add9)
    • F f.– This equals “F” formation.
    • Dsus
      f – This means you are playing in the “D
       formation with added notes.” (sus)
    • D f. – This is the D formation continued.
    • A6 f. – The “A formation with added notes.” (6th)
    • A f. – The A formation continued.
    • F f. – Back to the F formation continued.

Supplemental Idea

Though not all of you can actually DO THIS, try adding a capo on the 3rd or 5th fret (or pretty much anywhere based on what you’ve learned so far). It will be hard to reach the notes if you don’t have a ‘cutaway’ but it sounds REALLY interesting if you try it. Just remember that you need to adjust the notes where the capo equals the zero fret, or ‘nut’ of the guitar.

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