“Wish You Were Here,” the title track of Pink Floyd’s masterwork from 1975, grew out of a guitar riff that David Gilmour found while picking a newly acquired 12-string in a control room at London’s Abbey Road studios.
With haunting lyrics by Roger Waters, “Wish You Were Here” became one of Pink Floyd’s most enduring songs and, for acoustic guitarists, one of the most accessible—easily playable with open-position shapes in the key of G. That’s how I learned it years ago, but I recently found a new way to bring this song to life in DADGAD tuning that I’m sharing here.
Gilmour’s original riff is built around G, Em7, and A7sus4 chords voiced with the same notes on top: D (string 2, fret 3) and G (string 1, fret 3). Tuned to DADGAD with a capo at the fifth fret, you get these same notes on top but on open strings, and my arrangement takes full advantage of the freedom that setup provides. (Note that in the video, I capo at the second fret to play in E, just because that key better suits my voice.)
One of the pleasures of DADGAD and other open tunings is letting open strings add lush extensions to chords. That’s what I do in this arrangement, as open strings turn the IV chord (with the capo, a G) into a Gsus2, the V into Aadd4, and the vi into Em11.
The notation shows the intro (also used as an interlude), the verse rhythm pattern, and an outro that moves the intro riff up an octave. In the verse you’ll find a few alternate chord shapes not shown in the chord library, like the voicings of Em11 and D5 at the end of this section. In the sequence from Gsus2 to G/F#, Em11, and D5 in the verse’s last three measures, keep your fourth finger planted on fret 5, string 5. In the outro, the Bm7 and E7sus4 also use alternate shapes; for the E7sus4, use a first-finger barre across strings 3–5, and on the final chord, fret the sixth string with your second finger. In the video, I use alternate voicings up the neck for G, A, Em, and D to boost the last verse.
Though this arrangement is shown in DADGAD, the idea actually first came to me while I was using a partial capo covering strings 3–5 at the second fret. In that three-string partial capo setup, sometimes called an Esus or DADGAD capo, the intervals between open strings are actually the same as in DADGAD up a whole step. So I often translate arrangements from Esus partial capo to DADGAD (with a regular capo at the second fret to sound in E) and vice versa, and they sound nearly the same. To perform this arrangement live, I’d likely use the partial capo just to spare myself and the audience the retuning.
As a bonus, I’ve also transcribed Gilmour’s intro guitar solo—played in standard tuning with no capo (so shown in G). Gilmour used a lot of electric-style bending that’s quite a bit easier with slinky strings; you can always substitute slides for bends as needed. If you want to try the song as a duet, blending a standard-tuned guitar in G with the DADGAD part (capo 5) is a good option.
Due to copyright restrictions, we are unable to post notation or tablature for this musical work. If you have a digital or physical copy of the July/August 2021 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine, you will find the music on page 54.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.
Many of the teachers who contribute lessons to Acoustic Guitar also offer private or group instruction, in-person or virtually. Check out our Acoustic Guitar Teacher Directory to learn more!