Published on: Saturday, October 1, 2016 Takoma Park Newsletter

Folk singer Sarah McQuaid comes to Takoma Park

By Morgan Fecto

Sarah McQuaid likes evolving — her musical genre, her relationship with her fans, and the places she calls home. The folk singer-songwriter’s commitment to an atypical guitar tuning comes from this desire to shake things up, and paradoxically, is one thing she won’t change.

“You’ve got a lot of choice. You’re not just limited to the chords,” McQuaid said of DADGAD tuning, which differs from the standard EADGBE tuning. “As soon as I tuned my guitar to DADGAD it was a sort of eureka moment, and suddenly, I could make the sounds that I wanted to make. I was doing that tuning and a bunch of others for a while, and then I decided that everything I wanted to do I could do in DADGAD.”

The Cornwall, England by way of Chicago musician comes to Takoma Park for a DADGAD workshop at the House of Musical Traditions on Oct. 12 and for a concert with the Institute of Musical Traditions at Seekers Church on Oct. 13 at 5 p.m.

Although McQuaid has lived in Ireland, England, the Philadelphia suburbs, and Chicago, coming to Takoma Park will also be a homecoming for her. “I remember Takoma Park being a funky, very vibrant kind of place,” she said. “Funnily enough, I lived in Washington, D.C. when I was in high school. I went to National Cathedral School, so I had friends who lived in Takoma Park, and I went along to some of the concerts. If it wasn’t House of Musical Traditions, then I’m sure it was some predecessor.”

McQuaid’s music takes from a lot of sounds, such as the lo-fi tape hiss of indie rock and traditional, Celtic guitar. In her two-hour-long workshop, she’ll use familiar songs rather than her own music to illustrate DADGAD concepts. For McQuaid the result of DADGAD tuning is a more dynamic sound and a better show for her audience.

“As a solo performer I want to be doing something different with every song,” McQuaid said. “I’m on my own up there, so I can’t use different band members to introduce variety. I have to supply variety myself with the way I’m backing the songs.”

Teaching one day and then performing the next is an intimate and unfussy way to tour, and McQuaid wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’d love to make money at this. I’m still struggling financially like pretty much every musician I know is, but I’d hate to have to be hustled out of a back door into a limo to keep from being mobbed by fans. That would be even worse than being broke,” she said. “The best thing about working at the level that I’m working at is that I get to meet my audiences.”

To register for the DADGAD Song Accompaniment Guitar Workshop, go to For more info on McQuaid’s performance at Seekers Church, go to

This article appeared in the October 2016 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.