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To Tune or Not to Tune

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GUEST,Steven G. 22 Aug 01 - 01:48 PM
Clinton Hammond 22 Aug 01 - 01:57 PM
Phil Cooper 22 Aug 01 - 02:13 PM
Thomas the Rhymer 22 Aug 01 - 03:49 PM
Don Firth 22 Aug 01 - 04:10 PM
Don Firth 22 Aug 01 - 04:23 PM
McGrath of Harlow 22 Aug 01 - 04:49 PM
Thomas the Rhymer 22 Aug 01 - 05:40 PM
Gary T 22 Aug 01 - 09:38 PM
BlueJay 23 Aug 01 - 03:56 AM
dougboywonder 23 Aug 01 - 05:16 AM
KingBrilliant 23 Aug 01 - 06:14 AM
John Hardly 23 Aug 01 - 09:05 AM
Clinton Hammond 23 Aug 01 - 12:53 PM
Bartholomew 23 Aug 01 - 02:11 PM
Clinton Hammond 23 Aug 01 - 02:24 PM
GUEST,Melani 23 Aug 01 - 03:00 PM
ChanteyMatt 23 Aug 01 - 06:23 PM
John Hardly 24 Aug 01 - 02:51 PM
Clinton Hammond 24 Aug 01 - 03:03 PM
John Hardly 24 Aug 01 - 03:55 PM
Don Firth 24 Aug 01 - 05:29 PM
Sorcha 24 Aug 01 - 07:29 PM
Clinton Hammond 24 Aug 01 - 07:41 PM
Sorcha 24 Aug 01 - 07:47 PM
Sorcha 24 Aug 01 - 07:54 PM
Clinton Hammond 24 Aug 01 - 08:25 PM
Sorcha 24 Aug 01 - 08:46 PM
John Hardly 24 Aug 01 - 10:12 PM
Sorcha 24 Aug 01 - 10:28 PM
John Hardly 24 Aug 01 - 10:47 PM
GUEST,Steven G. 27 Aug 01 - 01:29 PM
Clinton Hammond 27 Aug 01 - 01:39 PM
Marion 04 Sep 01 - 12:41 AM
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Subject: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: GUEST,Steven G.
Date: 22 Aug 01 - 01:48 PM

Hello, all

I have a great question to ask to you, amateur guitar players (like myself) or those professional performers that alot of musical experience.

I have been playing guitar for about 18 years now, and for the last couple of weeks have been tuning my guitars (6 & 12 string) a couple of different keys. Then I stumbled apon tuning my guitars to the key of E flat instead of the standard tuning key of E.

I find that if I tune my guitars to E flat that I can sing songs from Gordon Lightfoot a little better, and other singers that use a capo on the 2nd or 3rd fret.

I am wondering if other guitarists do tune there guitars to this key, or do you have any other suggestions of other keys that I can try?

And also I would like to know about this DADGAD tuning that I have been hearing about for the last few months. I know some Stan Rogers tunes are to this "unique" tuning. I am wondering if DADGAD is hard to learn and does anyone know any web sites where I can learn.

Anyway, have a great day. Great site to learn new things.

Steven G.


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 22 Aug 01 - 01:57 PM

There's a great dadgad chord chart on my web site... swordforhire.org in pfd (pdf?) format... it's actaully a little too much for most beginners... Look for the link to Gear and Guitar Resources...

the way I learned how to play dadgad was starting with the Stan Rogers book, and then kept my eyes open at Garnet Rogers concerts, and James Keelaghan and Stepen Fearing and... and...

As far as the 'flat' tuning goes, I've never had call to do it...


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 22 Aug 01 - 02:13 PM

I read on one of the John Martyn webesites that he performed a song (not sure which one) in DADGAD, but tuned everything down a whole step, then capoed up two frets for the sake of looser strings for some string bending effects.


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 22 Aug 01 - 03:49 PM

Tuning down can help, if an old guitar is about to fly apart, or if the neck is too soft... It is easier for your fingers, and it can get deliciously basie! If you want to go even further down, you just need to string up a heavier gauge of string... but probably best not to do this if there is a chance someone will tune it back up to standard tho...
DADGAD is fairly easy to learn, and since I went there, I have a really hard time going back to standard! Just start by playing songs you already know, and the new fingerings will begin to make sense. Though Db is a rediculously hard key to play in, Em, F, F#m, G, Gm, Am, A, A# Bm, Cm, C, D,and especially Dm, are relatively straight forward! Just tune it there, and give it a full day or two. You might not go back! I didn't! I personally think that it is a good idea to try Keys other than "D" in DADGAD... cause it is SOOOOO easy to play in "D" once you've got it a bit!ttr


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Don Firth
Date: 22 Aug 01 - 04:10 PM

Concert pitch. 440-A.

1. Structurally much better for the guitar, and assuming a good quality guitar, that's where it should sound best.
2. It saves a heck of a lot of time when you get together to play with other people if everybody is tuned up to some agreed-upon standard.
3. You might be playing with other people with fixed-pitch instruments (penny-whistles, flutes, recorders -- or for that matter, somebody with a autoharp!), who can't adjust to you (you could find you're outvoted).

Guitars and banjos may be more flexible that some instruments as far a cranking them up and down is concerned, but there are eleventy-umpteen different reasons for tuning them to a standard pitch (i.e. 440-A), and these are just three of them.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Don Firth
Date: 22 Aug 01 - 04:23 PM

Thomas the Rhymer does have a point about making adjustments for a particular guitar.

Walt Robertson used steel strings, but he preferred wider necked guitars. In fact he preferred classics. At one time he had a Brazilian made classic (actually, as a classic, it wasn't that great -- too heavily built) that he strung with light-guage steel strings and it sounded great! But to ease the strain on the guitar, he tuned it down a full step, so that when he played in E, it actually came out in D. But he tuned to someone else who was in concert pitch (usually me) by tuned his 6th string an octave down from their 4th string.

Some years later, he did the same thing with a Martin 00-28-G classic, and it gave me the creeps. You could see stress-lines developing in the soundboard.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 22 Aug 01 - 04:49 PM

You could always get a capo and play it in D with the capo on the first fret, and so forth.


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 22 Aug 01 - 05:40 PM

The capo makes it all work, and playing different positions is good too. Good for your conception of musical relativity. The worst part of it (as with DADGAD), is that folks who are following your fingers will hate you...ttr


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Gary T
Date: 22 Aug 01 - 09:38 PM

One of my friends did what Steven described in his opening post here, tuning all six strings one half-step below standard pitch. It helped him match his vocal range with keys he could play competently. When joining others, he could easily use a capo to be in synch. Of course, if we joined him in a song he played sans capo, we would need to transpose somehow.

What would really help in these situations is a negative capo, but I still haven't found one. (BG)


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: BlueJay
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 03:56 AM

Sort of off topic, but the best line I've heard regarding tuning was from one of the guys in Three on a String, who asked his fellow band members, "Do you want to get in tune, or just play regular"?

I personally think standard A-440 is best, at least here in the U.S. I realize variations are neededfor some instruments. But I once met an exuberant fellow who always tuned his 12 string 1/2 step below standard, and didn't even carry a capo to get in line with everyone else. The key of "E Flatbreads are delicious" is still a real pain in the ass to me on guitar.

It's more difficult in real performance. Keeping everything sounding good is the primary thing, and Annie's flute tends to change pitch slightly as it warms up. Also, David changes guitar tunings sometimes five or six times per gig. We have to plan our sets on the guitar tunings, and save the string breakers for last.

By the end of our night, we have degenerated to whatever the hell tuning we can find that sounds good. Fortunately, I'm usually playing bass through all of this.

Our band is named D&A, (shameful promotion, I know). And we are available for criminal investigations, weddings, funerals, bris, artsy-fartsy things and drunken tractor pulls. We prefer to stay close to home here in southern Colorado. But we'd go just about anywhere if well tempted. Even Yorkshire. CD is upcoming. What an absolute gas. BlueJay.


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: dougboywonder
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 05:16 AM

Best tuning in the world - C9 tuning!!!! This is (from the bottom) CGCGCD and could be classified as the nic jones tuning, basicly. I discovered this tuning when I was sixteen and ever since have found it hilarious watching grown men attempting "cana-dee-i-o" in standard and getting thier fingers in knots. Even now (at the ripe old age of 20) I still get startled looks from people staring at the fretboard. Just try it in C9 and you'll see what I mean.... Also try "Billy don't you weep for me" and ANYTHING by Nick Harper and you'll be hooked.


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: KingBrilliant
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 06:14 AM

Clinton - your dadgad chords pdf is just what I've been looking for for ages. I've just printed it off & am looking forward to giving it a try.
Cheers

Kris


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: John Hardly
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 09:05 AM

I agree with what Gary T pointed out.

When tuned down a half step, the second string from the top is still 440-A......when fretted at the second fret.

MOST modern guitarists of the singer-songwriter type, compose around fingering, with the key only chosen by the vocal range.

Even if it is your desire to play a song exactly the same way as a given recording, tuning down just gives you one more fret before you run out of room at the top (with your capo).

All in all, the only disadvantage to this exercise of tuning down a half step is the flabbier sound of loose strings that someone mentioned earier in the thread....a problem usually easily addressed with heavier guage strings.

The only other disadvantage I can even dream of would be that you might not be maximizing the guitar's best sound capability IF (and this is a relatively rare if) you have a "tuned top" guitar. Even then, as mentioned before, just because you are tuned down a half step doesn't mean you are playing your songs in a different KEY.


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 12:53 PM

KB...

Like I said, there's an awful lot of stuff on that chart... I suspect it was made by some computer program that just dumped out all the possible chords... some real fingerbreakers, and some that just sound awful... but hidden away are some very nice chords...

Enjoy eh!

;-)


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Bartholomew
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 02:11 PM

ClintonHammond - I came for the DADGAD and stayed for the smut. Nice site, but you should be very ashamed of yourself, you naughty singing man, you.

All the best
Bart


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 02:24 PM

Hehehehehe...

I ain't ashamed of nothin'!

;-)


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: GUEST,Melani
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 03:00 PM

I was recently shown "dropped D" tuning, where the lowest bass string is tuned to D instead of E, but everything else remains standard. It gives a really cool dark tone to stuff in the key of D. It uses some standard chords and some alternate chords that are the same or similar to DADGAD, which I also just discovered and is also a really great sound. My hands are very small and one finger is shorter than it used to be, so some of the chords are really physically impossible for me, but others are very simple. I am an absolute novice with this and have only messed around in D, but it's great fun.


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: ChanteyMatt
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 06:23 PM

Ah yes, Grasshopper, the mysteries of alternate tunings can be difficult for a novice. I currently have one guitar in dadgad and the other standard. I figure it this way, rather than constantly re-tuning, why not buy more guitars? (Really, honey, I only need one more.)


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: John Hardly
Date: 24 Aug 01 - 02:51 PM

Alright. This has bugged me long enough. I'll bite. I can't let this sleeping dog lie, and if I could think of any more cliche's, rest assured I'd include them.

What has wanting to be tuned to 440 to do with whether or not you would or would not tune down a half-step?

Isn't the first "A" on the fretboard (bad intonation notwithstanding) still 440? Even if you are tuned down a half-step?

Whether or not you can play with others (my report cards always said that about me "plays well with others..") has nothing to do with WHERE the A falls on the fretboard........does it?


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 24 Aug 01 - 03:03 PM

Not at all John... yer exactly right... As long as your -A- is 440, yer in 'concert pitch'...

but...

If yer tuned down half a tone, or a full tone, and expect to play with others, you'd better be quick with the in-the-head transposing yer gonna have to do...

;-)


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: John Hardly
Date: 24 Aug 01 - 03:55 PM

Yeah, I just thought I'd missed something. I mean, I know nobody here would post without reading the preceding posts . Yet, after Gary T pointed this out, two additional posts said something about "440" so I assumed maybe I really was missing something.


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Don Firth
Date: 24 Aug 01 - 05:29 PM

The important thing is that the A -- wherever it is on your guitar, banjo, or Swiss bells -- is tuned to 440 cycles per second. As long as you know where it is on your instrument, you're okay (where you are may befuddle others trying to play with you, but that's for them to figure out). I have been to a few songfests where someone refused to retune, insisting on keeping their instrument tuned somewhere in the cracks. One guy simply had a tin ear, didn't want to retune, and didn't think it necessary. And another guy was a militant non-conformist, and tuning to some arbitrary standard such as a tuning fork was against his principles (this was in the Sixties). Needless to say, neither of these folks played well with others -- in any sense you mean.

If you never play with other people, then it doesn't really matter.

I do think, however, that keeping your first string fifth fret tuned to a 440-A (assuming you're not using a special tuning) produces the optimum tone quality on a well-made guitar, and is easier on the guitar. One of my guitars is a lightly constructed Flamenco that has appreciated in value frighteningly over the last few decades, so I'm pretty careful with it.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Sorcha
Date: 24 Aug 01 - 07:29 PM

TUNE IT OR DIE!!

There are several problems for me with alternate tunings.
1) For every tuning, you have to learn new fingering.
2) It takes time to re-tune. Are you going to "patter" when folks came to hear you play or are you going to own a LOT of different instruments?
3) Alt. tuning often puts the tune/song in a different key from what it "says" it is. Can you figure out what key it actually is in to notify your fellow players?

Consequently, (with fiddle) I never use alt. tunings even tho they are out there. I just stick with standard. If the fingering is impossible in standard tuning, I just don't do the tune.


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Subject: To Alt. Tune
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 24 Aug 01 - 07:41 PM

Sorcha

1) And most of the new fingerings you'll learn will be easier, especially where guitar tunings are concerned... I suspect that the same is true for fiddle or the alt. tunings wouldn't be used...

2) Ask Garnet Rogers about owning multiple instruments for multiple tunings... you say it like it's a bad thing... And you say 'patter' like it's a bad word too...

3)This one I don't get at all... if I'm playing a song in G, what does it matter what tuning I'm playing it in... the key of G is always the same notes... changing the tuning might change some of the structure of the chords, but the notes will be there...

Can you try to explain #3 better to me?? I'm trying to get a handle on it...

;-)


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Sorcha
Date: 24 Aug 01 - 07:47 PM

1) True, I'm just lazy.
2) Called $$$$......good instruments are expensive. Hauling instruments gets to be a pain, esp at Period Gigs where motorized vehicles are not allowed.....there is a limit to how much I can/will schlep a mile from the parking lot.
3) OK, my bad. You right. I have this guitar player who, when I get out the dulcimer always asks "What key are you in?" I fret and strum the 3rd fret and say "That one." Sometimes he says it's G, sometimes D.......modal really confuses him. Most of the players I have met simply do NOT understand modal, nor do they speak dulcimer......


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Sorcha
Date: 24 Aug 01 - 07:54 PM

Oh, forgot "patter"---patter in itsself is not necessarily bad,and can be very good, but when I have paid to hear someone sing/play, I really get riled if I have to listen to more "patter" than music because things have to be re tuned for every song........


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 24 Aug 01 - 08:25 PM

1) Don't just admit it, revel in it!! LOL!!!!

2)A period gig that won't allow for transportation of gear, I'd tell to get stuffed! They can't want entertainment too badly eh?

3) I think i get where you were coming from better now... ya... ;-)

That patter thing only bugs me when it's done badly... The Greats (Archie, Stan, Garnet, James, Stephen, Ian, ect ect) could stand and talk all night, and I'd stay to hear it! LOL!!! But I'd rather there be patter and tuning, than no patter and songs done out of tune...

Somewhere there's a perfect balance of all these eh!

;-)


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Sorcha
Date: 24 Aug 01 - 08:46 PM

Ah, Clinton, you silly! (grin) Actually, the period gig that finally did me in was a US Park Service Historical site--Old Fort Laramie. NO ONE is allowed to drive anywhere on the grounds.......Park Service uses golf carts on the gravel paths, and would transport us from the parking lot to the building IF they were there when we needed them.........like, never.

So, I have--2 violins, 1 viola, 1 dulcimer,1 lap harp, 1 water jug, 1 mug, 1 bodhran, etc, etc,etc, to shlep UPHILL at least 1/4 mile........Mind, I am in 1878 costume--long skirt, 2 petticoats, bonnet; summertime 90+ heat; I joked about getting a dog cart with large dog........but we just quit the gig instead (after 10 + years)

It was also downhill, then uphill to the one holers---keeerist.


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: John Hardly
Date: 24 Aug 01 - 10:12 PM

If I might presume to answer #3 (and apologize in advance if I get it wrong)

Alternate tunings don't change the KEY....but what they often do is set a different set of default embellishments that make playing along with someone a chore if you play with more standard embellishments.

If you play "Red Haired Boy" in DADGAD your key of D has a natural default (sus 4?)that clashes with the embellishments one usually associates with the tune in its more widely accepted Key of A......EVEN IF you are capoed up to "A" pitch.

IT ain't the key, its the embellishments.


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Sorcha
Date: 24 Aug 01 - 10:28 PM

Thank you John.


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: John Hardly
Date: 24 Aug 01 - 10:47 PM

delighted I could be of help.


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: GUEST,Steven G.
Date: 27 Aug 01 - 01:29 PM

To conclude this threat, I would like to say that this posting had a great response to my question, thanks.

I will take the suggestions from the people that told me to keep my guitars tuned to 440-A, concert pitch. It seems that I am a outcast with this type of tuning. But I fully agree to the standard tuning, to be in tune with our musicians, and because sometimes when playing along with our musicians they will wonder why I am not in tune with them.

Well for the DADGAD, I am going to learn it, and start learning how to play the Mary Ellen Carter, because it is my favorite song.

Anyway, thanks

Steven G.


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 27 Aug 01 - 01:39 PM

Once ya get a handle on DADGAD, Mary Ellen Carter becomes absloute PANTS to play!!

:-)


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Subject: RE: To Tune or Not to Tune
From: Marion
Date: 04 Sep 01 - 12:41 AM

Here is another DADGAD chord chart to look at. It has far fewer chord diagram's than Clinton's chart, so I assume it includes only the most popular voicings and not every possible permutation.

Also, if from that page you click on "Arbuckle's Celtic Guitar Site" you'll find tablature to some Celtic tunes in DADGAD. There's also a page of dropped-D chords.

Marion


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