The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #61355   Message #986549
Posted By: chip a
19-Jul-03 - 10:33 AM
Thread Name: Old time and Bluegrass-- Differences
Subject: RE: Old time and Bluegrass-- Differences
Great posts from John and Arne. Having had to put up with the "if you were a better musician you could play this in F#" look from people who aren't used to old time, I'm glad to see tunings and the reasons for them discussed. Yes I could learn it in F# but that's not the point.
Because there were fiddles playing these tunes before there were banjos or guitars, it's likely that the traditional key for a given tune was settled on by fiddlers. Along came pickers of the early fretless banjos. They had to create tunings to fit the fiddler's key without getting too far out of the first position (no frets).
But ease in reaching the notes and key changing weren't and aren't the only reasons for retuning. On my banjo the tunings allow me to achieve different sounds because of the different relationships of the strings to one another in each tuning. Most banjo pickers use more than one tuning for each key depending on the tune being played.
A couple of weeks ago I was learning Row Us Over the Tide and I came up with an A tuning I'd never used before. I chose the key of A because that's where Tish needs to be to sing it. I worked out the tuning because it let me do some hammers and a long, smoothe slide right where I wanted them. I could play the same notes in standard A tuning but without the devices available in "my" tuning it wouldn't sound near as good.
Since then I've decided that I like Aragon Mills (I know it's not OT) and Sally in the Garden better in that tuning than where I'd been playing them.
Clear as mud?!

Chip