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Question on banjo tuning

Banjoman_CO 06 Jun 99 - 07:54 PM
Frank of Toledo 06 Jun 99 - 08:23 PM
dick greenhaus 06 Jun 99 - 10:27 PM
Frank of Toledo 07 Jun 99 - 12:07 AM
Rick Fielding 07 Jun 99 - 12:58 AM
dick greenhaus 07 Jun 99 - 12:07 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 08 Jun 99 - 07:24 AM
Songbob 08 Jun 99 - 11:24 AM
Rick Fielding 08 Jun 99 - 11:30 AM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 09 Jun 99 - 08:31 AM
Banjer 09 Jun 99 - 07:04 PM
Songbob 10 Jun 99 - 12:56 AM
Banjer 10 Jun 99 - 07:02 AM
Frank of Toledo 10 Jun 99 - 11:10 AM
dick greenhaus 10 Jun 99 - 10:53 PM
Banjer 14 Jun 99 - 06:11 PM
guy wolff 14 Jun 99 - 06:59 PM
katmuse (inactive) 15 Jun 99 - 04:58 AM
reggie miles 18 Jun 99 - 04:02 AM
Jon W. 18 Jun 99 - 11:54 AM
GUY WOLFF 18 Jun 99 - 06:35 PM
bseed(charleskratz) 18 Jun 99 - 07:39 PM
reggie miles 19 Jun 99 - 05:26 AM
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Subject: Question on banjo tuning
From: Banjoman_CO
Date: 06 Jun 99 - 07:54 PM

I have been playing banjo for a long time and ran across something I have never heard of. In a book I found a reference to "sawmill" tuning. I use several tunings, C,G,Dmodal,C minor, but have never heard of "sawmill tuning". Could someone help me our. Perhaps you could also give me the tuning (the book didn't mention pitches) and maybe some chords. I would appreciate any help.

Thanks lots Fred


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: Frank of Toledo
Date: 06 Jun 99 - 08:23 PM

From an old book with have with no cover, it mentions "sawmill tuning" G Modal-mountain minor G DGCD. I'll look through the book and give you some more information later. I'm in the process of feeding two hungry growing monsters two sons 8 and 12.......


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 06 Jun 99 - 10:27 PM

The folks who originally used these tunings didn't have names for thwm; that's a contribution form the urban-typw collectors. The old banjo plyers would sometimes identify a tuning by the name of the song they used it for ("Shady Grove Tuning") but that was as far as it went.


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: Frank of Toledo
Date: 07 Jun 99 - 12:07 AM

Thanks Dick, because on this subject of "sawmill-tuning", it goes on to say that a banjoist named Rufus Crisp, switched from the G modal-mountain minor GDGCD to GFGCD when playing Shady Grove..............


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 07 Jun 99 - 12:58 AM

Many of these tunings (and right hand stylings) have colloquial names. To the best of my knowledge "Sawmill" was Tom Ashley's nick-name for g D G C D. Granpa Jones claimed never to have heard the term "frailing", and he called his style "rappin" a banjo. Because he became well known, many others also called it "rappin".


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 07 Jun 99 - 12:07 PM

Don't know about too many others, but Rufus Crisp generally changed tunings so that he could incorporate as many open strings and second-fret (actually, he filed the frets off his banjo because it wouldn't play the notes right) pull-offs and hammers-on as possible.

re "frailing"--it's a southernism for beating or striking---"behave, or I'll frail you good!--quite synonymous with flailing, beating or rapping. As I recall, the term "clawhammer" was originally used for three-finger picking, where the thumb and two fingers resembled a claw-hammer. I don't know how it's come to mean melodic drop-thumb frailing.


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 08 Jun 99 - 07:24 AM

I saw an interview with Clarence Ashley where he refered to "sawmill" tuning. I forget the piece he played with it; but it wasn't Shady Grove.

I also saw a video of Buell Kazee demonstrating Mountain banjo styles. He claimed it was the custom to file down the frets as Dick described because the mountain folk liked to get notes between the frets. The banjo he used seemed to have the frets filed down from the nut to the fifth string tuner. He also says that it was the custom for Mountain banjo players to use tunings to minimize the fretting of any given piece.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: Songbob
Date: 08 Jun 99 - 11:24 AM

Banjo questions abound today!

About labels: Once someone asked Buell Kazee about what he called his style (he used the down-picking style labeled "frailing," "rapping," "clawhammer," "knocking" and many other things). Kazee reportedly answered, "I've been playing since I was about five years old, and I'm 60-some years old now, and as long as I can remember, we always called it 'Picking the banjo.'"

Country banjo tunings often have odd names or labels attached to them. Extra confusion comes from the keys used, since lots of those old-timers tuned the banjos up a tone to make the most common fiddle keys easier to match. So C tunings, of which the "2C" or "mountain C" tuning -- gCGCD -- is most common, would be "D tuning" if you asked. But there's a couple of "open D" tunings with considerably different intervals from that one (f#DF#AD & aDF#AD) that's also used. In Kentucky, what urbanites might call "F" tuning (fCFCD) is called "Old G" by some players, since it was tuned up to gDGDE. It was called "Old G" to differentiate it from "new G," gDGBD, the common bluegrass open G tuning.

So "sawmill" is "G modal" is gDGCD.

Ask a simple question, get an encyclopedia for an answer.

Bob Clayton


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 08 Jun 99 - 11:30 AM

Hi Bob, how are ya doing? Still singin' 'Record Edged in Black'? I've never heard the term "old G", but I love it.
Murray, the Tom Ashley song is the Cukoo Bird.


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 09 Jun 99 - 08:31 AM

Thanks Rick. I have that on record and I listened again. He does a great job on it.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: Banjer
Date: 09 Jun 99 - 07:04 PM

OK, I have sat and read this thread since its beginning and I can't stand it anymore....I play (in my opinion anyhow) a banjo but I really do believe that the term BANJO TUNING is an oxymoron!!!


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: Songbob
Date: 10 Jun 99 - 12:56 AM

No, "banjo tuning" isn't an oxymoron, but it is a lifelong struggle. The nature of the banjo makes tuning it particularly difficult, since there's a tension between the strings and the drum-like head, not to mention the somewht flimsy (by musical instrument standards) construction, and changing any one item, like a string, affects all the other items (like the other strings). Change the tuning of one string, another has to be changed, which changes the first again (and all the others), which changes the one that had to be changed when you changed the first, which ....

Bob Clayton (author of "The Old-Timey Banjo Book," several copies of which are taking up room in my basement)


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: Banjer
Date: 10 Jun 99 - 07:02 AM

I would be happy to purchase one of those duplicate books if you would be interested in letting one go! E-mail at: reanes1@gte.net with particulars if interetsed!


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: Frank of Toledo
Date: 10 Jun 99 - 11:10 AM

I would like to purchase one also, if possible.My e-mail is flnjjones@harborside.com....Thanks a lot.......


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 10 Jun 99 - 10:53 PM

A ninety-year old banjo player has spent eighty years of that tuning.


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: Banjer
Date: 14 Jun 99 - 06:11 PM

So, Songbob, I haven't heard from you about the book. Is it possible to arrange something? Please reply at your earliest, Thanks....Banjer.....reanes1@gte.net


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: guy wolff
Date: 14 Jun 99 - 06:59 PM

Ah sawmill tuning or as every mountain old timmey player out in the mountains would say>>>>> Ah G suspended 4th tuning! Or in the "kiokualisum"., Ah G sus four. Anyone ever notice that the Beatles used a G sus4 as the begining chord of Hard Days Night>>>>>> Cheers G..................


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: katmuse (inactive)
Date: 15 Jun 99 - 04:58 AM

Do I remember aright that "sawmill tuning" was for Clarence Ashley what John Cohen said Roscoe Holcomb (I think) called "lassie-making tuning"? Generated some heh-heh speculation amongst us urban folkies, but turned out that "lassie" referred to molasses (not mole-asses, either), having something to do with the tuning being associated with particular banjo song(s?) often played/sung when the molasses-making process was under way on the farm. (But check with John Cohen to see if I'm inadvertently inventing folklore here.)

And is it sawmill tuning because it makes the banjo sound even more like one than usual?

Ashley's tuning for "Little Sadie" as well as for "The Coo Coo Bird" (spelled that way on a record -- Folkways' Harry Smith (ed.) Anthology of American Folk Music).

-- Katmuse


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: reggie miles
Date: 18 Jun 99 - 04:02 AM

does anyone know how a plectrum banjo is tuned?


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: Jon W.
Date: 18 Jun 99 - 11:54 AM

Yeah, you turn them little pegs and pluck the strings 'til she sounds about right.

But serially, I think the tuning is the same as a tenor banjo but a few steps lower - which (tenor tuning) is the same as a mandolin but an octave lower - which means it is tuned in fifths. My guess would be CGDA but I'm probably all wet on this one.


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: GUY WOLFF
Date: 18 Jun 99 - 06:35 PM

Hi Reggie, I'm bad at this stuff but I've always thought of a Plectrum as being tuned like a drop C five string >>>>in other words from bass to treble CGBD.. It's a turn of the century sort of a thing.Is that right oh historic ones who are listening.....I know a guy who plays a mean tenor guitar in this tuning named Bill Lauft. Go back and listen to "Made In New England "by Lui Collins to hear his great tenor guitar tuned in this fasion........Cheers Guy>>>>>><<<<<>>>>><<<<>>>


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: bseed(charleskratz)
Date: 18 Jun 99 - 07:39 PM

katmuse, don't feel bad about making up folklore. That's what we do here ot the 'Cat. See the thread "Hokey-Pokey and the Druids." --seed


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Subject: RE: Question on banjo tuning
From: reggie miles
Date: 19 Jun 99 - 05:26 AM

I contacted a shop, I think it was the Mandolin Bros., over the net via a thread link I found posted here and this is what they had to say about various tunings for plectrum banjo. There are three that they emailed me, the first is to tune it like the first four strings of a guitar, (EBGD), the next is to tune it like a five string, (DBGD), and the third is the traditional plectrum method, (DBGC). Tada!


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