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Joan Baez concert guitar question

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Rara Avis 30 Mar 03 - 01:21 PM
Leadfingers 30 Mar 03 - 01:35 PM
Tattie Bogle 30 Mar 03 - 01:39 PM
Rara Avis 30 Mar 03 - 01:57 PM
Don Firth 30 Mar 03 - 05:21 PM
GUEST,Eliza C 31 Mar 03 - 03:36 PM
GUEST,vl 31 Mar 03 - 08:37 PM
Steve-o 01 Apr 03 - 01:30 PM
Rara Avis 01 Apr 03 - 09:33 PM
Seamus Kennedy 02 Apr 03 - 12:20 AM
Little Hawk 02 Apr 03 - 11:15 PM
Cool Beans 04 Apr 03 - 11:09 AM
Dave4Guild 04 Apr 03 - 01:28 PM
Bernard 04 Apr 03 - 02:11 PM
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Subject: Joan Baez concert guitar question
From: Rara Avis
Date: 30 Mar 03 - 01:21 PM

Last night I attended a Joan Baez concert about which I have a comment and a question. First the comment. The concert was wonderful. However you may feel about the content of Joan's songs, hers is a stunning and sterling voice. I saw her at the Philadelphia Academy of Music in the 80s and the Newport Folk Festival in the 60s and have always enjoyed her singing immensely. Last night's songs did not have all the soaring high notes I heard at those earlier performances. A companion noted Joan's repeated sips of water and attributed that to smoking or a cold, which could have been responsible for not going for all the high notes. I won't speculate. Replacing the expected high note with a lower one does give the audience a different interpretation of the song and that's no bad thing. There was a very exciting version of Lily of the West. The drummer, whose name I don't know, was responsible for that. Very well done and how lucky we were to be at that concert.

Finally my question, which will reveal the depth of my ignorance of musical instruments. Prior to each song, Joan tuned her guitar. Is this nervous fussing or searching for absolute perfection with each play or something else altogether? Surely a guitar shouldn't go out of tune so quickly.

Mudcatters, can you educate me on the guitar tuning issue? Disparaging comments about my lack of guitar knowledge will be blithely ignored.

Kind Regards.


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Subject: RE: Joan Baez concert guitar question
From: Leadfingers
Date: 30 Mar 03 - 01:35 PM

Rara Avis I cant say about Joan Baez, but I know a lot of musicians who check their tuning between songs, and others who vary their tuning from song to song.Possibly standard tuning for the first,then
to dropped D, then double dropped D. then DADGAD then back again.
    For the same reason a lot of guitarists carry two or more guitars in different tuning to reduce the possibility of breaking strings while tuning.


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Subject: RE: Joan Baez concert guitar question
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 30 Mar 03 - 01:39 PM

Could be a number of reasons:
She could have been using alternative tunings, but many guitarists doing this would bring other guitars with them, already tuned to the required notes.
Weather and heat of the lights on stage can affect your tuning quite badly and rapidly.
Nylon strings go out of tune quicker than metal strings.
New strings could still be stretching, and therefore go out of tune.
But she may also be one of a number of tuning-tweakers and twangers who seem compelled to do it at every juncture (viz. Dick Gaughan, Martin Carthy to name a couple) There are also those who make a big show of tuning and still end up out of tune! (not including the above-named in those necessarily!)
Hope you now feel in tune with this, Rara - and lucky you to see JB live!!


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Subject: RE: Joan Baez concert guitar question
From: Rara Avis
Date: 30 Mar 03 - 01:57 PM

Thanks Leadfingers and Tattie Bogle. I never thought about different songs being in different chords and the instrument having to be adjusted accordingly. It's all a mystery to me but I don't (ahem) fret. If I may add, the concert was held in an auditorium built in 1930 and very ornately so. There has been no attempt to modernize so the seats are covered in the original mohair and the original stained glass windows and decorative plasterwork are still in place. The acoustics are great. It was the perfect setting for such a jewel as Joan Baez.


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Subject: RE: Joan Baez concert guitar question
From: Don Firth
Date: 30 Mar 03 - 05:21 PM

Unless she's changed recently, I don't recall Joan Baez being into special tunings (anything other than the standard E A D G B E). My guess would be that she had put new stings on her guitar not too long before the concert and had to keep adjusting them. Also, she uses a capo from time to time, and often when you put a capo on or move it from one position to another, you have to fine-tune a string or two. Another possibility might be a bit of nervousness if she was having vocal problems, like a cold or something like that.

I havent't seen her recently, but I wonder if she still plays that beautiful 1929 Martin 0-45. Great instrument for song accompaniment!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Joan Baez concert guitar question
From: GUEST,Eliza C
Date: 31 Mar 03 - 03:36 PM

Don,
Last time I saw her (2 years agoish) she was playing the signature Martin guitar that was copied from that old one. I really like her guitar playing,and she doesn't seem to suffer from arthritis or anything,she just gets better all the time.
ce
heers,
e x


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Subject: RE: Joan Baez concert guitar question
From: GUEST,vl
Date: 31 Mar 03 - 08:37 PM

Funny Rara, I hadn't seen her live in a long time and had kind of written her off because her voice, to me anyway, had become harsh and strident. Maybe she was singing in a register that had become too high for her. Then I saw her a few years ago on Austin City Limits and she sang great, not the soaring soprano the early Vanguard recordings but much more earthy and comfortable. vl


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Subject: RE: Joan Baez concert guitar question
From: Steve-o
Date: 01 Apr 03 - 01:30 PM

"Lily of the West" needs a drummer like a fish needs a bicycle. That's why she gets no more of my concert dollars.


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Subject: RE: Joan Baez concert guitar question
From: Rara Avis
Date: 01 Apr 03 - 09:33 PM

Ah. no, Steve-o. In this instance, the drum added a certain - menace may not be the right word - but a degree of drama that underscored the story's tragedy. The drummer was using some kind of cushioned thingy (my partner called them little bowling pins - we're obviously not musicians!) rather than drumsticks so the drumming didn't didn't have a sharp sound. It was a great concert and I was happy I was there. I'm still happy about it three nights later.


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Subject: RE: Joan Baez concert guitar question
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 12:20 AM

Sometimes playing under hot lights causes to stretch slightly and go flat. Tightening them up brings them back into tune.
Conversely, playing a cold venue which I have done on more than one occasion, causes the strings to shrink/tighten and go sharp. Hence the need to tweak again.
Also with some performers it's a nervous thing. The guitar isn't out of tune, but the singer needs to do something with his/her hands while they talk to the audience.

Seamus who still likes ol' Joanie


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Subject: RE: Joan Baez concert guitar question
From: Little Hawk
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 11:15 PM

Most likely the strings were fresh, and were still stretching during the performance. I have not noticed Joan to have a constant-tuning fetish in the past. Lucky you to be there! Joan is the kind of performer who (in my experience) always does her best to deliver a meticulous performance, because she feels it is her duty to do so as a service to the audience who came to see her. She's got class.

As far as I know, she does not smoke and never did.

- LH


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Subject: RE: Joan Baez concert guitar question
From: Cool Beans
Date: 04 Apr 03 - 11:09 AM

In Ann Arbor last night (April 3) Joan Baez tuned up once, late in her concert, to play Bob Dylan's "Jack of Hearts'' song. "I don't know why I'm tuning, '' she said, "Bob never did.''
So that's that.


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Subject: RE: Joan Baez concert guitar question
From: Dave4Guild
Date: 04 Apr 03 - 01:28 PM

Joan Baez is a very accomplished guitarist ideed; if she feels it necessary to tweak her tuning between songs, I for one don't feel it necessary to criticise her. It might be a "worry-beads" kind of thing, or a genuine need. On stage hot lights often play havoc with tuning anyway, only she can determine the need to make the minor adjustments she feels are needed. I would be delighted to see/hear her play, I learnt a lot from her playing in the 60's.
I don't think she used any other than standard tuning. How's this for another thread from someone more confident than me? "Proper guitarists don't need altered tunings to make decent music!!!"
She's rather a good singer as well!


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Subject: RE: Joan Baez concert guitar question
From: Bernard
Date: 04 Apr 03 - 02:11 PM

Slight thread creep, but may be relevant...

A year or so ago a young duo came to play at our folk club, and the female singer was drowned out by her male accompanist constantly re-tuning during her preambles between songs. Really spoiled the performance. To me, the guitar was properly in tune, and it was merely an annoying nervous fetish...

So, as I was up to do a couple of songs after the interval, I made a point of singing a song using my standard tuning 12-string, then quickly retuning (by ear - he was using a bloody tuner!) to open D, and bashing out Joni Mitchell's 'Big Yellow Taxi', which needs a perfectly tuned instrument (especially a 12-string!), or it sounds terrible.

The look on his face was a picture, and the point was heeded!

Tunings where there are three strings all at the same pitch do tend to be more critical than standard tuning, which is why Carthy tunes more that seems necessary. That said, his new special edition Martin seems less prone to the problem than his old favourite was - though the electronics have a few bugs! I was working with him on sound last October, and it took ages to get it right, which had never been a problem with the old one! Ho hum!

I really cannot comment on JB's performance, as I've never seen her live; I've had nights when the strings worked against me, too - maybe this wasn't typical?


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