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Help: Banjo Style/Tuning Question

02 May 01 - 03:03 PM (#454041)
Subject: Banjo Style/Tuning Question
From: Chicken Charlie

After about three years of struggling with standard tuned banjo with mediocre results, I have discovered "Wade Ward's High Atmosphere" tuning, which is a variant of open C, tuned something like eCGCD, but that's not important. The melody is mainly on the second and third strings and the right hand is doing square rolls or triplets as needed. I absolutely love this "sound."

The problem is that my dearly beloved (who is musically adept but not into "trad" stuff) says she cannot hear the melodies distinctly; they get lost in the picking pattern. When I remove my thumb and middle finger picks, playing with just the pick on the index finger, the situation improves. I would rather not forego the thumb pick, for a couple of reasons. Has anybody else encountered this reaction, and if so, what did you do about it?

Chicken Charlie


02 May 01 - 04:03 PM (#454098)
Subject: RE: Help: Banjo Style/Tuning Question
From: GUEST,fretless

Interesting. Wade, of course, was a clawhammer player and I doubt if he ever used finger picks. He did use lots of "odd" tunings, although I can't confirm that the eCGCD variant of the more common clawhammer favorite, gCGCD, was one of them.


02 May 01 - 04:11 PM (#454112)
Subject: RE: Help: Banjo Style/Tuning Question
From: GUEST,fretless

Yup. Acording to Banjo-L, he used the lowered fifth string "e" for the cut Half Shaved on his High Atmosphere album/CD: High Atmosphere, CD Reissue (11 new tracks) (Rounder CD-028; 1995).


02 May 01 - 04:15 PM (#454118)
Subject: RE: Help: Banjo Style/Tuning Question
From: Chicken Charlie

At the risk of sounding ungrateful for confirmation of the problem, do you have anything to propose as a solution??

("Take up the dulcimer" and "tell d.b. to pound sand" are already taken.)

CC


02 May 01 - 04:22 PM (#454132)
Subject: RE: Help: Banjo Style/Tuning Question
From: chip a

CC

Practice, practice, practice! You've got to get to where the notes that need to be "out front" are struck just a little harder than the others. Control, not hardware is the answer to this one. It just takes time and concentration. Easier for me to say it than for me to do it!

Keep pickin'

Chip


02 May 01 - 04:24 PM (#454133)
Subject: RE: Help: Banjo Style/Tuning Question
From: GUEST,fretless

Alas, no. I'm a clawhammer player/frailer; bought a set of finger picks back in the '60s and use them occasionally on an autoharp, but never for banjo. Sorry I can't help.


02 May 01 - 04:24 PM (#454135)
Subject: RE: Help: Banjo Style/Tuning Question
From: chip a

CC

One more note. Try picking REAL SLOW and focus on the volume and attack without worrying about speed for a while.

Chip


02 May 01 - 04:30 PM (#454140)
Subject: RE: Help: Banjo Style/Tuning Question
From: Chicken Charlie

Chip--thanks. I will absolutely not whine about having to set the bar higher. I won't! I won't!

CC


02 May 01 - 06:12 PM (#454232)
Subject: RE: Help: Banjo Style/Tuning Question
From: GUEST,Les B

If it's any consolation, I heard a famous flatpicker (whose name just went right out of my head) say that his wife referred to some of his picking as "deedly deedly music"! It happens to everyone.

The banjo is known for not being a straight ahead melody instrument. A friend, who is a fine old-timey fiddler, decided to learn the banjo. He complained that he couldn't get all the melody notes of a fiddle tune onto the banjo. A good banjo player told him he had to learn to "sketch" out the melody and "imply" what was missing, while still holding the rhythm. The fiddler found this quite difficult after playing a straight line instrument.

It is difficult to bring the melody out of the bombardment of notes a banjo can produce. One way is to be less "notety," and, as suggested above, put a little more emphasis on the melody notes. Also, perhaps you should be clawhammering the particular tune. I find I can get more of the melody in that style than 3-finger picking.

Don't give up. As the old timer said, "Hell, there ain't no notes on a banjo, you just play it!"


02 May 01 - 06:14 PM (#454235)
Subject: RE: Help: Banjo Style/Tuning Question
From: GUEST,Les B

Just remembered the famous flatpicker - Dan Crary !


02 May 01 - 06:23 PM (#454243)
Subject: RE: Help: Banjo Style/Tuning Question
From: Chicken Charlie

Les B--

Someone on another thread applied the term "Diddleian mode" to Irish music; it probably has applications here. John Hartford goes into a long thing on "ghost notes" on his banjo instruction tape too. In my case, though, it's not a question of making people think they hear notes that aren't there; it's a q. of making them sure they hear notes that are there. Clawhammer might be an option, though I do like the fullness of 3-finger if I can get to the point Chip talks about. Maybe I can get a grant to go to a desert island for about 17 mos. and develop this technique. Funny how long I resisted the idea of using non-standard tuning.

CC


02 May 01 - 06:56 PM (#454268)
Subject: RE: Help: Banjo Style/Tuning Question
From: GUEST,Les B

CC - I messed with the double C tuning and a couple of the minor/modal tunings when starting to clawhammer (I 3-fingered first), but recently I've been trying to do the same tunes in the standard open G tuning - capoing up two and playing in C or G to arrive at D or A.

This saves lots of time in jams where people jump from key to key, and I get pretty bored with playing in D or A for an hour at a time, especially when someone needs to sing in C or G etc.

Somewhere, recently, I saw a comment that Pete Seeger, in retrospect, would have suggested the open G as the basic tuning, instead of the C tuning he pushed in his banjo primer.

The nice thing about open G, it's a chord, so even if you "over brush" you're still playing strings that harmonize, wheras double C is a bit dischordant sounding to my ear.


02 May 01 - 07:25 PM (#454289)
Subject: RE: Help: Banjo Style/Tuning Question
From: Chicken Charlie

Les--

Right now I'm smitten with the 'High Atmosphere' sound and want to play around with it some more. I've been testing single-C, double-C, triple-C, H.A., etc. I don't mind the borderline discords, especially on something like "Wild Bill Jones," for example. I have checked out open G and "Mountain Minor" briefly, and liked them too--I think it was "Ashville Junction" I was messing with in Mountain Minor. But WWHA has me hooked for right now; every time I pick it up and start practicing licks I hear a piece of another melody going somewhere. I have the weiredest assortment of songs in this tuning, half made-for-banjo and half made-for-anything-but, but I like the sound anyway. I'll get back to the G end of the spectrum sooner or later. Besides, C fits the group's vocal range more comfortably.

CC


02 May 01 - 07:59 PM (#454321)
Subject: RE: Help: Banjo Style/Tuning Question
From: Les B

Haven't heard of Ashville Junction. Try open C, too, it's a mellow sound.