Discussion in 'Art & Culture' started by Bowser, Sep 28, 2015.
I kinda like the blues. Don't know why.
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Some of the modal tuning guitarists historically influenced by Davey Graham can often abandon use of full bar chords (speaking here strictly in the context of solo guitar playing, without band or back-up). Graham himself was noted for free-wheeling just about anyway he wanted without the constraints of bar templates, using the tunings he originated (DADGAD, EADEAE, etc). That's just one area where shifting from pick to assorted finger picking or plucking styles can open new frontiers.
Even in standard tuning I sometimes like to employ modal strategy as if in an altered tuning. Moving unencumbered up and down the fingerboard playing sixths, perfect fifths, and the more dissonant intervals (all arranged as part of a melody) against droning open bass strings plucked rhythmically by the thumb. Usually only works well for modes of D, A, E, and sometimes G.
There's almost the illusion of chord progressions taking place as the two-note intervals (fretted in the D-string to E[treble]-string area) variously harmonize and clash with selected drone notes of the bass. You can also fret the latter here and there on occasion to expand the available number of temporary drones (in terms of those murdering hand stretches aforementioned). Especially helps when playing in the mixolydian, dorian, ionian, aelolian modes of G since otherwise you don't have an open G to use among the bass strings. And never mind just the Celtic and Appalachian sounding stuff -- the mix of modal and interval styles functions great for melodies with latin rhythms and blues-like melodies. [Can't say it's outright blues in the harmonic side because of modal philosophy replacing its traditional and jazz-ified chord sequences.]
In regard to plucking intervals with the fingers, the combined sound of the two notes has a richer tonal texture or "metallic space" when they are not played on adjacent strings -- when there's an unsounded or muted string between them. I actually avoid using thirds a lot because of that, replacing them with sixths (which kind of sound like inverted thirds, anyway, with more distance between the notes). Minor and major sixths and seventh intervals would take some lengthy fingers to fret them on two adjacent strings, anyway. Perfect fifth intervals are on the borderline of the options, however, so that's largely what I'm referring to.
Of course, when it comes to literal altered tunings (rather than trying to simulate their uses in standard tuning), those obviously work great for classic fingerpicking, too -- the bread and butter of playing syncopated melodies against an alternating bass. As exemplified for decades by guitarists like Chet Atkins, Leo Kotke, etc. Michael Hedges used weird altered tunings to the max with his diverse styles, that often sounded like some kind of computerized instrument rather than an acoustic guitar. The tuning for "Ritual Dance" had two adjacent strings tuned to the same note (DADGCC), so that the melody could be heard above all that rhythmic banging above. [Since he was using a plectrum to play Ritual Dance, though, that's actually straying from his fingerstyles just mentioned.] R.I.P., the guitarist from outer space.
I've seen Tommy Emmanuel occasionally use a third-hand or modified capo to mimic altered tunings, so that's why I didn't mention him. Which, is to say, he might very well play entirely in standard tuning for all I know. But as an acolyte of bygone Chet Atkins, it would be a tad hard to believe he doesn't at least drop the E and A bass strings to lower notes (sometimes) to help out a specific solo instrumental.
To do Kashmir "properly" you need to tune to DADGAD.
Helluva post. You blow my mind. And thanks for reminding me to be kind to my plectrum.
Yeah, everything you just said, plus the right axe.
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I don't play, but enjoy guitar. Recently I saw left handed man struggle to put finger on fret near the body (for a high pitch note). Then is when I realized most (all ?) guitars assume you are right handed. (have much deeper indent into one side of the top of the body)*
Do "left handed guitars exist? Or do those that need one, just hold it other edge up? - Do they retune it to so a "strum down" does not have pitch rising reversed?
* this asymmetry is clearly seen in the non-playing video of post 11, although some guitars. I think are right/ left symmetric.
Left handed guitars do exist. ('m left handed, but play guitar right handed.) Jimi Hendrix was left handed, played a right handed guitar "upside down", but he had them restrung for a left hander. Paul McCartney plays left handed. As do many others.
Mark Knopfler's left-handed but play right-hand guitar. To me that actually makes more sense than the traditional way, since you got your "weak" hand doing the strumming and the "strong" hand doing the fretwork.
Seriously, Bach did the blues, you just have to hear it in his music; changing the beat or only playing parts of it as runs might give you some ideas.
You can purchase a guitar built for left handed players. They offer them at Guitar Center's website. They are available, but I have seen people just restring a regular guitar.
My son is into alternative tuning--seems to be popular with his genre. Sadly, I've never explored the possibilities, but I appreciate your post. Thank you.
That's what I love about the banjo, practically every song is in a different tuning, there is no standard. If you have the tuning and the technique, the song practically plays itself.
Holy smoke, the Pikasso guitar. I had to dig through Hubby's old AG magazines to see if it was the very same photograph (in color). It is, the sep/oct 1990 issue, page 50, commentary by Linda Manzer. Given his penchant for "normal" harp guitars, I'm surprised Hedges never asked her to build him one, or borrow Metheny's at gunpoint. "I also installed two brass fittings inside so the guitar can be mounted on a stand, thereby leaving one's arms free to concentrate on the task at hand." --Linda Manzer
On banjo there also seems to be less worry about the strings getting too slack or too tight [breaking] when switching tunings, compared to guitar. Love listening to clawhammer style.
50 years here, played professionally for a few years. Love my 1973 Les Paul Deluxe Custom black and pearl, but spend most of my quality time with my Seagull acoustic these days. Folk, rock and blues with some country thrown in.
Maybe they are under less stress because the skin head provides volume rather than string tension? I don't know. But now that you mention it, I've seldom broke strings on my banjo, but did when I played guitar all the time. I practiced classical guitar for some years, but I didn't keep up with it.
That's very likely not to be satisfactory. The grooves in the nut are cut to exactly accommodate each of the six strings. If you run the bass E string over the groove for the treble E string, it's too big to fit and it won't be held securely. The opposite problem occurs at the other end of the nut: the treble E string will be wallowing in the deep groove for the bass E string, and therefore will also not be held securely.
Not to mention, by not being all the way into its groove, that bass E string will stick up a tiny bit too far. And the treble E string will have the opposite problem and sink too far down into its groove. At the first couple of frets, this will affect the action of the string, which in turn can make the fingering a little awkward and affect the actual sound of the notes.
There's an eyewitness account of Hendrix, handed a righthanded strung guitar, playing it both left and righthanded - well.
Left handed guitarists, like left handed baseball pitchers, seem far more frequent on stage than in life. For some reason.
A fair number of Primitive guitarists use alternative and idiosyncratic tunings - Alex de Grassi, one of the old Windham Hill guitarists, at one time I think was approaching tunings as in Indian Classical Sitar music, ending up with his compositions and tunings almost in a one-one relationship and extensive elaboration within each composition derived from the tuning. He was very fast at tuning on stage.
The Hawaiian guys are all "slack key" players - here's a really beautiful tuning from that island: CGDGBE Try it.
For an education in tunings, John Fahey. Also an education in guitar music (start from the beginning). He used open C tunings more than most do, getting the third outside "where it belongs"- such as in the album "Requia", the "normal" tracks. One of them is in this tuning: CGCGCC. (this one iirc ) If you want to hear what CC is talking about in post 22 above, especially with regard to the blues rather than Celtic, early and midcareer Fahey will provide. (the album photo is flipped - he played righthanded. And nobody makes a pick like those any more: Herco Medium Gauge 60, hard celluloid with the belly molded in. Good luck getting that sound with anything else).
My difficulty with alt tunings is that they interfere with social playing - but like a lot of players, I've picked up a couple of things that require a weird tuning and I'm too fond of them to drop the tunings. So I end up putting more stuff in those tunings, and pretty soon whole chunks of my repertoire require that I retune the guitar. Then they aren't at hand in company. So I've learned to put everything I'm going to play with certain people in one tuning, by discipline. With the Irish, say, I stay in Drop D (DADGBE, - most Irish players in my area use DADGAD). But that cuts most slide playing out of the Irish, where it often fits well. Also, there's a lovely, haunting way to play the Irish tune "The Morning Dew" in a high D drop (EADGBD), and I wish I'd never come up with it. Damn.
And I'm not the only one. Almost every guitar player I know has this one tune in this one tuning that they can't discard. If you're Harvey Reid, say, and in a moment of divine inspiration you saw how to tune a guitar to lay"Fur Elise" by Beethoven into it, are you ever going to give up that tuning? (No) How about Martin Carthy's "Cymru"? Duane Allman's "Little Martha"? (not that open D is all that odd a tuning).
I started changing the tunings as soon as I started playing the guitar. No regrets. But they are something of a trap. The best lesson was how to play a standard tuning as if it were an open tuning, say E minor - how to get that sound.
A number of Fahey's alternate tunings were informed by Indian Classical traditions, as well--and, I believe, also Robbie Basho. Fahey is one of the few who can induce synaesthesia in those not normally prone to such perceptual modes--for me, it's almost too much so at times: I often experience various degrees of such both while seizing (epileptically, that is) and interictally, and Fahey can push me over the edge (or through the looking glass).
Are you familiar with his original Christmas tunes? Ordinarily, I'm not a big fan of Christmas music, but one of Fahey's pieces is so extraordinary. I can't recall the specific title, though IIRC it does not betray the experienced content, but it's like he (or I) is (am) circling a Christmas tree, zooming in on all the twinkling ornaments and flashing lights, and all the while there's an electric train (Lionel O or O27 scale, of course) circling at the base and various wind-up toys doing their thing. Wow.
Back to the Indian inspired stuff: it's too bad Fahey never played a double neck, with the strings of the twelve-string neck vibrating sympathetically with the fundamentals. Or perhaps he could have sat atop a Concert Grand whilst playing and conjured something similar.
During his last few years he was living in cheap hotels and shelters in and around Portland, Oregon, and would often have to borrow guitars for a gig. He once borrowed one from a friend, Rick Bishop--formerly of Sun City Girls and presently doing solo work a Sir Richard Bishop--for a show at the Tractor Tavern in Seattle. If you're a fan of Fahey's Indian period, you should definitely check out some of Bishop's stuff.
Edit: I am not a guitarist, incidentally, rather mostly an organist and, nowadays, more of a harmoniumist--I play a folding Indian harmonium with a rigged foot pedal setup to free both hands. One critic favorably likened me to a "backwoods Terry Riley." Yeah.
Most of Fahey's Christmas song arrangements - as with the Episcopalian hymn tunes closing most of his albums - are not ornamented or elaborated. He interest in Christianity was not casual.
But his (whoops, first) album of Christmas tunes had this - what you are thinking of?
And his second had a long pair of similarly motivated that are pretty elaborate: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_with_John_Fahey_Vol._II
I can't find them for sure on the net - but I think they are more likely your memory - the CD released in 2000 has both albums complete.
Maybe: is part one, and this might be the whole thing, in there somewhere:
Edit in: check around 55:20 in that one - best guess.
I will have to go through those later. Unfortunately, i do not have the album--I heard at my ex-girlfriend's parents' home a few years back. I would guess that it's a track from the second album (1975), as stylistically it's more in the vein of material from, say, Fare Forward Voyagers than Voice of the Turtle. It was also a long track, as I recall, so it's likely the "Christmas Fantasy," but I shall check later.
It's funny, with regards to memory, I tend to diminish--or un-embelish--typically. With this Fahey piece (and certain other pieces), I seem to be doing the opposite: as I'm imagining it, it would almost certainly have to be multi-tracked, but Fahey did not do much of that with his earlier music and it's most likely that he did not with this piece either.
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