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An Unlikely Evangelist

Posted by bj on Monday, April 12, 2010

I find myself in the unlikely position of being an evangelist. I've never been one to push or foist my beliefs on anybody.

But when it comes to one particular aspect of fiddling, I believe so strongly in the results achieved, that I find myself singing its praises to the point where I may as well climb up on a pulpit and start chanting, "I  BELIEVE!"

Nothing makes the fiddle ring so true as this. Nothing makes the fiddle sound so blessedly full and gives such an all-encompassing result that even a mediocre fiddler will sound better, and a good fiddler will sound GREAT. Nothing else will make the sound of the fiddle grab you by the heartstrings and pull you in as quickly and wonderfully.

Yesterday I had another convert.

Christian Bradley now worships at The Hillbilly Church of Crosstuning . . .

YEE  HAW!



31 comments on “An Unlikely Evangelist”

M-D Says:
Monday, April 12, 2010 @8:19:01 AM

Amen, Sister BJ!

bj Says:
Monday, April 12, 2010 @8:25:39 AM

Can I have a WITNESS?

brya31 Says:
Monday, April 12, 2010 @9:26:32 AM

I BELIEVE!!!!!!

ScottK Says:
Monday, April 12, 2010 @9:35:35 AM

I was baptised at (fiddle) birth in Sammy Lind's beginner old time fiddle class. He starts you out in cross A. At this point after two and a half years I can play a couple dozen tunes in cross A, about a dozen more in ADAE, one in AEAC#, and one in GDAE. I keep meaning to learn more in standard, but somehow never get around to it....

Scott

bj Says:
Monday, April 12, 2010 @9:51:11 AM

GDAE is one way to crosstune G, Scott. :-)

janepaints Says:
Monday, April 12, 2010 @4:44:25 PM

i never loved fiddling til i began crosstuning.and never looked baci always crosstune...and ditto for banjo: i am firmly convinced 5-string banjo is one vast malfunctional delusion embraced by for god knows what reason other than "that's what everybody else does"...well. once upon a tine 'everybody else' was playing trumpets with mutes and look where that went: the way of all flash so anyhow: fooey--get rid of that fifth string, cross-tune the banjer and ya can play ANY SONG in ANY KEY, E-Z as pie, and it requires eve5-string banjo does (which is a fine and wondrous thang--the requiring less talent & thought bit, that is).

janepaints Says:
Monday, April 12, 2010 @4:44:33 PM

i never loved fiddling til i began crosstuning.and never looked baci always crosstune...and ditto for banjo: i am firmly convinced 5-string banjo is one vast malfunctional delusion embraced by for god knows what reason other than "that's what everybody else does"...well. once upon a tine 'everybody else' was playing trumpets with mutes and look where that went: the way of all flash so anyhow: fooey--get rid of that fifth string, cross-tune the banjer and ya can play ANY SONG in ANY KEY, E-Z as pie, and it requires eve5-string banjo does (which is a fine and wondrous thang--the requiring less talent & thought bit, that is).

janepaints Says:
Monday, April 12, 2010 @4:46:08 PM

i dunno why my reply got posted twice or why lotsa letters and words vanishe from it....i think satan did it...satan who NEVER crosstunes

FiddleJammer Says:
Tuesday, April 13, 2010 @4:51:17 AM

Lots of tunes listed by key, with suggested tunings http://tunes.fiddlejammer.com/workshops/2010OT.pdf
Brethren and Sistern, print it and get thee to a jam.

bj Says:
Tuesday, April 13, 2010 @4:59:40 AM

The Gospel According to Sister Terri!

Rene Says:
Tuesday, April 13, 2010 @5:27:11 AM

And your favorite is????????

bj Says:
Tuesday, April 13, 2010 @5:39:41 AM

It's all good . . .

Might be a bit dangerous for you out there in Missouri though, Rene. I understand there isn't a lotta crosstuning going on out there.

Rene Says:
Tuesday, April 13, 2010 @11:26:04 AM

Yeah, I see a lot of cross dressing, but not a lot of cross tuning. You keep on preaching sister!!

albert52 Says:
Tuesday, April 13, 2010 @3:30:44 PM

I take it then Bj that you somewhat like the idea of cross tuning the fiddle?! :-)
FROM: not a convert but rather one who sees the light, WHO TRIED IT AND GOT HOOKED.
I fear I may become an ADDICT!

aj

FiddleJammer Says:
Wednesday, April 14, 2010 @3:35:02 AM

Goodly number of tunes in G in the Missouri repertoire. G is 'naturally' cross tuned, if you will. There's often a good drone on any lower toned string. Think about it.

Fiddlin Dixie Says:
Wednesday, April 14, 2010 @3:21:44 PM

I've never worked with cross tuning so do you have to retune everything for every key change? I already play the keys without the cross tuning so I'm not sure the benefit. I know. . .I know. . ."You NON-BELIEVER!" Hee hee. But. . .just wondering.

janepaints Says:
Wednesday, April 14, 2010 @8:54:42 PM

makes the fiddle sound 348.66% bigger, as certfied by the Standards Testing Laboratory people. Plus it makes everything easier. When folks say they hate screechy itsy-bitsy fiddle, they're actually referring to Violin, which word comes from the pig latin for 'vile sounding', mainly 'cause violin ain't cross tuned. That's why they called him Piganinni--'cause he played the fiddle tuned all pig-latin'd.

bj Says:
Thursday, April 15, 2010 @4:26:22 AM

LOL! What Jane said . . .

Dixie, are you a 'grasser? One of the biggest problems playing bluegrass in crosstuning is coming up with the crosstuning that will work when the singer decides he or she wants that tune done in b flat . . .

Fiddlin Dixie Says:
Thursday, April 15, 2010 @6:48:36 AM

Ah yes. The infamous b or b flat. For awhile I would pull out my harmonica for that key. But I'm finding it on the fiddle now and getting a bit more aggressive with it. I've played my fiddle in rock (turn the page, etc), country (Ernie Tubb, Johnny Cash, Alabama, etc), orchestra (Bach, Mozart, etc), and jazz. But for the past five years I've really focused on bluegrass. I'm in love with the challenge and diversity. So do can you keep the cross tuning with different key changes? Or do I need a fiddle cross tuned in C and then keep my other fiddle regular tuning during a jam? I know a banjo player that totes around two banjos each tuned differently. Maybe that's my confusion.

bj Says:
Thursday, April 15, 2010 @7:08:34 AM

When we play at our oldtime jam we'll play a block of tunes in each key, and tune for the key we're playing in. When we switch keys we'll switch tunings.
G = GDAE or GDGD tunings
A = AEAE or AEAC# tunings (though some will play A modals in ADAE)
D = ADAE or DDAD tuning
C = GDAE tuning, though some will tune GCGD and play out of D fingerings

Oldtime music isn't driven by vocals, so we aren't too worried about that. Very few tunes have vocals at all, and the ones that do, whoever can sing it in that key sings it. The Oldtime music is rarely played for a sit-down crowd, mainly for dancers, so that's the big difference. Dancers don't care if you stay in the same key for awhile, since some of the dance numbers can go on for a pretty long time.

When onstage for a sit-down audience I've brought two fiddles tuned different ways. Jane plays a 4 string banjo tuned to an open key, so she can switch keys with a capo. That way we can vary up the keys a bit during a performance.

You might choose to learn a quintessentially Oldtime Crosstuned tune from scratch and by ear to get the flavor of what we're talking about, though I warn you that if you do you might become a convert as well. ;-)

But if you use synthetic strings, they may or may not be resilient enough to handle it. If you're like the rest of us fiddlers, you might have a second fiddle laying around. You might consider setting that one up for playing with crosstunings.

Fiddlin Dixie Says:
Thursday, April 15, 2010 @11:55:41 AM

Sounds awesome. I do have a few extra fiddles laying around. One I call the old beer fiddle cuz it looks like its been through many a party. . . she still sings, though. But anyway, this might be a silly question but I'll ask anyway. My intuition tells me that I tune the instrument down to these notes. Is this true? Like tune my E string down to D and tune my A string down to G? Also. . .have you ever tried setting up the extra fiddle with a G string and D string in place of the A string and E string?

bj Says:
Thursday, April 15, 2010 @5:48:06 PM

With AEAE you are raising the G one step, and the D one step from standard tuning.

With ADAE you are raising the G one step from standard tuning.

With GDGD you are lowering the A and E one step from standard tuning.

With DDAD you are lowering the G and E to D from standard, so you've got those three D strings on three different octaves.

With AEAC# you are raising the G and D one step and lowering the E to a C# from standard.

If you play GCGD, everything's lowered a whole step from standard. More often used in Cajun playing with button boxes, I think, and maybe in certain Irish Trad styles.

Check Terri's site (aka fiddlejammer) for tune recordings from crosstuned jams, arranged by tuning. Start out with ADAE and you'll figure out how much fun it is when you start playing the open low drone.

Fiddlin Dixie Says:
Friday, April 16, 2010 @8:32:15 AM

Thanks bj. . .will do.

FiddleJammer Says:
Sunday, April 18, 2010 @5:37:50 AM

Reality check.... GCGD is an alternate tuning for the key of C, using D finger patterns. Kind of like playing D tunes with a nice lower sound.

GDAE lowered one whole tone would be FCGD.

bj Says:
Sunday, April 18, 2010 @4:49:36 PM

oops. Good catch! Thanks!

Ozarkian DL Says:
Sunday, April 18, 2010 @5:32:57 PM

I'z stand-up & testify fer tha fiddle anyday......M-D said it all in 2 words....AMEN SISTER. Keep on spreadin tha fiddle gospel, we ca'nt hav too many converts.

fiddlr Says:
Sunday, April 18, 2010 @9:07:59 PM

Hey there fiddlejammer! Great list of tunes by tuning! But... you left off ADAD!! THere's a coupole of great tunes in this tuning and I'm looking for more. So far I have: Go Home with the Girls in the Morning (aka Snake Chapman's Tune, aka Bob Wills Tune); Old Sledge; Silver Lake; Midnight on the Stormy Deep; New Valley Forge; Sandy's Shoes; Pony Boy. The first 3 are from Rhys Jones great CD 'All I Got's DOne Gone' Midnight on the Stormy Deep is from RIck Martin 's CD 'Troublesome Creek', and the last 3 are from the Mark Simos CD 'Race the River Jordan'. At the moment I'm under the spell of the New Valley Forge / Sandy's Shoes medley. Mark is an awesome tunesmith!

FiddleJammer Says:
Sunday, April 18, 2010 @11:56:30 PM

Hi Jim.

History: I finally gave up my resistance to cross tuning awhile back when I was trying to follow Jim at a festival jam. It wasn't working because I was still in standard tuning. So, I made the plunge and never looked back.

Thanks!

bj Says:
Monday, April 19, 2010 @4:13:48 AM

Jim, you're the one who got me playing in Calico tuning, up at (my second) Lake Genaro. :-)

And more History: Terri is the one who showed me the light at my first Lake Genaro! I had been playing for a year at that point.

Fiddlin Dixie Says:
Monday, April 19, 2010 @12:04:03 PM

That was awesome but will take some getting use to. When I hear a tune I usually can play it back like a tape recorder but when the finger spots are changed.......whooa. That's a whole new ballgame. At first I thought it was like playin' a eukele with a bow. I reorganized my fingers and that was pretty neat. I just have to think of it as a different instrument so I remember the notes aren't quite where I'm use to. I can't wait to explore this with the band, though. Sorry, I'm not a full convert yet gang. I have to 'fiddle' around with it more.

bj Says:
Monday, April 19, 2010 @12:13:52 PM

Dixie, pick one of those crookedy modal moody tunes that can ONLY sound cool in crosstuning (like that recent TOTW Glory In The Meetinghouse) and just keep playin' with it.

I actually think it's easier to just start with crosstuning. I switched from std tuning to playing cross, and found it easier on tunes I had never played before but almost impossible on tunes I knew well already. But it still wasn't easy at first.

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