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Making Lemonade Out of Lemons, etc... Cross tuning the Funky Fiddle!

Posted by fiddlepogo on Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Okay, so the new strings didn't cure the problem with the older dark-colored 4KF Knilling. it also occurred to me that the real problem was the D note on the A string that is played with the 3rd finger... it has this weird honky sound that just irritates me... kind of like it's on the verge of a wolf tone, but not quite, or maybe that's what higher pitched wolf-tones sound like. The thought occurred to me to try it cross-tuned... that D-note is only used as a passing note in AEAE cross-tuning, and the extra resonance should reinforce the thin sound of the A string. So I did the deed, I cross-tuned it. And it seems to work like I expected. Some of you may remember the discussion we had about that, and how I have this fear (apparently irrational to many) of tuning medium G and D strings up to A and E. Well, since they are "lights", I'm okay with tuning them up, and leaving it in AEAE. It's not the best sounding cross-tuned fiddle I've heard, but not the worst, and the honky D is gone, and I hope that by settling in and being played more it will sound better. There is a silver lining in this- I really like the versatility of standard GDAE tuning, and if a fiddle sounds good in it, I tend to leave it there. The result is that I seldom play in AEAE, and my AEAE tunes get rusty. This will force me to leave the fiddle tuned AEAE, and hopefully I will get more "fluent" in that tuning. A funny thing about my fondness for standard tuning- it's partly because all the fiddle tunes I feel the general public really connect with are in standard tuning. I posted a couple of cross tuned tunes (Old Joe Clark and Camp Chase) on my ezfolk page, and those two are the least popular of all my fiddle tunes there. In contrast, the most popular are A-modal tunes in standard tuning: June Apple, Red Haired Boy, Salt Creek and Growling Old Man. There have also been a couple of times I have used a cross-tuned fiddle while busking or at my nursing home volunteer gigs, and I had the distinct impression that people weren't "getting" it, that it sounded too alien to them. I do however really like the sound of tunes in cross tuning, and also want to be fluent in that tuning in case I meet jammers who use it a lot. I guess those of us who like it, like it precisely because it sounds so alien and strange!

5 comments on “Making Lemonade Out of Lemons, etc... Cross tuning the Funky Fiddle!”

OTJunky Says:
Tuesday, March 25, 2008 @8:47:18 AM

I'm afraid what you say about the sound of a cross-tuned fiddle is often true.

Oldtimer put up a wonderful recording of "Old Joe Clark" played in the "old way" in AEAE without the G-chord in the B-part.  I suspect it sounds arcane to most "modern" ears and they would think the B-part is not "right".

But I love it.  Sigh....