Posted by fiddlepogo on Tuesday, March 27, 2012
I can't remember exactly what triggered it... oh, yes I can.... Carthy was sounding just okay, but tight. That annoyed me,
so I broke down and did some more tweaking.
And there was an alarming and unexpected result... while the low strings got looser-feeling, smoother and better, the A string went funny sounding... it lost clarity. I did some tweaks to add some highs back in with only partial success.
Then I had an idea.... Faire Fiddler Maid had talked about the fiddles she tested ringing at "C". I just bought a Snark tuner.
The thought occurred to me that I could tap Carthy and find out what note it wanted to resonate at. I muffled the strings, and it kept reading at a B. I did the same to Booker, and Booker read "C". And I thinks to myself.... I tuned the Eastman down a half-step once and liked the result... maybe Carthy REALLY wants to go down a halfstep... so I did, and WOW... really nice!!!
It's amazing what a difference just a half step makes... everything sounds MUCH lower... it sounds more like a viola.... even though the pitches are still much closer to a violin.
Yesterday, I took down-tuned Carthy to the volunteer gig with the good acoustics, and they LIKED it tuned down!
It sounds good that way for Irish stuff, which is almost surprising.
I even got risky and did something I've never done before- I crosstuned Carthy (partly because I had the Perfection Pegs AND a Snark tuner). I have often crosstuned to AbEbAbEb, and since Carthy was already tuned down, I just need to bring the Gb and Db up a step. And it sounded really good in AbEbAbEb.
I checked Stinky the same way, and you know what the tuner read when I muffled the strings and tapped the back?
A#, which is of course a Bb. Does this mean I should put heavier strings on Stinky, and tune a whole step down???
BTW... this isn't the only thing I tune down- the guitars I sing with, my steel string acoustic and my nylon string, both are tuned to EbAbDbGbBbEb! It's a way of being able to hit the high notes in a song, without having to capo up, and learn new chords for the song. It drives people at jams nuts because I'll take the dreadnought to jams and just capo the first fret, and they think I'm in Ab when I'm actually playing in the normal "G". I can get away with singing in normal keys in jams because I'm not singing that many songs in a row. When I have to sing for an hour by my self, tuning down is a voice-saver!!!
Likewise, since so far I perform solo most of the time, there is no reason to worry about "compatibility" with other instruments.... the only criteria is "does it sound good?" and it does. With electric guitars, however, since I'm a "sideman" when I play electric guitar, I keep my electrics tuned standard.
I think I overlooked something about my tweaking. My tweaking is going to free up a fiddle to resonate at the pitch it really wants to resonate at... I don't think I'm doing much, if anything to change that significantly.
So my tweaks worked well with Booker, because Booker WANTS to resonate well in standard tuning, at standard pitch. Stinky and Carthy have OTHER ideas!!! So my tweaks were NOT getting me where I wanted to go with them.
However, I will probably get some Prims for Carthy, and I will probably try them at standard pitch first.... maybe!
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