We are fast coming up on week #52 of Old-Time TOTW--ONE YEAR!! Time certainly does fly. We haven't even begun to scratch the surface with tunes to present to you. I will start a Facebook page soon dedicated just to Old-Time TOTW that will have the capacity to be more interactive. Have a question about a certain tune? Wondering why I chose a certain tuning? Have any tune suggestions/requests? Wondering where I find many of the obscure tunes and how I learn them? These types of things can be discussed in that forum. Thank you all for following, and as always, Stay Tuned! ??
Here is my post from December 29, 2018 when Old-Time TOTW was at the 6 month point:
Hi Friends, many of you know I started an Old-Time TOTW (Tune Of The Week) series on YouTube 1/2 year ago. Yep, last week was my 26th week. It's been a lot of work, but something I've really enjoyed doing. Part of my mission is not only to share and spread more tunes (especially ones that are obscure and not widely known), but also to share some of the history of the fiddlers who have passed these tunes down to us through source recordings and, less often, written music where there are no known source recordings. Through doing all of this, I have connected with family members and descendants of some of these fiddlers. This really brings the music to life in a very personal way. The tune that airs tomorrow morning will be a special dedication to Odell Bingham, fiddler Estill Bingam's son, who died just last month at the age of 86. His family shared numerous photos and stories with me and we have had some wonderful correspondence. So, this journey that first started as one of exploring dead male fiddlers has opened up to so much more. I aim to feature tunes passed down by women fiddlers in the upcoming weeks/months, too. It's all so important to the history of Old-Time music. So, please consider following and subscribing to my channel (and/or passing on the link to others you think might be interested) and following my Old-Time TOTW series. Thanks so much!!
I've enjoyed the tunes. You regularly present them in non traditional tunings (ex: F cross instead of A, C cross instead of D). I wonder why this is?
Hi Billy, thanks. I do this for various reasons. First is to illustrate that fiddle tunings are more about intervals than actual pitch. Tunes that people now call "A tunes" and generally only play in the key of A could have been just as well done in FCFC (key of F), GDGD (key of G), and somewhere in between. Isham Monday was often tuned to FCFC, and Hiram Stamper to EBEB for these sets of tunes now known as "A tunes." We are now so accustomed to focusing on an exact pitch to tune our fiddles. Think of the days before electronic tuners--and even outside of a tuning fork. In that case, what is A? Must it be 440 Hz? Was it always 440 Hz? The answer to that is no, it wasn't. The pitch of each string is built upon intervals from the lowest ("bass") string , to the highest string (in pitch). Tone center can be variable. Of course, when we play in group settings, and especially open jams, key does have to be strongly considered for practical reasons. But when we are fiddling by ourselves, or with just a banjo, and maybe even a guitar (as in most of my videos), we have the freedom to change things up a bit and experiment with these lower tunings that seem to have been more prevalent in the past. Lower tension on the strings really feels different under your bow and fingers and, IMO, gives a mellower, almost darker sound to the music, but at the same time does have a bright feel to it. I love the sound of the drones and open strings when the fiddle is tuned to GCGD (this I call "C high bass", and is a step up from ADAE, in which many fiddlers play "D tunes.") So, why not play it down a step? I recently learned Jim Bowles Christmas Eve from the source recording. People consider it a "D tune," but Bowles was tuned two steps below traditional D tuning on the fiddle (he was at F# B F# C#, which then makes the tune in the key of B major). Banjos can do alternate tunings just about as well as the fiddle (with set ups that prevent fret buzz, etc), and guitars can capo...so why not? B major is technically a much "brighter" key than D, but when the fiddle is tuned down, you get this lovely resonant sound that is dark and bright at the same time. The fiddle resonates and speaks to me in different ways and...well, that just makes me even happier.
I agree with all of that, I suppose It's just most of us don't want to detune that much (to play along and learn the tune from you) when we will have to tune back up to play with others. I guess I'll have to dedicate a fiddle (because who doesn't have at least two?) to F and the other low tunings. Can't imagine tuning up to cross B on purpose though. Pop! Goes the E string. I've enjoyed the series and hope this isn't the end.
Edit to add: I kept a fiddle low tuned to learn a bunch of Emmett Lundy tunes as he was tuned low on those recordings. I think the old timers used relative pitch, whatever is close, and as they got older, the pitch got lower because, dang, A is bright and loud and no one wants to play a 3 string fiddle after you break an E.
Edited by - ChickenMan on 06/12/2019 07:24:12
Also, I play with guitar players who don't capo. The one time I cross G'd at a dance, it really threw the guy off and he had to think a lot more about what he was doing. :-)
Billy, no breaking strings with EBEB--you are tuning *down* so your high E string is then a perfect fourth LOWER. Your bass string is a 3rd below G, etc. Every string is tuned down. Yeah, it's low. It seems kinda "floppy" at first, but be gentle, and it'll reward you.
It's not for everybody, I realise that, but I must say I've had a lot of closet low tuners approach me and give me a big "THANK YOU! I thought I was the only one!" and have had many compliments on the low tunings and converts. Not that this is my intent to convert people to low tunings, but I must admit it is nice to see people try it, explore the possibilities and find they truly love it. Many have told me they have always wanted to cross tune, but have been reluctant to, lest they break strings. Tuning down solves that issue. Problem is, going back up to the standard tunings is a bit hard on the ears!
My banjo buddy Stephen (who you see in most of the Old-Time TOTW videos) and I were in Morgantown in February and went down to jam in the venue we were at. It was early-ish and nobody around, so the two of us just started working out some "D tunes" that we aimed to get in our systems. We went in the corner of one of the rooms. We were tuned down, so I was at GCGD. Eventually, people came to join us. I told them what we were doing and offered to tune up to D, and they said to stay there, they wanted to try it. Before we knew it, we had a jam of 12 to 15 people with us, fiddle, banjos, bass, and even a mando. It was pretty funny, every now and then someone would open the door, peek in, listen for a few seconds, then turn their head and say to somebody outside the room, "Yeah. You're right!" Some of those people then came to join us. Others would peek their head in, shake their head, and close the door. We all had a lot of fun with it. One fiddler said "I thought this was really weird and I wouldn't like it, but I really DO like it. Except for that last tune. Now that was just weird." So, who knows. Different things add flavor to the mix.
Funny, I play OT guitar, really just to fill in when needed, and when I'm playing guitar with people who are in cross G, I tune my guitar down a whole step and use A shapes--reverse capo-ing I call it!
Edited by - FiddlerPaul71 on 06/12/2019 09:09:26
I would rather play guitar in G than A...lol. You have many more old timey sounding options in G, in my opinion. Yet, when I used to go to the jams around here, playing my fiddle...the guitarists were dead set on certain keys to play everything in and went crazy if you did anything any different. Thanks for keeping the tunes, coming, Paul!
Thanks, Peggy! I guess I've only encountered flexible guitar players (and banjo and fiddle players). Maybe I should consider myself lucky!
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