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Jun 4, 2020 - 7:33:47 AM
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5718 posts since 8/7/2009

Both to stir up a discussion and out of curiosity... I'll ask...

Does anyone else play their fiddle cross-tuned?

If so, how often? And if not, do you know anyone that does?

Is there any one out there that always plays with fiddle cross-tuned (never in standard)?

Jun 4, 2020 - 8:49:47 AM
Players Union Member

carlb

USA

2220 posts since 2/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by tonyelder

Does anyone else play their fiddle cross-tuned?

If so, how often?


Yes
Fairly often and sometimes in other tunings as well.

Jun 4, 2020 - 11:14:17 AM
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138 posts since 11/28/2018
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Yes. Cross-A, occasionally cross-G, cross-F (once in a while), ADAE for D-tunes, AEAC# (once in a while).

Jun 4, 2020 - 11:20:48 AM
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151 posts since 3/1/2020

I use alternate tunings from time to time, but I only play a few fiddle tunes that require it.

I would say there are two main reasons to use scordatura:
1) The music is written for a voicing that requires a different tuning in order to be playable
2) Using an alternate tuning makes playing a tune easier by adding more open strings that are more harmonious.

In cases like #2 it’s not necessary to retune, but the player might prefer it.

Of particular interest to me is Biber’s set of sonatas in scordatura. You start out in standard tuning and get into more and more complicated tunings as you progress. To perform them without the instrument slipping out of tune too much, you need at least three violins available. When I performed them I used six.

Jun 4, 2020 - 11:44:52 AM
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hayesdt

USA

349 posts since 12/14/2010

At the outset I wanted to mention that I mostly just play Old Time Appalachian fiddle tunes, very little in other genres such as Celtic, Folk, Pop, Classical, or even Bluegrass. And for that reason, cross tuning usually make sense for my playing to get the type of sound I'm aiming for.

Most all the time I cross tune. AEAE when playing in A. Often GDGD when playing in G. ADAE when playing in D. One in a while, or on particular tunes -- e.g., Josie-O played in G, where that high B is hard to reach out of GDGD -- I'll play in Standard.

I admire fiddlers who play in Standard. I have been making more of an attempt to play more tunes out of Standard, but often the sound just isn't the same for me as it is with cross tunings for Southern Appalachian fiddle tunes. I wish I could play better in Standard, but without any real formal violin / fiddle training, I find cross tuning is just easier for me.

Sometimes for jams, when folks are not staying in one key for long periods of time, I will take two fiddles, and both have Perfection geared pegs, so tuning changes if necessary take very little time: one fiddle tuned in GDGD for playing most G tunes, and a second fiddle tuned in ADAE for D tunes, and adjusting just one string to AEAE for A tunes, or again adjusting the low "G" down on step (from ADAE) for Standard to play in C or other key tunes where I want to use Standard.  If, as in the case of some Old Time Appalachian jams I've gone to, the players stay in just one key for many tunes over a long period of time, I just take one fiddle and cross tune as necessary, as do most of the other fiddle players in that type of jam.

Edited by - hayesdt on 06/04/2020 11:55:00

Jun 4, 2020 - 1:07:41 PM
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115 posts since 4/15/2019

Today I started to get serious about playing Midnight On the Water. you use dead man tuning on it. That's DDAD I have played the first quarter of it by tuning just the G string down to a low D. Sounds pretty good so far. I have a 3/4 size fiddle that needs new tuning pegs. I am going to get it fixed up and use it for my alternate tuning. It has a decent sound and is fairly easy to play.

Jun 4, 2020 - 1:36:17 PM
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4653 posts since 9/26/2008

Depends on the company I might be keeping. smiley

Mostly the AEae intervals (GDgd, FCfc etc), but when the tune requires it DDad, GDad, AEac# - rarely will I bother with ADae unless I'm going to AEae.

Some tunes just sounds fuller in the alternate tunings and though some people may argue it makes tunes easier to play, that's not really why it's done. If I'm playing a dance with a band, it is likely I'll stay in standard tuning unless the tune calls for a ringing open AE as part of it - "Old Horse and Buggy" is one I prefer to cross tune, but can play in standard, or "Tippin' back the Corn" which is easy enough to play in either tuning but rings so nicely in cross A. 

Edited by - ChickenMan on 06/04/2020 13:36:30

Jun 4, 2020 - 2:01:43 PM
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Fiddler

USA

4069 posts since 6/22/2007

I have one fiddle that stays cross-tuned. It gets played regularly, as well as using different tunings regularly. I know a couple of folks who stubbornly refuse to use standard tuning. It too "uppity." And likewise, I know folks who never use crosstuning saying that using it is a crutch and disparaging the player in other demeaning ways. Personally, I especially like crosstuning when I want to achieve a certain effect that I can't get out of standard.

Scordatura is just a tool in the fiddler's (violinist's) toolbox. Paganini used it secretively in order to further the tales of his technical prowess and that he had signed a pact with the devil. Several composers scored scordatura violins. So, it is not an artifact only of "old time" Appalacian fiddling.

DDad tuning - the old timers I knew back in the 70s called it "Floppy D" tuning. Tunes like Midnight on the Water and Bonapart's Retreat (all versions!) and Queen of Earth Child of the Skies (Wounded Hoosier), or.... just don't sound right to me in standard tuning. For me, the drones and overtones give the tune a distinct quality that you can't get any other way.

The Biber Rosary Sonatas are wonderful! The Resurrection (#11) really shocked me when I saw how the fiddle was really tuned - with the D and A strings crossed behind the bridge to form a crucifix.

Jun 4, 2020 - 6:23:42 PM

49 posts since 1/21/2017

I play quite a bit in open A, or G. I never really noticed much difference when playing in ADAE so I don't bother, I just do those tunes in standard. I learned some tunes in DDAD but everything I played in that tuning just sounded like Midnight on the Water so I don't really do that anymore. I also play in Cajun tuning FCGD..

Jun 4, 2020 - 6:37:41 PM
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151 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Fiddler

The Biber Rosary Sonatas are wonderful! The Resurrection (#11) really shocked me when I saw how the fiddle was really tuned - with the D and A strings crossed behind the bridge to form a crucifix.


Playing them has been one of the most moving experiences of my life. Crossing the middle strings for the Crucifixion is such a powerful image, and the effect is quite interesting, as it changes the way you break chords and play arpeggios. 
 

Scordatura has indeed been a tool in the composer's toolbox for a long time. It's less common in modern violin playing, but Old Time fiddlers and Hardanger fiddlers still use it often. I also enjoy retuning occasionally to play with the tonal palette. 

Jun 4, 2020 - 8:12:19 PM
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2497 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by tonyelder

Both to stir up a discussion and out of curiosity... I'll ask...

Does anyone else play their fiddle cross-tuned?

If so, how often? And if not, do you know anyone that does?

Is there any one out there that always plays with fiddle cross-tuned (never in standard)?


Does anyone else play their fiddle cross-tuned?

Yes

If so, how often? And if not, do you know anyone that does?

As often as I need to... to achieve a certain quality. Actually never kept score. Often enough that I have don't have much hesitation to retune if I think it would be better. But I also use just standard GDAE quite often as well; these days probably more so. Most tunes I can play in different tunings... and consider various trade offs in sound quality for that moment.

Is there any one out there that always plays with fiddle cross-tuned (never in standard)?

I think it is very rare.

For D and A tunes - I have ran into a few folks that habitually use ADAE and AEAE as default; never or almost never use GDAE. Some can't grasp playing those tunes in standard; even if no real advantage, necessary for tune (esp D tunes). Some also might occasionally use ADAD, DDAD; AEAC#. 

But, I have met very few folks that only play D and A tunes.

For G tunes they will more likely use standard as default (though might occasionally use GDAD. For other keys are pretty much always GDAE. 

--------

Note.. by key; D tunes, A tunes, G tunes, C tunes... not referring to actual pitch from A=440; or simply tuning down a step or more. That is - GDGD or FCFC are essentially A tunes (AEAE).

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 06/04/2020 20:21:21

Jun 5, 2020 - 7:06:50 AM

RichJ

USA

325 posts since 8/6/2013

When I started playing the fiddle 8 years ago I avoided cross tuning thinking it would mess up my learning correct finger position when playing in standard. Since the pandemic I've been staying home a lot more and using the time to get serious about playing more tunes in cross. I now realize correct finger position isn't affected at all with a cross tuned fiddle. The only thing that happens is the scale gets shifted. The most surprising thing of all is my fingers seem to quickly adjust to those scale shifts and also take advantage of all those extra drone possibilities. A whole new world of fiddling awaits those who are willing to cross tune, but the practical side of all this is a fiddle with conventional pegs can be a problem to just keep in tune and a real bear to mess with when trying to re-tuning a number of strings. A set of geared pegs (Knilling or Perfection) are almost a necessity. Without breaking the bank a second fiddle is something else to consider.

Edited by - RichJ on 06/05/2020 07:11:17

Jun 5, 2020 - 9:35:17 AM
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5718 posts since 8/7/2009

When I first picked up the fiddle, I joined up with the "OT" groups of musicians at jams. At that time I was also playing in a bluegrass band and as a folk soloist with the guitar as well. I thought that would be a good place to start learning fiddle. I remember one person saying to me "ahh, you'll give up on OT and be playing BG fiddle soon enough."

But George was wrong. I got sucked in deep with OT. That's all I care to play with the fiddle. I've never really been interested in anything else. I started out learning fiddle in standard, because I didn't really know about cross-tuning. The OT folks I was playing with suggested that I try it. Once I did - that sound was the hook that pulled me into OT fiddle. And since then - I don' t play anything in standard - and can't remember the last time I did.

Not because I'm too lazy to learn anything in standard. I also play mandolin (standard), and can play just about anything I play cross-tuned on the fiddle. I would not consider it to be any easier (but what do I know). The note intervals do not change but the positions do. You have to know where the notes are. And obviously - trying to play a tune in a different key than what you are tuned to is very impractical. I equate the task with all the tunings the banjo player has to deal with.

And I am certainly not uppity about it. I've embarrassed myself more than once at jams when someone wants to play something in a different key. They don't understand why I can't play it - and have accused me of being uppity.

I play cross-tuned because I like the way it sounds. It doesn't matter to me that some tunes are normally played in standard - I'll play them cross-tuned in that key. No one seems to mind. No one has ever complained. And (as everyone knows) in an OT session, the tunes usually stay in one key for a while - for the benefit of the banjo. I can usually re-tune just as quickly as the banjo player. So, no problems.

I think one of the reasons I lean in that direction is because I have always played a lot of songs on guitar with a drop-D. I just like the way it sounds, especially when I am playing solo.

If you were to look back at posts I have made in the past - you would see where I have said more than once - "one day I will spend the time learning to play tunes in standard." I don't think it would be that much trouble - based on my experience with the mandolin. I just have been inspired to do it yet.

That's just me. 

Edited by - tonyelder on 06/05/2020 09:46:58

Jun 5, 2020 - 1:31:27 PM
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175 posts since 6/3/2016

I keep a permanently cross-tuned instrument in my double fiddle case. I play maybe 85% of A-tunes cross-tuned. There are some I play in standard, especially modal tunes to get that low G.

At home I mostly play Yamaha electric instruments un-amplified, as they are plenty loud and natural under the ear. I have two, and one is permanently cross-tuned.

Jun 5, 2020 - 3:24:32 PM
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2497 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by tonyelder

I remember one person saying to me "ahh, you'll give up on OT and be playing BG fiddle soon enough."

But George was wrong. I got sucked in deep with OT.


Wait, I was there when you were starting out... are you suggesting I said that???surprisecheeky

I can't imagine I would have been the one, but if that's what you interpreted, my apologies, probably not what I intended. I do try remind folks I'm not an expert on OT, BG, probably not even fiddler. smiley

Jun 5, 2020 - 5:28:08 PM
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10901 posts since 9/23/2009
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I love cross-tuning. Like Tony, I love the sound of it. I love finding the groove that seems to just be there waiting to be found in cross keys. I also love to play tunes that aren't normally played in whatever key but work out in weird ways cross-tuned...it's just fun for me. I try to play in standard sometimes too...but have never liked it the way I like the other. I'll play anything I can in any tuning that works...but there are a few things that only work in standard tuning, so that's just the way it works and gotta do that.

When I got into going to jams when I was playing in a little amateur band for a few years...everybody seemed to think I was from Mars or something because I would have to stop and tune...fortunately I had the geared "Perfection" tuners on so I could be pretty quick at it...I went to one OT jam, I believe the only OT jam around here and led by the only OT band around here, in this musical desert I seem to be in now, and they said they'd heard of cross tuning but thought it's extremely rare...lol. Maybe rare here, but there are other parts of KY where people don't even think there's anything besides the key of G...lol...standard tuning not necessary there. So...anyway...I had the tuners, so i could keep up fairly easily...usually a few minutes late jumping in, since I still had to stop and tune a lot.

When I went to a jam in WV led by fiddler John Morris, he kept in one key for about 45 mintues each, realizing most fiddlers and banjo players would have to stop and retune otherwise...even though, oddly enough, he prefers to stay in standard tuning. Still...he knows people love key specific cross tunings.

Jun 5, 2020 - 8:49:41 PM
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1557 posts since 12/11/2008

I keep one fiddle tuned in Cross A. I no longer play in cross very much but when one of the many cross tunes Bragger taught me way back when shows up in my memory, I got a fiddle primed and ready. I even remember the bowing!

Jun 5, 2020 - 9:58:11 PM
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5718 posts since 8/7/2009

quote:
Originally posted by alaskafiddler
quote:
Originally posted by tonyelder

I remember one person saying to me "ahh, you'll give up on OT and be playing BG fiddle soon enough."

But George was wrong. I got sucked in deep with OT.


Wait, I was there when you were starting out... are you suggesting I said that???surprisecheeky

I can't imagine I would have been the one, but if that's what you interpreted, my apologies, probably not what I intended. I do try remind folks I'm not an expert on OT, BG, probably not even fiddler. smiley


My friend!  There is absolutely nothing for you to apologize for.  I understood it as a light hearted friendly tease said in jest. Never a thought about it being anything more.  I understood where it came from  - I had been playing in bluegrass bands for 10 years - and was still in a great band at that time. Goodness - you know where Kalia Yeagle is at now and what she is doing.

My comment was made in the same spirit. 

You are certainly closer to being an expert on OT fiddling than anyone else I know. You were always a source of encouragement and inspiration for me. Truly. Thanks George. I hope to have another chance to play tunes with you guys again someday. It was great fun.

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