I've never been able to play it because C standard tuning makes me go crazy...well but that's a long story...but RichJ here told me about French Carpenter playing in the same as Bonaparte's REtreat...you can find that on youtube if you want...I mean, it's really good.
So...well I've always noticed a lot of C standard tunes do fairly well in Calico tunings, but I've never really been able to get anywhere with Billy in the Lowground. But after F. Carpenter's playing...which is great and I know it's a few light years away from where my fiddling space ship sits now...anyhow, I got inspired to just give it a try in ADAD...
So I made a really slow D backup track and then tried playing it for myself...the first half, the moon photo half of the video is the backup track and then the second half, the raccoon and deer track in the mud half, is my attempt to slowly work my way through this. I gotta say, when I've tried getting up higher on the fingerboard in ADAD, it gets very tricky and pretzely...you can see I didn't go very far into that exploration on this particular recording...lol...I got scared...but maybe in the future...anyway...I made the backup for my own practice and just sharing in case it would be useful or interesting to anyone here who can't tolerate C...or even if you can tolerate C and just feel like messin' with it...slowly...you can speed it up on youtube if it's too slow for ya. Or ignore it if I'm too boring for ya...lol...whichever...here 'tis
Mike Holden plays it in D. I have a recording of him playing it somewhere.
Peggy, that's one problem with tunings that lower the first string like GDGD or ADAD - if the tune goes up to A and B like "Old Molly Hare" or lots of G tunes ("Barlow Knife" for example) it makes it that much harder. I know we have a member who uses GDGD for G tunes, but it doesn't seem easier to me.
Same for the B part of "Billy in the Lowground" I guess - that's why its a C tune in civilized countries!
Edited by - DougD on 06/10/2022 16:04:54
Doug...do you mean that the B part can't go high easily and so you have to drop down an octave? Yeah that happens in certian cross tunings for certain tunes...If I get that a lot of times I'll switch...like in GDGD or AEAE you have those two perfect fifths on either end but in the middle you have perfect fourth in the middle two strings...so if you switch to ADAD or GCGC or somethin similar, you have the perfect fourth intervals on each end but the perfect fifth in the middle...so...a lot of times I just switch tunings...in GDGD/AEAE it's not hard to slide up the fingerboard though...I mean, it does't seem hard to me...but in ADAD running up the fingerboard can get really pretzely on the fingers...I've done it anyway sometimes...like...since I usually just play alone, it doesn't matter what key I'm in unless I can't sing or something...or in the case of Billy in the Lowground...I've tried it before in sawmill and it just doesn't work there for me...so I've got that octave problem with the B part...have to either drop down an octave or do the pretzel techniques up the fingerboard...which can be done, but it's just scary and you can get yourself into trouble up there...or at least I can.
It's the same for me on banjo...some tunings I really love, i.e., double C...don't make it easy to do a high b part up the fretboard where it should be...so you have those three choices...do it an octave lower, do some finger calesthenics and play it up high on the fretboard, or just switch to a different tuning and play it in a friendlier key for that tune.
That's been my experience anyway...of course these choices don't exist if you're in a band or something...unless you're the band boss...lol.
Billy in the Lowground works great in Calico tuning. Think about starting with the fine part up there on the e string, using the same fingering as if you were playing the fine part in C. That is, e g e g (and whatever one might do) then e a e a... as of you were in standard tuning. I think Spencer and Rains have a calico version.
Oh cool...I've noticed a lot of regular C tunes work out pretty well in Calico...but I have had no luck with Billy in the Lowground...maybe time to try that again.
I've had a Billy in the Lowground hangup since the first day I ever touched a fiddle.
I'm so used to playing "Billy in the Low Ground" in C and "Lost Indian" in D that when I try to do "Billy in the Low Ground" in D I get confused and have to lay down and take a nap! lol, I'm afraid to try "Billy in the Low Ground" in D in Calico for fear of a nervous breakdown! :)
Edited by - wilford on 06/11/2022 09:11:36
Lol…well you gotta watch out for those types of fiddlin disasters, Fred…stick with the keys you know and love for sure!
Whatever key works for you, right up until you're in a jam session:)
Check out the story of William of Orange and the Battle of The Boyne. I'm pretty sure that's where the name comes from. I'm also interested in knowing if anyone else has some etymology for the name.
I have twin parts on sheet, if anyone would like:0
That slowed-down version of Billy in the Lowground sounded great, Peggy! It kinda reminded me of Martin Hayes' approach to playing Irish trad tunes.
Peggy, I've played "Billy in the Lowground" (mostly on guitar or banjo) for decades, based on this recording by Lowe Stokes, and always assumed it was in C. youtu.be/5RxD2A30Owk
However, all the online versions I can find are actually closer to D, and I'm starting to think that's where he played it. This is a preliminary theory, and the jury is still out, pending further study of the high note in the B part, but this might be the third important thing I've learned from you on the FHO.
I guess I shouldn't ask about the other two????? lol.
1. That "Woodcock" is another name for the pileated woodpecker, a bird I'm familiar with. Makes more sense in old time music than the Audubon one.
2. That there is a green fleshed cantaloupe called "Jenny Lind." Was hoping to grow some this year but didn't get moving soon enough.
Lol...ok well I'm happy I'm learnin' ya something, because you've been a walking encyclopedia around here, yourself, and I can't name all the stuff I've learned from your posts. It's been a while since I've grown cantaloupe. I've missed the boat for several years. Guess we can try farmer's markets for that, hey?
Oh, make that 2 1/3 things you learned from me, Doug...it was actually French Carpenter that played it in D and then from there Richj told me about that, knowing good and well how I feel about C (love it on guitar, hate it on fiddle)...so I can only take 1/3 credit for that one. If in fact you do end up thinking BITLGround is actually a D tune afterall...time will tell. In the meantime, I'm gonna have to think up more teachin' stuff I can share on here...hmmm...cantaloupes, woodcocks, must be somethin' else I could come up with...have to do some thinkin'.
i play Billy in C on viola!
bottom string of viola is C.
my silly way of crosstune...
'Hog-eyed Man' 1 hr
'Gold Rush' 2 days
'Over the Waterfall' 2 days
'Playing by yourself' 3 days