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Apr 23, 2024 - 4:18:56 PM
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6519 posts since 8/7/2009

I've lived a sheltered life as a fiddler  blush   The key of C is a rare bird in the old time circles I have played in. They hardly ever come up. But they do, And there are a few folks who know a lot of them and they like to play them. 

Problem is  - I can't find any information about what might be used as an open tuning for playing in the key of C. Does anyone know of one? ...ever used one?  I guess I could attempt to make one up, but... naaa, I'm not really keen on that idea.

Or will I have to "bite the bullet" and a use standard tuning to play in C?  surprise

I guess I could just keep sitting out on the C tunes - if I have to.  It wouldn't be that big of a deal. 

Apr 23, 2024 - 4:41:10 PM
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3619 posts since 9/13/2009

You could just drop what normally do for D down a step; FCGD, or GCGD; for "open" tunings you could do GCGC or play with GCGE (might be interesting for some tunes).

But that said... it won't help you in playing actual "C" tunes... which their atmosphere essentially relies on layout of standard tuning. It's not really about actual pitch. Just playing the notes, or playing D tunes, tuned lower; is different than when fiddlers speak of playing "C" tunes... it's about that atmosphere, the layout of the tuning, affects the flow, bowing, slurring, drone/double stops... lends itself to a different feel... which is why they want to play "C" tunes.

edit: in similar confusion about playing G tunes... GDGD is essentially playing cross A tunes down a step. It's not so much about the actual pitch but is just different type of tune than playing G tunes as GDAE. Even more so is "F" tunes... have own unique qualities, are not same as cross A tunes lowered to FCFC... not only might be hard to play actual F tunes that way, but would lose their unique qualities.

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 04/23/2024 16:50:30

Apr 23, 2024 - 5:48:46 PM

6519 posts since 8/7/2009

I'm certain there are some, but I don't recall ever being at a session where an F tune was played - for sure, not since moving to TN.

Thanks George.

Apr 23, 2024 - 6:39:13 PM

14925 posts since 9/23/2009

I can't play in C for anything in this world...for me it's almost as bad as trying to play harmonica...well, even worse, really. So there are some tunes I just can't manage.  Well there's many, many tunes I can't manage, but I meant some I can't manage because they really need to be done in C.

I do agree with Geo's post...it would be pretty easy to just tune standard down a step, a.k.a. Cajun Tuning, if it's a song or something that doesn't have specific drones or sounds the fiddle needs that are only found in C from standard tuning.

Or ... I've found that some tunes sorta can get some of the C sounds if you go to a Black Mt Rag, Calico style tuning, only maybe tuning down some from the A...I've done it for Maysville I think, which about killed me to try to play...and I wasn't as low as C, just in Calico to where the drones and specific C sounds...some of them, were sort of there. I wouldn't really recommend that to a friend, maybe I would to an enemy...lol...no, not really.

Or to be in C, I've tuned to the C. Gap stye tuning only down one step...so, instead of ADAD, to GCGC, so at least you have a pretty friendly tuning to play out of, and you are in C. But, once again...it won't do the cool C stuff of the C fiddle tunes...just allow you to play the doggone thing sounding in C.

I think I finally did that for playing Jacks Creek Waltz...to me one of the most beautiful C tunes...I managed to play it in some reasonable semblance, or at least I thought so...maybe yes or maybe no.

It's just not fair that there are some nice C tunes that just don't work any other way. I've tried...I just can't play in C...feels like playing a keyboard in the cracks instead of on the keys, to me.

Edited by - groundhogpeggy on 04/23/2024 18:40:14

Apr 23, 2024 - 7:00:48 PM

3354 posts since 10/22/2007

Aren't 5 string fiddles equipped with a C string? Then it's just a G tune but deeper.
Here's how I look/think at a fiddle fingerboard: with open strings,key of D is in the middle, and the 4 and 5 are one either side.
Put your dreaded finger capo down where your index finger belongs, then you have key of E, with the 4 and 5 on either side.
Now, with key of C there's a formation, y'know, but if you use the same formation, the 4 and 5 are on either side.
If you're not thoroughly confused yet, you might be crazy like me.
Now I must add the Tony disclaimer: this is personal. I don't recommend this in any way. FWIW I do not cross tune. I have 5 fiddles. I could but I don't. I like the way cross tuning sounds, but my head thinks in standard tuning.


Edited by - farmerjones on 04/23/2024 19:01:50

Apr 23, 2024 - 7:04:18 PM
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3354 posts since 10/22/2007

I accidentally attached my cat picture. While they are deceased. I like cats. So I decided to leave the picture.

Apr 23, 2024 - 7:20:28 PM
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6463 posts since 9/26/2008

Like George said, C tunes lay on the fiddle in a way that makes them similar (to my fingers) from one to the next - lots of the same figures/licks. I like them and though I only play maybe 10 tunes in C, they are some of my favorites. You could tune down a full step and play them as you might play D tunes, but if You're doing that, it is less fuss to tune AEae down to GDae, just two strings. Knowing You've been strictly cross tuning, I hope to hear you play some tunes in standard tuning but only for C tunes. The thought makes me smile so much my cheeks hurt.

Apr 23, 2024 - 9:37:31 PM

2478 posts since 12/11/2008

I mentioned this a zillion years ago on this forum, but I remember a TV show where a world renowned classical violinist (was it Perlman?) glibly noted that violin concertos are always in the key of D. And yeah, after poring through my records/CD's etc. of violin concertos it seems that almost every one of them is indeed in the key of D.

Apr 23, 2024 - 11:26:24 PM
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2488 posts since 4/6/2014

C is nice on a standard tuned fiddle with all those open strings to use. Plus all the open strings are either chord tones or in the pentatonic scale. A small shift takes you to 2nd position with all those open strings to fall back on. You can play on two strings for a whole tune, with the first 3 fingers of your LH. just add the Eb blue note to the mix and slide that around.

I think Cajun Stuff is played a lot in C?

Apr 24, 2024 - 5:07:48 AM
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Players Union Member

carlb

USA

2648 posts since 2/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by tonyelder.
Or will I have to "bite the bullet" and a use standard tuning to play in C? 

Strongly suggest, yes.

Apr 24, 2024 - 5:11:19 AM

3354 posts since 10/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by pete_fiddle


I think Cajun Stuff is played a lot in C?


Cajun accordions are in C & D. (See Wikipedia)

So there you go. 

Apr 24, 2024 - 5:14:44 AM

146 posts since 9/4/2007

Standard is just another way of tuning, like all the rest. I say just dig in and after awhile it'll be as normal as whatever other tunings you use. I don't think much about the tunings anymore, just use what you need for a particular tune. Lots of great C tunes out there.

Apr 24, 2024 - 7:53:09 AM
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RichJ

USA

968 posts since 8/6/2013

Well, I'm sure not opposed to cross tuning to achieve a particular sound. In fact I just spent a good part of the last 2 years exploring a variety of possibilities. Currently I'm sort of rediscovering standard tuning again. I now like to jokingly call it Double Cross tuning - thinking GDAE is kind of an incorporation (corruption??) of GDGD and AEAE cross tunings. In any case and for some bazaar reason, the key of C has never presented much of a problem. Boiling things down, and maybe this is over simplification, most fiddle tunes in those other, so called easy keys, can be played with 3 fingers. The first and third fingers always come down on the same relative position on all 4 strings. So, the only thing that changes is where you put the 2nd finger - in a high or low position. None of this changes when playing in the key of C except maybe for that F natural played on the E string and requiring the 1st finger to come down (and perhaps slightly touch) the nut.


Apr 24, 2024 - 7:55:41 AM

389 posts since 12/2/2013

Here's a "play by colors" chart showing the triad positions of the I IV V chords in common keys.


Apr 24, 2024 - 7:58:42 AM
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2598 posts since 8/27/2008

I like C tunes and don't understand when Peggy says she can't play them. It's much like G, but just C. One feature of playing in C that I like and use often is going to 2nd position. Many, maybe most, C tunes seem to do that somewhere in the tune. An easy way to get there is just barre or double-stop the C-G notes on the first 2 strings. Everything in that position plays from there.

Apr 24, 2024 - 8:15:24 AM
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21 posts since 2/28/2024

Really, key of c isn’t so hard!! even I think it’s easy. Why would you want another tuning for it

Apr 24, 2024 - 8:34:53 AM
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Fiddler

USA

4396 posts since 6/22/2007

Tony - I shunned C tunes for a long time. They just scared me. Then I found that there are some cool and petty easy C tunes, such as Stone's Rag, Texas Gales, and more!! Yes, standard tuning is required, but it sure does open up many more opportunities for tunes and for playing harmonies, such as with a singer. This is one reason I carry two fiddles - one stays in standard tuning and the other is for cross-tuning.

When starting to play in C, your intonation will be crappy. But hang in there. You will get it. I played for dances with a pianist friend and she helped me get closer intonation. I am still far from perfect, but for most things I do, it is close enough. I am now working on F (Dm) and Bb (Gm) and those need A LOT of work!!

As you experienced, Billy Mathews has a ton of C-tunes!! Some are pretty cool. Many don't "speak" to me - or to others.

Apr 24, 2024 - 8:49:42 AM

DougD

USA

11892 posts since 12/2/2007

pete fiddle - Yes, a lot of Cajun music is in C because that's a common key for the accordeon, but a lot of fiddlers play with D fingering, tuned down a whole step. Mitch Reed is a member here, and here' s his explanation of the practice (hope the link works): mitchreedmusiclessons.com/blog...un-tuning
Tony, you could do this too - it would be similar to the way you play G tunes in A fingering. However, as others have noted C tunes "lay" on the instrument in a certain way which makes them distinctive. You're at a slight disadvantage because you don't play in G which shares some of the same fingerings. Also, many G and C tunes aren't pentatonic - they use the whole diatonic scale, especially the major 7, which is a traditional "leading" note back to the tonic.
I've suggested this before, but since you play guitar, playing in C on the violin is not so different from the guitar in a way. Look at the strings - the highest string is E, and there is also a D string. On the guitar the interval between them has both a G and a B string (both the charm and bane of the guitar, IMHO) but on the violin there is just the A string. Its easy to find the C note as you would on the guitar B string, but a G has to be played on the D string, but its there. Below the D is the G string instead of A, but the low C is still there, and its even better to have the fifth available on the open string. Its really the same range as the guitar, but in a more compact form.
Happy Tune - Its a popular notion on this forum that there should be a tuning for every key, but as to why people think this, or why certain people wish to avoid some keys, you'd have to look at their individual mindsets.

Apr 24, 2024 - 9:13:01 AM
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doryman

USA

596 posts since 2/10/2020

Most of you are so advanced in your playing that you don't even realize or remember why the key of C intimidates beginners. Simply, and unlike the keys of D, G, and A, there is no open C. Thus, as Kirk mentioned above, intonation issues are magnified. Over the few years I've been playing, I've gotten better a C because a fellow in my regular, weekly jam, likes to play and sing in C when it's his turn, so I get lots of practice. It's still not my favorite, though.

Apr 24, 2024 - 9:21:33 AM
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Fiddler

USA

4396 posts since 6/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by doryman

....intonation issues are magnified.


When I first read this, I though it was "intonation issues are magnificent." My reaction was first a chuckle and then that this was a great way to describe the intonation issues! Yes, they are MAGNIFICENT!"

I then reread your post, oh, magnified. That's pretty boring and not as exciting as magnificent!

Apr 24, 2024 - 9:34:57 AM
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574 posts since 9/1/2010

I'm in the minority, but I prefer C tunes. Other than some of the tunes I play in sawmill tuning, it is my favorite key. I would just keep it in standard. I think once you tackle a few tunes you'll get more comfortable.

Apr 24, 2024 - 9:57:19 AM
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2488 posts since 4/6/2014

Seem to remember that Cajun fiddlers (who play in C a lot) carry 2 fiddles . one tuned down a tone, so the tuning would be F,C,G,D

Seems to work, just tune your fiddle down a tone and play in D....Just done that with my cigar box fiddle with geared tuners on....Magically playing in D becomes Playing in C

There would be some nice harmonies with twin fiddles if one was tuned down a tone and the other was in standard....Maybe Balfa Bros...etc?

Edited by - pete_fiddle on 04/24/2024 10:00:00

Apr 24, 2024 - 10:16:53 AM

wilford

USA

507 posts since 6/26/2007

I've always loved playing in C with standard tuning since I first learned Billy in the Low Ground. Other tunes that I frequently play in C are: Denver Belle, Mc Hattie's Waltz, Grassy Fiddle Blues, Ashland Breakdown, Black Velvet Waltz, etc., etc.

When I began to experiment with cross tuning I tried (1st to 4th) E G C G or (4th to 1st): G C G E
I have fooled with several tunings but this is clearly my favorite. Gorgeous double stops may be found of the 1st and 2nd strings, especially, although they're all over the place on the other pairs of strings, too.

Apr 24, 2024 - 10:26:11 AM
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3354 posts since 10/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by doryman

Most of you are so advanced in your playing that you don't even realize or remember why the key of C intimidates beginners. Simply, and unlike the keys of D, G, and A, there is no open C. Thus, as Kirk mentioned above, intonation issues are magnified. Over the few years I've been playing, I've gotten better a C because a fellow in my regular, weekly jam, likes to play and sing in C when it's his turn, so I get lots of practice. It's still not my favorite, though.


Take a look at color triads.pdf again. A chord is the root, 3rd, and 5. But for fiddles it can't be. It must be a choice of 2 of the three tones/notes. Meaning, one can play the 3rd and 5th, essentially rootless, it's still the same chord. Rabbithole moment: An type of extended chord has a 7th. So one could voice a chord using 3rd, 5th, and 7th. Again rootless. So look for 3s and 5s on adjacent strings on the diagram. 

Edited by - farmerjones on 04/24/2024 10:35:48

Apr 24, 2024 - 10:32:18 AM

6519 posts since 8/7/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Brian Wood

I like C tunes and don't understand when Peggy says she can't play them. It's much like G, but just C. One feature of playing in C that I like and use often is going to 2nd position. Many, maybe most, C tunes seem to do that somewhere in the tune. An easy way to get there is just barre or double-stop the C-G notes on the first 2 strings. Everything in that position plays from there.


...because I never play in standard. I'm always playing in A, G, or G - crosstuned.  I don't "know" any fiddle tunes in C.  

Apr 24, 2024 - 10:34:57 AM

doryman

USA

596 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones
quote:
Originally posted by doryman

Most of you are so advanced in your playing that you don't even realize or remember why the key of C intimidates beginners. Simply, and unlike the keys of D, G, and A, there is no open C. Thus, as Kirk mentioned above, intonation issues are magnified. Over the few years I've been playing, I've gotten better a C because a fellow in my regular, weekly jam, likes to play and sing in C when it's his turn, so I get lots of practice. It's still not my favorite, though.


Take a look at color triads.pdf again. A chord is the root, 3rd, and 5. But for fiddles it can't be. It must be a choice of 2 of the three tones/notes. Meaning, one can play the 3rd and 5th, essentially rootless, it's still the same chord. Rabbithole moment: An type of extended chord has a 7th. So one could voice a chord using 3rd, 5th, and 7th. Again rootless. 


I understand this Steve, and it's actually something I love about playing the fiddle, but it is hardly something that a rank beginner is going to be thinking about. When playing Billy in the Low Ground, for example (often the first C fiddle tune a beginner learns), the simplified, beginner version starts and ends on the C note on the G string, so right from the get go, intonation is potentially off.  

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