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A lot of these white boys play the blues real good. Ain't but one thing about most of them though: most can't sing a thing - David Honeyboy Edwards, from his bio

Author Topic: Leadbellys Guitar Style--Queries and Tips  (Read 13340 times)

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Offline a2tom

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Leadbellys Guitar Style--Queries and Tips
« on: December 12, 2004, 06:11:28 AM »
This post was stimulated by the Georgia Blues thread and the moderators should feel free to move it there if desired, but since I bring up a new artist/tune, I thought I'd start a new one...

Take this question as what it is, from a total newbie to the 12-string who doesn't even own one (but is thinking he may have to at some point soon  ;D)  I was listening to some Leadbelly the other day and got to slowing it down in Transcribe! (my new favorite electronic toy - it is SO useful, and way better than the Amazing Slow Downer for those who were curious on that subject).

Anyway, I got to exploring Kansas City Papa.  I LOVE the tonalities he gets in there.  Please correct me if I'm wrong as I'm new to doing this, but I managed to convince myself he was playing in standard, in C tuned down to ~D as I recall.  But there were tones showing up that I just couldn't account for.  I assume these were coming from the 2nd course strings, but couldn't be if they were strung in octaves or unison, not even as overtones.

So my question is did/do people ever tune the 2nd strings of a course to something other than octaves or unison?  An alternative is that he wasn't tuned standard but in Vestapol, but honestly still can't account for some tones (like an F tone showing up in a C chord).  Another possibility is that some of those tones are because he wasn't fingering the simple-minded chord positions I started out assuming.   

In the end, right now I am more interested in the question of "how did people tune their 12-strings" more than this specific song (I need to get a 12-string before I have any chance of getting that Leadbelly sound!).

Finally, I just love these new emoticons  O0

tom


Offline frankie

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Re: Leadbelly Kansas City Papa 12-string tuning
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2004, 07:45:25 AM »
Kansas City Papa is played in standard, down to about B, in E position.  The home chord, E, played in the first position would sound at B or thereabouts.  Seems like Leadbelly is usually tuned somewhere between Bflat and C.

If I had to generalize about Leadbelly's guitar style, I'd say that it's much more about rhythmic intensity than it is about harmonic accuracy.  His thumb is used to create the pulse, often regardless of what strings he may be using to do it.  In the key of E, that means he might be including the open A or D strings in his pulse, especially if what he's doing involves fretting the 1st and 2nd strings up the neck, as happens often in this song.

I've never heard anyone tune a 12-string to anything but octaves or unisons.  I'd think that for any kind of chord, it'd be a dicey proposition.  Even the octaves & unisons get you into trouble now & then.

Offline a2tom

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Re: Leadbelly Kansas City Papa 12-string tuning
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2004, 08:22:24 AM »
Thanks Frankie.  That's kind of what I figured about the strings - it would seem hopelessly complex once you started fretting courses tuned in other than octave or unison!

As for Kansas City Papa, let me see if I understand you correctly - my mind is tripping on this more than it probably should be.  You are saying that when he fretted his standard-tuning first position E chord it sounded as B to Bflat, or thereabouts.  Meaning that the strings were all tuned down 5 or 6 semitones from standard?  That would explain my mistake - I only raised him a semitone or two and then "matched" him by playing my first position C chord. 

BTW, I had a typo in my original post, I meant tuned down to B! C tuned down to D would be a LONG way down... ::)).

tom

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Leadbelly Kansas City Papa 12-string tuning
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2004, 08:40:01 AM »
I agree, the rhythm is propulsive, just huge in Leadbelly. Sometimes it sounds like he's just making a claw and grabbing a whole whack of strings! Fun tune, Tom.

Quote
Even the octaves & unisons get you into trouble now & then.
Can I get an amen...


UB

Offline a2tom

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Re: Leadbelly Kansas City Papa 12-string tuning
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2004, 09:07:51 AM »
Sorry, meant to include this MP3 clip for those who don't have the tune (I think it is really helpful to do this...)

tom

Offline frankie

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Re: Leadbelly Kansas City Papa 12-string tuning
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2004, 11:33:29 AM »
You are saying that when he fretted his standard-tuning first position E chord it sounded as B to Bflat, or thereabouts.? Meaning that the strings were all tuned down 5 or 6 semitones from standard?

That's right.? I haven't sat down with this tune specifically, but that's been my general experience with Leadbelly's music.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2005, 03:27:02 PM by Johnm »

Offline Norfolk Slim

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John Hardy- Leadbelly
« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2005, 11:57:37 AM »
I think I may be on the verge of a Huddie Leadbetter 'phase'  :D

Ive fallen in love with his rendition of John Hardy and have decided to try to learn it.  I found a tab on the internet which just doesnt sound right- possibly just my technique but I'd be grateful for some weenie insight.

The tab suggests two things which sound wrong to my limited ear.

(1)  The driving treble strums which punctuate the wonderful bass line are said to be just open strings in standard tuning- but they just dont sound right to me.

(2) It suggests that the bass line is fifth string- 0 0 4 5 4 0 2 (which I agree with) and then 6th string 2slide3  0 which I dont.  The slide bit I think must be fouth to seventh on the 6th sring.. Do you chaps agree?  Or is there perhaps another version I dont know with a more 'minor' sound?

Am particularly interest in comments on point 1....

Offline Richard

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Re: John Hardy- Leadbelly
« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2005, 01:26:12 PM »
NS
Might be a good idea to post a short mp3 of the bits you want deciphered, what with possible different takes et al..
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline Norfolk Slim

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Re: John Hardy- Leadbelly
« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2005, 01:59:47 PM »
Thanks Richard.... Here it is.  Obviously it is tuned down massively in normal Leadbelly style...

Are you warming up your brushes and plastic chair for August?! ;D

Offline Johnm

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Re: John Hardy- Leadbelly
« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2005, 01:02:47 AM »
Hi Slim,
It sounds to me like Leadbelly is playing out of the G position, but with his guitar in standard tuning tuned extremely low, as was his wont:  BEADF#B.  The combination of the low tuning and the position he is playing in winds up with him sounding in D.  "John Hardy goes right to the IV chord,  so he begins in a C chord, playing the 3rd fret of the fifth string twice, going up to the 2nd fret of the 4th string, 3rd fret of the 4th string, back to the second fret of the fourth string, open fourth string, then quickly leading down to G:  2nd fret fifth string, open fifth string, third fret sixth string (strumming a G chord at this point).  He then repeats this melodic phrase but stopping at the open fourth string.  He plays the melodic phrase one more time, copying the way he did it the first time, then hangs out in G, hitting the fifth string and hammering from the first to the second fret, followed by the open fourth string.  He does this twice, resolving to the third fret sixth string, followed by the open sixth string coming back to the third fret of the sixth string, does the hammer on the fifth going up to the open fourth string twice again, resolving it to the third fret of the sixth string, followed by two more hammers on the fifth string going up to the open fourth string, and concludes with the third fret of the sixth string going to the open sixth string and then coming back.  What a great tune this is!
All best,
Johnm

Offline Richard

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Re: John Hardy- Leadbelly
« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2005, 04:03:02 AM »
Well yes,
Quote
Are you warming up your brushes and plastic chair for August
I can only hope that Northampton has the correct type of plastic chair lest I be forced to attempt to play guitar, but at least I know I can play the drums  ;)
(That's enough of that. Ed)

ajd

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Re: John Hardy- Leadbelly
« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2005, 07:07:48 AM »
I deleted my previous post since obviously John is right on this one (should've known better to trust the tab you had even a little). But every version of John Hardy (and Tom Joad, etc.) I've played is done pretty much how he explained, which is why I was curious why Leadbelly would do it differently like your tab said . But I didn't know he tuned down that low!

Offline Norfolk Slim

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Re: John Hardy- Leadbelly
« Reply #12 on: June 03, 2005, 07:38:56 AM »
Thanks for trying anyway!  Never trust tab off the net, over your own ears is the lesson I have learned today...

Of course it helps to have an expert like John on hand- thanks John, I will dig the 12 string out when I get home from work.

My 12 is tuned down to C (6th string)  at the moment- I dont think I can realistically get it any lower without buying some very heavy strings and shimming the bridge up:-)

si

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Leadbelly - Easy Rider
« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2006, 06:09:02 PM »
Does anyone know which root chord shape Leadbelly used for the song Easy Rider? The recording I have is in a key slightly flatter than C#. Did he tune his guitar low and play the root chord as a D shape? Or did he tune his guitar high and/or capo and play the root chord as a C shape? Any help appreciated. What a beautiful song this is.

Offline frankie

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Re: Leadbelly - Easy Rider
« Reply #14 on: May 11, 2006, 06:37:51 PM »
On every recording of that I've heard, he plays out of E position.  Lead Belly is usually tuned pretty low - anywhere between B-flat and D-flat.  It is a beautiful song - one of my favorites from him.

 


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