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Author Topic: Adventures in D position, standard tuning  (Read 2866 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Adventures in D position, standard tuning
« on: April 20, 2016, 02:23:22 PM »
Hi all,
It has been a while since we've had a new thread in this series.  We already have "Adventures in" threads for Spanish, Vestapol, Cross-note, EAEGBE, Dropped-D, and DGDGBE tunings, as well as F position in standard tuning.  I thought that D position in standard tuning merited such a thread because, in a way, it is a specialty playing position, altogether avoided by many or most Country Blues guitarists, including some of the real heavy hitters:  Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charlie Patton, Luke Jordan and Libba Cotten all never recorded a single number played out of D position in standard tuning.  Maybe as the thread goes along we can discuss why that may have been so, what D position gives you, and what it makes unavailable to you. 
In the meantime, I thought it might be fun and instructive to begin to compile a list of recorded performances that were played out of D position in standard tuning.  I'll start the ball rolling, and if we confine ourselves to two or three songs per post, more folks will be able to participate.  Here goes:
   * "James Alley Blues"--Richard "Rabbit" Brown
   * "I'm A Guitar King"--Tommy McClennan
   * "Happy Blues"--Tom Dickson
Anyone care to post some others?
All best,
Johnm

Offline Old Man Ned

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Re: Adventures in D position, standard tuning
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2016, 03:03:55 PM »
Off the top of my head, two spring to mind:
Robert Wilkins, I'll go with her
Mississippi John Hurt, Stack O'Lee

Offline waxwing

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Re: Adventures in D position, standard tuning
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2016, 03:45:08 PM »
I'm a big fan of Scrapper Blackwell who uses D position pretty extensively.  A good example would be "Back Door Blues." Check out the nifty III, VI, II, V, I this position offers and which he sometimes inserts for the V chord bars.

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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Offline banjochris

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Re: Adventures in D position, standard tuning
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2016, 04:17:38 PM »
Two I really enjoy:
Blind Boy Fuller -- "Working Man Blues," "Painful Hearted Man"

Offline frankie

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Re: Adventures in D position, standard tuning
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2016, 02:49:18 AM »
Pete Franklin - Prison Bound
Edward Thompson - West Virginia Blues

Offline roig

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Re: Adventures in D position, standard tuning
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2016, 12:19:07 PM »
How many musicians did spirituals/religious tunes in D? Wilkins did quite a few in the 60's and also Tallahassee Tight comes to mind. Jospeph Spence quite obviously although it was dropped D.

I think the main reason Libba Cotten didn't do anything in D is because she couldn't physically do it with her strings upside down, same with E. She did do a surprising tune in A on one of her records!!
« Last Edit: April 21, 2016, 12:43:25 PM by roig »

Offline P D Grant

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Re: Adventures in D position, standard tuning
« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2016, 01:12:09 PM »
Great question, John. I've always felt uncomfortable playing in D. I guess because the bottom end isn't always obvious, and isn't often used. It sounds, to my ear, a little unbalanced. As well as Rev Robert Wilkins and John Hurt, already mentioned, Tommy Johnson springs to mind. You Got To Move - Rev Gary Davis - is a great song in D and a joy to play, even if not strictly a blues.

Offline frankie

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Re: Adventures in D position, standard tuning
« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2016, 04:20:57 PM »
It's kind of odd to compare Rev. Davis's playing in D with just about any other country blues musician. Most other CB guitarists would mine the 1st position for all that it was worth - you can see this in particular with someone like Robert Wilkins, who always seemed to find something unique that falls right under the hand. Rev. Davis seems to me to take closed relationships on the guitar and re-use them all over the neck - you can this very clearly in the way that he navigates in the key of D...  his "home" chord isn't even a 1st position D chord...  it's a closed 2nd position C chord!

Offline Johnm

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Re: Adventures in D position, standard tuning
« Reply #8 on: April 21, 2016, 04:22:48 PM »
Thanks to everyone who has contributed here so far.  I do see D position in standard tuning as being distinct from Dropped-D tuning for a couple of reasons:
   * Going to Dropped-D tuning changes the most likely possibilities for the bass in both the I chord, D and the !V chord, G. In D position, standard tuning the lowest-pitched root you can play is the open fourth string (or its unisons on the two lower strings).  This makes D position in standard tuning uniquely top-heavy in its registration, and makes it very awkward to play an alternating bass moving from the bass towards the treble with the root on the bottom.  I suspect a fair number of players tried and rejected the V-I alternation you get by alternating from the open fifth to the open fourth string in that tuning, as John Hurt habitually played it.  Rev. Davis finessed that problem by essentially playing in the key of D in standard tuning out of a semi-barred C position, as on "You Got To Move", which P D Grant mentioned.  As I went to post this, I found that Frank had made this very point in a post immediately prior to mine.  You on it, Frank!
   * If D position in standard tuning and Dropped-D tuning are interchangeable, why are there a fair number of players who played songs (sometimes many songs) in Dropped-D, but not a one in D position in standard tuning?  Blind Blake, Gabriel Brown, Lightnin' Hopkins, Carolina Slim and Joseph Spence all played only in Dropped-D, never in D position in standard tuning.  Conversely,  Mississippi John Hurt had many songs in D position in standard tuning but not a one played in Dropped-D.
All best,
Johnm 

Offline banjochris

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Re: Adventures in D position, standard tuning
« Reply #9 on: April 21, 2016, 06:39:18 PM »
I believe all of Frank Stokes' numbers in D are in standard, are they not?

Offline Johnm

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Re: Adventures in D position, standard tuning
« Reply #10 on: April 21, 2016, 07:18:38 PM »
Yup, Chris, and the same goes for Henry Thomas.
All best,
Johnm

Offline waxwing

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Re: Adventures in D position, standard tuning
« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2016, 01:32:50 AM »
I believe all of Frank Stokes' numbers in D are in standard, are they not?
Yup, Chris, and the same goes for Henry Thomas.
All best,
Johnm

And Scrapper? I don't really know, but I'd wager. And one of his ways of dealing with the bottom light registration was to wrap the F# and stroke the full triad, F#, A, D, giving a rich bassy sound for which it doesn't seem to matter that the root isn't at the bottom.

Henry Thomas has no problem alternating off the A ("Red River Blues" and others) but wraps and alternates off the F#, too ("Bull Dozed Blues").

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
CD on YT

Offline Adam Franklin

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Re: Adventures in D position, standard tuning
« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2016, 03:25:50 AM »
I always play the 3rd (F#, 6th string 2nd fret) or 5th (A, 5th string) as the root. Scrapper's Back Door Blues is a great one, good call Wax. He uses the A as the root.

Let's not forget, the root is the lowest note in the chord. The 1st note (ie D in this case), is the 'Tonic'.

A.

Offline frankie

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Re: Adventures in D position, standard tuning
« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2016, 04:30:08 AM »
Let's not forget, the root is the lowest note in the chord. The 1st note (ie D in this case), is the 'Tonic'.

Digression:

I could be wrong, but root I think refers to the note on which a chord is built, which may not necessarily be the lowest note in the chord. The notes E - G - C would still have C as the root, although E is the lowest note.  The idea is that you name the chord by the root - not by the lowest note.

Tonic, I think, refers to scalar movement and not specifically to chord construction.

Moderators can separate  this out to the "angels on the head of a pin" forum if so desired...

Offline Johnm

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Re: Adventures in D position, standard tuning
« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2016, 04:34:53 AM »
Yes, the root of the chord is the note by which it is named, wherever it is voiced.  Root in the bass, root position, third in the bass, first inversion, fifth in the bass, second inversion, seventh in the bass, third inversion.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: April 22, 2016, 06:01:33 AM by Johnm »

 


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