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Author Topic: Re: Barbecue Bob Workshop  (Read 13658 times)

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Offline frankie

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Re: Barbecue Bob Workshop
« on: September 25, 2004, 02:12:50 PM »
I attached an extremely feeble demo of a guitar setup that Pat Conte showed me at Lake Genero.  He had a Harmony Stella strung with 10 strings in spanish tuning, cranked up to Bflat.  He tried to change the neck angle of his in order to put more downward pressure on the bridge - a pretty unsuccessfully operation, but it got the point across.  I hope my demo does, too, but I haven't made much of a study of Bbq Bob's style.  My Harmony has some problems for this kind of playing - first one is the same problem Pat was trying to fix by changing the neck angle - there's not enough pressure on the bridge/saddle and that presents two problems:

1)  There's not enough volume
2)  Aggressive playing causes strings to pop out of saddle slots at unfortunate moments

That being said - the tuning itself is pretty cool.  Here's how it's strung:

Course 1:  .009/.009
Course 2:  .012/.012
Course 3:  .016/.016
Course 4:  .024/.024
Course 5:  .032
Course 6:  .042

Note that the four double courses are all strung as unisons.  I used two banjo strings for the .009's and two light guage D'Addario acoustic guitar sets for the rest.  I think I could go heavier on the two single courses.

I raised the action by shimming the saddle, but you still have to be careful about how much energy you put into the sixth string (in particular).  More agressive moves like snapping the bass string are completely out of the question, unfortunately without major reptile dentistry on this particular guitar.  A tailpiece model guitar with a steeper neck angle would certainly sound better in any case, and a pin bridge guitar would probably sound even better.

I'm tuned in spanish to Bflat - pitches from low to high are F-Bflat-F-Bflat-D-F.

The tune that I'm butchering so heedlessly is She's Gone Blues.  Wish I could play it better, but...  oh, well...  the tuning/setup is the main thing!

Offline Rivers

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Re: Barbeque Bob
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2004, 03:03:08 PM »
Nice job Frank. Certainly has that Bob cool whiney sound. Do you have any background on how Pat Conte figured out this setup? Was it just careful listening or did he get some other input?

My guitar R&D project for this week will be to resurrect my 12 and run over my BBQ Bob songs.

Offline Slack

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Re: Barbeque Bob
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2004, 03:34:03 PM »
Yea Frank, sounds pretty Barbeque-ee to me.  Interesting that the 5th and 6th strings are not doubled - I wonder what did Pat heard to make that decision?

cheers,

Offline frankie

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Re: Barbeque Bob
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2004, 06:59:34 PM »
He came up with it himself, I think...  he's a very careful listener - lots of patience and attention to detail.  He was bugged about the way the Bbq Bob's bass strings sounded on his recordings (same thing that was mentioned in this thread) and the fact that you can clearly hear doubled courses, but never really the "octave jangle" that one usually hears with a twelve string.  Pat's got a lot of instruments lying around and is definitely *not* afraid of boogering up something non-collectible to get the sound he wants.  I wish I had recorded him playing Yo Yo Blues on the guitar he had set up.  It was easier to play aggressively than mine, and he sounded great playing that tune.  He said he got so excited about the initial results of hs experiment that he was calling up people and playing at them over the phone.  What a nut!

edited 7-May-2015 to fix the link to the 12 string gauges thread.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Barbeque Bob
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2004, 08:51:19 PM »
Sounds very cool, Frank. This is the closest I've heard a guitar sound to BBQ Bob's. Those high strings sound like the real thing, and I would have thought the slide would be quieter with that guage on the top course. Rings out nicely. I guess all that tension helps. Also think I agree about the bass after listening to a few Bob tunes.

How many strings you break trying this?

Conte is definitely on to something...





Offline frankie

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Re: Barbeque Bob
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2004, 09:49:43 PM »
I would have thought the slide would be quieter with that guage on the top course. Rings out nicely. I guess all that tension helps.

I wasn't sure about the light strings, either, but it really does sound ok...? I was really skeptical going in about the unwound third course being so light, but it really sings.? Would probably sound even better with higher action and more downward pressure on the bridge.? This Harmony just can't really go there, though.? I'd have to totally change the geometry of the guitar to get it right.? Not happening in my house - I'm not as fearless as Pat!

Also think I agree about the bass after listening to a few Bob tunes.

Check out one of the tunes where he really pops the bass strings - I think that's where it's really clear that he's got single strings, at least on the lowest string.

How many strings you break trying this?

None.? Yet.

Conte is definitely on to something...

Indeedy!

Offline frankie

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Re: Barbeque Bob
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2004, 10:08:32 PM »
Incidentally, as I was converting the audio for the attachment to mp3, my son came in the room - he's 5.? He said "Is that *you*?"? I said "Yes...? does it sound bad?"? He said "No." in a voice that didn't seem to say he liked it, either...? then he kinda laughed and said "you sound like an old man."

Then he put on his best "telling dad like it is" face and said "but you *are* an old man."

Kids...

Online Johnm

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Re: Barbeque Bob
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2004, 10:33:31 AM »
Hi Frank,
I've been out all week-end, just got back and getting caught up here.  Boy, this piece sounds good!  I love in the answering signature lick, when you do that descending pull-off on the second string and get the second fret going down--it sounds really great, that eerie #4 note.  A couple of thoughts with regard to set-up, re-setting neck angles, etc. 
   * Do you think there is any reason necessarily to assume that BBQ Bob was in fact tuned at Bflat on the original recording, as opposed to Spanish at pitch and then capoed in some fashion?  I ask because use of a capo, even of the home-made type, which is almost undoubtedly what Bob used if he used one, could solve a bunch of the set-up problems.  And if I'm not mistaken, the left hand on this tune would allow plenty of space to play this tune, even if capoed to the third fret--it doesn't sound like there's anything higher than the fifth fret until the closing lick.  If you tuned at pitch and capoed, you could use heavier gauge strings and it would alleviate two problems--the likelihood of string breakage and the issue of getting adequate pressure on the bridge.  The greater tension caused by heavier strings would also reduce the need for altering the neck angle, since the strings would be less slack and "flappy".  You could also drive them much harder and play considerably louder.  It is hard for me to reconcile the idea of Bob using a string set with such a high possibility of breakage ($).  Similarly, it is tough to imagine a guy who probably only had one guitar screwing around with the neck angle to be able to achieve some sound he had in his head--kind of tough to jeopardize your meal ticket that way.  (Though it is certainly possible that he took fortuitous advantage of his guitar really needing a neck re-set.)
   I have long suspected that the use of capos was much more wide-spread among the old-timers than has been acknowledged so far.  Of course, in many instances there is no way to know for sure.  But when you think of a lot of Henry Thomas tunes, or Shell Smith's guitar part on "Carroll County Blues", where they are using the D position to play in the key of G, I don't see any way they could be tuned that high and play that strong.  Similarly, I think Charley Jordan capoed all the time.
   All that having been said, it really seems like Pat nailed Bob's string set-up.  Way to listen!  I sure do like the sound of the courses in unison.  And your playing and singing sound great.  I think if you could invent a great home-made twelve string capo (maybe a carpenter's pencil with extra heavy industrial rubber band?) you could string it heavier with the same relative proportions and be able to drive it harder and sound bigger.  It would be great to hear what it sounds like in person.
All best,
Johnm 

Offline Rivers

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Re: Barbeque Bob
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2004, 12:32:09 PM »
I was wondering that myself re. capo. My 12 capoed just plain doesn't work but it's a bit of an agricultaral implement at the best of times. It would work better without the doubled 5th and 6th and a unison set on 4th, the diff in string diameter being the cause of the unwounds to buzz/mute.

This altered setup would have to work better capoed than a standard setup. It would make sense for a 12-string-o-centric gigging musician like Bob Hicks to land on something like that; would give him a lot more flexibility esp. when playing in string bands i.e. the Georgia Cotton Pickers.

Re downforce strikes me you could raise the saddle quite a bit higher than a std 12 can take and increase the break angle with slots (on a pin holed guitar). Hmmm...
« Last Edit: September 26, 2004, 12:36:36 PM by Rivers »

Offline frankie

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Re: Barbeque Bob
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2004, 12:47:16 PM »
Bbq Bob probably used a capo for some stuff.? The pitches of his recordings seem to be anywhere from Aflat to Dflat.? The boogering of the neck angle had more to do with overcoming the limitations of the guitars that Pat and I happened to have on hand for nutty experimentation- Harmony 12 strings from the 60's - they bear very little resemblance to the guitars that Bob would have had at his disposal.? Those would have been much more like real instruments!? With that in mind, even if he tuned up to pitch on a Stella 12 string, that would be tuned pretty high, relatively speaking, since they would have had a 26.5 inch (or more, possibly) scale length.? Something like that would be most comfortable tuned to E or D in spanish tuning, especially with the heavier strings generally available at the time.

In short, I think it's likely that he would have figured out some way to use lighter strings (like banjo strings, for example) and tuned up to somewhere like Aflat, and probably capoed for stuff that was pitched higher (or tuning higher, depending on what he wanted to do in the upper positions), but I don't think he tried to change the geometry of the guitar the way Pat did - he wouldn't have needed to, since his instruments probably didn't suck.? If I was going to try this on a real Stella (I should say - on *your* Stella! ) or a Stella repro, I'd go with lighter strings in general because 1) I think they sound right and 2) they would relieve some of the tension with the long scale? (preventing the guitar from folding in half).

Online Johnm

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Re: Barbeque Bob
« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2004, 02:41:51 PM »
Hi all,
For what it's worth, I realized I have a big photo of Barbecue Bob that I've never seen elsewhere on the cover of an old Folkways re-issue, "Atlanta Blues".  He is dressed very nattily in it, in a wide pin-striped suit.  His guitar looks pretty small.  It does have twelve strings on it, and based strictly on appearance, the G and D pairs do appear to be in unisons, rather than octaves (big honking plain G strings), the A pair may or may not be in octaves, though I think they are, and the low E pair is definitely in octaves.  Both of the lower strings in the A and low E courses appear to be of a narrower diameter than the D strings.  Odd, what?  From this picture, I would say we can definitely conclude . . . nothing, apart from the fact that he had twelve strings on his guitar that day.
All best,
Johnm 

Offline frankie

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Re: Barbeque Bob
« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2004, 04:42:45 PM »
I think I've seen the picture you're talking about, although never seen a reproduction large enough to make out the strings.

I was listening a little today and noticed the neatest IV7 chord in Yo Yo Blues - fingered like a C in standard tuning, except that he's in spanish tuning.  That makes the note fingered at the third fret of the fifth string the flat 7 relative to whatever pitch he's tuned to.  Nifty!

Online Johnm

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Re: Barbeque Bob
« Reply #12 on: September 26, 2004, 04:46:25 PM »
Hi Frank,
Funny you would mention it--he looks to be fingering that very chord in the picture!
All best,
Johnm

Offline Rivers

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Re: Barbeque Bob
« Reply #13 on: September 26, 2004, 04:50:19 PM »
Yup, Alvin Hart taught us that one;? great for going to the IV on Henry Townsend stuff also. Sounds very cool for the IV in open D/E, shifted across one string.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2005, 07:53:09 PM by Johnm »

Offline frankie

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Re: Barbeque Bob
« Reply #14 on: September 26, 2004, 05:52:12 PM »
I don't think he tried to change the geometry of the guitar the way Pat did

Just wanted to say that Pat clearly didn't think that Bbq Bob did that to his guitar, either, it was just a way of getting a crummy guitar to behave!


 


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