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That woman was tougher than a man - Homesick James on Memphis Minnie, The Blues Collection #76

Author Topic: How do I Learn the "ominous sounding" minor tuning songs  (Read 6179 times)

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moonshiner137

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How do I Learn the "ominous sounding" minor tuning songs
« on: November 10, 2006, 07:48:35 AM »
Hi

What is a good way to learn minor tunings? I love to play RJ's Hell Hound on my Trail (Em tuning) but that's the only song I can play in a minor tuning.

Is there a good teacher/source/DVD/tutorial to master the ominous sounding minor tuning? I love Skip James songs too.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2006, 07:50:22 AM by moonshiner137 »

Offline Slack

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Re: How do I Learn the "ominous sounding" minor tuning songs
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2006, 08:17:07 AM »
Hi Moonshiner,

I don't believe RJ used open Em tuning -- if I recall, I think Hell Hound is in Spanish (open A or Open G).

In any case, John Cephas has 4 instructional DVD's on Skip James.  They won't be note for note transcriptions, but John Cephas' take on them - pretty close though.  John Cephas is a very good instructor and hung out with Skip James for some period of time - he teaches at least one Skip James song that I know of that was never recorded by Skip.

lostintheblues

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Re: How do I Learn the "ominous sounding" minor tuning songs
« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2006, 08:39:21 AM »
Hi,
Hellhound on my trail is the only RJ song in Em tuning.  It's pretty close to Skip James Devil got my woman, well, to the extent that you can hear where RJ was influenced by him. 

I'm working on a short series of lessons for a few Skip James songs that I'll be posting on youtube when I am done. 
I picked up a lot on what he does by watching this video.  I noticed Skip only plucks the strings with his thumb and two fingers for the most part.



If you click the bottom right corner is goes fullscreen.

Offline Rivers

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Re: How do I Learn the "ominous sounding" minor tuning songs
« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2006, 05:43:19 PM »
I have no opinion either way but both Woody Mann and Scott Ainslie's books, which I happen to have here even though I don't study no Robert Johnson due to the fact I just plain can't sing like that, would have it that RJ was in vestapol.

FWIW Woody does it in open D, DADF#AD, Scott has it in open E. They could be wrong and if I get time later I'll see what I can come up with (an even bigger FWIW). I'm sure Steve James would have an opinion on this, he does the best RJ impersonation I've ever heard to date.

OK I do have an opinion! I'm guessing it's in vestapol. Probably the open 3rd string is never or seldom sounded since that would major the chord and sound crap in Hellhound's dark delta blues context. I'm guessing that in first position the 3rd string is either fretted first (sus 4) or 3 (5th) or damped entirely. I think Henry Townsend played that way although a lot of people, especially around here, would disagree with me and say he's bentonia tuned. But that's another thread.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2006, 05:49:33 PM by Rivers »

Pod

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Re: How do I Learn the "ominous sounding" minor tuning songs
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2007, 01:14:11 AM »
Stefan Grossman teaches Skip kames Hard Time Killing Floor  and Im So Glad in "Crossnote " open D minor or E minor tunings.
Its in his Audio lesson Book with 3 CDs and other open tunings.
"Finger Style Country blues in open tunings"

Offline pumpkin

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Re: How do I Learn the "ominous sounding" minor tuning songs
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2009, 08:16:22 PM »
Quote
I'm working on a short series of lessons for a few Skip James songs that I'll be posting on youtube when I am done. 
Did you ever get around to posting the lessons? If so, what name are they under?.. I'd really like to check 'em out!
-Ryan

farka

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Re: How do I Learn the "ominous sounding" minor tuning songs
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2009, 11:47:15 AM »
May sound odd, but I'd look into available banjo tabs or translating some banjo stuff to open tuned guitar. (Personal plug, forgive me, but at my website there's a "composition" or adaptation, depending on your perspective, from my website http://frankprophet.com/uploads/1._The_Hoot_Owl_Is_Squalling_And_Somebody_s_Dying_Out_There_In_The_Cold.mp3. If this link doesn't work, it's on the "Cerrillos Suite" page, "The Hoot Owl is squalling...")

As I was saying, I adapted this from "Swannoa Tunnel" in Gm tuning DGDGBbD. In all minor tunings, I've found that the string which makes it a minor (i.e., F# to F or B to Bb) does well to "lay on." Among a hundred things that make Skip James stand out, the slide from second to fourth fret on that F string is to Skip's stuff what the color blue is to Miro. Another thing about those minors is that restraint often says more than overplaying. Such an easy attribute for us guitarists!

lostintheblues

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Re: How do I Learn the "ominous sounding" minor tuning songs
« Reply #7 on: October 11, 2009, 03:18:46 PM »
Quote
I'm working on a short series of lessons for a few Skip James songs that I'll be posting on youtube when I am done. 
Did you ever get around to posting the lessons? If so, what name are they under?.. I'd really like to check 'em out!
-Ryan

I never did get around to posting lessons for Skip, yet,
but here's a video of sick bed blues and you can likely get a good idea by watching my fingers...  LOL DON'T MIND THE SINGING it's really horrid
cheers


Offline Richard

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Re: How do I Learn the "ominous sounding" minor tuning songs
« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2009, 10:46:46 AM »
The RJ book by Dave Rubin has the transcription of Hellbound in Em...
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline GhostRider

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Re: How do I Learn the "ominous sounding" minor tuning songs
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2009, 06:24:48 AM »
The RJ book by Dave Rubin has the transcription of Hellbound in Em...

In another book by Mr. Rubin, Acoustic Country Blues - Delta Blues before Robert Johnson, there's a great trancription of James' "I'm Gonna Yola My Blues Away" in Open Dm.

Alex

Offline uncle bud

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Re: How do I Learn the "ominous sounding" minor tuning songs
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2009, 03:10:20 PM »
I'm going to disagree with Rivers' post from 2006,  :P and say that I also think Hell Hound On My Trail is in cross-note tuning (E minor). One could probably do it in either cross-note or Vestapol, but why change the fingering of what in cross-note would be a very familiar (from standard tuning) descending D7-shaped lick that one hears right off the bat in the intro? Where one does hear the major third, right at the end, sounds fretted, not open to me, though is admittedly rather faint.

Actually, with the exception of one or two brief moments -- like the doubling of the B bass that he slides into -- I think one could get away with playing this song in standard tuning, E position. I could see someone saying why bother retuning.

Offline billdraper

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Re: How do I Learn the "ominous sounding" minor tuning songs
« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2009, 09:05:45 AM »
I have a Woody Mann book on RJ that I've just started looking at w Terraplane Blues. He has it in open G tuning but I had to capo at the third fret to be in tune w my RJ vinyl recording.

I saw this thread and looked at Hellhound last night. Its open D and I had to capo on the second fret to be in tune w the record. This according to my chromatic tuner puts it into the key of E.

Hellhound is easy to play in open tuning compared to Terraplane. (As an aside, RJ's rhythm guitar playing is amazingly controlled and clean & efficient sounding almost latin or spanish sounding in Terraplane. He must be playing with a pic and be damping the strings to get those controlled florishes.)

Bill        
« Last Edit: November 12, 2009, 09:08:45 AM by billdraper »

Offline jed

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Re: How do I Learn the "ominous sounding" minor tuning songs
« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2009, 11:16:02 AM »
Shoot, and all these eons I've been playing H'hound in standard.  Well, thanks for validating my slacker ways, Uncle Bud (I do so hate tuning).  Then again, I do use the Maj3 hammer-on to contrast with the lonely minor feel played on the top 2 strings, to emphasize the song's tense intent.  Maybe I can call it across-track sudafed3 tuning (sorry, couldn't resist shaking it down in honor of Bukka White's birthday). 

Wait a second - isn't this thread about a Skip James tuning?  In any case, Hellhound is a great song - in any tuning - for getting into minor sounds.  I've forgotten most of what I thought I once knew about Skip James, but the few remaining neurons recall that simply studying James' style would move anyone way forward in that realm.  I second Slack's early rec of John Cephas' lessons - Cephas was a mighty teacher.
ok then:  http://jed.net

Online Johnm

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Re: How do I Learn the "ominous sounding" minor tuning songs
« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2009, 11:35:52 AM »
I've got to hand it to you, Jed--product placement in a tuning name!  You're blazing new trails.
all best,
Johnm

 


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