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As far as singing goes, I wanted to do something new and have a style that wasn't too common. I was inspired by the records of Jimmie Rodgers, a white singer of that time. He was called the 'yodeling singer' because he would sing some parts in a head voice, like the Swiss yodelers. I took that idea and adapted it to my own abilities. I couln't do no yodelin' so I turned to howlin'. And it's done me just fine - Howlin' Wolf

Author Topic: Playing Position/Pitch/Key clarification required  (Read 523 times)

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Offline Stumblin

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  • Got the Blues, can't be satisfied
Playing Position/Pitch/Key clarification required
« on: January 25, 2013, 06:19:47 AM »
Hi, I've been listening to Papa Charlie Jackson quite a bit lately, thought I'd have a bash at Four Eleven Forty Four, which my ears hear as being in the key of A. Looking through JohnM's positions/keys chart, I notice that it is given as being played from a Bb position in the key of A. I must be very stupid, because I don't understand what that means.
Does it mean that I have to tune down a half-step and then use a capo at the first fret? It sounds like it's a fairly similar set of chord positions to Blake's That'll Never Happen No More - at least the little descending pattern behind "I looked in my purse, saw I had a little dough" etc. sounds that way. To my way of thinking, that makes it start from a G position with the capo at the second fret.
Frankly, I'm more than a little bit confused here...
As usual, any and all advice or assistance will be very greatly appreciated.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Playing Position/Pitch/Key clarification required
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2013, 06:30:55 AM »
Hi Stumblin'
What the playing position designates is what position Papa Charlie was playing in--the pitch indicates where it sounds.  So if Papa Charlie was playing in Bflat position, as he was for "Four Eleven Fourty-Four", and sounding in A, his banjo-guitar was tuned a half-step flat.  The reason we started listing pitch independent of playing position is because Country Blues are so often played tuned high or low or with a capo.  On some sets, like the "George Mitchell Collection", a tiny percentage of the performances were made on guitars in standard tuning pitched to A 440.  Where a performance shows a great distance in pitch between the playing position and the pitch at which it was played, the person either used a capo, as in Clifford Gibson playing in Spanish tuning and sound in D, or is tuned very low, as in Leadbelly playing out of F position and sounding in B.  I hope this helps.

EDITED TO ADD:  Just in case Bflat position is not clear, it means that Papa Charlie was fingering his I chord
1-1-3-3-3-X, and alternating his bass, boom-chang style between his root at the first fret of his fifth string and the V, at the first fret of the sixth string.  Sometimes in his I chord, Papa Charlie also played the third fret of his first string.
All best,
« Last Edit: January 25, 2013, 06:34:17 AM by Johnm »

Offline mr mando

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Re: Playing Position/Pitch/Key clarification required
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2013, 07:33:37 AM »
The ending of "Four Eleven Fourty-Four" uses the same run that PCJ is employing in "Baby Please Loan Me Your Heart", which he also plays in Bb. I think he also uses almost the same vamp in the beginning of both tunes, where he has a G/B fingered x-2-0-0-0-x as the second chord instead of the more usual I#dim. The difference is that he uses a F7#9 (1-x-3-2-4-4) in "Baby Please Loan Me Your Heart" where he seems to use a regular F (1-x-3-2-1-x) in "Four Eleven Fourty-Four".

Offline Stumblin

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  • Got the Blues, can't be satisfied
Re: Playing Position/Pitch/Key clarification required
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2013, 08:46:05 AM »
Thanks, chaps.
Okay, tune down half a step, that's essentially what I thought you meant. I'll try it and see if I can master the vamps and descending "Looked in my purse" pattern(s).
JohnM, that whole 440 thing... I know it doesn't apply to a great many cb recordings, tuning to voice or using a capo etc. To further muddy the old waters, apparently some cultural groups also use a slightly higher or lower frequency as their reference A.


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