collapse

* Member Info

 
 
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

* Like Us on Facebook

I'm just tippin' in... Oh yes baby, don't walk too hard. I've 'n got lonesome here, I need me someone to consolate my mind. I'm a lonesome man, God knows I ain't never satisfied - Robert Pete Williams, Just Tippin' In

Author Topic: Open G - origins in the blues  (Read 652 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Zischkale

  • Member
  • Posts: 11
  • Howdy!
Open G - origins in the blues
« on: May 07, 2019, 10:39:41 AM »
Anyone know of good resources describing the rise in popularity of open G guitar tuning in the early 20th century?

I know one narrative describes the introduction of Spanish open guitar tunings to Hawaiian musicians, who developed their own slack-key style, which in turn became popular in the late 19th/early 20th century as American began its obsession with Hawaiian culture.

But there seem to be three interrelated sources of the open G tunings in the US, from what I can tell - the gDGBD banjo tuning from early banjo instructors (I know the standard tuning was gCGBD), open G tuning from Spanish guitar, and open G in parlor guitar music. Did all three of these sources equally influence blues guitar tunings in the 20s and 30s?

Offline Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10465
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Open G - origins in the blues
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2019, 12:28:00 PM »
Hi Zischkale,
There is no way of determining conclusively the comparative extent to which the three strains of use of open G tuning influenced blues guitar tunings.  About the best one can do is guess on a case-by-case basis which strain most likely influenced particular performances.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Zischkale

  • Member
  • Posts: 11
  • Howdy!
Re: Open G - origins in the blues
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2019, 01:03:43 PM »
Hi Zischkale,
There is no way of determining conclusively the comparative extent to which the three strains of use of open G tuning influenced blues guitar tunings.  About the best one can do is guess on a case-by-case basis which strain most likely influenced particular performances.
All best,
Johnm

Do any specific examples come to mind of open G performances influenced by different sources?

Offline Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10465
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Open G - origins in the blues
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2019, 02:40:54 PM »
Hi Zischkale,
I would say that Libba Cotten's playing of hymns in open G tuning, as in "When I Get Home", "Til We Meet Again" and "Jesus Is Tenderly Calling" sounds influenced by the Parlor Guitar tradition.  I would say pretty much everything Jimmy Tarlton played sounded Hawaiian-influenced.
Incidentally, I'm not sure what you meant by "open G tuning from Spanish guitar" in your initial post in this thread.  I'm not aware of Spanish guitar music employing open G tuning in any regular sort of way.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Zischkale

  • Member
  • Posts: 11
  • Howdy!
Re: Open G - origins in the blues
« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2019, 04:04:17 PM »
Thanks, Johnm!

Was a little purposefully vague regarding Spanish influences. Trying to learn anything I can. Read in a wikipedia article on slack-key guitar (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slack-key_guitar) that Hawaiian slide guitar might have been influenced by "Mexican cowboys in the late 19th century." I assumed there might be some use of the tuning going back to guitar music of Spain.

I think I was just hung up on "Spanish Fandango." Googling a bit more this afternoon, found this excellent article (http://jasobrecht.com/blues-origins-spanish-fandango-and-sebastopol/) regarding Worrall?s Original Spanish Fandango, copywritten in 1860 (article also describes the origins of Vestapol tuning). This would lead me to believe that use of the tuning in the US can be traced back pretty directly to parlor guitar music of the late 19th century. A fantastic Stefan Grossman video on open-G () also mentions Worrall and parlor guitar origins, noting how many blues players had the tune in their repertoire (with many changing the time signature to 4/4).


Offline Stuart

  • Member
  • Posts: 2565
  • "The Voice of Almiqui"
Re: Open G - origins in the blues
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2019, 05:22:56 PM »
John Troutman has written about Hawaiian slack key and its influence in Kika kila and in his earlier article, "Slidin' The Steel," in Southern Cultures Vol. 19, no. 1.

We've discussed the problem of trying to identify specific lines of transmission before.

Another problem is the assumption of a single  origin of open G (Spanish) from which every subsequent use of the tuning can be traced back to. That two or more people, unknown to one another, tuned their instruments to open G, is not an impossibility.

Offline Parlor Picker

  • Member
  • Posts: 1614
  • Aloha
Re: Open G - origins in the blues
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2019, 01:25:12 AM »
If I understand correctly, Joni Mitchell used various open tunings, including G, without knowing what they were. They suited what she needed and sounded nice. (Correct me if I've got this wrong.)
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline Zischkale

  • Member
  • Posts: 11
  • Howdy!
Re: Open G - origins in the blues
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2019, 06:20:10 AM »
Agree with both Stuart and Parlor Picker that the tuning might've arisen independently in more than one player.

Offline waxwing

  • Member
  • Posts: 2515
    • Wax's YouTube Channel
Re: Open G - origins in the blues
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2019, 07:22:59 AM »
I think that if, instead of thinking of these as special tunings, you group them under the rubric of tuning to an open chord, it makes it pretty obvious that any player of a multi string instrument could stumble upon a version of this particular arrangement of strings. You should google the origion of standard guitar tuning for a more interesting story.

I've been toying with the idea of making a two string broomstick didley bow, and immediately the question of tuning comes to mind. The two obvious tunings seemed to be I-V and V-I which I consider to be Spanish and Vastapol, due to the top or "melody" string being the same as the top string in those tunings on guitar. I guess you could also go with I-I.

I'd imagine Joni learned "open G" which lead her to experiment with other alternate tunings. It was pretty prevalent among folk players in the '60s, even in the wilds of Saskatchewan.

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

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Willie Brown's Liquor at CD Baby

Offline Stuart

  • Member
  • Posts: 2565
  • "The Voice of Almiqui"
Re: Open G - origins in the blues
« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2019, 09:51:32 AM »
I agree, Wax. It makes more sense than an overly narrow focus.

It's been a long time, but IIRC there were more than a few articles re: songs in open tunings in Sing Out! back in the day.

I remember reading that owing to her earlier bout with polio, Joni had some problems with her left hand that resulted in difficulty with fuller chords shapes and thus her experimentation with open and alternate tunings. In addition, she just couldn't get the sounds she wanted from standard tuning and the chords she was able to finger.

And of course, the lap steel players, John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Harvey Reid with his use of partial capos, and many others have opened things up to where almost anything is possible.

But I digress...Back to open G...



Offline Zischkale

  • Member
  • Posts: 11
  • Howdy!
Re: Open G - origins in the blues
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2019, 10:07:12 AM »
Very interesting details on Joni that I didn't know.

waxwing - I haven't heard of a diddley bow, do you have any examples (pics, audio)?

Offline waxwing

  • Member
  • Posts: 2515
    • Wax's YouTube Channel
Re: Open G - origins in the blues
« Reply #11 on: May 13, 2019, 11:01:09 PM »
If you click on the "diddley bow" Tag I added you'll find a few mentions. (You can always check the Tag Index by rolling over the Tags link at the top of the page and selecting Tag Index). The first tag goes to a thread about the first diddley bow I made. Here's a somewhat more recent one and a youtube of me playing it. BTW I've lowered the height of the saddle considerably on this one.

Hope you enjoy.

Wax

Bonus question: What kind of cigars come in a "Novelty Cigar Box? (Purchased on eBay)



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

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Willie Brown's Liquor at CD Baby

Offline stunasty 55

  • Member
  • Posts: 14
  • “KAYA AY-WOAH GEE BACKUP!” -Leadbelly
Re: Open G - origins in the blues
« Reply #12 on: May 31, 2019, 10:26:33 PM »
I remember hearing Muddy Waters talk about using open g on his Lomax 1940?s Plantation album 👍 that could help you out

Offline waxwing

  • Member
  • Posts: 2515
    • Wax's YouTube Channel
Re: Open G - origins in the blues
« Reply #13 on: June 01, 2019, 08:21:09 PM »
I thought it was Son House who replied to a Lomax query, "Spanish...A". I'd swear I've heard it, but a quick search couldn't find it. However, David Evans' "Deep River of Song" notes to House's Jinx Blues #2, recorded, with John Work, in the same '41-'42 frame as Waters, states that Son House says just that. Of course, Evans refers to it as "Open G" in the same sentence, and throughout.

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

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Willie Brown's Liquor at CD Baby

Offline Stuart

  • Member
  • Posts: 2565
  • "The Voice of Almiqui"
Re: Open G - origins in the blues
« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2019, 12:36:17 PM »
Hi Wax:

I've referred to, and have heard other people refer to, open G and open A interchangeably over the decades. Sames goes for open D and open E. I think it's just slop, referring to the chord shape if it was played in standard tuning instead of the actual pitch in the case of open A and open E, assuming the guitar was tuned to A440. The thing is that it's almost always been with other people where and when we easily correct ourselves. 

Tags: diddley bow 
 


anything