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A fiddle is like a dog -- it can sense fear - Mike Seeger, encouraging a beginning fiddler

Author Topic: Robert Belfour's Guitar Playing--Tips and Queries  (Read 6023 times)

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Offline robertbidochon

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Robert Belfour's Guitar Playing--Tips and Queries
« on: December 21, 2006, 07:07:23 AM »
I was looking the Robert Belfour perfomance of his song "done got old" and I just try to play the song but i'm not really sure for the tuning. I think it's in standard tuning but I know he plays often in open G tuning, so if someone can help me it will be cool. I got the same question for the RL Burnside song "black name a-ringin".

Thank you.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2018, 06:21:31 AM by Johnm »

Offline markm

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Re: Tuning question
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2006, 09:07:12 AM »
If I remember correctly Robert's Standard tuning is actually that, tuned down 3 half steps and the same goes for the open G stuff.

Mark

Offline Johnm

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Re: Tuning question
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2006, 09:21:00 AM »
Hi Robert,
Robert Belfour's tunings are as Mark described them.  I just dug out "Done Got Old" and he plays it in standard tuning ("natural" in Robert Belfour's parlance), down a ways.  You can tune to his sixth string to get in tune with his recorded version.  Welcome to Weenie Campbell!
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: December 21, 2006, 09:22:29 AM by Johnm »

Offline robertbidochon

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Re: Tuning question
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2006, 03:22:47 AM »
Thank you very much :)
I got some parts of the song now an I will work the other this week.

Offline Norfolk Slim

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Robert Belfour's Guitar Playing--Tips and Queries
« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2007, 01:33:37 AM »
Having seen Robert play in Norwich, UK, last night, I got to thinking about one of the peculiarities of his style.

He often, when playing the IV chord (and sometimes I think the V) plays a shuffle rhythm alternating bass against the treble, but beginning with (and the accent on) the higher note; i.e. 4th string - 6th string - rest- 4th - 6th - rest.

To my ears this creates an unusual, wonderful, jarring effect- in contrast to the more common straight alt bass used by many, or sometimes a shuffle bass on the IV (as used by Lightin Hopkins for instance) but with the low string always coming first - ie 6th-4th- rest etc.

I hope my limited technical; 'vocabulary' is clear enough!

Are there are other players who do this regularly?  I think it may be unique in my cd collection. 

Offline robertbidochon

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Re: Robert Belfour's bass
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2007, 04:42:31 AM »

Offline Norfolk Slim

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Re: Robert Belfour's bass
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2007, 02:39:05 PM »
Thanks for that- but im not sure I hear the thing im thinking of there.  Ill try and find an example.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Robert Belfour's bass
« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2007, 08:02:55 PM »
Hey Simon,

I'm a little confused by all that you're putting together here.

Separating things out a bit, I have heard the technique of playing the fourth string on the accented beats, say one and three in common time, and the sixth string on the unaccented beats, two and four, called "back picking". I can think of a few possible examples of this, like MJH's Candyman and the RGD version of Delia taught by Stefan Grossman, and I'm pretty sure Mance does back pick now and then when he's not dead thumbing. I'm sure there are other examples.

Next, you seem to be talking about a shuffle beat with the accent on the third beat of the triplet, I think. Normally the shuffle beat is DUMP (rest) ba-DUMP (rest) ba-DUMP (rest) ba-DUMP (rest) ba-, with the accented note falling on the beat. What you seem to be describing, the accent on the fourth string and the first of the two notes I would see as: pah (rest) OM-pah (rest) OM-pah (rest) OM-pah (rest) OM-. The ear is probaly going to shift the beat to the accent and translate this with more of a waltz feel than a shuffle, which would certainly be jarring. I don't remember Robert doing anything rhythmically like that last summer at PT but I may not have noticed.

What would make more sense to me would be if he was back picking but staying in a normal shuffle with the accent falling on the sixth string. In a normal shuffle, alternating sixth to fourth, the accent falls on the fourth string on the beat, but if back picked, fourth to sixth, the fourth string would be picked on the "3" count of the triplet and the sixth string on the "1" count, with the accent.

Does this make sense, and am I interpreting what you are saying correctly? Or am I just muddying the water?

You also mention that he only does this in the IV or sometimes the V chord, bit I'm going to assume that he is playing in a shuffle rhythm throughout and not shifting from common time in the I chord to a shuffle for the IV? I'm giessing that you're referring to the back picking as the real difference and being in a shuffle rhythm what makes it seem unique. You may be right.

Hopefully someone more adept at understanding this than I will come along, perhaps with some examples.-G-

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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Offline Norfolk Slim

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Re: Robert Belfour's bass
« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2007, 11:27:47 PM »
Yeah- im not suggesting that the rhythm changes- just that the sort of "reverse" alt bass (or backpicking if that is what its called) is used both in shuffle rhythm songs as well as others where the rhythm is straighter.

You have the point in your second para- but I will see if I can find time tonight to locate an example. 


Offline FrontPage

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Re: Robert Belfour's bass
« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2007, 10:39:23 AM »
Simon:
Could you perhaps rephrase your question in the context of one or two pieces that are included on either of Robert's Fat Pussum recordings? I'm a big fan, and have spent a lot to time listening and watching him play (Robert has been to Port Townsend twice). I know John Miller is also a fan, so he may be able to shed some light on your question, particularly if you can put it in the context of a recorded reference point for common listening.
While Robert has a distinctive "sound" (in fact, I would describe him a one-man wall of sound), much of his playing style is similar to other north MS players like R.L. Burnside. For me, Robert's singing is at least as big a part of his sound as his guitar playing style.
Cheers,
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Offline Johnm

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Re: Robert Belfour's bass
« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2007, 04:55:31 PM »
Hi Simon,
I know that in "Black Mattie", once Robert Belfour gets through his initial riffing and starts singing, he goes to a IV7 chord, and alternates his bass backwards (treble toward bass), but it is not in a shuffle rhythm so that must not be the effect of which you spoke.  Can you remember any specific songs from his concert sets you saw that ran the shuffle bass backwards as you described it?
Incidentally, I wish I could have made it to the European Weenie week-end on Guernsey.  It looked like a lot of fun and kudos to Richard for putting it together.
All best,
Johnm

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Robert Belfour's bass
« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2007, 07:10:56 PM »
Howdy:

If my ears aren'tdecieving me, I hear Funny Papa Smith occasionally do this, mainly in the I parts of this Standard tuning tunes in A (ie. Howling Wolf Blues), where he alternates open A string to open E string. No shuffle though.

Alex

Offline Norfolk Slim

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Re: Robert Belfour's bass
« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2007, 12:54:51 AM »
Things are rather busy at the moment so ive not had time to do a search through the cds.  Will try to do so after this weekend- and will probably find I'm imagining the shuffle bit  :D

Its the reverse alt bass that intrigued me as much as anything.  Its such an obvious thing to do, and yet I don't think I've heard it elsewhere.  And, having tried it, its very tricky to try to do without some practice when your fingers are so locked into the more common ways of playing the alt bass.

I dont have any burnside or funny papa smith recordings- but sounds like the answer to my question is that - yes- there are some others who do similar.


Offline Coyote Slim

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Re: Robert Belfour's bass
« Reply #13 on: April 28, 2007, 11:58:37 AM »
And here I thought the thread was about fishin'!   :D

I love Belfour's work, and kinda know what you been about his picking... guess I'll have to watch some footage in order for the posts to make sense, though.
Puttin' on my Carrhartts, I gotta work out in the field.

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Offline robertbidochon

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Re: Robert Belfour's bass
« Reply #14 on: April 28, 2007, 12:07:49 PM »

Offline Slack

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Re: Robert Belfour's bass
« Reply #15 on: April 28, 2007, 01:23:34 PM »
Great clip, very nice photography - love the silhouetted back shot of his whole body moving and the shot from below  showing him back picking with his middle finger.

Thanks for posting.

Offline FrontPage

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Re: Robert Belfour's bass
« Reply #16 on: April 28, 2007, 09:54:02 PM »
Yes - the video is very nicely done, and one of my favorites among Robert's repertoire. Perhaps this piece is soon to become a personal theme song?
You can see those lightning-fast hammer-ons and pull-offs too. The fingers on his left hand look like striking snakes. And it appears that he's added some decoration to the front of his guitar since last summer. Self-applied?
Cheers,
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Offline waxwing

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Re: Robert Belfour's bass
« Reply #17 on: April 28, 2007, 10:26:40 PM »
Man, Youtube must work a lot better for you guys, I get herky jerky video that makes guitar players hands look like they are jumping from one freeze to another, rarely touching strings in time to the music. Audio comes over fine but how you guys can see subtleties like that is beyond me.

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

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Offline Norfolk Slim

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Re: Robert Belfour's bass
« Reply #18 on: April 30, 2007, 10:38:22 AM »
OK- ive not had time to search cds, but I have persuaded my fingers to recreate a simplistic version of what I think I heard....    :-\


Offline pfunk75

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done got old-Robert Belfour
« Reply #19 on: June 23, 2012, 12:30:04 AM »
hi,

there is this very beautiful song junior kimbrough done got old that i love so much. very soulful melody and the lyrics are just so true :( ... fortunatly my kids keep me alive !
I found a version of the great buddy guy but my favorite one is the wolfman balfour version ... is there any chance to find a tab, what kind of tuning is this one ...
thx for your help
felix
« Last Edit: June 23, 2012, 07:28:11 AM by Johnm »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: done got old-Robert Belfour
« Reply #20 on: June 23, 2012, 04:24:15 AM »
 ::)   His surname is Belfour with an E not an A.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2012, 07:28:44 AM by Johnm »

Offline Norfolk Slim

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Re: done got old-Robert Belfour
« Reply #21 on: June 23, 2012, 04:31:44 AM »
Hello Pfunk- the search facility in weenie is good, and worth using.  A quick search reveals this thread which answers your question at least in part.  I suspect that tab would be hard to find, but it doesnt seem that difficult to figure out the essence of it once you are in tune with the original.  Making it sound like Belfour makes it sound would be a challenge though!

http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=2887.msg22269#msg22269

« Last Edit: June 23, 2012, 07:29:17 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: done got old-Robert Belfour
« Reply #22 on: June 23, 2012, 08:30:55 AM »
Hi all,
As per Bunker Hill's observation and out of respect for Mr. Belfour, I edited the topic title to get his name spelled correctly.
All best,
Johnm

Offline lindy

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Re: done got old-Robert Belfour
« Reply #23 on: June 23, 2012, 11:51:08 AM »

Pfunk--

Standard tuning, though he usually tunes one step low; on the "What's Wrong With You" CD version of that song he's one step low.

Take a look at the "Interesting Country Blues related video clips" thread on this forum, on the very last page of that thread there are two videos of Mr. Belfour. The song "Breakin' My Heart" is essentially the same song as "Done Got Old." There are lots of closeups, so you can easily figure out what he's doing.

I said "essentially the same." For the differences, go to youtube.com and do a search for "Robert Belfour Done Got Old," there's one video where he talks for a few minutes about house parties in the good ol' days, and then he plays the song. That vid also has a lot of shots where you can see what he's doing with both hands. Those two vids contain more than enough visual and aural info to get you playing the song.

Lindy

Offline Johnm

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Robert Belfour's Guitar Playing--Tips and Queries
« Reply #24 on: October 22, 2019, 11:36:53 AM »
Hi all,
I have just had occasion to transcribe Robert Belfour's "Pushin' My Luck" for a lesson order, and discovered some things that might be of interest to those of you who are aficionados of his style.  There are a couple of live versions of the song posted on youtube, but I chose the title cut from his second Fat Possum CD to transcribe, just the intro and verse one accompaniment.  He played the song out of Spanish tuning, and after a 20-bar intro (!) he launches into the first verse, which is 70 bars long!  He does all of his singing over a IV chord, as did Booker White and Fred McDowell on many of their songs, and the verse phrases out like so, looking at vocal phrases and instrumental responses:
   * Vocal phrase--five bars
   * Instrumental response--eight bars
   * Vocal phrase--four bars, with one of six beats
   * Instrumental response--twelve bars
   * Vocal phrase--five bars
   * Instrumental response--thirty-five bars

I was somewhat surprised by how metrically consistent Robert Belfour was in his rendition.  In the first ninety bars of this rendition of "Pushin' My Luck", there was only one bar that was not four beats in length.  Such other well-known Hill Country players as Fred McDowell, R. L. Burnside and Ranie Burnette were not nearly so metrically consistent in terms of their phrase lengths.  I should emphasize that this is not a value judgement, but a simple statement of fact.  Fred McDowell and Ranie Burnette in particular liked to play six- beat measures leading into vocal phrases, thus allowing the guitar its chance to have its say without being interrupted by vocal pick-ups. 

Another impression or thought that I came away from this rendition of "Pushin' My Luck" with was the extent to which Robert Belfour's musical approach spoke to a dance/trance function in his music.  The amount of time devoted in the first verse to the vocal vs. the instrumental response is an indication of the relative insignificance of the vocal to the music's function, which was to get people up and dancing.  Some of you probably remember being at Port Townsend when Robert Belfour was given a solo set in mid-week in one of the upstairs rooms in building 204, and how long he played each number.  I remember about ten or fifteen minutes into the first number Peter McCracken getting up and hollering at the crowd, "DANCE!".

Another factor of Robert Belfour's musical approach is that it allowed for deep study and exploration of musical possibilities residing in a pretty severely restricted vocabulary of melodic choices.  In the first ninety bars of "Pushin' My Luck", Robert Belfour plays one note that is not in the minor pentatonic scale.  This pared-back vocabulary of melodic choices has consequences both in terms of sound and execution on the guitar.  The hand operates out of a pretty set position, and just mines it for all it is worth, in terms of note choices, rhythmic placement and articulation, with hammers, slides, pull-offs, etc.  And because of the limited set of melodic possibilities, a drony, trance-inducing state results.

Here is the version of "Pushin' My Luck" that I was working from, with apologies if non-U. S. weenies can not view it:



All best,
Johnm

     
« Last Edit: October 25, 2019, 09:22:54 PM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Robert Belfour's Guitar Playing--Tips and Queries
« Reply #25 on: October 22, 2019, 11:42:24 AM »
Hi all,
I merged three previous threads pertaining to Robert Belfour's playing into this thread, thinking that have a single-source thread on his music would collect all the queries and information on it in one place.  I have not changed the titles in the original posts so that the discussions pertaining to them can be followed.
All best,
Johnm

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