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When I die, they'll say, "He couldn't play shit, but he sure made it sound good!" - Hound Dog Taylor

Author Topic: Variations in Standard Tuning  (Read 4430 times)

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Offline eric

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Re: Variations in Standard Tuning
« Reply #15 on: February 22, 2011, 10:53:38 AM »
This forum is the best thing for this music since Yazoo.  I remember listening to some of these guys, like Funny Papa, and thinking wow, he's really out of tune.  But then realizing that there was a certain consistency; guys like the Reverend had their own concept of the sound in their head.  So thanks guys, for validating my sanity.  I'm always learning something here.
--
Eric

Offline Mike McLaren

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Re: Variations in Standard Tuning
« Reply #16 on: February 23, 2011, 12:00:58 AM »
I might be mistaken, but I think I read once that Robert Pete Williams never worried about the tuning, he just tuned the strings to whatever he wanted to hear, which a lot of times was just the first and second strings.
Woke up this morning... I think.

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Variations in Standard Tuning
« Reply #17 on: February 23, 2011, 01:48:37 AM »
Just been catching up on this thread and notice it was started with a reference to Big Bill Broonzy. One of the first blues LPs I managed to buy was on the Xtra label - Big Bill, Sonny and Brownie in conversation with Studs Terkel for a radio programme recorded in the fifties sometime. Terkel quizzes Big Bill on his approach to tuning and, to paraphrase, the explanation is that being slightly out of tune enabled Bill to push the strings in to tune when he was playing. Big Bill had an answer for everything!

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Variations in Standard Tuning
« Reply #18 on: February 23, 2011, 05:01:51 AM »
Just been catching up on this thread and notice it was started with a reference to Big Bill Broonzy. One of the first blues LPs I managed to buy was on the Xtra label - Big Bill, Sonny and Brownie in conversation with Studs Terkel for a radio programme recorded in the fifties sometime. Terkel quizzes Big Bill on his approach to tuning and, to paraphrase, the explanation is that being slightly out of tune enabled Bill to push the strings in to tune when he was playing. Big Bill had an answer for everything!
The LP in question can be viewed (front and back) at Stefan's 'under construction' Xtra discography. http://www.wirz.de/music/xtrafrm.htm

Offline Pan

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Re: Variations in Standard Tuning
« Reply #19 on: February 23, 2011, 05:45:26 AM »
Just been catching up on this thread and notice it was started with a reference to Big Bill Broonzy. One of the first blues LPs I managed to buy was on the Xtra label - Big Bill, Sonny and Brownie in conversation with Studs Terkel for a radio programme recorded in the fifties sometime. Terkel quizzes Big Bill on his approach to tuning and, to paraphrase, the explanation is that being slightly out of tune enabled Bill to push the strings in to tune when he was playing. Big Bill had an answer for everything!
The LP in question can be viewed (front and back) at Stefan's 'under construction' Xtra discography. http://www.wirz.de/music/xtrafrm.htm

That's interesting. I have an old folkways record (Folkways FS 3817) with the same personnel and host, Studs Terkel, with a slighltly different songlist. Maybe there was more material that could be fitted to a single LP? My LP has this cover: http://www.musicstack.com/item/333829057

Heres' the songlist on my LP

Keys To The Highway

Red River Blues

Crow Jane Blues

Willie Mae

Daisy

Louise

Shuffle Rag

Blues

Beautiful City

I'm Gonna Tell God How You Treat Me

Sinner Man

The Saints Go Marchin' In

To further muddy the waters, on e-bay, there's another LP with the same front cover, but yet another songlist (unless it's a scam of some kind?): http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Blues-Bill-Broonzy-Sonny-Terry-B-McGhee-Folkways-LP_W0QQitemZ130488708130QQcategoryZ64873QQcmdZViewItemQQ_trksidZp4340.m263QQ_trkparmsZalgo%3DDLSL%252BSIC%26its%3DI%26itu%3DUCI%252BIA%252BUA%252BFICS%252BUFI%252BDDSIC%26otn%3D8%26pmod%3D310282286638%252B310282286638%26po%3D%26ps%3D63%26clkid%3D7290078577166341365

Cheers and sorry for the OT

Pan

Offline Stuart

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Re: Variations in Standard Tuning
« Reply #20 on: February 23, 2011, 08:04:12 AM »
Hi Pan:

Here's the link to the Smithsonian-Folkways page:

http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=595

http://media.smithsonianfolkways.org/liner_notes/folkways/FW03817.pdf

As for the discrepancies between the track list on your copy and that listed on the S-F site, you might check the transcription in the liner notes against the content of your copy of the LP.

I have the Folkways LP as well. My guess is that the eBay track listing is an error (the track listing was copied from http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=2095). And without hearing the Xtra LP or knowing all the facts, I can only speculate about the additional material on the XTRA LP.

Just been catching up on this thread and notice it was started with a reference to Big Bill Broonzy. One of the first blues LPs I managed to buy was on the Xtra label - Big Bill, Sonny and Brownie in conversation with Studs Terkel for a radio programme recorded in the fifties sometime. Terkel quizzes Big Bill on his approach to tuning and, to paraphrase, the explanation is that being slightly out of tune enabled Bill to push the strings in to tune when he was playing. Big Bill had an answer for everything!
The LP in question can be viewed (front and back) at Stefan's 'under construction' Xtra discography. http://www.wirz.de/music/xtrafrm.htm

That's interesting. I have an old folkways record (Folkways FS 3817) with the same personnel and host, Studs Terkel, with a slighltly different songlist. Maybe there was more material that could be fitted to a single LP? My LP has this cover: http://www.musicstack.com/item/333829057

Heres' the songlist on my LP

Keys To The Highway

Red River Blues

Crow Jane Blues

Willie Mae

Daisy

Louise

Shuffle Rag

Blues

Beautiful City

I'm Gonna Tell God How You Treat Me

Sinner Man

The Saints Go Marchin' In

To further muddy the waters, on e-bay, there's another LP with the same front cover, but yet another songlist (unless it's a scam of some kind?): http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Blues-Bill-Broonzy-Sonny-Terry-B-McGhee-Folkways-LP_W0QQitemZ130488708130QQcategoryZ64873QQcmdZViewItemQQ_trksidZp4340.m263QQ_trkparmsZalgo%3DDLSL%252BSIC%26its%3DI%26itu%3DUCI%252BIA%252BUA%252BFICS%252BUFI%252BDDSIC%26otn%3D8%26pmod%3D310282286638%252B310282286638%26po%3D%26ps%3D63%26clkid%3D7290078577166341365

Cheers and sorry for the OT

Pan
« Last Edit: February 23, 2011, 08:11:48 AM by Stuart »

Offline Pan

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Re: Variations in Standard Tuning
« Reply #21 on: February 23, 2011, 09:31:16 AM »
Thank you very much Stuart. I'm going to print that booklet and add it with my LP!

Cheers

Pan

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Variations in Standard Tuning
« Reply #22 on: February 23, 2011, 08:18:16 PM »
Perhaps my second record with Big Bill on it and still one of my favorites. A must have imho!
Sonny & Brownie are great on it too, even though it seems to have become hip to not accord them the respect they deserve.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline Stuart

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Variations in Standard Tuning
« Reply #24 on: February 23, 2011, 10:25:31 PM »
Sonny & Brownie are great on it too, even though it seems to have become hip to not accord them the respect they deserve.
Sadly so. In 1999 Chris Smith produced a superb 180 page, A4 bio-discography That's The Stuff The Recordings of Brownie McGhee, Sonny Terry, Stick McGhee and J.C. Burris in which he did his best to redress the perception held by many blues fans.

Offline LB

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Re: Variations in Standard Tuning
« Reply #25 on: February 24, 2011, 06:34:43 AM »
I'm not sure this phenomenon is always intentional since every guitar and person is a little different and you simply must fine tune a guitar in various song keys to make it sound right. Otherwise the flawed nature of a guitar could never "seem" to be in tune. A guitar sounding awesome with a C song might instantly sound bad switching to a song in E. You simply MUST compensate or it's not going to sound right. I have seen cases when I played around the Carolinas with many black musicians from the country in blues and gospel. One of the older guys mentioned tuning one string to 442 and before I knew it the guy I was playing with began detuning it too. I thought it sucked and I could hear that OFF sound in there. But they thought because it was unique and stood out it was a GOOD thing. There was no winning that argument so I played with them another couple years and the only two people in the group in tune was me and the pianist. A lot of country innovation can be brilliant, then some of it can just be kinda ignorant. Then again I hear modern players like Buddy Guy and to my ear he plays lead licks sharp and also sings sharp on purpose. I don't think your theory is wrong at all, but I'm not sure it's always well planned or even intentional.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Variations in Standard Tuning
« Reply #26 on: February 24, 2011, 07:15:22 AM »
I agree with you, Little Brother, and would never contend that out-of-tune playing, however euphemistically one might care to describe it, is always by design or consistent.  I would very much differentiate between players who vary their tuning by intent, more or less consistently or at least in the same way, and players like Gabriel Brown, who pretty much sounds like he either couldn't tell the difference or didn't care.
What is just as interesting to me is players who were always in tune, if not to A 440, then at least relative to whatever internal frame of reference they were using.  Peg Leg Howell is a player who falls into this category.  Granted, he had an exceptionally beautiful tone on the guitar, but his tone goes hand-in-hand with his tuning, which was spot on.  There are certainly others in this "in tune" category, as well.
All best,
Johnm 

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