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I'm so blue, my house got washed away. And I'm crying 'How long 'fore another payday? - Barbecue Bob Hicks, Mississippi Heavy Water Blues

Author Topic: Adventures in EAEGBE tuning  (Read 7615 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Re: Adventures in EAEGBE tuning
« Reply #15 on: March 19, 2012, 06:16:30 PM »
Which of Mance's albums was that on originally, Chris?  Was it on "Trouble In Mind"?  I'll check when I'm down in Seattle this week.
All best,
Johnm

Offline banjochris

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Re: Adventures in EAEGBE tuning
« Reply #16 on: March 19, 2012, 08:06:16 PM »
Yes, on "Trouble in Mind."

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Adventures in EAEGBE tuning
« Reply #17 on: March 20, 2012, 05:20:39 AM »
Could Mance Lipscomb's "Which Way Do Red River Run" be a candidate for this tuning, do you think? It sounds different than his vestapol stuff, although it could be in E standard. I seem to remember a comment from him about "triple E" or something like that in probably the "Parable" book.
Chris

I don't have the Parable book (need that), but it would be interesting to find this tuning named "in the wild", as it were, by a practitioner. 

Offline banjochris

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Re: Adventures in EAEGBE tuning
« Reply #18 on: March 20, 2012, 09:31:48 AM »
I'll see if I can find the reference tonight. I thought it was interesting when I first came across it, because Mance definitely tunes down for vestapol, so I wouldn't think he'd refer to vestapol as an E tuning.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Adventures in EAEGBE tuning
« Reply #19 on: March 22, 2012, 04:01:03 PM »
Hi Chris,
I think that "Which Way Do Red River Run" is in E, standard tuning, after all, because in the third line of each verse, when he slides up to the fourth fret of the first string, you can hear the bass, which has been doing an octave alternation from I on the sixth string to I on the fourth string, switch to an alternation from I on the sixth string to II on the fourth string.  In standard tuning, that II note lives on the fourth fret of the fourth string, same as the note he's sliding into on the first string.  In the EAEGBE tuning, the II note would live at the second fret of the fourth string, and it would be a quixotic choice to coincide with a slide to the fourth fret on the first string.  The song is also definitely not in Vestapol, because you can hear a hammer from the minor to the major third on the third string that would only be available in cross-note, EAEGBE or standard tuning, E position.  I think you figured it right in the first place, as E position in standard tuning.
All best,
Johnm

Offline banjochris

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Re: Adventures in EAEGBE tuning
« Reply #20 on: March 22, 2012, 08:52:08 PM »
Thanks, John. I still need to track down that "triple E" reference, though.

Offline ScottN

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Re: Adventures in EAEGBE tuning
« Reply #21 on: March 23, 2012, 12:03:54 AM »
In the paperback copy of Parable I have there is areference on page 456 to "thribble e" but the reference seems to be to a tuning used by Muddy Waters for slide and "Near about like one style Blind Willie Johnson would tune his gittah in."

Gotta say I'm pretty impressed by your memory banjochris :-)

Offline banjochris

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Re: Adventures in EAEGBE tuning
« Reply #22 on: March 23, 2012, 09:55:45 AM »
That's the one Scott, thanks! He must be referring to vestapol there. Oh well.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Adventures in EAEGBE tuning
« Reply #23 on: April 03, 2012, 09:18:16 AM »
Here's one that's bugging me. A Library of Congress recording made by John Lomax in 1941 of Tom Bell in Livingston, Alabama.

The song is called "Cross E Shimmy Dance Tune". I am wondering if it is a candidate for EAEGBE tuning but danged if I can nail it down yet. I think the whole thing could be played in E standard, a more likely scenario. But why the title? I don't believe it is Cross Note tuning as the song title might suggest, as you can hear the A bass on the IV7 chord, as well as a hammer-on or walk-up to the B bass in the V chord. The V chord does not have the 7th on the 4th string as far as I can hear. There is a rather ringy sound to the bass strings in the I chord. Sample attached.

Another possible clue: Tom Bell does another song called "Corrina" which uses the ED Bell signature lick from Mamlish Blues and other songs in that family. As I've speculated before, Ed Bell may very well have used EAEGBE tuning for some of his material, the Mamlish stuff in particular.

Tom Bell does at least one other tune in an E position that sounds more like E standard to me - "I Can Eagle Rock, Lord I Can Ball the Jack".

Finally, does anyone know anything about Tom Bell? I only have a digital version, so no notes. The tunes appeared on I Can Eagle Rock: Jook Joint Blues Libary of Congress Recordings 1940-41 (Travelin' Man). Was anything known about him? Any relation to Ed Bell? He uses the same Mamlish lick, has a rather African sound like Ed Bell. (And therefore, he's pretty great in my books.)

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Offline uncle bud

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Re: Adventures in EAEGBE tuning
« Reply #24 on: April 03, 2012, 09:22:28 AM »
And here is that version of Corrina as additional reference. It's not the usual Corrina, he's just using the name in the song.

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Offline Johnm

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Re: Adventures in EAEGBE tuning
« Reply #25 on: April 03, 2012, 10:35:55 AM »
Thanks very much for putting up those tunes, uncle bud, they're terrific and I've never heard them before.  Without any conclusive evidence that would absolutely disqualify E position in standard tuning on the basis of what Tom Bell played (and Vestapol and cross-note are disqualified, as you noted), I would say that both pieces are played out of the EAEGBE tuning.  For "Cross E Shimmy Dance Tune", the descending lick he plays at the very beginning of the song ends up each time with him hitting a I note on the fourth string an octave above the sixth string.  In E standard the lick is by no means undoable, but it makes the left hand a bit busy and crowded.  In EAEGBE, the same lick is simple and clean in the left hand.  As he gets into the same piece, the varied and nuanced activity on the second and third strings at the base of the neck over the I chord would not be too ambitious in EAEGBE, because you can free-hand the whole thing--in E standard it would be much more difficult, having to hold down the octave E at the second fret of the fourth string.
For "Corinna", the EAEGBE tuning makes the execution of the tune simple and transparent in the best possible way.  What is played just makes so much more sense if you assume the fourth string is never fretted and is only struck when it is open.
Great finds and great catches!  I really like that first verse of "Cross E Shimmy Dance", too:

   I can stand in Bessemer, light in Birmingham

All best,
Johnm

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Adventures in EAEGBE tuning
« Reply #26 on: April 03, 2012, 12:20:33 PM »
Thanks John. He's pretty cool, isn't he? There are 5 other songs from 1940 and they are all interesting. There is another recording from 1937 of Stagolee (listed as unaccompanied vocal in B&GR) that I haven't heard.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Adventures in EAEGBE tuning
« Reply #27 on: December 06, 2012, 10:46:56 AM »
Hi all,
Two more songs that I've come to believe were played in the EAEGBE tuning, though pitched at D, were Robert Wilkins' songs "Jail House Blues" and "I Do Blues", both recorded on September 8, 1928 in Memphis.  They were the only tunes Robert Wilkins recorded that day.  The two songs are perfectly in tune with each other, and both were played out of the same position.  As with several of the Ed Bell songs cited earlier in this thread, "Jailhouse Blues" and "I Do Blues" could both be played in E position, standard tuning, and I've transcribed them and played them that way, but  they turn out to be considerably easier and "more natural" to play out of the EAEGBE tuning.  What are some of the factors in Robert Wilkins' sound on these songs that suggest the EAEGBE tuning as opposed to E position standard tuning or cross-note?
   * Cross-note is disqualified from the word go, because Wilkins plays a low root in his IV chord on both of these songs, with a conventional A7 sound in the treble.
   * Robert Wilkins never sounds a note lower in pitch than the root of the I chord on his fourth string in either of these songs.  This means, in effect, there are no hammers into the octave root on the fourth string, nor is the third of the V7 chord ever struck or sounded at the first fret of the fourth string.  In fact, Robert Wilkins avoids striking the fourth string altogether on his V7 chord, choosing instead to skip right over it and hit the third string, much as Ed Bell does on his songs in the EAEGBE tuning.
   * In "I Do Blues", Robert Wilkins in his third bar does a thumb drag-through from the open sixth string to the fourth fret of the fifth string to the second fret of the fourth string, as played in standard tuning.  This lays so awkwardly in the left hand that I was always somewhat bemused by his choice to make the lick an integral part of his arrangement.  As played in EAEGBE tuning, the only note in the drag-through that would be fretted would be the fourth fret of the fifth string, which could easily be free-handed.

As has been noted earlier in this thread, it is easier to disqualify songs from having been conclusively played in the EAEGBE tuning than it is to say with certainty that songs were definitely played in that tuning.  In recent years, though, we've been discovering that country blues players often altered their tunings slightly to gain subtle advantages for the left hand, so as to allow it to free-hand more rather than be stuck holding down a chordal position.  I believe that is what Robert Wilkins did on these two songs.  They can certainly be played in E standard, but they work better and are easier in the EAEGBE tuning.
All best,
Johnm

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Adventures in EAEGBE tuning
« Reply #28 on: December 12, 2012, 01:12:06 PM »
Thanks for that, John. I will have to explore this a bit more. I Do Blues has always been a favourite that I've wanted to learn one day. I do play Jail House Blues occasionally, and funnily enough, when playing some other stuff in EAEGBE tuning, often tuned down a whole step, I have launched into the song without bothering to retune, simply because the 4th string is unnecessary to the song. I'll also play it in E standard at concert pitch, also out of laziness re. retuning :), but it's cooler tuned down.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Adventures in EAEGBE tuning
« Reply #29 on: January 27, 2014, 06:35:05 PM »
Hi all,
I've been working on "Peg Leg Howell's "New Prison Blues" the past couple of days for a lesson, and am convinced that he played it in the EAEGBE tuning.  In the entire course of his rendition, he never hits a note except the I note on his fourth string, which is what that string would be in this tuning.  He pretty much side-steps the V chord altogether, and does lots of thumb brushes in which he's sounding the I note on the fourth string while moving around fairly freely on the third string--nothing that would be absolutely impossible to play out of E position in standard tuning, but all considerably easier to play out of the EAEGBE tuning.  There is so much droniness, too, with that fourth string never changing in pitch.
One of the major advantages of this tuning I'm coming to realize after having worked on material that was played in it by Clifford Gibson, Henry Spaulding and Furry Lewis is that it makes it possible to free-hand in the treble over both the I chord and the IV chords, or E and A, if you prefer to think of them that way.  It really frees things up so much to be able to move around in the treble without having to worry about holding down chordal positions.  You almost feel as though you could start to enter Robert Pete Williams territory, where you can free-hand everything.  It's certainly something well worth exploring.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: January 28, 2014, 11:59:00 AM by Johnm »

 


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