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Author Topic: Uncle Dave Macon tunings  (Read 2512 times)

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Offline uncle bud

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Uncle Dave Macon tunings
« on: June 10, 2012, 11:16:16 AM »
OK, I probably know the answer to this one already. I've looked online and found very little on Uncle Dave Macon's banjo tunings. I am starting to cobble together some of this information (very preliminary!!) but of course prefer not to reinvent the wheel. And besides, I'm not a banjo ace by any stretch of anyone's wildest imagination.

Is there something out there already, other than the bits and pieces one can find on a few Banjo Hangout threads and the banjo tunings file at http://zeppmusic.com/banjo/aktuning.htm. I ain't found much myself.

Offline frankie

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Re: Uncle Dave Macon tunings
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2012, 11:56:27 AM »
you looking for a song by song breakdown, or just an idea of the ones that occur most frequently? these may be at various pitches depending on whaat works for his voice....

basic G (gDGBD)
regular C (gCGBD)
full C (gCGCE)

those 3 seem to cover most of his ground. there may be a tune or two where he uses double C (gCGCD) or full D (f#DF#AD). i can't  say i recall specific examples of these two, though (chris?).

with uncle dave,  i 'd say the real work is in the picking hand...  woweee!!!!!!!

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: Uncle Dave Macon tunings
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2012, 12:09:57 PM »
I don't have a good answer for you, since I learn UDM songs by re-singing them to myself and then, later, add banjo, usually without going back to check against the original recording (that's sinful, I know). The only Macon video I know of is  "Take Me Back to my Old Carolina Home," and he plays it in open G (gDGBD). Since he learned much of his fancy picking from entertainers staying at his parents' Nashville hotel, I would assume most of those pieces are in minstrel or standard C tuning (gCGBD), because entertainers usually didn't have time to retune instruments when on stage. I haven't tried to check what key they're really in. Without actually checking whether it's anything like his playing, I find D a convenient key for singing many of his songs, and for those, I use my favorite tuning: open D (aDF#AD), but I don't know if Macon ever used the tuning. I would be surprised if he ever used open C (gCGCE), since many of his songs have a "ti" note (i.e., B note in the key of C), which does not normally appear in songs suited to the open C tuning.

Lyle

Offline frankie

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Re: Uncle Dave Macon tunings
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2012, 12:27:17 PM »
I would be surprised if he ever used open C (gCGCE), since many of his songs have a "ti" note (i.e., B note in the key of C), which does not normally appear in songs suited to the open C tuning.

hi lyle - he used full C quite a bit... titles that come to mind are "when reuben comes to town " and "sassy sam", but there are many other examples... sometimes when playing with sam,  he 'll play in this tuning but capoed up, along with sam.

i'm kind of having an "uncle dave study group " moment, so if i find some time i can try a first pass through the bear family set. he IS the greatest old time banjo picker of time, after all....

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: Uncle Dave Macon tunings
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2012, 12:48:15 PM »
Then I stand corrected. I made that comment without having tried to closely imitate his playing (I've never been able to master 3-finger picking).

Lyle

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Uncle Dave Macon tunings
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2012, 02:22:02 PM »
I believe he played Railroadin' and Gamblin' in open C as well. Possibly Rise When the Rooster Crows too.

(I'll just add a note here that anything I post in this thread has the potential to be complete horse crud. I am figuring this stuff out here and there, which is why I brought the subject up.)

Frankie, I had got as far as Uncle Dave using G, C and full/open C tunings and was indeed thinking more of a song by song thing. He's pitched differently on different tunes, so some kind of reference would be cool. I didn't get much further than that, aside from making some very preliminary notes on some songs, like I said.

I sure do agree that it's the right hand working all the magic. Yowza.

edited to add: BTW, my original thought was to post songs' tunings as they occurred to me, building a list gradually, and anyone else could join in and hopefully they would. But if anyone's crazy enough to tackle more, I say have at it!  :P  I also fully expected to be shown the error of my ways on more than one occasion...
« Last Edit: June 10, 2012, 03:51:59 PM by uncle bud »

Offline Witty Username

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Re: Uncle Dave Macon tunings
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2012, 07:01:04 PM »
here the ones I play (open for dispute):
the Bible's True   gCGBD
Worthy of Estimation  gCGCE
Saro Jane  gDGBD
Oh Lovin' Babe  gDGBD
That's Where my Money Goes gDGBD
when reubin comes to town  gCGCE
I'm Going Away in the Morning gCGBD
Gray Cat on a Tennessee Farm gCGCE (at D)
I'm the Child to Fight gDGBD
That'll Never Happen Again  gCGBD
Nashville Girls  gCGCE
We're Up Against it Now gDGBD
« Last Edit: June 10, 2012, 07:05:55 PM by Witty Username »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Uncle Dave Macon tunings
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2012, 11:39:35 PM »
Pretty sure the only three tunings he uses are the ones Frankie mentioned, set at various pitches. He often carried more than one banjo to facilitate this. I started to go through the Bear Family set song by song once and maybe will get back to that process this week and post what I have.

Railroadin' and Gamblin' and Rise When the Rooster Crows are definitely in open C (along with many many others).
Chris

Offline frankie

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Re: Uncle Dave Macon tunings
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2012, 05:15:07 PM »
it IS possible to have too much of a good thing. listening to THAT much contiguous uncle dave DOES have unintended negaative side effects.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Uncle Dave Macon tunings
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2012, 06:12:49 PM »
One thing that drives me nuts about Uncle Dave is that several of his catchiest tunes, melodically speaking, are also his most racist.

Offline Witty Username

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Re: Uncle Dave Macon tunings
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2012, 06:33:22 PM »
One thing that drives me nuts about Uncle Dave is that several of his catchiest tunes, melodically speaking, are also his most racist.

Man that's annoying, ain't it? And I am not good enough with words to make new ones so I end up singing: New Hippy in Town; Run, Hippy, Run; the Hippy that had the Razor...that gets old pretty quick.

Offline frankie

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Re: Uncle Dave Macon tunings
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2012, 06:57:20 PM »
One thing that drives me nuts about Uncle Dave is that several of his catchiest tunes, melodically speaking, are also his most racist.

pickaninny lullaby..... i'd love to figure out a way to make THAT one singable. not gonna happen without a COMPLETE rewrite!

Offline banjochris

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Re: Uncle Dave Macon tunings
« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2012, 09:04:10 PM »
One thing that drives me nuts about Uncle Dave is that several of his catchiest tunes, melodically speaking, are also his most racist.

Man that's annoying, ain't it? And I am not good enough with words to make new ones so I end up singing: New Hippy in Town; Run, Hippy, Run; the Hippy that had the Razor...that gets old pretty quick.

I always thought "Bully had the razor" might fit the song pretty well. And Uncle Dave himself sang "New Dude in Town" in the '30s.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2012, 09:53:55 PM by banjochris »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Uncle Dave Macon tunings
« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2012, 09:04:59 PM »
One thing that drives me nuts about Uncle Dave is that several of his catchiest tunes, melodically speaking, are also his most racist.

pickaninny lullaby..... i'd love to figure out a way to make THAT one singable. not gonna happen without a COMPLETE rewrite!

Racist language not withstanding, that's one of the greatest, weirdest old-time songs ever.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Uncle Dave Macon tunings
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2012, 09:18:34 PM »
OK, here's Disc 1 of the Bear Family set. I found one unusual-ish tuning Uncle Dave used besides his standard three.

Tunings:
G - gDGBD
C - gCGBD
open C - gCGCE
aDGCD - played in F position - 03203

Also, on these early records Uncle Dave is tuned insanely high or the records are sped up, probably a combination of both. He tunes high later on but not, if I remember, to this extent. Corrections/suggestions most welcome. Disc 2 will follow...

Also, where Uncle Dave or Sid Harkreader announces the title of a tune in a medley not part of the record title, or where I recognize the tune, I have added it in parentheses.


SongTuningPitch
July 8, 1924
Keep My Skillet Good And GreasyGB+
Hill Billie Bluesopen CE
Old Maid's Last Hope (A Burglar Song)CE
All I've Got's GoneCE+
The Fox Chaseopen CE+
July 9, 1924
Papa's Billie Goat (w/Sugar in the Gourd)open CE+
July 10, 1924
The Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane (Sid Harkreader sings)open CG
(She Was Always) Chewing Gum (w/Shortening Bread)open CG
Jonah And The Whaleopen CG
I'm Going Away To Leave You LoveGB++
Love SomebodyCD#
Soldier's JoyC?D#
July 11, 1924
Bile Them Cabbage DownGBb+
Down By The RiveraDGCD (F position)F#+
April 13, 1925
Run Nigger Runopen CD+
Old Dan Tucker (w/Casey Jones)open CD+
Station Will Be Changed After a Whileopen CD+
Rooster Crow Medleyopen CD+
Going Across The Seaopen CD+
Just From Tennessee (w/Cotton-Eyed Joe)open CD+
April 14, 1925
Watermelon Smilin' On The Vine (w/Listen to the Mockingbird)CE+
All-Go-Hungry Hash HouseCE+
From Jerusalem To Jericho (w/Nearer My God to Thee)CE+
I Tickled NancyCE+
April 15, 1925
Arkansas Traveler (w/Grey Eagle - Uncle Dave retunes)C/GD+/A+
The Girl I Left Behind Me (w/An Old Southern Melody)UD on guitarG+
« Last Edit: June 12, 2012, 08:05:43 PM by banjochris »