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Thread: What alternate tunings and why

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    Registered User CelticDude's Avatar
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    Default What alternate tunings and why

    Hey all,

    I'm thinking I might try alternate tunings on my "beater mando", but I'm not sure where to start. The only obvious one to me is GDAD, which may be cool for some tunes in D. Are there others?

    More importantly, when do you use these, and on what tunes?

    Any pointing in the right direction is appreciated.

    DWP

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    DADGAD is a guitar players favorite for the resonant Ds, there are several alternate tunings .

    Ritchey Havens has a long career as a Singer , Just plays his guitar with his thumb, and a finger,

    barring across an open tuned chord. it has worked for him, for 40 years.

    Fiddlers sometimes change the tuning , to get the drones like pipers use, perhaps?
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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    Yank Rachell tuned his E B F# C# to play blues sounds good with the lower tone
    fred davis

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    You're lucky ( i can't believe i said that !! ) not to be a Banjo player, as there are over a 100
    alternative tunings for it. (please no comments like 'and not one of 'ems right'). I used to use a few tunings back when i'd been playing for a few years & i know of one alternative tuning for the Mandolin (whatever it is),the one that Bill Monroe used to play "Get Up John". Us Mandolin players seem to have enough worries keeping in 'normal tuning' without resorting to piling on the pain of re-tuning - that's my 2p (5 cents worth),
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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    Ivan: what WAS that alternate mandolin tuning you spoke of? Suppose it would be like an "open D" or something, that would allow barre's for Jamming settings?

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    Registered User billkilpatrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    here's the list:

    http://www.mandolin-player.com/instr...n/tunings.html

    ... you choose.

    to me, open tunings are much of a muchness - like in films where the heroine is engaged in a grimy, butch activity that her absent husband/lover/father/son (you choose) should be doing and she suddenly stops to tidy a loose stand of hair and focus on a tiny speck limping towards her from a distant horizon ... a gush of violins; there's that theme again - WAYTOOLOUD! etc., etc. and as you fumble for the volume control you think: "man like ooo ... how many times have we been here?"

    don't get me wrong, drones are nice - i like drones - but one bagpipe tune or oud taksim sounds pretty much like another.

    gdae - ahhh ...
    Last edited by billkilpatrick; Jun-21-2009 at 9:02am.

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    Registered User CelticDude's Avatar
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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    Okay, so the main point of these alternate tunings is to allow for drones (fancy double stops, in other words.) And GDAD seems to be the main one. I talked to a friend who is playing bouzouki as well as mandolin, and is using this. He likes it, especially for back-up, but points out that it generally means using a capo for keys other than D (and relative modes presumably.)

    Bill, thanks for the link. I'm vaguely recalling Barb posting a link to someone doing a tune in GDGD (listed in your link, which is why I remembered it.) So I'll try that one first.

    DWP

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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    Diff'rent strokes...I often find an open or modal mandolin tune very charming/moody/mellow - depending on the tuning used, which I think is the whole point of using them - each has its own flavor. They do need to be alternated with other things though, or that drone that is so useful on occasion can become tiresome.

    Listen to Skip Gorman's 2-disc set 'Mandolin In The Cow Camp'. Mostly solo mando instrumentals & he uses 5 or 6 alternate tunings. Having a second mando on hand for jams or live playing makes open tunings more feasible. Obviously a recording project has infinite flexibility.

    And yes, GDGD for key of G tunes is a good choice. The lessened tension seems to make my old oval hole even more mellow. AEAE for A would offer the same advantages of noting, though with an overall increase of tension on the instrument. An advantages of this tuning is that any run on the 1st set of strings can be duplicated an octave lower on the 3rd. Ditto 2nd & 4th.
    Last edited by Michael Gowell; Jun-21-2009 at 11:55am.

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    Registered User Don Grieser's Avatar
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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    DWP,

    I'm quite fond of GDGD tuning and drones. Here's two videos of tunes done in GDGD tuning. Warning: it's addicting.




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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    Interesting (GDGD)..........how well does that work in a Jam setting? Barre a lot for key changes?

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    Registered User CelticDude's Avatar
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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    Don,

    Thanks for the videos. This is exactly what I was looking for - something that gives me an idea of what to do with these tunings. Nice playing, BTW, and nice mando.

    DWP

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    Registered User Don Grieser's Avatar
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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    DWP, Once you figure out where the notes are, anything you do on the top two strings work on the bottom two strings too. It's just tricky crossing the middle pair, from D to G instead of D to A.

    Soupy, alternate tuning is the perfect reason for a second mandolin. I wouldn't try to play a bunch of tunes I didn't know that well in GDGD in a jam session.

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    jbmando RIP HK Jim Broyles's Avatar
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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    Quote Originally Posted by Soupy1957 View Post
    Interesting (GDGD)..........how well does that work in a Jam setting? Barre a lot for key changes?

    Truth to tell, it doesn't, as your only mandolin. Unless you do a whole lot of songs in G. Or unless it's an Irish jam.
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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    Soupy - I play GDGD in jams for key of G songs only, but it seems half the time the key called is G. For G I mostly play 0000 or 0005, C is 5200 and D is 2020. You can just bar at 5 for a C and bar 7 for D but the unvaried sound isn't as interesting. Other chord voicings are available.

    I suppose you could just play the appropriate bar chords for any key all the way up - open is G, bar 2 is A, bar 4 is B, 5 is C, etc, but the unvaried voicings aren't very satisfying. The easy, almost automatic doublestops available for single note melody work offer more room for creative exploration, I think.

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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    I'm sure it would be somewhat limiting (GDGD) but then again,........I like to explore different approaches to songs.

    It's very true that at most of the "Jams" it's either in the key of G, or the key of A.........lol. (sometimes they throw in the key of Bb).

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    Have a look at this page for 'some' of the alternative tunings i mentioned. The tuning that i used to use,was called 'Mountain Minor' & it's so long since i used it,i really can't remember what it was.
    Just found it ! - gDGCD 5th string thro.to 1st string,
    Ivan
    zeppmusic.com/banjo/aktuning.htm
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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    (nevermind)

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    mandolin's Lord Voldemort mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    GDAD (one step lower: FCGD - Mike Doucet uses this on fiddle for Denis McGee tunes like "Cowboy Waltz")

    GDGD (AEAE, FCFC )

    GCGD (ADAE)

    ADAD

    There's some alternate tuning stuff/tunes in The Mandola Sampler, easily put onto mandolin.


    You can also tune it 5ths, but not necessarily to a low G string. FCGD, E-B-F#-C#, Eb-Bb-F-C. Higher than G?.....use your capo!

    There is also the use of "partial capos" which cover 2 or 3 strings. These, combine with the uncapod open string(s) can give you the sonic equivalent of an alternate tuning(s), but up the neck, you still remain in standard 5ths. Lengthy article about the numerous fret placements and their resultant "psuedo-tunings" in Mandocrucian's Digest #26

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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    Ritchey Havens has a long career as a Singer , Just plays his guitar with his thumb, and a finger,

    I think he also used a pick to flail away at the strings. And if you look at the top of his guitar in the Woodstock movie, that poor guitar didn't stand a chance

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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    Now wait a minute.............you're now switching to guitars........DADF#AD is common for me; I keep at least one of my guitars in DADF#AD all the time. (As well as "Drop D").

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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanN View Post
    I think he also used a pick to flail away at the strings. And if you look at the top of his guitar in the Woodstock movie, that poor guitar didn't stand a chance
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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    I would suggest if you're going to use that GDAD tuning, that you go and raise the G to an A(ADAD). You can get some nice thump out of that. As someone else mentioned it can become somewhat addictive and I've been stuck pretty good on this one for about 5 months now. Capo on the 2nd and you can pulloff some crazy E blues,, ahhh Then people will say I've never seen a capo on a mando to which youre only reply can be "I know"

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    Registered User tassiespirit's Avatar
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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    CelticDude, on youtube, there's a guy that tunes his mando the same way he tunes is 5 string banjo. Open G - DGBD and chords it the same way, easier to remember if you play both instruments, but I don't like the sound it makes. Maybe you would need to change the sizes of your strings to achieve it though. Anyway, I will try and find that video.................
    Allan Midgley
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    Registered User tassiespirit's Avatar
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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    Allan Midgley
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: What alternate tunings and why

    I play a fair amount of old time fiddle and the tunings I use are basically standard and these:

    gdgd (sometimes we just tune low and play A tunes)
    aeae (a bunch of A tunes)
    aeac# (called Black Mountain tuning fior that tune -- nice haunting upper droning)
    ddad (Midnight on the Water and a few other choice tunes with that deep low course -- you usually don't fret that low string but let it ring as much as possible)

    Of course, on mandolin I rarely re-tune since you have twice as many strings.
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