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Thread: Playing fiddle tunes and hymn melodies

  1. #1
    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
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    Default Playing fiddle tunes and hymn melodies

    In the playing of fiddle tunes and melodies, how do you proceed. I do not want to use just mandolin fingerings. I want to learn the tunes in the proper keys, for CGDA tuning. I know that I can't be fast like a mandoln (a lot of times played) is oft played, but a more simple melodic version of fiddle tunes or gospel tunes. In playing chord backup i plan to lightly strum chords or double stops.

    That is my plan. What do you think? Does it sound consistent with how a tenor ought to be played?

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    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing fiddle tunes and hymn melodies

    Sounds good to me. And ... "If it sounds good, it IS good." (Count Basie, I think)
    New to mando? Click this link -->Newbies to join us at the Newbies Social Group.

    Just send an email to rob.meldrum@gmail.com with "mandolin setup" in the subject line and he will email you a copy of his ebook for free (free to all mandolincafe members).

    My website and blog: honketyhank.com

  3. #3

    Default Re: Playing fiddle tunes and hymn melodies

    Quote Originally Posted by J.C. Bryant View Post
    In the playing of fiddle tunes and melodies, how do you proceed. I do not want to use just mandolin fingerings. I want to learn the tunes in the proper keys, for CGDA tuning. I know that I can't be fast like a mandoln (a lot of times played) is oft played, but a more simple melodic version of fiddle tunes or gospel tunes. In playing chord backup i plan to lightly strum chords or double stops.

    That is my plan. What do you think? Does it sound consistent with how a tenor ought to be played?
    I highly recommend getting the book Mel Bay's Complete Tenor Banjo Method. It's usually around $15US, and will teach you how to read music on CGDA tuned instruments.

    After that, you can get and work through Mel Bay's Tenor Banjo Melody Chord Playing System (around $20US) if you want to learn how to how to play gospel tunes with chords.

    In addition to using those two books to really master CGDA tuning for myself, I also used the Mel Bay's Deluxe Encyclopedia of Tenor Banjo Chords, which has different inversions of the same chord all the way up the neck. I practiced the inversions up and down to really get them down, which then allowed me to keep chord progressions in the same general spot in the neck at any given point, leading to better voice leading.

    All that is down the road, of course, but I highly recommend learning from the knowledge base of the instrument (tenor banjo) from which the tenor guitar came.

    Incidentally, my use of these books came after I was exploring what was available to really learn mandola tuning (also CGDA). These resources moved my playing miles ahead of where years of self experimentation had managed to get.

    Whatever you choose to do, good luck!
    Playing a no-point 14-fret-to-the-body oval-hole with scroll, a Flatiron 1SH mandola (original owner), a McNally Ukulele Strumstick in CGDA mandola tuning, a McNally 4-string Chromatic Strumstick in GDAE octave mandolin tuning, and rocking my six-course, unison-tuned 12-string Ovation mandophone/extended cittern in CGDAEB Full Fifths Tuning...

  4. #4
    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing fiddle tunes and hymn melodies

    thank you for your response. "explorer" I have just ordered the Tenor Banjo book. Thanks

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    Registered User bruce.b's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing fiddle tunes and hymn melodies

    If fiddle tunes are a goal it makes so much more sense to tune it to octave mandolin tuning, GDAE.

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    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing fiddle tunes and hymn melodies

    Thanks bruce.b, A BR 40T I could tune to GDAE, but how about a Martin 5-15T or a Kala, would they tune readily to GDAE?

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing fiddle tunes and hymn melodies

    I worked at playing fiddle tunes in their original key, working up the neck when I have to etc. The hardest thing was the stretch. Much easier to go to chromatic playing, one finger one fret, but that can goof up my head.

    All that work, just to play single not melody? When the tenor guitar is capable of so very much more? I think Explorer's advice is spot on. Learn the tenor guitar as a tenor, and play it as a tenor. That is the conclusion I am coming to.
    Indulge responsibly!

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  9. #8
    Registered User bruce.b's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing fiddle tunes and hymn melodies

    Hi J.C.,
    The Kala is the only one that might not work well in GDAE. I had a Kala for a while and loved it tuned CGDA, but didn’t feel it handled octave mandolin tuning well.

    JeffD, I don’t understand your point. Is this an argument for tuning it CGDA as opposed to GDAE? GDAE, IMO, is better for taking advantage of the full capabilities of a tenor guitar when playing fiddle tunes. You have the tonic of both G and A, and the fifth of D on the first string. It allows you to really fill out the bottom while playing the tune and puts the instrument in a more useful range. It makes it easier to play any fiddle or mandolin tune in the proper key with the same fingering. You can look at any tab for them and use it. I sold my Kala because it only worked well in CGDA, and that tuning forced me to simplify almost every fiddle tune I played due to the loss of the low range. When I first started I was advised by an exceptional player to use mandolin fingering, which I strongly believe was the proper advice. I have normal sized hands for my height (6’), and while my pinky took a lot of work, the other fingers felt comfortable right away. I did play wooden flute and low whistle before this, so perhaps that made the stretches easy?

    It’s a totally different story if you are playing other types of music where the tenor guitar has historically had a role. Then you want to play it in the original tuning, for most of the same reasons playing fiddle tunes works better in GDAE.

  10. #9
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing fiddle tunes and hymn melodies

    I think you can quite successfully tune a short scale & smaller body in GDAE, it just takes experimentation with the strings.
    It wont work very well with the standard string sets you can buy, but by using guitar singles it should be fairly easy.
    I would start with 13p 22w 32w 50w.
    You might get intonation issues though as the thick G string will likely be sharp without some nut & saddle work.

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