Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 52

Thread: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH
    Posts
    1,926

    Default Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    Showed up to a gig with a local singer/songwriter only to find out he tunes down a half-step. A 'cheat-sheet' was provided, but I ended up just hanging onto closed positions and not looking at his fretboard.

    Must have done alright because I'm invited back next week.

    What are your strategies for accompanying players who tune down, or otherwise work "outside the box"?

  2. #2
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    40.1646° N, 74.2083° W
    Posts
    23,345

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    A key is a key. I just don't try to follow the guitar player's fingers. No different than watching a guitar player capoed up and trying to instantly transpose what I'm seeing. I just don't look.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  3. The following members say thank you to MikeEdgerton for this post:


  4. #3
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    KC MO
    Posts
    498

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    Fortunately I haven't had to deal with any musicians like that. What keys does he play in? I suppose you could tune down a half-step yourself? Otherwise just embrace up-the-neck closed-position chords and scales!
    Doug Brock
    2018 Kimble 2 point (#259), 2019 Silverangel Econo A, Eastman MD315, Eastman MDA315
    Pisgah Wonder open back banjo, cheap old German fiddle, Martin HD28, Martin D18GE, CA Guitars Bluegrass Performer

  5. #4
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Posts
    4,978

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    Well, you've discovered one good strategy already, which is don't look at a guitar player's fretboard as a clue.

    Speaking from the other side of the fence here as a guitar player, I used to attend a few local OldTime jams where I mixed mandolin melody and guitar backing. At that time, I had already fallen down the Irish trad rabbit hole, so I had my guitar tuned in Drop-D and kept it that way for OldTime jams.

    That tuning works as well for backing OldTime as it does for Irish trad, but it can confuse the heck out of people trying to "read" my fretboard if they don't realize I'm in Drop-D. It's especially confusing because many of the chord shapes are the same as Standard Tuning, but not the critical basic G shape, or the "A modal" shape further up the neck. I've noticed it befuddling people sometimes so I yell out "G!" or A!" when needed. Of course, trying to play along with a guitar player in full Standard dropped down a half step would be even worse.

    Anyway, if you end up playing frequently with dropped tuning guitar players, you'll just have to use your ears and develop proficiency in unusual keys. Either that, or bring a mandola and a capo for those situations.

  6. The following members say thank you to foldedpath for this post:


  7. #5
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    KC MO
    Posts
    498

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    A key is a key.
    Well, sort of, lol. If you like using open strings and drones on your mandolin, then D is not equal to E-flat.
    Doug Brock
    2018 Kimble 2 point (#259), 2019 Silverangel Econo A, Eastman MD315, Eastman MDA315
    Pisgah Wonder open back banjo, cheap old German fiddle, Martin HD28, Martin D18GE, CA Guitars Bluegrass Performer

  8. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Doug Brock For This Useful Post:


  9. #6
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Palmer, Texas
    Posts
    3,412

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    I've been doing some of that lately, because my son is back in town and plays tuned down a half step. So I can empathize.

    Don't have any special tricks or advice though. Like Mike says, a key is a key. And don't read the guitarist's hand. My trouble comes in because I've been reading guitarist's hands all my life, so it's tough not to glance there when I don't know the song! He tunes down a half step, but still capos up and sings in "odd" keys - (I know, there are no odd keys, only unfamiliar ones). Well, I can hang in any key comping, even unfamiliar keys, but unfamiliar tunes in unfamiliar keys accompanying a guitarist like that is just tough stuff. For me, the good news is that it does stretch your skill and comfort levels.
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
    "Life is short. Play hard." - AlanN
    ------------------------
    HEY! The Cafe has Social Groups, check 'em out. I'm in these groups:
    Newbies Social Group | The Song-A-Week Social
    The Woodshed Study Group | Collings Mandolins | MandoCymru
    - Advice For Mandolin Beginners
    - YouTube Stuff

  10. #7
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    40.1646° N, 74.2083° W
    Posts
    23,345

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Brock View Post
    Well, sort of, lol. If you like using open strings and drones on your mandolin, then D is not equal to E-flat.
    There's a video of Ricky Skaggs playing a mandolin with someone using a capo so he could use the open strings. I don't care how you get there, it's still playing in a key. I have a few bizarre open chords I'll jump to now and again on the guitar. People still figure out what they are because they know what key it's in.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  11. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to MikeEdgerton For This Useful Post:


  12. #8

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    There are a few really great pickers that are known for playing their guitars tuned down a half step; Stevie Ray Vaughan comes to mind. No problem there. If you want to play along with any working player in his or her band, you gotta adapt to the situation.

    What annoys me are the wannabes who show up at a jam tuned that way because "that's how Stevie Ray does it" and expect everyone else to deal with it.
    "I play BG so that's what I can talk intelligently about." A line I loved and pirated from Mandoplumb

  13. The following members say thank you to FLATROCK HILL for this post:


  14. #9
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    S.W. Wisconsin
    Posts
    5,330

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    I play with a guy who uses a baritone guitar so everything is a 5th off. It puts me in keys like F#m, Bm, C#m for solo's. I watch his hands, but only to see the 1, 4, and 5 changes and not try to transpose, tho sometimes it is necessary. The more you do of it the easier it becomes.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  15. #10
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH
    Posts
    1,926

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    ...tunes down a half step, but still capos up and sings in "odd" keys...
    This reminded me of last gig when he capo'd on the 1st fret and played out of 'C chord'. I went into it by ear, closed position and only at the very end did it occur to me it was in C-major all along.

    Thanks everyone! I'm just going to do my best between 'math-on-the-fly', closed position fingering, and playing changes by ear. Also, have songs to hear this time, so that helps a lot.

  16. #11
    Dave Sheets
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    Buffalo NY Area
    Posts
    323

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    Using a capo may help, it may make the open stings more useful, even though it's not traditional. I've worked with singers who capoed all over the place, having useful notes on the open strings makes life easier sometimes.
    -Dave
    Flatiron A
    Way too many other instruments

  17. #12
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Saint Augustine Beach FL
    Posts
    4,532

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    Just curious, why would a guitar player tune a half step down? Vocal range?
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  18. #13
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    KC MO
    Posts
    498

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    Just curious, why would a guitar player tune a half step down? Vocal range?
    I’ve heard of musicians tuning their instruments down for the feeling of floppier strings.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    Just curious, why would a guitar player tune a half step down? Vocal range?
    I’ve heard of musicians tuning their instruments down for the feeling of floppier strings.
    Doug Brock
    2018 Kimble 2 point (#259), 2019 Silverangel Econo A, Eastman MD315, Eastman MDA315
    Pisgah Wonder open back banjo, cheap old German fiddle, Martin HD28, Martin D18GE, CA Guitars Bluegrass Performer

  19. #14
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Rochester NY 14610
    Posts
    16,076

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    There's a video of Ricky Skaggs playing a mandolin with someone using a capo so he could use the open strings.
    Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, By the Mark:



    No one, I guess, can accuse Skaggs of not knowing how to play in C... Welch and Rawlings are capo-ed up five frets, just to get that "G position" sound in the key of C.

    Personally, I might try tuning my mandolin down a fret, but if the guitarist is capo-ing up to get into "regular" keys, and mostly likes the feel of looser strings, I'd bring a capo along as well. I play a long-neck "Pete Seeger" banjo most of the time, just so I can "capo down" into F and B-flat.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  20. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to allenhopkins For This Useful Post:


  21. #15
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    KC MO
    Posts
    498

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    There's a video of Ricky Skaggs playing a mandolin with someone using a capo so he could use the open strings.
    Yes, I’ve seen good mandolin players use capos for that purpose. I even have a capo in my mandolin case for just such a need but haven’t used it yet.
    Doug Brock
    2018 Kimble 2 point (#259), 2019 Silverangel Econo A, Eastman MD315, Eastman MDA315
    Pisgah Wonder open back banjo, cheap old German fiddle, Martin HD28, Martin D18GE, CA Guitars Bluegrass Performer

  22. The following members say thank you to Doug Brock for this post:


  23. #16
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    DFW, America
    Posts
    3,275

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    Just curious, why would a guitar player tune a half step down? Vocal range?
    I mostly play guitar and keep mine tuned down a WHOLE step, and have been doing so since discovering this about 20 years ago.

    Yes, part of it is vocal range. Many songs in G, C, etc. are just too high to sing in standard tuning (and I have a tenor voice), but the lower tuning allows me to play the familiar chords in a lower pitch. Many times, if in standard tuning, going into a lower key means ruining the chords, or turning them into flats etc that are too hard to play (for me) and often don't sound full enough to carry a song with just a guitar. Bluegrass players do a similar thing by capoing II when a song is in the key of A and using the G-shapes. If they played in the A-shapes, they'd not be able to grab all those accents that make Bluegrass, well, Bluegrass.

    Also, an acoustic guitar sounds flat out amazing tuned down a whole step. There are tones trapped inside the tension of standard pitch that are released when a guitar is tuned down: the guitar can breathe more, you'll find new bass tones that weren't there in standard pitch, and all the trebles go more into the mid range. Sometimes you'll need a setup for this tuning, and sometimes slightly heavier strings, but the newer sounds will open up your playing and singing in ways that are impossible in standard tuning.

    And... when you need to go back to standard, just capo II and you're all set.
    ...

  24. The following members say thank you to Caleb for this post:


  25. #17
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    High Peak - UK
    Posts
    2,673

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    A late friend of mine once took a guitar exam and, because his nut needed attention, played the piece with a capo on the first fret. When he’d finished, the examiner said that he didn’t understand what he’d just played as the notes didn’t correspond with the dots he had in front of him. Unfortunately, the examiner had (suffered from?) perfect pitch.

  26. The following members say thank you to Ray(T) for this post:


  27. #18
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Kalamazoo, MI.
    Posts
    7,095

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    I used to know a great musician that played in a “D” position and could shift a capo faster than a jackrabbit makes love, had a fabulous voice and knew more “D”runs than most.
    Also played the saw!
    Really fun fellow! Had worked for the Smithsonian/ Folkways way back when.
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

  28. #19
    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    near Boston, MA
    Posts
    351

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    Yea, Guys that tune alternately and intend to play with anyone else should tune up or hit the skids. Plain and simple. No need for any one else to alter their life. Form a band, be the star, then tune however you want.

  29. #20

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    Quote Originally Posted by Frankdolin View Post
    Yea, Guys that tune alternately and intend to play with anyone else should tune up or hit the skids. . . .
    Tell that to my sister's crowd. She lives in North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

    Once when I was visiting her, she took me to the local Saturday morning jam. Four or five guys had capos on their second frets. After about half an hour of song-swapping, someone said, "Blues in D."

    And all the capos came off . . . .

  30. #21
    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Cornwall & London
    Posts
    2,660
    Blog Entries
    4

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    I'd go with the people saying to ignore the guitarists except to time the changes.
    Listen for the root note at the launch off or resolution of the phrase & you've got the basic key.
    Then it's down to being familiar with what that style most usually does & checking if you hear anything out of the ordinary.
    Along with the usual I IV V stuff if it's got a minor chord, try the minor vi if it's jazzy you might have the ii in there a lot.
    So all ears and brain engaged would be the most reliable for me.
    Eoin



    "Forget that anyone is listening to you and always listen to yourself" - Fryderyk Chopin

  31. #22
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    40.1646° N, 74.2083° W
    Posts
    23,345

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Brock View Post
    Yes, I’ve seen good mandolin players use capos for that purpose. I even have a capo in my mandolin case for just such a need but haven’t used it yet.
    I actually have a capo in my mandolin case as well but I get confused when I'm using it so I don't.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  32. The following members say thank you to MikeEdgerton for this post:


  33. #23
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Greer, SC
    Posts
    410

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    If you play with someone who tunes down a 1/2 step, either get used to the keys that forces you into or tune down your mandolin to play with them. I'd advise tuning it down before going to the gig so the instrument settles in first.

  34. #24
    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    Upstate N.Y.
    Posts
    1,227

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    Ok,,I sometimes play with a guy who detune's his guitar ,to exactly I'm not sure and then puts a capo on it half the time,,he's also left handed and can't play in a standard tuning,,I play with him and never use a capo,I'm on mandolin,,Ive told him everything he's doing is ass backwards and he tells me he has no clue how I'm playing in straight mandolin tuning,,but like stated above,a key is a key and a note is a note..

  35. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to T.D.Nydn For This Useful Post:


  36. #25
    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Connecticut, USA
    Posts
    1,592
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Accompanying a guitarists who tunes down

    When I hit my mid-50's my voice dropped a half-step (most people wish my voice would drop out completely - but that's another story) - anyhow, now I just drop all of my other instruments a half-step; it keeps everything in tune and pretty-much keeps me from having to worry about the necks of my instruments bowing.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •