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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: G modal ( mountain minor ) chords


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mwc9725e - Posted - 10/18/2008:  07:29:08


I'm having trouble figuring out chords in mountain minor, or G modal. For instance, what corresponds to I-IV-V in G modal? maybe someone can show me where the left hand fingers are placed ( in first position ) for those chords and what the chords names are? Thanks for any help.

Dale Farmer - Posted - 10/18/2008:  09:42:31


Interesting question. I play about 4 songs in G modal and all of them have exactly two chords, G modal and F. I'd be curious to see what kind of response you get.

Dale

Cathy Moore - Posted - 10/18/2008:  10:13:24


I think a lot of old-time modal tunes use something like G minor and F.

Tuning: gDGCD

G minor, sort of: 0020
F: 3203

You can find any chord in any tuning here: http://chordfind.com/4-string/

Cathy

Lessons and subversive clawhammering: http://www.youtube.com/user/BanjoMeetsWorld
Illinois and European tunes and tab: http://www.banjomeetsworld.com

mwc9725e - Posted - 10/18/2008:  11:03:46


quote:
Originally posted by Cathy Moore

I think a lot of old-time modal tunes use something like G minor and F.

Tuning: gDGCD

G minor, sort of: 0020
F: 3203

You can find any chord in any tuning here: http://chordfind.com/4-string/

Cathy

Lessons and subversive clawhammering: http://www.youtube.com/user/BanjoMeetsWorld
Illinois and European tunes and tab: http://www.banjomeetsworld.com



Well, that's pretty much what I do, F and there's one other -- I haven't decided what it's called, I'll figure it out later. It's formed by everything played open except the second string fretted at the second fret (D) and the first string fretted at the third fret ( F). So from 5th to 1st, the notes are G-D-G D F. It seems to work with "Pretty Polly", played in G modal, but it doesn't seem to be D and it doesn't seem to be F and it doesn't seem to be G, so I'll have to write it out and see what I can come up with. My motivation here is that I'm trying to accompany my singing of Pretty Polly by using chords, rather than just melody notes, and I can't seem to make it work.


Edited by - mwc9725e on 10/18/2008 11:05:36

BANJOJUDY - Posted - 10/18/2008:  12:53:30


When I play old-time clawhammer banjo in a modal tuning, I guess I don't think in terms of chords, but more individual notes.

Is there a particular tune you are trying to play? Perhaps we can figure things out if we know the tune you are tackling.

Judy

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mwc9725e - Posted - 10/18/2008:  13:50:08


quote:
Originally posted by BANJOJUDY

When I play old-time clawhammer banjo in a modal tuning, I guess I don't think in terms of chords, but more individual notes.

Is there a particular tune you are trying to play? Perhaps we can figure things out if we know the tune you are tackling.

Judy

+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_
Have you visited the Tune of The Week area
for clawhammer players? Check it out on The
Banjo Hangout! Volunteer to do a tune for
October by emailing me at inquiry@siliconheights.com.



Yes, it's "Pretty Polly". Since it's played a variety of ways, I put a snippet of the melody I'm using on my music page here at BHO. Any help you can give about using modal chords as accompaniment would be appreciated. Thanks.

banjo_brad - Posted - 10/18/2008:  18:53:50


I play "Pretty Polly" in Mountain Minor using only the open strings and the 3 fret for the melody. Otherwise, it's all open strings.

Brad
------------------
www.PricklyPearMusic.net
http://ezfolk.com/audio/bands/5/ My ezFolk page
http://ezfolk.com/audio/bands/3371/ Tucson Old Time Music Circle page on ezFolk
http://www.totmc.org Tucson Old Time Music Circle Homepage

mwc9725e - Posted - 10/19/2008:  07:57:34


quote:
Originally posted by banjo_brad

I play "Pretty Polly" in Mountain Minor using only the open strings and the 3 fret for the melody. Otherwise, it's all open strings.

Brad
------------------
www.PricklyPearMusic.net
http://ezfolk.com/audio/bands/5/ My ezFolk page
http://ezfolk.com/audio/bands/3371/ Tucson Old Time Music Circle page on ezFolk
http://www.totmc.org Tucson Old Time Music Circle Homepage



I do that too, mostly. What I'd like to know, though, is 1) the "rules" for building chords in modal scales other than the major ( ionian? ) mode and 2) what the harmonized scales in those other modes look like. In particular, I'd like to know these things for the mountain minor case -- I'm not even sure what mode that is. I know that G modal tuning is an open Gsus4 chord, and apparently the F chord fits neatly into that scale with the Gsus4 chord. But I don't know why, because I don't know the rules for making and using chords in that mode. Even more, I don't know how to figure out other chords that fit.

In fact, how do I figure out even what modal scale "mountain minor" uses? I've spent lots of time learning at least the basics of scales and chords in the "major" mode ( I believe that's the ionian mode, but won't swear to it ). That has been well-spent time, despite the fact that I had originally thought learning by ear was the only acceptable way to play tunes on a banjo. Now I'd like to spend some time learning the ins and outs of the other modes. Right now, I know only that I can construct modal scales by starting with, say, the C scale and making left rotations of that scale note-by-note. Each one-note rotation generates a modal scale, but so what? Is each generated scale that's generated by rotating the original C scale a C-modal scale? If so, what are the rules for building chords ( and using chords a la the harmonized scales ) in each of those one-note rotations?


Edited by - mwc9725e on 10/19/2008 08:25:59

BANJOJUDY - Posted - 10/19/2008:  10:20:25


I don't know about all this cerebral stuff and theory for clawhammer banjo. I just play what I like to hear and hope others find it pleasant to listen to.

I'll leave the chord learning for the ukulele - that's what I'm doing there, but I find myself just wanting to pick out individual notes at times - guess the banjo is in my soul!

+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_
Have you visited the Tune of The Week area
for clawhammer players? Check it out on The
Banjo Hangout! Volunteer to do a tune for
October by emailing me at inquiry@siliconheights.com.

janolov - Posted - 10/19/2008:  12:01:28


The theory of modes are older than the theory of harmonies. And the tradition of modes are older than the tradition of harmonies. So often there are problems to set the appropriate chords to modal tunes. From the beginning modal tunes was just melodic or melodic with drones. In the G modal tuning we use the first and second string as drones (the notes are D and C). If following the harmonic rules the chords often should be Gm and F (G-Bb-D and F-A-C) (depending on what mode), but in the modal "rules" we instead use the C and D as a drone instead of making a full Gm chord.

Jan-Olov

banjo_brad - Posted - 10/19/2008:  12:44:52


Like Jan-Olov said, I'm not really sure that chords belong in a "modal" tune. Drones are the main add-ins. I've heard it discussed (particularly in fiddle circles) that guitars shouldn't play chords when the tune is modal because it basically changes the tune from modal to a minor sound.

I think that's why a lot of modal stuff is best on a mountain dulcimer, played with a noter, not chorded like the more "modern" players seem to do.

Brad
------------------
www.PricklyPearMusic.net
http://ezfolk.com/audio/bands/5/ My ezFolk page
http://ezfolk.com/audio/bands/3371/ Tucson Old Time Music Circle page on ezFolk
http://www.totmc.org Tucson Old Time Music Circle Homepage

John Gribble - Posted - 10/19/2008:  14:16:29


Yes, a lot of non-major/alternate minor melodies don't really lend themselves to chord accompaniment but really work better with drones, or maybe just one chord.

That said, here are some chords which I've used in mountain minor. Sometimes I'll use just one or two notes to suggest a harmony.

G 0420
G minor 0320
G (no 3rd) 0020
C 2002, X545
C minor 1001
D (sort of) 0220
D7 0200
F 3203
B flat 0323

John Gribble
Tokyo, Japan

mwc9725e - Posted - 10/19/2008:  15:24:04


quote:
Originally posted by John Gribble

Yes, a lot of non-major/alternate minor melodies don't really lend themselves to chord accompaniment but really work better with drones, or maybe just one chord.

That said, here are some chords which I've used in mountain minor. Sometimes I'll use just one or two notes to suggest a harmony.

G 0420
G minor 0320
G (no 3rd) 0020
C 2002, X545
C minor 1001
D (sort of) 0220
D7 0200
F 3203
B flat 0323

John Gribble
Tokyo, Japan



Thanks folks. Maybe that's exactly my problem -- modes don't readily lend themselves to chords. It does seem that way to me.

250gibson - Posted - 10/20/2008:  09:06:43


Not really sure which mode is considered mountain (I have heard it is Dorian and also heard it is Mixolydian, and also heard it is Locrian), but in general, the chords that "fit" within a particular mode are built as follow.

Ionian (major scale) GABCDEF#, where G=1. A=2, B=3, etc.

135 = GBD = Gmaj = I
246 = ACE = Amin = ii
357 = BDF# = Bmin = iii
461 = CEG = Cmaj = IV
572 = DF#A = Dmaj = V
613 = EGB = Emin = vi
724 = F#AC = F#dim = vii0

Dorian GABbCDEF

135 = GBbD = Gmin = i
246 = ACE = Amin = ii
357 = BbDF = Bbmaj = III
461 = CEG = Cmaj = IV
572 = DFA = Dmin = v
613 = EGBb = Edim = vi0
724 = FAC = Fmaj = VII


Etc etc. Etc.



Bluesage - Posted - 10/20/2008:  23:20:29


I've posted chord charts for a number of different tunings, including Mountain Minor (sawmill).

Here's a link for the file (pdf):

http://bluesageband.com/Tab%20pdf%2...20Chords.pdf

Hope it helps...

Mike Iverson - www.bluesageband.com

mwc9725e - Posted - 10/21/2008:  04:28:59


quote:
Originally posted by Bluesage

I've posted chord charts for a number of different tunings, including Mountain Minor (sawmill).

Here's a link for the file (pdf):

http://bluesageband.com/Tab%20pdf%2...20Chords.pdf

Hope it helps...

Mike Iverson - www.bluesageband.com



Thank you, Mike.

Don Borchelt - Posted - 10/23/2008:  04:59:32


250gibson wrote: "Ionian (major scale) GABCDEF#, where G=1. A=2, B=3, etc., 135 = GBD = Gmaj = I, 246 = ACE = Amin = ii..."

250gibson is looking at this from a jazz perspective, where the concept of the old church modes has been adapted to develop a truly astonishing harmonic improvisational technique. However, when you are talking about playing banjo in "mountain minor" tuning (gDGCD), as mwc asked, jazz harmonies are not very relevant. There are some deliberate harmonic dissonances that come into play in traditional appalachian music that are a little reminiscent of jazz, but I would suggest that the similarities are purely accidental.

Mountain minor is a deliberately modal tuning, in that it arose in order to play tunes that use a scale not typically used in modern music (except jazz, in its special way), but which was very common before the modern era. The two most common modal scales are mixolydian and dorian, and I would argue that along with their pentatonic (five note scale) counterparts, they are actually more common in traditional appalachian music than our modern minor scale, or possibly even the major scale. As janalov wrote, these modes are rooted in a time before the modern triad came into use, or modern meter for that matter, and to the extent that harmony was employed in that pre-chordal era, as janalov and Gribble said, it was in the form of drones. Generally, drones were based upon the tonic, fourth or fifth intervals, the tonic and fifth being the most predominant (no pun intended). Mountain minor is set up to readily provide those drones as the harmonic backdrop, as are many of the other offbeat tunings that you run into. So the basic answer when playing in mountain minor is, there really are no chords if you are playing it as it was "intended."

Mountain minor, by the way, is generally associated with dorian mode, rather than mixolydian. Dorian mode has a flatted third, mixolydian does not. So the G Dorian scale is G A Bb C D E F G, while the mixolydian is G A B C D E F G. If an old time mountaineer was going to pick a mixolydian tune, he was more apt to use standard G than mountain minor, in order to get that third note of the scale on an open string. In practice, a lot of the tunes were modally ambiguous, either because they used a pentatonic scale that shunned the third degree altogether (G A C D F G), or the third that is actually played hovers around the quarter-tone between the major and minor third. The latter case is very common in appalachian music, particularly in West Virginia, I suspect because this area was far more remote than other areas and less influenced by modern trends. That's why you want a fretless. An interesting historical oddity is that you virtually never run into G minor tuning (gDGBbD) in traditional banjo, it appears to be more of a modern, melodic style bluegrass invention.

Having said all that, the quandary that mwc finds himself in was the same one that mountain musicians struggled with as soon as the guitar was first introduced into the mountains at the end of the 19th Century. The answer they came up with was simple if disturbing to our modern ears; they generally just played the major chord. For sawmill, that would be a G major chord. The resultant dissonance seemed appropriate to them, and that dissonant sound, though only a century old, has now become part of the tradition. That relatively new tradition continues today among bluegrass musicians, particularly Stanley adherents. Ralph sings in the old modal scale, in the manner of Dock Boggs and earlier musicians, but he and his compatriots play major chords as accompaniment. Ralph does not tune to mountain minor, but instead typically frets the second string at the first fret, using it as a pedal point as well as a melody note, a practice already prevalent among many old-time banjo pickers. For example, it is my understanding that mountain minor was virtually unheard of in the Round Peak area, where standard G, C and double C prevailed. Bluegrass musicians have taken to using the natural VII chord- F in the key of G- at the appropriate places in the melody, but this does not appear to have been common among their mountain predecessors.

The use of a minor chords also works from a strictly musical perspective, but that tends to be more of a folk boom development, and is not part of the old-time tradition. In fact, some people point to the first recording of Foggy Mountain Breakdown, where the Foggy Mountain Boys back up Earl with an E major instead of an E minor, as evidence that minor chords were initially shunned, even in bluegrass. But even if the guitar player is playing chordal accompaniment, whether major or minor, I would suggest that the banjo picker who is employing mountain minor tuning shun full chordal back-up. Let mountain minor be mountain minor. But that is very much my traditional prejudice.

- Don Borchelt



------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"My first stringed instrument was a cigar box banjo where I cut and turned the pegs and strung the wires myself." - Carl Sandburg Check out my webpage.


Edited by - Don Borchelt on 10/25/2008 04:00:24

mwc9725e - Posted - 10/23/2008:  05:48:33


quote:
Originally posted by Don Borchelt

250gibson wrote: "Ionian (major scale) GABCDEF#, where G=1. A=2, B=3, etc., 135 = GBD = Gmaj = I, 246 = ACE = Amin = ii..."

250gibson is looking at this from a jazz perspective, where the concept of the old church modes has been adapted to develop a truly astonishing harmonic improvisational technique. However, when you are talking about playing banjo in "mountain minor" tuning (gDGCD), as mwc asked, jazz harmonies are not very relevant. There are some deliberate harmonic dissonances that come into play in traditional appalachian music that are a little reminiscent of jazz, but I would suggest that the similarities are purely accidental.

Mountain minor is a deliberately modal tuning, in that it arose in order to play tunes that use a scale not typically used in modern music (except jazz, in its special way), but which was very common before the modern era. The two most common modal scales are mixolydian and dorian, and I would argue that along with their pentatonic (five note scale) counterparts, they are actually more common in traditional appalachian music than our modern minor scale, or possibly even the major scale. As janalov wrote, these modes are rooted in a time before the modern triad came into use, or modern meter for that matter, and to the extent that harmony was employed in that pre-chordal era, as janalov and Gribble said, it was in the form of drones. Generally, drones were based upon the tonic, fourth or fifth intervals, the tonic and fifth being the most predominant (no pun intended). Mountain minor is set up to readily provide those drones as the harmonic backdrop, as are many of the other offbeat tunings that you run into. So the basic answer when playing in mountain minor is, there really are no chords if you are playing it as it was "intended."

Mountain minor, by the way, is generally associated with dorian mode, rather than mixolydian. Dorian mode has a flatted third, mixolydian does not. So the G Dorian scale is G A Bb C D E F G, while the mixolydian is G A B C D E F G. If an old time mountaineer was going to pick a mixolydian tune, he was more apt to use standard G than mountain minor, in order to get that third note of the scale on and open string. In practice, a lot of the tunes were modally ambiguous, either because they used a pentatonic scale that shunned the third degree altogether (G A C D F G), or the third that is actually played hovers around the quarter-tone between the major and minor third. The latter case is very common in appalachian music, particularly in West Virginia, I suspect because this area was far more remote than other areas and less influenced by modern trends. That's why you want a fretless. An interesting historical oddity is that you virtually never run into G minor tuning (gDGBbD) in traditional banjo, it appears to be more of a modern, melodic style bluegrass invention.

Having said all that, the quandary that mwc finds himself in was the same one that mountain musicians struggled with as soon as the guitar was first introduced into the mountains at the end of the 19th Century. The answer they came up with was simple if disturbing to our modern ears; they generally just played the major chord. For sawmill, that would be a G major chord. The resultant dissonance seemed appropriate to them, and that dissonant sound, though only a century old, has now become part of the tradition. That relatively new tradition continues today among bluegrass musicians, particularly Stanley adherents. Ralph sings in the old modal scale, in the manner of Dock Boggs and earlier musicians, but he and his compatriots play major chords as accompaniment. Ralph does not tune to mountain minor, but instead typically frets the second string at the first fret, using it as a pedal point as well as a melody note, a practice already prevalent among many old-time banjo pickers. For example, it is my understanding that mountain minor was virtually unheard of in the Round Peak area, where standard G, C and double C prevailed. Bluegrass musicians have taken to using the natural VII chord- F in the key of G- at the appropriate places in the melody, but this does not appear to have been common among their mountain predecessors.

The use of a minor chords also works from a strictly musical perspective, but that tends to be more of a folk boom development, and is not part of the old-time tradition. In fact, some people point to the first recording of Foggy Mountain Banjo, where the Foggy Mountain Boys back up Earl with an E major instead of an E minor, as evidence that minor chords were initially shunned, even in bluegrass. But even if the guitar player is playing chordal accompaniment, whether major or minor, I would suggest that the banjo picker who is employing mountain minor tuning shun full chordal back-up. Let mountain minor be mountain minor. But that is very much my traditional prejudice.

- Don Borchelt



------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"My first stringed instrument was a cigar box banjo where I cut and turned the pegs and strung the wires myself." - Carl Sandburg Check out my webpage.




Thanks Don, I've pretty much come to the conclusion that mountain minor just isn't a chord-based tuning, so I've been practicing "Pretty Polly" based on that. Interesting about the G minor discussion. I first tried "Pretty Polly" in G minor and it just didn't sound right to me. Don't know why, but it seems to want to be played in mountain minor -- at least to me it does.

janolov - Posted - 10/23/2008:  05:59:06


Perhaps we are in a second "Age" of modal tunes? The first Age was just melody or drones, and the banjo is an excellent instrument to play the first age tunes. In the string band era, and especially during the folk era, people began to put chords to the modal tunes. I think the use of guitar in string bands and folk music pushed on that development. Now in the second age of modal tunes we put ordinary chords to the tune. Actully the mixing of minor and major chords (for example Gm and F i G Dorian) and the use of major chords based on the lowered seventh (use of F chord in G Mixolydian and G Dorian) gives a special flavour to the music.
However, I think it is important to treat the chords carefully so the modality isn't lost.

Jan-Olov


Edited by - janolov on 10/23/2008 06:00:25

250gibson - Posted - 10/23/2008:  09:29:55


I think of Mountian modal in the sense of the tune, not the tuning.

Shady grove for instance is Dorian tune. There is a definite chord progression and melody that follows the Dorian mode.

Key of G

Gm, F, Gm, Bb, F, Gm, F, Gm (or something like that, I don't have my banjo in front of me.)

Where Gm = i; F=VII; and Bb=III



KI4PRK - Posted - 10/23/2008:  10:38:41


I don't really think there's a Bb chord in Shady Grove. It would probably sound alright, but it wouldn't really be Shady Grove, as most think of it. I would stay on the G-ish chord there.

The best way to back up modal tunes on a guitar is to play just G and F. On the G chord, eliminate the 3rd's. If you're in normal tuning, mute the A (5th string), and fret the B (2nd string) at the 3rd fret. This way, the only notes in the chord are G and D. It works because it's not really G, and it's not really G minor, and like janolov said, modes don't have a whole lotta harmony so there's no "G Dorian" or whatever chord.

This same principle works for other modal keys as well. For example Dock Boggs used a D modal tuning on his banjo, often tuned down 1 to 5 half steps. If you were backing up any of those 6 keys available, use the appropriate chord/capo combination, and take out the 3rds on the I chord. In D you would take out the F#. In C, take out the E. Etcetera.
In D, the alternate chord (what would be the F chord in G) would be C. In C the alternate chord would be Bb. I hope you get the drift.

Hope this helps. -Brennen



Tom Hanway - Posted - 10/23/2008:  18:14:46


quote:
Originally posted by mwc9725e

quote:
Originally posted by John Gribble

Yes, a lot of non-major/alternate minor melodies don't really lend themselves to chord accompaniment but really work better with drones, or maybe just one chord.

That said, here are some chords which I've used in mountain minor. Sometimes I'll use just one or two notes to suggest a harmony.

G 0420
G minor 0320
G (no 3rd) 0020
C 2002, X545
C minor 1001
D (sort of) 0220
D7 0200
F 3203
B flat 0323

John Gribble
Tokyo, Japan

Thanks folks. Maybe that's exactly my problem -- modes don't readily lend themselves to chords. It does seem that way to me.

First, Don's post really puts things in an historical and usable cultural (sub-cultural) context. It's about local and regional context, and knowing for whom one is playing - what they might want/expect to hear - that is key (no pun intended). Theory for me is incidental to getting the music across and playing it with the right feeling and energy for people who want something that they can relate to - is that vague enough?

Learning from Irish musicians, who just play a tune, sometimes with variations, taught me to learn tunes by ear, on the spot, so I began focusing on the "linearity" of tunes, if that's an acceptable musical term. It's the horizontal principle of music, which moves on a timeline, with a beginning, middle and end, as opposed to the vertical or stacking principle, where notes are stacked to form three-, four- and five-note chords (forming neat geometric shapes if plugged into a circle of fifths).

On my Hangout music archives I have uploaded a modal Irish tune, 'Brian Boru's March' (G Dorian) - using mountain minor tuning: http://www.banjohangout.org/myhango....asp?id=4317

It has bodhrán and very sparse plucked guitar accompaniment - notice what's left out. On guitar is Gabriel Donohue, who is called up by the Boston Pops when they need Irish guitar accompaniment. (He just wings it, and then somebody transcribes it later and gives it back to him - as if he would ever read what he played and do it that way again.)

I like to stick with major chords in modal bluegrass tunes, e.g., 'Clinch Mountain Backstep', and if I'm backing a Celtic tune, I roll along, generally sticking to roots (and their octaves) and drones, together which make diads (two-note chords).

For tunes - that is, linear, melody-oriented music (monody), whether it be Celtic or some other folk tune, I listen for the bare-bones melody first, and it may have four, five, six or seven notes and I figure out the notes first. I never worry about correct chords, because chords can be re-harmonised so many different ways.

I tend to drone along anyway if I'm backing a fiddle, leaving out major and minor thirds and going for roots and fifths, adding spice as I go, after figuring out exactly what mode I'm in. Sometimes it's hard to tell the precise mode when pentatonic scales are involved - it could be more than one.

I do pay attention to the modes (the notes), but not technically correct chords for the modes - though I love Gribble's chart above - since they aren't always part of the playing tradition. Why should I be overly concerned about them? So, I couldn't be bothered - I'm not running scales, I'm playing a tune. It's about getting the tune first, getting it under my fingers, then adding variations.

Chords are incidental to the melody. It's horizontal-linear music, and getting the melody, groove and tempo locked in with others is more important than slaving over technically correct chords. I'm not an old-time musician, really more of a folkie who plucks ingredients piecemeal off the shelf and digs around in the pantry and cupboards. It's about cooking up a mellifluous melody at the end of day.


Happy pickin,

Tom

http://www.tomhanway.com/discog.htm
http://www.tomhanway.com


Edited by - Tom Hanway on 10/23/2008 18:45:00

Don Borchelt - Posted - 10/23/2008:  22:45:56


mwc wrote: "Interesting about the G minor discussion. I first tried "Pretty Polly" in G minor and it just didn't sound right to me. Don't know why, but it seems to want to be played in mountain minor -- at least to me it does."
Hanway wrote: "On my Hangout music archives I have uploaded a modal Irish tune... using mountain minor tuning... It has bodhrán and very sparse plucked guitar accompaniment - notice what's left out."

Years ago, in the Boston Public Library's rare book collection, I found an original copy of Captain Francis O'Neill's seminal work, Irish Minstrels and Musicians, originally publsihed in 1913. O'Neill, who eventually rose to be Chicago's Fire Commissioner, was also a prolific collector and scholar of Irish music and lore. I was struck by the comment in his introduction, that Irish music was being ruined by "modern harmonizers of the German school." he argued then that the modern triad had no place in traditional Irish music.

I have long felt that the importance of many traditional banjo tunings, including both double C and mountain minor, is not so much what notes were added by the tuning, but what was left out. Neither double C or mountain minor have the third degree of the scale, the middle note of the modern triad. The reason that G minor tuning doesn't sound right, is that it contains all three notes of the triad, albeit the minor triad, which provides a modern harmonic backdrop to the setting. Even if you do not pick that second string directly, it still rings in sympathy or gets subtly brushed, so that you feel it. So mountain minor, which substitutes the dissonant fourth for the harmonious third, sounds more ancient, more authentic.

There is always the exception which proves the rule. Dock Boggs, the famous West Virginia old time singer and three finger picker, plays Pretty Polly in f#DGAD. He is singing the song and picking the melody out on the banjo in a pentatonic scale that clearly feels Dorian, even though he is technically not employing all of the notes. Here he is on youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFkKJAJcgcY

The scale is D F G A C D. (Actually, he is tuned in the video down almost a whole tone, closer to eCFGC, but for argument's sake, let's pretend he is still tuned in D, where he played it as a younger man.) Note that both the 3rd and 7th are flatted from where they would be in the D major scale, characteristic of Dorian mode. Now, when he sings, I think he is closer to the quarter tone between F and F#, but he isn't using a fretless, so he picks the F note, the minor third, at the 4th string 3rd fret, as he follows himself on the banjo, and in the little break he does. If you give it a good choke, you'll hear the note he is actually singing. You'll notice that the tuning of the four long strings, DGAD, is the open D version of mountain minor, in that the 3rd string, usually dedicated in D tuning to the third degree of the scale, is tuned instead to the fourth degree, the G. So far so good. But what about the 5th string. He has that clearly tuned to the F#. The major third! What's with this? If you listen close you can hear it. It is obviously dissonant with the scale he is singing and picking, but it somehow fits in anyway. Why did he do it? Well, maybe he just didn't know any better, but I don't think that is it. What he is creating here is the same harmonic tension that exists when the guitar players played the major chord, with the major third, against the modal scale with the minor third. I think it works in part because the F# is pitched in the higher register, above where Dock is picking and singing. I also suspect that it sounded like what he was used to hearing when he played in ensemble with other musicians, and so he incorporated it and kept it as an integral part of his sound. He plays Danville Girl, Death of a Miner's Child, and Glory Land in this tuning also. He plays his famous Country Blues in a variant of this tuning, f#CGAD, still in D modal, but he wants to be able to hammer onto the D note on the 4th string, so he tunes the 4th string down to C, and hammers up to the second fret to get the D. You can see this on video, too (again, tuned down a whole extra tone, closer to eBbFGC).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Gi5V6F_zPY

This is powerful stuff. And in the end, it also teaches a powerful lesson- trust your own ear.

By the way, someone has posted most of O'Neill's Irish Minstrels and Musicians on the internet:

http://billhaneman.ie/IMM/

- Don Borchelt



------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"My first stringed instrument was a cigar box banjo where I cut and turned the pegs and strung the wires myself." - Carl Sandburg
Check out my webpage.


Edited by - Don Borchelt on 10/23/2008 22:54:19

Tom Hanway - Posted - 10/24/2008:  07:00:17


quote:
Originally posted by Don Borchelt

mwc wrote: "Interesting about the G minor discussion. I first tried "Pretty Polly" in G minor and it just didn't sound right to me. Don't know why, but it seems to want to be played in mountain minor -- at least to me it does."
Hanway wrote: "On my Hangout music archives I have uploaded a modal Irish tune... using mountain minor tuning... It has bodhrán and very sparse plucked guitar accompaniment - notice what's left out."

Years ago, in the Boston Public Library's rare book collection, I found an original copy of Captain Francis O'Neill's seminal work, Irish Minstrels and Musicians, originally publsihed in 1913. O'Neill, who eventually rose to be Chicago's Fire Commissioner, was also a prolific collector and scholar of Irish music and lore. I was struck by the comment in his introduction, that Irish music was being ruined by "modern harmonizers of the German school." he argued then that the modern triad had no place in traditional Irish music.

I have long felt that the importance of many traditional banjo tunings, including both double C and mountain minor, is not so much what notes were added by the tuning, but what was left out. Neither double C or mountain minor have the third degree of the scale, the middle note of the modern triad. The reason that G minor tuning doesn't sound right, is that it contains all three notes of the triad, albeit the minor triad, which provides a modern harmonic backdrop to the setting. Even if you do not pick that second string directly, it still rings in sympathy or gets subtly brushed, so that you feel it. So mountain minor, which substitutes the dissonant fourth for the harmonious third, sounds more ancient, more authentic.

There is always the exception which proves the rule. Dock Boggs, the famous West Virginia old time singer and three finger picker, plays Pretty Polly in f#DGAD. He is singing the song and picking the melody out on the banjo in a pentatonic scale that clearly feels Dorian, even though he is technically not employing all of the notes. Here he is on youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFkKJAJcgcY

The scale is D F G A C D. (Actually, he is tuned in the video down almost a whole tone, closer to eCFGC, but for argument's sake, let's pretend he is still tuned in D, where he played it as a younger man.) Note that both the 3rd and 7th are flatted from where they would be in the D major scale, characteristic of Dorian mode. Now, when he sings, I think he is closer to the quarter tone between F and F#, but he isn't using a fretless, so he picks the F note, the minor third, at the 4th string 3rd fret, as he follows himself on the banjo, and in the little break he does. If you give it a good choke, you'll hear the note he is actually singing. You'll notice that the tuning of the four long strings, DGAD, is the open D version of mountain minor, in that the 3rd string, usually dedicated in D tuning to the third degree of the scale, is tuned instead to the fourth degree, the G. So far so good. But what about the 5th string. He has that clearly tuned to the F#. The major third! What's with this? If you listen close you can hear it. It is obviously dissonant with the scale he is singing and picking, but it somehow fits in anyway. Why did he do it? Well, maybe he just didn't know any better, but I don't think that is it. What he is creating here is the same harmonic tension that exists when the guitar players played the major chord, with the major third, against the modal scale with the minor third. I think it works in part because the F# is pitched in the higher register, above where Dock is picking and singing. I also suspect that it sounded like what he was used to hearing when he played in ensemble with other musicians, and so he incorporated it and kept it as an integral part of his sound. He plays Danville Girl, Death of a Miner's Child, and Glory Land in this tuning also. He plays his famous Country Blues in a variant of this tuning, f#CGAD, still in D modal, but he wants to be able to hammer onto the D note on the 4th string, so he tunes the 4th string down to C, and hammers up to the second fret to get the D. You can see this on video, too (again, tuned down a whole extra tone, closer to eBbFGC).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Gi5V6F_zPY

This is powerful stuff. And in the end, it also teaches a powerful lesson- trust your own ear.

By the way, someone has posted most of O'Neill's Irish Minstrels and Musicians on the internet:

http://billhaneman.ie/IMM/

- Don Borchelt
Don's post is extremely perceptive and informative, worth several reads and re-reads. Folks need to listen to Dock Boggs' playing in order to understand what Don is saying. Another interesting tune that can be found in YouTube is 'Sugar Baby' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oACJ...ture=related, where my hunch is that Boggs is in mountain minor ... yes, where the fifth string is an octave above the third string - not the tension-producing major third that he uses in 'Pretty Polly' (fifth string). He is in D Dorian here .. I think, and it follows that this tuning would also work for D Aeolian. (This is new to me: I do everything in G tuning so I can transpose and keep up at Irish sessions - without re-tuning from key to key or mode to mode.)

If I'm hearing it correctly, and I'm not used to using old-time modal tunings, in the key of D, the third string is the fourth degree of the D (Dorian) scale, and the fifth string an octave above that, so a "gapped scale" for the keys of D (and G obviously) are already built into the tuning (gDGCD), leaving out the major and minor thirds as well as other scale degrees (even the fifth - in the key of D).

This leaves a lot of room for singing, for emotion - for bending notes and moving around in seeming defiance of Western harmony. Boggs wasn't too worried about proper chords or harmony. This tuning works for both G Dorian and D Dorian, something I did not know. Thank you Don. What else? What a handy tuning: Maybe Boggs used It without a thought about chords, unconcerned with the fiats of piano or classical harmony.

At any rate, chords come later and they depend on the tune and the playing context, i.e., when to use one chord over another. An exhaustive list of chords and shapes does not tell us when, in particular situations, we should use them, or whether we need them at all.

It's amazing how Dorian mode is so quintessentially a blues mode, no matter whether it's played pentatonically, hexatonically or using all seven pitches.


Happy pickin,

Tom

http://www.tomhanway.com/discog.htm
http://www.tomhanway.com


Edited by - Tom Hanway on 10/25/2008 04:30:42

zdl7754 - Posted - 10/24/2008:  20:25:40


Wow - lots of heavy theory. I'll try just a simple answer.

I use this tuning for a bunch of stuff, and have 3 or 4 tunes under development in it. I find it really easy to do chords, because the top 3 strings are the same as dblC - so I generally chord as if I were in dblc, and get whatever note I need on the 4th string if I need one. So - chords - first inversion only, top 3 strings only ...

C - 002
C7 - 302
Cm - 001
D - 224
D7 - 204
Dm - 223
E - 446
E7 - 426
Em - 445
F - 203
F7 - 201
Fm - 103
G - 020
G7 - 023
Gm - 320
A - 212
A7 - 012
Am - 202
B - 434
B7 - 234
Bm - 424

Tom Hanway - Posted - 10/25/2008:  18:39:17


quote:
...I find it really easy to do chords, because the top 3 strings are the same as dblC - so I generally chord as if I were in dblc....
Great post - to the point - handy diagrams - love it! I took me a little while to deciper your abbreviations, "dblc" and "dblC", which are the same thing, i.e., Double-C tuning, which is almost mountain minor (Sawmill) tuning. Double-C is also close to Open-C tuning, which has the first string up to E (great for blues and slide playing).

First, please check out samples of Allison Williams on OT banjo; it's not about recycling chords or playing cool shapes around the neck. It's like water flowing passionately and effortlessly. Read the reviews too:

http://www.forgemountaindiggers.com/

That is an interesting list of chords, and it could save folks time in figuring them out for themselves. It's a good list, a partial list, not including major sixth or minor seventh chords, which may be less obtrusive in many instances - subtler than dominant seventh and minor chords. Knowing one's basic chords (I, IV, V etc.) is a good thing.

Too much of a "good thing" can be a bad thing, for example, when ear-training is underestimated while learning chords by rote and regurgitating them is drilled in - without *knowing* their applications, *knowing* how to use them in tunes. It goes beyond a simple memorisation process: Learn these chord shapes and then you'll be able to play - yeah, right! WD-40 this!

This becomes more obvious when we get into stupidly sophisticated four-note and five-note chords (in jazz), and jazz piano players play even bigger chords, using all five fingers on both hands (OUCH), which drives some electric guitarists bonkers. Guitar players are lucky to get four or five notes!

In a lot of Old-Time and Celtic music, many modal tunes don't call for minor or dominant seventh chords, which could add unwanted flavour or distract (detract) from the melody. Chords need to be used judiciously and with an ear for the tune.

One has to know a tune before throwing in chord shapes willy-nilly. It's an insult to tune players when the melody is obscured by the changes - especially when a chord wizard is showing off. This can kill a jam session but quick. It's so important to *know the tunes* before hammering out chords.

For the better part of a decade I used to run Old-Time/bluegrass sessions in NYC (at The Baggot Inn, Dempsey's Pub, Rebar, The Village Inn). The new happening session - actually two sessions - in town is on Wednesdays at the Grisly Pear, 107 MacDougal St., 9 PM - near Bleeker, in the heart of the Village. Bluegrass musicians blast away in the back room, and it's BIG fun. Mark O'Connor and Chris Thile pop in from time to time and move between rooms.

Amazing Old-Time musicians - mainly fiddlers - play in the front, with complementary OT banjo and guitar backing. There are some great banjo players in regular attendance, most notably Marc Horowitz, a former melodic banjo wizard who does a great job backing, using a few modal tunings, rhythmic devices, and his trusty capo. Marc knows the tunes and doesn't step on them or play too many chords, especially bluegrass or jazz chords, though he knows them all.

At this NYC session, burning on fiddle, is my dear ol' pal Thomas Bailey, who commutes to Asheville, NC, to play guitar with fiddler David Bass in the recently revived Freight Hoppers. Thomas and David toured last year in an OT *power trio* (on hiatus) with banjoist Allison Williams - called the Forge Mountain Diggers. I love the way she plays - talk about ENERGY! She can be found at the top of this post - sittin' on top of the world. That's some banjo playing!


Happy pickin,

Tom

http://www.tomhanway.com/discog.htm
http://www.tomhanway.com

brokenstrings - Posted - 10/26/2008:  12:25:43


I did have something to say on the subject, but it's been covered so thoroughly by, especially, Don Borcheldt, that I prefer to shut up and listen and learn. But I would like to add that in the notes to the Anne and Frank Warner collection, the authors comment on how the demands of the guitar with its relentless rhythm and chords tend to obscure the modal melodies, while the banjo does less so and a cappella singing least of all.

One of my harp books has a section on modal tunes and there too you get the G & F configuration. Reason given is that the F is the characteristic note of that scale. And I remember that in John Runge's Book of Old English Lute Songs, Greensleeves (Dorian mode) starts and ends verse with an Am chord but ends the chorus on an A major. (I think it may have actually been Dorian on E but I transposed it.

Jessy

Frailaway, ladies, frailaway!

Tom Hanway - Posted - 10/27/2008:  06:57:09


I'd love to hear it.


Happy pickin,

Tom

http://www.tomhanway.com/discog.htm
http://www.tomhanway.com

Tom Hanway - Posted - 10/27/2008:  07:06:49


quote:
Originally posted by brokenstrings

I did have something to say on the subject, but it's been covered so thoroughly by, especially, Don Borchelt, that I prefer to shut up and listen and learn....
I agree with Brokenstrings and with something Don said, and I've highlighted a salient point and brought in something Jan-Olov said, and made my own observation, if folks can bear with me here....

quote:
Originally posted by janolov

Perhaps we are in a second "Age" of modal tunes? The first Age was just melody or drones....
quote:
Originally posted by Don Borchelt

mwc wrote: "Interesting about the G minor discussion. I first tried "Pretty Polly" in G minor and it just didn't sound right to me. Don't know why, but it seems to want to be played in mountain minor -- at least to me it does."

Hanway wrote: "On my Hangout music archives I have uploaded a modal Irish tune... using mountain minor tuning... It has bodhrán and very sparse plucked guitar accompaniment - notice what's left out."

Years ago ... I found an original copy of Captain Francis O'Neill's seminal work, Irish Minstrels and Musicians, originally published in 1913. O'Neill ... was also a prolific collector and scholar of Irish music and lore. I was struck by the comment in his introduction, that Irish music was being ruined by "modern harmonizers of the German school." He argued then that the modern triad had no place in traditional Irish music.

I have long felt that the importance of many traditional banjo tunings, including both double C and mountain minor, is not so much what notes were added by the tuning, but what was left out. [emphasis added]

Modern scholar and Irish composer Seán Ó Riada agrees wholeheartedly with Captain Francis O'Neill. Ó Riada, who put together the The Chieftains (originally Ceoltóirí Chualann), wrote something prescient that bears on this discussion, in Our Musical Heritage (1982):

quote:
"By 'traditional' I mean the untouched unWesternized orally-transmitted music....

The first thing to note ... is that Irish music is not European....

European music as we know it today, is by our standards, comparatively young. It began to take shape during the early Renaissance in a mould containing Dutch, French, German and Italian ingredients. Since then, until fairly recently, it developed along predominantly German and Italian lines.

In Ireland, the Renaissance passed us by. The best of our classical poetry was in full flower before it. Its effect on Irish poetry was minimal; it affected Irish music not at all. Irish music is not merely not European, it is quite remote from it. It is, indeed, closer to Oriental music. The first thing we are to do, if we are to understand it, is to forget about European music. Its standards are not Irish standards; its style is not Irish style; its forms are not Irish forms.

Traditional Irish art never adopted the Greco-Roman forms ... which have become the basis of European art, [t]ake the notion of 'development': a development which moves in a crescendo of tension ending in a crisis the resolution of which produces catharsis.... It is the basis of European art. And it is quite foreign to traditional Irish art.

The simplest picture of traditional Irish art is the ancient symbol of the serpent with its tail in its mouth: 'In my end is my beginning'. It is essentially a cyclic form." [emphasis added]

-Seán Ó Riada, Our Musical Heritage (Mounraith: The Dolmen Press, 1982), 18-21.



It occurs to me that the general form and cyclic structure of Old Time music (tunes) and their use of the Dorian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Ionian (Celtic) modes is no coincidence....

Read O'Neill and Ó Riada and then you can appreciate Jan-Olov's insightful remark about coming into a "second 'Age' of modal tunes", which attests to the connection between OT and Celtic music - their use of "gapped scales" and modes - what Bill Monroe termed "the ancient tones".

I see Jan-Olov's and Don Borchelt's positions as two philosophies regarding style: We may adopt two very distinct approaches in using chords and harmony in backing tunes in these closely linked traditions (which have a lot of tunes in common).

One approach would be conservative and traditional; the other would be adaptive and innovative, breaking from the past, "crossing over" - a fusion of seemingly disparate traditions. It then becomes a question of context, taste and playing etiquette. New crossover styles are borne of the quest for innovation and adaptation.


Happy pickin,

Tom

http://www.tomhanway.com/discog.htm
http://www.tomhanway.com


Edited by - Tom Hanway on 10/27/2008 09:50:11

tposgate - Posted - 10/28/2008:  20:25:02


This has been a great thread. As an experienced jazz musician but fairly inexperienced bluegrass player I have noticed that I am always drawn to these tunes you call mountain minor.

Del McCoury writes and sings some great ones. (and boy his son can pick)

Whenever I address this topic with bluegrass players, regardless of how experienced I rarely get any solid answers.

Maybe this has been said in many other ways here but; the idea that the melody can have minor thirds in it (as well as the improvisations) but not the tonic chord is an almost mystical characteristic.

tim
www.guildwoodrecordscom

Tom Hanway - Posted - 11/13/2008:  15:39:59


Brad wrote: "Like Jan-Olov said, I'm not really sure that chords belong in a "modal" tune. Drones are the main add-ins. I've heard it discussed (particularly in fiddle circles) that guitars shouldn't play chords when the tune is modal because it basically changes the tune from modal to a minor sound.

I think that's why a lot of modal stuff is best on a mountain dulcimer, played with a noter, not chorded like the more "modern" players seem to do."

This is a great point about OT fiddle music, about playing drones and not playing major/minor chords; however, modal chords (or power chords) actually may come in handy because they omit major and minor thirds. That's why a lot of players in Celtic quarters use DADGAD, Dropped D and Double Dropped D - so they can play chords and drones that leave out overt major and minor tonality.

Instead of G major or Gm, one can play a modal G5 chord, and so on. One can play chords, very phat chords, with octave doubling and never hit a major or minor third. This way chords can work for modal tunes. Some people rightly point that in traditional music theory terms, these are not truly chords (triads or better) only two-note diads (intervals). But with octave doubling, they are, for all practical purposes, chords - "power chords". Ask any worthy Heavy Metal guitarist to bang out some.... Turn the amp up to "11"!

These can get boring too and have an annoying sameness after a while, and if a major chord is in order, well, it's nice to hear it in its fully glory, or maybe even an extended chord, depending on the tune.


Happy pickin,

Tom

Please check out my webpage and digital stores.


Edited by - Tom Hanway on 11/13/2008 16:03:33

gorf - Posted - 11/29/2008:  08:18:50


Wow that is a great site, I like the way you can set each string to whatever note and get a chord.

quote:
Originally posted by Cathy Moore

I think a lot of old-time modal tunes use something like G minor and F.

Tuning: gDGCD

G minor, sort of: 0020
F: 3203

You can find any chord in any tuning here: http://chordfind.com/4-string/

Cathy

Lessons and subversive clawhammering: http://www.youtube.com/user/BanjoMeetsWorld
Illinois and European tunes and tab: http://www.banjomeetsworld.com



mwc9725e - Posted - 11/29/2008:  11:08:00


quote:
Originally posted by Tom Hanway

Brad wrote: "Like Jan-Olov said, I'm not really sure that chords belong in a "modal" tune. Drones are the main add-ins. I've heard it discussed (particularly in fiddle circles) that guitars shouldn't play chords when the tune is modal because it basically changes the tune from modal to a minor sound.

I think that's why a lot of modal stuff is best on a mountain dulcimer, played with a noter, not chorded like the more "modern" players seem to do."

This is a great point about OT fiddle music, about playing drones and not playing major/minor chords; however, modal chords (or power chords) actually may come in handy because they omit major and minor thirds. That's why a lot of players in Celtic quarters use DADGAD, Dropped D and Double Dropped D - so they can play chords and drones that leave out overt major and minor tonality.

Instead of G major or Gm, one can play a modal G5 chord, and so on. One can play chords, very phat chords, with octave doubling and never hit a major or minor third. This way chords can work for modal tunes. Some people rightly point that in traditional music theory terms, these are not truly chords (triads or better) only two-note diads (intervals). But with octave doubling, they are, for all practical purposes, chords - "power chords". Ask any worthy Heavy Metal guitarist to bang out some.... Turn the amp up to "11"!

These can get boring too and have an annoying sameness after a while, and if a major chord is in order, well, it's nice to hear it in its fully glory, or maybe even an extended chord, depending on the tune.


Happy pickin,

Tom

Please check out my webpage and digital stores.



Tom: That's interesting, are power chords "modal" chords? I always thought there was something different about them, because you don't have a 3 note, but it didn't occur to me that they are modal.

john fincher - Posted - 12/19/2008:  06:02:12


Apologies for coming so late to this topic. It seems that Bill really started something here.

I love playing in the 'sawmill 'tuning and have also wondered about chord proressions within it but I tend to be with Mary Z in not feeling the need to enquire too deeply into the theory but to go with what sounds best to my ear. An approach that I have found useful though, when working out guitar accompaniments to 'sawmill' type tunes, is to avoid playing notes which don't normally appear in the tune. For example in Shady Grove which I play in sawmill I would stay away from any E notes in the accompaniment because, to my ear, they wouldn't ring true.

John Fincher



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