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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Why "Sawmill" tuning?


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/190042

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janolov - Posted - 10/28/2010:  04:27:49


I think sawmill tuning (gDGCD or aEADE) is a nice and wonderful tuning, but I think it is an illogical tuning - both the name and the tuning. So I have a few questions, or topics for discussion around the sawmill tuning.

1. Sawmill is used to play modal tunes, including minor tunes. If the standard G (or A) tuning is standard it would be more natural to flat the third string to a Bb (Gminor tuning) rather than raise it to a C. The old minstrel tutors (at least Briggs) also teached that the third string can be lowered a half tone to play in minor (I think there are no modal tunes in Briggs' repertoire, but there are tunes in minor). So the raising of the third string must have other origins than the minstrel music. I have thought of bagpipes, but I think their drones are usually in the tonic or the dominant (1st or 5th tone in the scale). So a question is: how was the tuning developed, and when and where was is it first documentated.

2. There is also a sawmill tuning for fiddle (GDGD), also called G crosstuning. This seems to be used for the dorian tunes (for example Pretty Polly and Cold Frosty Morning) as in the case of banjo. The fiddle sawmill contains no C note as the banjo. Which was first banjo sawmill tuning or fiddle sawmill tuning and are there any other connections between the fiddle sawmill and the banjo sawmill?

3. Why is it named Sawmill tuning? Often old tunings are named after a special tune (for example Reuben tuning, Sandy River Belle Tuning, Cumberland Gap tuning). Has anyone heard of a tune named Sawmill and played in sawmill tuning? In an old discussion here at BHO some people calimed it was because the tuning sounded like a sawmill. However the banjo sawmill and the fiddle sawmill doesn't sound the same, so I don't think this is correct. Are there any other theories of how the name Sawmill was developed?

4. Sawmill tuning are sometimes called Mountain Minor tuning. I think that the name Mountain Minor is a relatively new conception, from the socalled Folk Revival epoch. Has anyone any other information about the name Mountain Minor?


Edited by - janolov on 11/01/2010 00:09:36

Emiel - Posted - 10/28/2010:  04:38:19


In this thread:
mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=11398

someone says:

'Do I remember aright that "sawmill tuning" was for Clarence Ashley what John Cohen said Roscoe Holcomb (I think) called "lassie-making tuning"? Generated some heh-heh speculation amongst us urban folkies, but turned out that "lassie" referred to molasses (not mole-asses, either), having something to do with the tuning being associated with particular banjo song(s?) often played/sung when the molasses-making process was under way on the farm. (But check with John Cohen to see if I'm inadvertently inventing folklore here.)'

In the famous interview Clarence Ashely calls "The Cuckoo Bird" the "Lassie-Making Tune" and the tuning "Sawmill".


Edited by - Emiel on 10/28/2010 04:40:44

rfwillis - Posted - 10/28/2010:  05:42:45


This is such an interesting set of questions Janolov. I look forward to seeing what comes up.
Here's my uneducated guess on the "sawmill" name. Could it be that it was originally a fiddle tuning and that the "sawmill" referred to a rapid sawing back and forth with the bow? Just a thought, especially with such a "plain" tuning (GDGD), I would imagine there might have been some pretty active bowing involved.
Also, with only two notes, therefore very "droney", could it be that it sounded like saws working. Remember we would be talking crosscut saws here, which have 2 distinct pitches as they drone back and forth.
Or was there just a song called Sawmill? I won't sleep until I know.


Edited by - rfwillis on 10/28/2010 05:51:30

Moore.music - Posted - 10/28/2010:  06:23:46


Hi
Don´t forget C major or G major etc. is also a mode .

I´d love to know also why " Sawmill" as it´s a great name.

Nigel

notserp89m - Posted - 10/28/2010:  06:34:09


my uneducated guess

1. to finger chords are easier? (i haven't fooled around in straight minor tuning in a while so i could be wrong. And it sound cool to have that c in there

2.i like what fr willis. said.

3. refer to 2.

4. don't know


now my question what's better, the gravy or the tuning?

minstrelmike - Posted - 10/28/2010:  10:22:28


With zero data, only mere conjecture, I'd think one reason the b string was tuned up was because of the other common tunings.
The most common tunings were open-G DGBG and drop-C: CGBG (the high-bass and low-bass tunings).

Double-C tuning was also very common: CGCD.

I suspect some folks, probably professionals, played around with the mtn minor tunings because it was halfway between G and dbl-C and if you're playing on stage and re-tuning, only doing one string at a time means less time wasted between songs.

Just a guess as to why the B went up to C instead of down to Bb (which makes more musical sense to me).

MountainBanjo - Posted - 10/28/2010:  11:29:20


I think this came up a few years ago...seems to me someone put worth a well-put opinion about it sounding like the blade of a sawmill, hence the name...have you searched the archives?

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 10/28/2010:  12:45:13


In response to the first issue raised: the great virtue of this tuning is that it's lacking the 3rd as an open string, making it neither major nor minor in character.
Also, the droning 4th note of the scale gives it a wonderful character of suspended foreboding and mystery...hence "mountain minor".


Edited by - Marc Nerenberg on 10/28/2010 12:46:55

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 10/28/2010:  15:02:56


If you flat the 3rd you still have a 3rd. It is now a minor 3rd instead of a Major 3rd but it is still a 3rd. The modal tunings like aEADE use an interval that is Not a 3rd, so the sound is neither Major nor Minor. The open strings in Sawmill use what is called a "Suspended 4th". It adds tension to the sound - especially if you don't fall into the trap of turning the tune into the Minor mode and planking down the full Am, Dm, E7th chord set against it.

Try a Dorian melody like "Pretty Polly" or "Shady Grove" against open strings and listen to the sound of modal music. This is what the fiddle, the dulcimer, the bagpipes and the fretless banjo are really about If you play alone or with just a fiddler you can even alter the relationships as you go, but once a guitar is added you are stuck in whatever mode the guitarist prefers, unless you have the gravitas of a Tommy Jarrell and can tell the guitarists what chords you insist be played against modal tunes. He preferred to play Dorian tunes against Major chords, fully aware of the clash it caused - he wanted that clash. Not all music is meant to be "sweet"

Some fiddlers I know refer to AEAE as "Sawmill" none cale GDGD sawmill. Most call both AEAE and GDGD "Cross Tuning" and some don't distinguish between the two. I prefer to keep "Sawmill" to the banjo as I'm pretty sure fiddlers got the name from banjo players. Some of the fiddlers I know prefer to play "Sawmill tunes" in Standard Tuning GDAE because they can get down to that low G and then come up to the A from below

I have a preference for tunings that avoid 3rds.

aDADE has no F# so you can actually play D tunes in all four popular modes - Major, Mixolydian, Dorian, and Minor from the same tuning. The E is a "Suspended 2nd" in D. The tuning works well for E dorian tunes too - like Drowsy Maggie.

gDGDE is a great cross between a G and an E tuning. Again it can be used for tunes in any mode of G plus it can work for E minor and even E dorian tunes. I prefer to call the E a suspended 6th but it is actually more like a second tonic. G Major and E Minor share a scale, just as C Major and A minor do.

I have to admit I am actively seeking a way out of A tuning aEAC#E. It makes everything sound so chordy and stale (2 bar cadences get old after 50 years). Since I need a new way to play C tunes anyway (the working fingers of my left hand can't make the leaps now) I'm thinking about a tuning that will work well for both A and C or something that will take only minimal retuning. This might take me a while and may not be possible. I also have a wife starting to play F tunes - which are currently the same as C tunes for me - too much of a reach.


Edited by - oldwoodchuckb on 10/28/2010 15:10:05



RSB mid


RSB lg


RSB small

deuceswilde - Posted - 10/28/2010:  15:41:42


Jan, could you be so kind as to post the page # in the Briggs' and Converse (also which Converse) where the instructions are given for "third string can be lowered a half tone to play in minor?"

minstrelmike - Posted - 10/28/2010:  15:48:57


As far as origins of the names, I believe I read it was called Sawmill or Mountain Minor tuning in Pete Seeger's How to Play the 5-String Banjo but I don't have my copy to verify that.

I think his book preceded the Great Folk Scare by a few years.

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 10/28/2010:  18:25:20


Pete used Mountain Minor. Clarence Ashley used "Molasses Making" in the notes to his first LP "Old Time Music At Clarence Ashley's"

I first heard "Sawmill" some time in the 70s and assume that it came into use not long before I heard it. I can tell you it was like "Clawhammer" - as soon as I first heard it, that was the word for me. I just wish there was a similarly great descriptive name for my other tunings.

Here is a mystery I'll throw into the discussion. I knew several banjo players who played "Mississippi Sawyer" in Sawmill tuning, despite it being a D tune. You actually lose no notes of the melody. To me it still sounds wrong, but I'e done it for the sake of medleys. I kind of wonder if Miss Sawyer had anything to do with "Sawmill Tuning" - No actual facts here, folks, just passing along an observation.

It would be good if someone who has access to the various banjo books from the last Old Time boom in the 1970s could see what Mel Bay and the others called it. It would also be good to know what the various old timers called it. I know bluegrass players like Don Reno were still using the tuning into the 1970s but have no idea what they called it.

Pine Cone - Posted - 10/28/2010:  21:55:38


For what it's worth, I learned it as G-modal back in 1966. Didn't know it was Sawmill tuning for about another 40 years.

rendesvous1840 - Posted - 10/28/2010:  22:15:24


It's good that Tony mentioned the bagpipe and dulcimer connection above. The drones used on these instruments are either all tonic, or the tonic and fifth of the scale. The root/fifth interval is neither major nor minor, so it works in place of either. Most modern dulcimer players, except the dedicated chord players, still have not managed to improve on this root/fifth harmony. With the dulcimer, we re tune the melody string to play different modes, but the same drones are used, unless we change keys. Even then, we re tune to the root & fifth in the new key.
When we think in terms of tuning to major or minor chords, we are applying more modern thinking to older harmonic ideas. These harmonies were not built on chords, but on drones from the scale in use for each song. Guitar music, and orchestra music used chord-based harmonies, but bagpipes, Celtic Harps, banjos and dulcimers didn't. The G tuning and other tunings with the same intervals existed pretty far back, but may not have been thought of as an open chord by a lot of people. Many didn't know any music theory, how would they know it was an open G chord? They tuned first and foremost to suit their vocal range, and second to what sounded good for the song. They created somber or haunting or pretty moods as the song required.
Paul

tomberghan - Posted - 10/29/2010:  04:40:51


Here is the deal . . .

The short story (really short) is that the modes were in common use from the 9th to 12th centuries. Back in those days they either wrote “monophony” (single melodic lines) or “polyphony” (one more melodic lines being sung or played at the same time).

There was no practice (nor even concept) of “homophony” (chords) back then. No one ever sang a melody while strumming chords on a lute, dulcimer, harp, or lyre (etcetera). That's Hollywood, not history.

Now, I think most of us are familiar with the sound of Plain Song or Gregorian chant. That is an example of the old music written using the “old modes.”

Now, yes, you could strum chords along with a Gregorian chant, but, it would sound “weird” right? (Drones are a different story)

So . . . we could play any melody that is based on a mode in any tuning . . . but as clawhammer banjoists, we tend to brush the strings as we play . . . and if “the third” is brushed, then it sounds like we are playing a triad-chord behind the melody.

This is the reason we prefer to not have an open string tuned to either a major or minor third (when playing "modal tunes"). Because if we brush a minor or major third . . . we sound like are playing a triad chord.

We can brush the interval of a fifth . . . or, a ninth or fourth is OK too . . . it will still have that haunting “open sound” like Gregorian chant. But, brush up again a third or sixth and you drag in all the associations we place on major and minor chords. (In Western music, we associate emotional characteristics with triad chords . . . such as “Major is happy and Minor is sad.”) Interestingly, these associations were not always as they are now. . . but, we have them now!

Why is it called Sawmill? Hell if I know!

rendesvous1840 - Posted - 10/29/2010:  05:41:21


The Gregorian Chants are all in minor modes, as the early Catholic Church considered the Ionian and Mixolydian modes to be too light and frivolous, and therefore, sinful. In some of the most traditional Catholic services, these modes are still used.
Paul

boyscout - Posted - 10/29/2010:  07:42:34


WOW! the knowledge and experience on this forum blows me away!I might have to sit back and let it all digest for a bit. But,....um, could y'all pass me some more of that sawmill GRAVY?!

tomberghan - Posted - 10/29/2010:  08:36:55


quote:
Originally posted by rendesvous1840

The Gregorian Chants are all in minor modes, as the early Catholic Church considered the Ionian and Mixolydian modes to be too light and frivolous, and therefore, sinful. In some of the most traditional Catholic services, these modes are still used.
Paul



Very interesting Paul,
Well . . . we all know that the Good Lord plays banjo . . . (all styles of course) . . . but from this information I extrapolate that he also has a preference for Sawmill!

minstrelmike - Posted - 10/29/2010:  08:47:42


God may prefer Sawmill tuning but if He is against frivolousness, then I suspect He doesn't play banjo (the devil's instrument according to the Scruggs book).

Emiel - Posted - 10/29/2010:  09:15:35


quote:
Originally posted by oldwoodchuckb


I first heard "Sawmill" some time in the 70s and assume that it came into use not long before I heard it. I can tell you it was like "Clawhammer" - as soon as I first heard it, that was the word for me.



In this interview, at 3:29, you hear Clarence Ashley call this tuning "Sawmill". I think that was before the 1970s...

melbay.com/product.asp?ProductID=13026DVD

howbah - Posted - 10/29/2010:  09:21:20


Why "sawmill"?

Well, the way I heard it, long ago, way back to hell & gone, there was an old banjo picker who was about to be hanged or shot or whatever, but first he was asked to play a little something for the folks so he plunked out a sad kinda tune that nobody had heard anything like it or could figure out how he did it, and after he was hauled off to the burying ground a curious bystander picked up the banjo and ran his fingers along the strings, and he figured out what the mysterious previously unknown tuning was, and from that day on it's been known as "sawmill" tuning.












What?








Oh, sorry, the guy's name was Joe Sawmill.


Edited by - howbah on 10/29/2010 09:22:30

R.D. Lunceford - Posted - 10/29/2010:  09:31:09


quote:
Originally posted by janolov
1.how was the tuning developed, and when and where was is it first documentated.

2. Which was first banjo sawmill tuning or fiddle sawmill tuning and are there any other connections between the fiddle sawmill and the banjo sawmill?

3. Why is it named Sawmill tuning? Are there any other theories of how the name Sawmill was developed?

4.Has anyone any other information about the name Mountain Minor?




1. My theory, is that there was a folk tradition that was the source, and continued to run concurrently with the minstrel tradition. gDGCD was part of this folk tradition. I don't know when it was *documented*, but a musicoligist whose name I don't recall, believed that "the system of banjo-tunings was worked out by the 1880's". I'd guess the gDGCD was among them. The thing to recall, is that the tradition is not homogenous. There were local traditions that made little/no use of the gDGCD tuning, Roundpeak being a notable example. In the Ozarks, the tuning was not used, though the comparative lack of modal tunes was no doubt inter-realated.

2. The connection would be that for particular fiddle tunes in AEAE, the gDGCD(capo2) tuning is the most appropriate.

3. Could be anything. In North Missouri, there was a body of music known as "tie-hacker tunes", so named because they were learned from railroad workers who built RR's on their way west. Sawmill tuning? Sawmill workers or any of a number of reasons relating to a person, a style, a tune.

4. Many folks mistakenly call anything that is not major, minor. Or perhaps since true minor tunes are rare in trditional mountain fiddling, the modal stuff (often played out of gDGCD) is the mountaineers' answer to the minor....hence "mountain minor". The modal stuff was once cited as the white mountaineers' answer to the blues also.

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 10/29/2010:  15:39:39


If the popularity of the term "Sawmill" comes from Clarence Ashley's film or lp career, that would date it to somewhere between 1961 when he was "discovered" and his death in 1967. I probably heard the term first around 1972 to 1975 I think that is reasonable considering the small size of the old time community back then. Once a term hit NYC it would go global in a year or two.

Still would be interesting to hear from someone with stuff like John Burke's book or the Mel Bey Method.

rfwillis - Posted - 10/29/2010:  17:09:03



quote:

The modal stuff was once cited as the white mountaineers' answer to the blues also.



There is a lot written about this in Cecelia Conway's "African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia". I think the whole book is well worth a read.

R.D. Lunceford - Posted - 10/29/2010:  23:08:31


quote:

Still would be interesting to hear from someone with stuff like John Burke's book or the Mel Bey Method.



Tony;
Excuse my mental density, but what are you asking about?
I have a copy of Burke.

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 10/30/2010:  00:17:58


R.D.

Do you happen to know whether Burke used the word "Sawmill" for the aEADE or gDGCD tuning? And if not, did he use any name for it - like "Mountain Minor" etc?

I doubt I heard the words "Sawmill tuning" before the early 70s. I did sell my banjo around 62 to buy a flamenco guitar, but working in repair shops pretty much seemed to keep me in touch with banjo jargon. Still, I have no idea however, of where Sawmill tuning got its name, or when it became the main name for the tuning.

janolov - Posted - 10/30/2010:  01:02:15


Art Rosenbaum's first book is copyrighted 1968. I bought it in 1970. He calls the tuning G modal - mountain minor - "sawmill tuning".( Did I know of sawmill tuning before OldWoodChuck and R.D.?). He refers to Pete Seeger about the name Mountain Minor.

Pete Seeger's book (third revision revised 1962 - red cover) just call the tuning Mountain Minor.

gdtrfb24 - Posted - 10/30/2010:  05:28:08


Interesting topic guys. On Sail Away Ladies, Burke calls the tuning G-Modal, but later on, he describes Cumberland Gap as sawmill (G-Modal) tuning. In Eric Muller's book (1973), he calls the tuning G-Modal, but points out it's sometimes call sawmill or mountain minor.

Old Cremona - Posted - 10/30/2010:  06:15:28


Just for clarification, the early Briggs and Converse tutors do not mention tuning the third string down a half step. Converse especially was all about playing in different keys without retuning. The whole modal tuning is not a documented 19th century banjo trend.

Of course, there's the black banjo player that Converse mentions who tuned his second string up a half step--but that was a part of his act, i. e. "'fro de banjo out'a tune" as Converse described him describing it. It's tempting to ascribe the common use of this tuning to this account, but not good history.

I know this opinion irritates the "clawhammer style was concurrently played in the stroke-style era" crowd but surely if there was this fast, hot, smooth style with modal tunings being played at the same time the documented stroke-style, someone, somewhere would have mentioned it? I just haven't seen conclusive evidence for this theory.

janolov - Posted - 10/30/2010:  07:44:49


quote:
Originally posted by Old Cremona

Just for clarification, the early Briggs and Converse tutors do not mention tuning the third string down a half step.


I was wrong about Briggs and Converse. I didn't check it before I wrote the post, but I have checked now and found nothing. However, I am sure I have seen the reference to a minor tuning in some old tutor but I don't remember which one.

Yigal Zan - Posted - 10/30/2010:  09:17:22


Just a nostalgic note. The interviewer in the Clarence Ashley performs "The Cuckoo" video is the late professor D. K. Wilgus of UCLA, who in 1964 was instrumental in getting me into that university.

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 10/30/2010:  09:29:41


quote:
Originally posted by Old Cremona


I know this opinion irritates the "clawhammer style was concurrently played in the stroke-style era" crowd but surely if there was this fast, hot, smooth style with modal tunings being played at the same time the documented stroke-style, someone, somewhere would have mentioned it? I just haven't seen conclusive evidence for this theory.


I found clawhammer style being played in Mali among the Dogon people in 1981. Nothing I know of documents it before that. Do you really think they invented it in 1981, or have they been playing that way for 100s of years? Many of the African "banjo" players who were brought to America surely played in clawhammer style. Where do you think the minstrels got stroke style from? What would lead you to believe that clawhammer would have died out among the non-professional musicians at that time. Just because no one has bothered to document something does not mean it doesn't exist.

janolov - Posted - 10/30/2010:  12:54:00


I just looked through New Lost City Rambler's Song Book from 1964. There is notation and tab for Ashley's The Coo Coo Bird. The book gives the information "G-modal tuning (GDGCD). Ashley calls it his "Sawmill tuning".

By the way, you can listen to Ashley's first recording of the Coo Coo Bird from 192X(?) at Juneberry78: juneberry78s.com/otmsampler/16...0Bird.mp3

deuceswilde - Posted - 10/30/2010:  16:34:07


quote:
Originally posted by Marc Nerenberg

quote:
Originally posted by Old Cremona


I know this opinion irritates the "clawhammer style was concurrently played in the stroke-style era" crowd but surely if there was this fast, hot, smooth style with modal tunings being played at the same time the documented stroke-style, someone, somewhere would have mentioned it? I just haven't seen conclusive evidence for this theory.


I found clawhammer style being played in Mali among the Dogon people in 1981. Nothing I know of documents it before that. Do you really think they invented it in 1981, or have they been playing that way for 100s of years? Many of the African "banjo" players who were brought to America surely played in clawhammer style. Where do you think the minstrels got stroke style from? What would lead you to believe that clawhammer would have died out among the non-professional musicians at that time. Just because no one has bothered to document something does not mean it doesn't exist.



Prosecution: Your Honor, it is true that he have not presented any evidence to show the the defendant actually committed these murders, but even if we do not have the evidence, that does not mean that he did not do it.

Judge: I find the defendant guilty based on the lack of evidence on either side.

Who needs presumption of innocence? You would if it was your trial.

People playing in a down-stroke style in Mali in 1981 is not evidence that they, or anyone was using it before the 19th century. Without proof it would be best if we say the we think that it could of been done, but then qualify it. Also, are they really playing in exactly the "clawhammer style?"

In the late 19th century stroke style was often referred to as "characteristic style" (that's of black people). So, if the down picking style is the original true method, it is safe to say, based on evidence, that it originated with black people. Now, of American or African, we do not know for fact as there are too many variables.

As to "clawhammer" specifically as we know it today, there is financial stability in the nostalgia, so even if irrefutable evidence against it was produced it would be cast off.

There is no evidence that folks commonly navigated the sky in airplanes in the 1700s, maybe they forgot to document it.

One last point, then back to the topic. It has been posted many times, even by me, that clawhammer is a "dumbed down" or simplified version of stroke style and I feel that it has caused some resentfulness. I'd like to go in record and say the us early banjo players have had this discussion and we (at least the ones I've talked to) think the clawhammer is not a easier version of stroke style, in fact in many ways it is more difficult. Played clean, fast and rhythmic it is a great style. Absolutely not easy. Just different approaches.

On topic, I've got nothing about the tuning, but the mountain minor Seeger reference is on page 36. Interestingly, on page 70 Pete gives a list of banjo books that are all of "early or minstrel" and "classic" banjo era including "Converse's Analytical Banjo Method.

brokenstrings - Posted - 10/30/2010:  17:43:43


quote:
Originally posted by rendesvous1840

The Gregorian Chants are all in minor modes, as the early Catholic Church considered the Ionian and Mixolydian modes to be too light and frivolous, and therefore, sinful. In some of the most traditional Catholic services, these modes are still used.
Paul



Huh? Frivolous? "She Moved Through the Fair" and "Silkie" are Mixolydian.

rendesvous1840 - Posted - 10/30/2010:  19:39:50


OK, memory is the second thing to go. Rechecking my mode stuff, I find that the 4 original "approved by the Church" modes were dorian, phrygian, lydian & mixolydian. It was only the ionian mode that was considered frivolous. The ionian and aeolian modes were added to Catholic music in 1547 by a Swiss monk,Henry of Glareanes. It does bear noting that Papal edicts concerning frivolous modes were not of any interest to most non-Catholic churches, or to composers of secular songs. After the Reformation, various protestant sects were formed,and music used in the services of them were very different than the Catholic hymns. And still are. I was raised in the Roman Catholic faith, while my wife was raised in the Southern Baptist faith. We both noted the differences in the music used in each others respective services. The Baptist hymns were much more joyful, not so somber as the Catholic hymns. Nearly all of the difference was in the musical settings, not so much in the content of the lyrics. Roman Catholic is the most progressive of the Catholic branches, the Byzantine and Russian churches are less so. A few weeks ago,we attended a funeral service in one of the Orthodox Catholic churches, and chants were used in the service, rather than songs. And they are still in the most somber modes, perhaps befitting a funeral service. I don't know if the non funeral services are aslo chanted, or if they have been changed, but I suspect the word "Orthodox" in their name carries meaning to this day. When I was a teen, the Roman Catholic hierarchy made moves to modernize the services, and the chanting was removed from all but the most solemn of masses, such as Good Friday.That was in the mid 1960's.
My wife can recall the oldest members of her family speaking a version of English that still used Old English wording similar to the King James Bible in every day conversation. Some things evolve slowly, when no catalyst is present. The younger generations had the catalyst of public school and increased travel due to better roads, plus the access to outside culture caused by a large number of people serving in 2 world wars.
Paul

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 10/30/2010:  19:41:49


quote:
Originally posted by deuceswilde

quote:
Originally posted by Marc Nerenberg

quote:
Originally posted by Old Cremona


I know this opinion irritates the "clawhammer style was concurrently played in the stroke-style era" crowd but surely if there was this fast, hot, smooth style with modal tunings being played at the same time the documented stroke-style, someone, somewhere would have mentioned it? I just haven't seen conclusive evidence for this theory.


I found clawhammer style being played in Mali among the Dogon people in 1981. Nothing I know of documents it before that. Do you really think they invented it in 1981, or have they been playing that way for 100s of years? Many of the African "banjo" players who were brought to America surely played in clawhammer style. Where do you think the minstrels got stroke style from? What would lead you to believe that clawhammer would have died out among the non-professional musicians at that time. Just because no one has bothered to document something does not mean it doesn't exist.



Prosecution: Your Honor, it is true that he have not presented any evidence to show the the defendant actually committed these murders, but even if we do not have the evidence, that does not mean that he did not do it.

Judge: I find the defendant guilty based on the lack of evidence on either side.

Who needs presumption of innocence? You would if it was your trial.

People playing in a down-stroke style in Mali in 1981 is not evidence that they, or anyone was using it before the 19th century. Without proof it would be best if we say the we think that it could of been done, but then qualify it. Also, are they really playing in exactly the "clawhammer style?"

In the late 19th century stroke style was often referred to as "characteristic style" (that's of black people). So, if the down picking style is the original true method, it is safe to say, based on evidence, that it originated with black people. Now, of American or African, we do not know for fact as there are too many variables.

As to "clawhammer" specifically as we know it today, there is financial stability in the nostalgia, so even if irrefutable evidence against it was produced it would be cast off.

There is no evidence that folks commonly navigated the sky in airplanes in the 1700s, maybe they forgot to document it.

One last point, then back to the topic. It has been posted many times, even by me, that clawhammer is a "dumbed down" or simplified version of stroke style and I feel that it has caused some resentfulness. I'd like to go in record and say the us early banjo players have had this discussion and we (at least the ones I've talked to) think the clawhammer is not a easier version of stroke style, in fact in many ways it is more difficult. Played clean, fast and rhythmic it is a great style. Absolutely not easy. Just different approaches.

On topic, I've got nothing about the tuning, but the mountain minor Seeger reference is on page 36. Interestingly, on page 70 Pete gives a list of banjo books that are all of "early or minstrel" and "classic" banjo era including "Converse's Analytical Banjo Method.

As a criminal lawyer, I find your invocation of the presumption of innocence to be completely beside the point. I never suggested that it was proven that clawhammer existed independently of stroke style and simultaneously with it. I merely said that the lack of documentation is, in and of itself, unpersuasive proof to the contrary.

That I would have found downpicking on a banjo like instrument in the most remote region of Mali in 1981, in a cliffside village, played by the most isolated people, would suggest to me that they did not learn this technique from Americans. It further suggests to me that the technique came to America from this part of the world, and that the technique pre-dates the banjo itself. Was it real clawhammer? It certainly looked and sounded like it to me. We played together effortlessly, he on his instrument composed of a gourd, a stick, some skin and fishing line...and me on my small sized fretless banjo. I'll attach a clip of me playing one of those instruments that I brought back at the time. To the best of my perception and recollection, this is how he played. (I've added a couple of photos there as well).

My thesis is (and yes, it's a thesis, not a proof) that since the basic underlying design of the instrument AND the essence of downpicking are both African imports, and that the minstrel style was itself both an imitation and caricature of black banjo playing, there is no reason to conclude that minstrel style is itself the source of clawhammer style, but that rather BOTH minstrel style and "folk" clawhammer styles derive from earlier black banjo playing and existed in parallel to each other throughout the minstrel period. That minstrel music was the widely popular commercial music of the day would lead it to be documented and celebrated. That clawhammer was a rural non-professional style played in isolated regions of the country would lead to it be undocumented.

The notion that pre-minstrel down-picking should have become extinct, only to be later re-invented as some re-claimed style derived from minstrel playing seems to me to be the less likely explanation.

Lacking any definitive proof either way, this is a difference of opinion that will never be resolved. While do I think the balance of probabilities lies on my side of the proposition, I fully respect your opinion to the contrary as valid, reasonable and possible (and I always enjoy reading what you have to say - I've learned a lot from you).

[PS: I APOLOGIZE FOR THE THREAD DRIFT.]


Edited by - Marc Nerenberg on 10/30/2010 20:51:52



1981, Mali, Falaise of Bandiagara


Dogon "Kona" picture 2


VIDEO: CLAWHAMMER KONA TUNE - Marc Nerenberg
(click to view)

rfwillis - Posted - 10/30/2010:  21:58:45


Marc Nerenberg, I think you'll find that the trade store in your remote region of Mali, was well stocked with Mel Bay books and accompanying cassetes. This is how the white man managed to teach his clawhammer music to the natives. To the great credit of the Africans and African Americans, they are very quick learners. Look at how they picked up Rap, once Vanilla Ice and Marky Mark showed them the ropes.


Edited by - rfwillis on 10/31/2010 02:40:06

BRUNO25 - Posted - 10/31/2010:  04:05:34


personally, I love thread-drift. It's what it's all about.

Keep it up.

John

R.D. Lunceford - Posted - 10/31/2010:  10:45:35


quote:
Originally posted by Old Cremona
Just for clarification, the early Briggs and Converse tutors do not mention tuning the third string down a half step. Converse especially was all about playing in different keys without retuning...



However, on pg. 30 of the Briggs Banjo Instructor(1855) as reprinted by Tuckahoe Music, there is a note indicating that the *2nd* string be tuned down a half step to play in minor keys.



quote:
Originally posted by Old Cremona
I know this opinion irritates the "clawhammer style was concurrently played in the stroke-style era" crowd but surely if there was this fast, hot, smooth style with modal tunings being played at the same time the documented stroke-style, someone, somewhere would have mentioned it? I just haven't seen conclusive evidence for this theory.



Though I am part of the "clawhammer style was concurrently played in the stroke-style era crowd ", your opinion in no way "irritates" me. This place is for the exchange of ideas, and if we do nothing but agree with each other all day long, what do we learn?

I think it is only logical that the black folk tradition that was the root of the minstrel genre should continue along its own trajectory. The minstrels increasingly lost touch with the original root tradition as time went by.

Many of the late 19th/early 20th century players of which we do have documentation cite earlier black sources for some of their material. A good portion of this material is quite different in feel from minstrel tunes, and does employ alternate tunings. Notably, the family of tunes played out of the modern f#DF#AD and related tunings tend to be from black sources that often precede the Wade Wards and Tommy Jarrels by a generation, locating them firmly in the mid-19th century.

Conway in the conclusion (pg. 288) of her "African Banjos in Appalachia" states that;

"Minstrels, then, seem to have had little or no impact upon the formation of mountain banjo playing and provided limited influence upon the continuous evolution of this southern folk tradition beyond specific repertory items and settings"

If one does not have Conway's book, I heartily recommend it. She does much to provide information that culminates in the above quote.

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 10/31/2010:  10:59:16


quote:
Originally posted by R.D. Lunceford

If one does not have Conway's book, I heartily recommend it. She does much to provide information that culminates in the above quote.


Thanks R.D. I'm going to try to find that book. (I wonder if it exists as an ebook anywhere...I find I particularly enjoy reading books about music on my Ipod, for some reason. Probably because it's always in my pocket, available for me to read a few pages whenever or wherever I find myself waiting on anything. And I can sometimes listen to the very music I'm reading about at the same moment. I'm reading a terrific book about blues on it currently).


Edited by - Marc Nerenberg on 10/31/2010 11:03:26

RG - Posted - 10/31/2010:  13:30:20


To follow RD's and Marc's postings, it is always interesting in these types of discussions for me to refer to Rufus Crisp of Kentucky.

Mr. Crisp was born 15 years after the Civil War and was playing banjo professionally at dances and contests before the turn of the century. When he was "re-discovered" in the mid 1940's, he had not been playing banjo for about 30 years. He was recorded for Folkways in 1946-55, and his playing is a great archaic style using alternate tunings, some that he ascribed to specific songs (by the way and as an aside, he plays with an alternate string pull off on the first string to produce a “bump-a-ditty” rhythm and not a “bum-ditty” rhythm, but that’s another can of worms).

Given the dates, it would seem VERY likely that these alternate and tune specific tunings existed when Mr. Crisp learned to play the banjo sometime in the late 1880's-mid 1890's, which would point to an earlier tradition of alternate tunings being developed with or possibly even prior to the rise of the Minstrel period in the 1840's through 1860's by which time the Minstrel tradition and tune repertoire was firmly established with a minimum of variation in either tuning or tune structure, much like pop music today which usually follows a formula that mimic's "the hits" from established artists.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mr. Crisp's Folkways recordings, I would recommend that you pick it up from their site, the booklet that comes with the CD is a wealth of information on the music and tradition as it existed at the turn of the century a full generation before the revered "old time" greats that we all know started to play and gives one food for thought in these kinds of discussions...

folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.a...temid=201


Edited by - RG on 10/31/2010 13:37:42

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 10/31/2010:  14:33:39


Thanks RG. I right away checked to see if I had any Rufus Crisp...and I only do on vinyl, which I can no longer play. So, being the impatient type (and not wanting to pay shipping and customs) I downloaded the same Folkways album from Itunes. (This is twice in 2 posts I've mentioned Apple products...I have no affiliation with them, honest! )

rendesvous1840 - Posted - 10/31/2010:  17:33:58


If I recall correctly,(Not always the case any more!) Pete Seeger said he learned frailing from Rufus Crisp. I can't easily recheck my memory,as I don't have Pete's book any more. I passed it along to a friend I was trying to teach banjo to. I believe it was in the caption under a picture of Mr. Crisp.Any one have the book? I never realized he was born that far back.
Paul

deuceswilde - Posted - 10/31/2010:  18:12:36


quote:
Originally posted by RG

To follow RD's and Marc's postings, it is always interesting in these types of discussions for me to refer to Rufus Crisp of Kentucky.

Mr. Crisp was born 15 years after the Civil War and was playing banjo professionally at dances and contests before the turn of the century. When he was "re-discovered" in the mid 1940's, he had not been playing banjo for about 30 years. He was recorded for Folkways in 1946-55, and his playing is a great archaic style using alternate tunings, some that he ascribed to specific songs (by the way and as an aside, he plays with an alternate string pull off on the first string to produce a “bump-a-ditty” rhythm and not a “bum-ditty” rhythm, but that’s another can of worms).

Given the dates, it would seem VERY likely that these alternate and tune specific tunings existed when Mr. Crisp learned to play the banjo sometime in the late 1880's-mid 1890's, which would point to an earlier tradition of alternate tunings being developed with or possibly even prior to the rise of the Minstrel period in the 1840's through 1860's by which time the Minstrel tradition and tune repertoire was firmly established with a minimum of variation in either tuning or tune structure, much like pop music today which usually follows a formula that mimic's "the hits" from established artists.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mr. Crisp's Folkways recordings, I would recommend that you pick it up from their site, the booklet that comes with the CD is a wealth of information on the music and tradition as it existed at the turn of the century a full generation before the revered "old time" greats that we all know started to play and gives one food for thought in these kinds of discussions...

folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.a...temid=201




Yes, very likely that he never changed anything about the way he played in 50 years. No musicians ever change the way they play or sound to adapt to the times.

For example, exactly the same sound...

youtube.com/watch?v=_xuMwfUqJJM

youtube.com/watch?v=Nnpil_pRUiw

tbfnyc - Posted - 10/31/2010:  18:27:28


When I was first learning banjo in 1959 nobody referred to what we called "G-Modal" or just "Modal" tuning as "Sawmill" tuning. I didn't hear that term until many years later. The term "Clawhammer" was known but we all referred to it as "frailing" and a person who played that style was known as a "frailer" not a clawhammerer.

As for C tunings, we only knew of two. There was plain "C-Tuning" in which the 4th string was tuned to a C note as in "Farewell Blues" and Scruggs' "Home Sweet Home". That's the classic plectrum banjo tuning. And then there was "Open C" which was an open C chord (gCGCE). "Bear Tracks" was recorded in that tuning and it was used a lot for frailing as in "Railroading & Gambling" and "Peach Bottom Creek". The terms "Double C" and "Drop C" were not used and I still don't know what they mean.


Edited by - tbfnyc on 10/31/2010 18:28:15

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 10/31/2010:  18:32:46


quote:
Originally posted by deuceswilde

quote:
Originally posted by RG

To follow RD's and Marc's postings, it is always interesting in these types of discussions for me to refer to Rufus Crisp of Kentucky.

Mr. Crisp was born 15 years after the Civil War and was playing banjo professionally at dances and contests before the turn of the century. When he was "re-discovered" in the mid 1940's, he had not been playing banjo for about 30 years. He was recorded for Folkways in 1946-55, and his playing is a great archaic style using alternate tunings, some that he ascribed to specific songs (by the way and as an aside, he plays with an alternate string pull off on the first string to produce a “bump-a-ditty” rhythm and not a “bum-ditty” rhythm, but that’s another can of worms).

Given the dates, it would seem VERY likely that these alternate and tune specific tunings existed when Mr. Crisp learned to play the banjo sometime in the late 1880's-mid 1890's, which would point to an earlier tradition of alternate tunings being developed with or possibly even prior to the rise of the Minstrel period in the 1840's through 1860's by which time the Minstrel tradition and tune repertoire was firmly established with a minimum of variation in either tuning or tune structure, much like pop music today which usually follows a formula that mimic's "the hits" from established artists.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mr. Crisp's Folkways recordings, I would recommend that you pick it up from their site, the booklet that comes with the CD is a wealth of information on the music and tradition as it existed at the turn of the century a full generation before the revered "old time" greats that we all know started to play and gives one food for thought in these kinds of discussions...

folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.a...temid=201




Yes, very likely that he never changed anything about the way he played in 50 years. No musicians ever change the way they play or sound to adapt to the times.

For example, exactly the same sound...

youtube.com/watch?v=_xuMwfUqJJM

youtube.com/watch?v=Nnpil_pRUiw



Of course, using the Beatles as an example, who were absolutely and singularly startling in their growth and development and change, is hardly the most persuasive argument that most musicians change dramatically over time (which is what I think you are implying). The same could be said of that perpetual chameleon, Bob Dylan. Or try and find another artist who was a master of so many styles as Picasso. But these are all atypical individuals...noteworthy for this very characteristic.

I have no idea whether or not Rufus Crisp changed his style dramatically over the years, but the vast majority of folk, blues and old time performers whom I have heard both young and old on recordings are only subtly different stylistically in their old age than they were when young.

R.D. Lunceford - Posted - 10/31/2010:  19:49:22


quote:
Originally posted by oldwoodchuckb

R.D.

Do you happen to know whether Burke used the word "Sawmill" for the aEADE or gDGCD tuning? And if not, did he use any name for it - like "Mountain Minor" etc?

I doubt I heard the words "Sawmill tuning" before the early 70s. I did sell my banjo around 62 to buy a flamenco guitar, but working in repair shops pretty much seemed to keep me in touch with banjo jargon. Still, I have no idea however, of where Sawmill tuning got its name, or when it became the main name for the tuning.



Tony;

Sorry for the delay in replying.......

Burke includes a table of contents that lists the key for each tune.
This feature is at somewhat of a variance with the tab. For example,
the table of contents lists Soldier's Joy, Mississippi Sawyer, Rickett's Hornpipe, etc. in D, however the tab gives the gCGCD tuning for those pieces.

He most often refers to gDGCD as "G-Modal", but on pg. 31 in the notes for "Cumberland Gap" says; "...the banjo is tuned in sawmill (G-Modal) tuning, but the piece is played in F".

The tab for "Cluck Old Hen" indicates the gDGCD tuning, but the table of contents indicates the key as A. From this I would surmise that he is using the label "sawmill" for gDGCD tuning and it's intervalic equivalents.

janolov - Posted - 11/01/2010:  00:07:27


quote:
Originally posted by janolov

quote:
Originally posted by Old Cremona

Just for clarification, the early Briggs and Converse tutors do not mention tuning the third string down a half step.


I was wrong about Briggs and Converse. I didn't check it before I wrote the post, but I have checked now and found nothing. However, I am sure I have seen the reference to a minor tuning in some old tutor but I don't remember which one.



I was wrong that I was wrong. I found it in Briggs p 30.

RG - Posted - 11/01/2010:  00:47:23


Marc-I think you'll like the CD, I sold my vinyl a couple of years ago and this was the first CD I bought as a replacement...some really fun stuff and his story of the banjo contest is worth the price alone!

Paul-you are correct about the Pete Seeger connection, Pete was introduced to Rufus by Margot Mayo who formed the American Square Dance Troupe in NY in the late 1930's and was Mr. Crisp's cousin...here is a link that explains the relationship including a .jpg of an article Pete wrote about his first meeting Mr. Crisp in 1940...

downhomeradioshow.com/2007/07/...-episode/


Joel-if you had actually read my post, Mr. Crisp didn't play for roughly 30 years, as the above article outlines, he was given a banjo by Pete Seeger (see above) around 1940 and then started playing again, I am sure at his age he played from memory as he had been out of music (or played it sporadically) for so long...there was nothing to adapt his music to because he wasn't playing any...and even if he did, I am quite sure that he wouldn't suddenly invent a bunch of alternate tunings to use for songs that he learned to play in the 1890's...he would use the tunings he originally learned the songs in; to think otherwise is naive. As Marc pointed out, the majority of folk muscians very rarely stray stylistically or structurally from what they originally learn; there are many examples of this if you listen to this music...

I am not the idiot you seem to think I am, certainly there are many musicians who adapt and change the way they approach and play music, but not all of them as pointed out above; your comparative links in this regard are completely spurious. Why not look at the early recordings and playing style of someone in the genre like Crockett Ward and compare them to his later recordings (in case you didn't know, Crockett was Wade's older brother who played professionally his whole life and was born in 1872-he played fiddle and banjo and used many alternate tunings which he passed on to his brother Wade)? Not a lot of adaptation or change due to outside influences in how he played or approached the tunes in his repertoire, the bulk of which he learned prior to 1900...such an example would be a much more meaningful comparison to this discussion than a modern pop group like the Beatles.

Instead of just being patronizing as you seem to be in the majority of your posts that I read here on the hangout, might I suggest that you approach some of them with an open mind...you may actually learn something that you didn't know (that's always a good thing); a starting point would be to pick up the CD and give it a listen and read the accompanying notes concerning Mr. Crisp and his music to form a more educated opinion instead of the uninformed, contrarian one you posted...


Edited by - RG on 11/01/2010 01:02:31

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