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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: What Are the Tunings for Celtc Music?


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/332317

Frisco Fred - Posted - 07/06/2017:  09:13:05


I'll be playing with a new group of people soon.  They play Irish, Old Time and Contra Dance music.  Last time I was with a similar group, I had to change the tuning on my five string banjo.  The group consisted of one guitar,two violins,  one cello and an auto harp.  I forgot what the tuning was, but it wasn't "G" and I don't think "D", maybe it was "A."



Are there standard or typical five string banjo tunings for Irish, Old Time and Contra music?. 


Edited by - Frisco Fred on 07/07/2017 06:21:23

MusicManMike - Posted - 07/06/2017:  09:56:43


There's not really a "standard" but if your mixing the 2 genres and sticking with tradional keys they will most likely be G,D,A. G and A are easy because you can just capo up from G to get A and D can be played by tuning to double C capoed at 2nd fret. Check out Kelly Griner's YouTube page he does a lot of Irish folk tunes in the Clawhammer style. Also check out my group "The Last Pint String Band" we do both Irish and Old Time music but I mostly play clawhammer when I play banjo in that group no matter if the tunes is Irish or Old Time

Frisco Fred - Posted - 07/06/2017:  10:30:55


quote:

Originally posted by MusicManMike

 

There's not really a "standard" but if your mixing the 2 genres and sticking with tradional keys they will most likely be G,D,A. G and A are easy because you can just capo up from G to get A and D can be played by tuning to double C capoed at 2nd fret. Check out Kelly Griner's YouTube page he does a lot of Irish folk tunes in the Clawhammer style. Also check out my group "The Last Pint String Band" we do both Irish and Old Time music but I mostly play clawhammer when I play banjo in that group no matter if the tunes is Irish or Old Time







seems to me, or to the best of my recollection that I ended up with the second string tuned down one fret... or something like that... but it wasn't a tuning that was familiar to me.  I never used a capo.

BDCA - Posted - 07/07/2017:  07:34:22


A reasonable group will keep each set in the same key and generally the key changes will be infrequent with a 5 string banjo player in the band. If you have two banjos, then key changes can be planned within a set.



In Irish music keys are always D,G and A and the relative minors. There may be a few off the wall tunes in E. In Old Time music keys are C, D, G and A and the banjo will be tuned appropriatly. If the band strays from these protocols, they are not used to playing with a 5 string banjo and need to adjust their repertoire appropriately. 



If you are playing a tenor banjo, it will be tuned GDAE and there is no need to re-tune to play in any key.



I play contra dances with bot and Irish band and an Old Time Band.



Bob

AndrewD - Posted - 07/08/2017:  02:53:48


quote:

Originally posted by Frisco Fred

 
 



seems to me, or to the best of my recollection that I ended up with the second string tuned down one fret... or something like that... but it wasn't a tuning that was familiar to me.  I never used a capo.







Second string down one fret fro B to Bb would be Gminor tuning. Which works fine if the song is in Gm but isn't a specifically Celtic (or anything else) tuning. Just a useful tuning for playing in Gm. A lot of Irish music is in D or A because that's what fiddlers like, as is American old-time music which has a lot of Irish influences and even a lot of the same tunes So unless you have the desire (why would you ?) and ability to play in any key without a capo you will spend most of your life with a capo on the 2nd fret playing as if in G or C. Most of us do, In the regular session I play in we do a sequence of tunes in the same key before retuning. Mostly open G or double C uncopes of capoed up to open A double D with occasional forays into modal G or A.

johnedallas - Posted - 07/09/2017:  13:43:51


Don't know about Celtic music, but Irish music is my thing. Songs are in the key the singer wants, but mostly (in my case, as singer and 5-string player) C or G. Dance tunes are in the "fiddle" keys G, D and A.

I use the old, British classic tuning of gCGBD, so I can play C, G, and F (when I'm accompanying myself - guitarists don't like it) easily, also D and A open (or capoed at 2, if the chord changes are coming thick and fast). I have a 5th-string capo of some sort (slide or spike) for most of my banjos.

The long strings of the gCGBD tuning are the same as the 4 strings of the plectrum banjo, which is typically played in any key, so it gives you quite a bit of latitude in choice of key with minimal use of the capo.

Cheers,
John

Tom Hanway - Posted - 07/15/2017:  05:15:40


quote:


Originally posted by Frisco Fred

*snip*




Are there standard or typical five string banjo tunings for Irish, Old Time and Contra music?







That’s a great question, and a lot depends on style and technique. On a 5-string, playing Irish and Celtic trad tunes does not have to be confined to old-time techniques and tunings: G tuning is all that one needs, especially if one wants to change keys or modes without re-tuning or capoing, which could disrupt any trad session (not limited to ITM).



I have transcribed over two-hundred tunes in standard G tuning over four Irish and Celtic 5-string collections with Mel Bay Publications, Inc.  And it’s what I almost always use at sessions here in Ireland.  Lately, I’ve been experimenting with Double-C tuning for singing airs that could be sung sean-nós style (literally “old style”, and unaccompanied).



It is so important to develop the fretting-hand, especially in Irish and Celtic fingerstyle banjo, which is a style I have been developing for nearly 30 years. It is my belief that it can (and should) bring with it all that it has learned from working out of standard G tuning, including positions for playing jazz, bluegrass, fiddle tunes, scales, and the like. However, because this style is focused on melody, one is not playing back-up patterns, licks, or rolling over chords, and the fretting-hand does a lot more work than it would in playing bluegrass or country. In any case, the fretting-hand already knows where to go to grab certain pitches up the neck, especially on the first three strings, so having basic chord positions and skills comes in handy.



Perhaps this is where the biggest learning curve is for bluegrass players who want to have a go at Irish and Celtic fingerstyle tunes. Bluegrass licks and Scruggs clichés have few applications here. To resort to them would be to superimpose bluegrass tradition over Irish and Celtic traditions. This is ill-advised if one wants to play at a traditional session – and be asked back. To use bluegrass licks and roll patterns is the surest way to stick out like a sore thumb at a traditional session. 



Bluegrass picking patterns may transfer over to Irish and Celtic fingerstyle banjo, but they are no longer roll patterns per se. They are more like usable fingerings, and they are used differently, tightened up, often on one or two strings (not just three). This happens because we are in pursuit of melody that happens in a small interval range. Jigs and reels don’t have the wide interval leaps that hornpipes, strathspeys and harp tunes have, and I have given many examples of these in Mel Bay’s Complete Book of Irish & Celtic 5-String Banjo.



There are lots of interchangeable fingerings, sometimes employing the fingers of the fretting-hand, which can be used, just as in old-time or in bluegrass, to play hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides, either to play a straightforward melody or to embellish it. The same musical phrase can be played lots of different ways on the 5-string banjo. Therein lies the beauty and challenge of it. 



In all my Irish and Celtic fingerstyle collections (Celtic fingerstyle for short), I have attempted to make playing tunes fun, sticking to G tuning, being faithful to the bare bones melodies, and borrowing ornamentation (not just triplets) from all the instruments in the living tradition of Irish and Celtic music.



Here are some trad tunes using G tuning that I recorded in 1997 for my first Mel Bay collection (used by permission). I have other variations for them today, though I tend to leave out ornamentation at sessions that I might otherwise play if I'm doing a solo performance.



Mason's Apron



Liverpool Hornpipe/Cronin's/The Rights of Man



The Tarbolton/Longford Collector/Sailor's Bonnet



Beir bua agus beannacht ~ Tom

steve davis - Posted - 07/15/2017:  06:53:10


When you can play any key from G tuning you are always ready to kick off the next tune.
And you are always in tune.

Frisco Fred - Posted - 07/15/2017:  13:19:43


from Tom Hanway



Bluegrass picking patterns may transfer over to Irish and Celtic fingerstyle banjo, but they are no longer roll patterns per se. They are more like usable fingerings, and they are used differently, tightened up, often on one or two strings (not just three). This happens because we are in pursuit of melody that happens in a small interval range. Jigs and reels don’t have the wide interval leaps that hornpipes, strathspeys and harp tunes have, and I have given many examples of these in Mel Bay’s Complete Book of Irish & Celtic 5-String Banjo.



Tom, first of all, thank you for your in depth explanation.  A couple of the paragraphs you wrote and particularly the one above messes with my mind.  I am 100% self taught and play by ear and by watching what my accompanying players are doing.  On top of that, I have trouble reading and following instructions.  But I've read whatyou've written several times and it's starting to sink in. 



As far as leaving the banjo in standard tuning, is it just me or does the crazy thing sound completely different, regardless of the cord or note when you tighten or loosen the strings?  I mean, there's different sounding "A's" "B's" etc. when the banjo is tuned different.  Some sounding more or less complementary to certain genre's of music.



Thanks again to everyone who contributed to this thread, I'll be in fire soon, and I hope I learned something here... or to paraphrase Tom, "being asked to come back."  



 

steve davis - Posted - 07/16/2017:  13:37:54


Each key has its own characteristics.

Tom Hanway - Posted - 07/19/2017:  03:07:53


quote:

Originally posted by Frisco Fred

 

from Tom Hanway




Bluegrass picking patterns may transfer over to Irish and Celtic fingerstyle banjo, but they are no longer roll patterns per se. They are more like usable fingerings, and they are used differently, tightened up, often on one or two strings (not just three). This happens because we are in pursuit of melody that happens in a small interval range. Jigs and reels don’t have the wide interval leaps that hornpipes, strathspeys and harp tunes have, and I have given many examples of these in Mel Bay’s Complete Book of Irish & Celtic 5-String Banjo.




Tom, first of all, thank you for your in depth explanation.  A couple of the paragraphs you wrote and particularly the one above messes with my mind.  I am 100% self taught and play by ear and by watching what my accompanying players are doing.  On top of that, I have trouble reading and following instructions.  But I've read whatyou've written several times and it's starting to sink in. 




As far as leaving the banjo in standard tuning, is it just me or does the crazy thing sound completely different, regardless of the cord or note when you tighten or loosen the strings?  I mean, there's different sounding "A's" "B's" etc. when the banjo is tuned different.  Some sounding more or less complementary to certain genre's of music.




Thanks again to everyone who contributed to this thread, I'll be in fire soon, and I hope I learned something here... or to paraphrase Tom, "being asked to come back."  




 







John, don't worry about being asked to come back!  Okay, learning by ear is good, even preferable once one has put in the hours (possibly thousands) and given oneself the technical training to pick up tunes on the fly; however, sometimes it's hard to discern all the nuances of tunes, especially fast reels when they are flying by with different kinds of variation and ornamentation happening on different passes. 



There are no shortcuts to listening to melodies and variations, learning tunes and standard variations, which involve the three forms of Celtic ornamentation. They are sometimes the tune itself (melismatic, intervallic, and rhythmic), and one can combine them to suit one's personal taste or playing style at any given moment.  



An Irish, Scottish, Welsh or other Celtic tune can be played differently on different instruments, and the 5-string banjo can take on board phrasing that comes from all other instruments, including various kinds of pipes, fiddle, whistle, flute, tenor banjo, accordion, Welsh Triple Harp, even a generic Celtic harp. Music is listening and about taking in ideas and sounds. As such, it goes beyond tunings and timbre.



I agree with you, yes: banjo tunings can really make a tune, especially in OT music, where key and tuning go hand in hand. Yet, good old-time music, while it sometimes incorporates Irish, Scottish, Welsh, other Celtic or British Isles melodies, still sounds like … OT music, never mind its regional variations, rhythms, tempos, or the way it swings. One can tell the difference between an Irish trad and an OT session in a nanosecond.



Irish and Celtic tunes played in a frailing, clawhammer or even a melodic clawhammer style have an OT quality because of the very fingering techniques and various tunings used to play them (depending on key/mode).



I recall an amusing exchange between an Irish trad musician and an OT fiddler in Omagh, Co. Tyrone. After listening to a lot of tunes in D, the trad player (a northern Irishman) was asking the fiddler (a southern American) if he would ever play tune medleys in different keys instead of playing a single tune over and over, suggesting that he might try switching keys, as the Irish do, maybe starting in D, then going to A modal/minor, and then to another key, say, G. It was a pregnant question, almost a piece of playing advice.



The OT fiddler considered the idea and said something like, "Well, I might like to play in D for a while, sometimes I might like to play in D all night ... I might even play in D all weekend long, hell, I might even play in D for a whole month!"



Everybody roared laughing and the D tunes continued for at least the entire weekend!



Beir bua agus beannacht ~ Tom wink



 


Edited by - Tom Hanway on 07/19/2017 03:22:22

Tom Hanway - Posted - 07/19/2017:  07:40:16


Using G tuning, here’s something fun for students who don’t know what Irish (or Celtic) variation comprises, showing variations for the familiar Irish tune ‘The Teetotaller’, aka ‘Temperance Reel’ in OT and Bluegrass circles.



Please find and compare the three kinds of Celtic ornamentation (melismatic, intervallic, and rhythmic) that happen in different combinations in the four tab settings below.



The last example is an mp3 of the companion recording I made for Complete Book of Irish & Celtic 5-String Banjo (Mel Bay Publications, Inc., 1998 – used by permission).



Example 1: Variations for Temperance Reel (The Teetotaller) 



Example 2: Temperance Reel (Novice)



Example 3: Temperance Reel (Intermediate)



Example 4: Temperance Reel (Advanced)



Example 5: ‘Temperance Reel’ aka ‘The Teetotaller’ (Celtic Fingerstyle)



Enjoy!  Tom

Frisco Fred - Posted - 07/20/2017:  16:20:42


Tom Hanway, you are a jewel of a person, and a real help. 



Muchco abliged amigo  

Frisco Fred - Posted - 08/10/2017:  10:42:32


quote:

Originally posted by Tom Hanway

 

Using G tuning, here’s something fun for students who don’t know what Irish (or Celtic) variation comprises, showing variations for the familiar Irish tune ‘The Teetotaller’, aka ‘Temperance Reel’ in OT and Bluegrass circles.




Please find and compare the three kinds of Celtic ornamentation (melismatic, intervallic, and rhythmic) that happen in different combinations in the four tab settings below.




The last example is an mp3 of the companion recording I made for Complete Book of Irish & Celtic 5-String Banjo (Mel Bay Publications, Inc., 1998 – used by permission).




Example 1: Variations for Temperance Reel (The Teetotaller) 




Example 2: Temperance Reel (Novice)




Example 3: Temperance Reel (Intermediate)




Example 4: Temperance Reel (Advanced)




Example 5: ‘Temperance Reel’ aka ‘The Teetotaller’ (Celtic Fingerstyle)




Enjoy!  Tom







the advanced version of Temperance Reel is so strange to me.  I don't recall ever picking up the forth string with my middle finger... I'm beginning to wonder, is that where the syncopation lies?

Frisco Fred - Posted - 09/09/2017:  16:43:04


I played Celtic music with the Contra Dance people and was invited back.



I'm learning the rhythms of reels, jigs and hornpipe.  One thing I need to get better at is following sheet music, I had to just listen to it and wing it.  From the reaction I got, I must have been close. 



Another Milestone... Thank You Tom Hanway and all you BHO members who helped

Tom Hanway - Posted - 09/25/2017:  05:20:30


quote:

Originally posted by Frisco Fred

I played Celtic music with the Contra Dance people and was invited back.



I'm learning the rhythms of reels, jigs and hornpipe.  One thing I need to get better at is following sheet music, I had to just listen to it and wing it.  From the reaction I got, I must have been close. 



Another Milestone... Thank You Tom Hanway and all you BHO members who helped






John, mighty stuff! Okay, here's a tip: learn one tune at a time. Winging it is not the same as getting tunes under one's fingers, then being able to play variations on them in the moment. The fact that you're playing by ear is wonderul! Keep doing that, and keep breaking down the barriers (one tune at time) between what your ears are hearing, your brain is processing, and your fingers are trying to play. A lot of trial and error is involved in playing tunes on a 5-string. Don't be afraid to make mistakes when learning a tune, but don't practice mistakes!



Honestly, at the session, one can often wing back-up for a tune or even a set of tunes, especially if one knows the Celtic modes and can hear, find, harmonize and re-harmonize chords at will. Most importantly, one has to have heard the tune/s before and be really familiar with their melodic contours. Much harder it is to execute a jig, reel or hornpipe (or any Irish or Celtic tune) credibly, and with feeling, if one hasn't already worked it up and made friends with it, especially on the 5-string, which can be played so many different ways -- even choosing on which string to play any given note. I have picked up quite a few jigs, slides and polkas on the fly at sessions, but it's exceedingly difficult to pick up tricky reels and hornpipes upon first hearing them. (It can be done, but would one remember what one just played?)



I wrote in Easy Irish & Celtic Session Tunes for 5-String Banjo: Best-Loved Jigs and Reels (2012), "Some tunes exhibit 'complex tonality' – two different tonal centers (double tonics), like a double-sun that the other planet-tones revolve around.  Hence, two distinct 'key centers' may be heard for the same tune. Perhaps ‘The Blarney Pilgrim’ is the most famous example of this: Is it in D or G? Answer: Yes!



Sometimes a tune uses two different modes from one part to the next, seeming to break the rules of classical harmony, where prefabricated chord progressions clearly do not work. The version of ‘Toss the Feathers,’ moving from D Mixolydian (first part) to D Major (second part) is a perfect example of this. There are at least three tunes called ‘Toss the Feathers’ that use different modes altogether." I included two best-loved variants in Best-Loved Jigs and Reels.



Keep going, John, one tune at a time ... so many tunes, so little time! One more tip: It's not a race to learn this stuff. Make every note count, and start combining tunes in batches so that you can remember them all.



Best ~ Tom 

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