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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Playing in double c tuning

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slunsford - Posted - 04/26/2020:  17:23:20

I can pick out a melody and like to sing but chords sound odd. What are suggestions for accompaniment to singing

waystation - Posted - 04/26/2020:  17:28:16

One technique that works for double C and singing is to put the melody on the first string and play the other four strings open, kind of dulcimer style. The four open strings are two Cs and two Gs so they do a nice job of supplying chord sounds while you have only one string to worry about for the detail notes.

banjered - Posted - 04/26/2020:  19:46:37

Go to the "Q" (question) to the left of this page and type in "singing with the banjo. Should keep you busy for a while. banjered"

rickhayes - Posted - 04/26/2020:  19:46:49

I would think you could find and play chords to most any song you want to sing much like you could do in other tunings. Did you have a particular song in mind?

janolov - Posted - 04/26/2020:  23:25:54

If you want to play chords the drop C tuning (gCGBD) is better

In double C it is difficult to get a full G chord which may be why you think it sounds strange. Also be carefull to use the right chord shapes for double C.

carlb - Posted - 04/27/2020:  06:14:40


Originally posted by slunsford

I can pick out a melody and like to sing but chords sound odd. What are suggestions for accompaniment to singing

Here are some chord positions you can use, if you wish to.

BrooksMT - Posted - 04/28/2020:  10:55:01

Simple chords: take the left hand fingering for root chord C in double C (0002) and then make that position anywhere on the neck to get another chord. The 000 part is a barre position across 4th,3rd, and 2nd strings (which is handled by the nut for the root double C chord). Simpley then add 1 finger on the 1st string 2 frets higher than the barre (I usually use my little finger) to get a new chord with a different name. For instance, 5557=F chord, 7779=G chord

Simple songs can be covered with the I, IV, V chords; I like the chord naming scheme that uses Roman Numerals like this.

To find the names of the I,IV,V chords in any key, count notes on your fingers starting with 1st note in the scale. For Key of C: C D E F G; I=C, IV=F, V=G i.e. thumb, ring, and little finger.

For doubleC, these 3 commonly used chords, in the simplest fingering, occur at the nut (nut does the barre for you in doubleC), and (barre + 1 finger) at 5th fret (IV) and 7th fret (V). Many banjos have a dot on the neck for easily finding these frets.

Hope this helps.

You can move Any chord fingering position up the neck to make a new chord with a new name. Barre-based cords are easy to make on a banjo (and hard to make on a guitar, for me at least). But you could also slide your 4 finger chords up the neck to get new chords, using the dots to help find IV and V chords.

BrooksMT - Posted - 04/28/2020:  13:05:53

How to find name of the chord:
a major chord uses 3 notes, the 1-3-5 notes, that is every other note, with the root/name of the chord on the 1 note.

eg. F A C = 135 for F chord; F g A b C on the scale, but only FAC are used for the F chord. Root, skip a note, Note, skip a note, Note.

For a given chord fingering, one of those strings is going to be the 1 note, i.e. the name of the chord. The name string will be different for different chord finger positions. Use your electronic tuner to figure out which string in the chord figure you've chosen is the chord-named note. Now, if you move that chord fingering up the neck, the same string and finger you found that named the chord in the original position will also name the chord in the new position.

For the barred chord figures I gave above for doubleC tuning, the named note is the 2nd string (and also the 4th string). So, where ever you are on the neck with this chord fingering, the barred 2nd string is going to be the name of the chord you formed. As you move the chord figure up the neck, you can get the name of the note on that fretted string with the electronic tuner.

If you don't have an electronic tuner for a shortcut , then you have to follow the string up from the nut, fret by fret, knowing that each fret sharpens the note by 1/2 step=1 semitone.

A complication is that each note in a major scale is not 2 semitones (2 frets) from the next note. So you can't simply count up the frets and assume that each 2 frets = one letter jump ie you can't say "A, fret, B, fret , C, "....Twice in the major scale, 2 notes will be next to each other. For C scale, E F and B C are on adjacent frets, while all the rest of the notes are separated by one fret.

The note separation for a major scale is: whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half .... then repeat for next octave; whole means whole step=2 frets to get to next note in scale, half=1 fret to get to next note in scale. You can see this on a piano: most white keys are separated by a black key (showing that the white keys are 2 frets apart), but twice in the octave, 2 white keys are next to each other. Notes for Key of C are C-D-EF-G-A-BC (where the - means a fret between the notes)

So what I do is draw out the scale, with dashes to show extra frets, then I can count up the frets, naming each (C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C), till I get to the named note I want...then that's where the naming string finger for that particular chord shape goes.
This is actually easier to do than write about *grin*. Drop by Bozeman and I could show you. Or get a local musician to show you, save some drive time and gas *smiles*.

BrooksMT - Posted - 04/28/2020:  13:09:11

And if you knew all this already, sorry, did not mean to waste your time.

Lew H - Posted - 04/28/2020:  14:02:41

slunsford Lots of folks here are trying to help you, but I'm not sure what the chording problem is. Maybe you need to say a bit more about HOW you are fretting and strumming chords, and say specifically WHICH chords don't sound right and WHY. So do the chords sound out of tune? In tune, but don't fit your singing the melody line? Is there trouble pressing the strings down hard so the chords ring out? Please say more.

slunsford - Posted - 04/28/2020:  17:21:33

When I sing I am playing chords using pick brush then 5th. Or bum ditty. Primarily the G chord does not seem to fit the singing. I'm picking the root and fifth. It's just the G. I'm fretting the 2nd 4th string. Second fret. I've heard other say double c tuning does not suit chords but is better to play some melody notes

BrooksMT - Posted - 04/28/2020:  20:41:45

You are playing a 1-5 "power chord". Sometimes a power chord is just the ticket, sometimes not. Why don't you find the missing 3 note on the strings, then make your own chord to add the 1 & 5 notes. It's perfectly ok to not use all 5 strings, but make just a partial chord using 3 strings for the 1- 3- 5 notes of a complete major chord. All depends on how far your fingers can span to pick up the 3 notes you want. Maybe a 1-3 chord would sound better in your song. Or maybe a 1-3b-5 minor chord would work and be easier to finger.

Mountain banjo music often uses minor chords, or even "mountain minor" chord where the 3 note is sharped 1-3#-5 (might take a while to get your ear used to this sound). And if changing the tuning of 1 string helps you out, then go for it. There are hundreds of different banjo tunings cataloged. The old time masters tuned to fit the song they wanted to sing, not necessarily to the "usual" tuning used. Check out this unique tuning used by Doc Boggs, and explained by Don Borchelt (near bottom of the thread).

I make up my own chord fingerings all the time, it's fun :-)

Lew H - Posted - 04/28/2020:  20:55:11

slunsford FOr the G chord in double C, fret the 2nd and 4th strings at the second fret. From you description, it sounds like your G is actually a G augmented chord.

That above fingering gives you 3 D notes and one G note-- a power chord as someone said above. A sweeter sounding G chord, if you don't strike the 4th string, is to fret 2nd string 2nd fret, 3rd string 4th fret. It's easy to do some nice sounding rhythmic hammers and pull offs with this.

johnedallas - Posted - 04/29/2020:  09:40:33

@slunsford, why do you particularly want to use double-C tuning to chord along with your singing? If you tune to standard-G (gDGBD) or standard-C (gCGBD) you'll have a wealth of good-sounding chords at your disposal.

I'm a singer myself, and I learnt the chords I needed to accompany myself on the guitar and banjo from the "Guitar Case Chord Book" and the "Banjo Case Chord Book," respectively.

The banjo book has chord diagrams for several tunings: G, Gm, G Modal, Double-C, Standard-C, Open-C, Open-Cm and D. Ten diagrams per page - and for standard-G tuning and standard-C tuning , there are 8 pages of chord diagrams each, suitable for accompanying songs in several major and minor keys.

For double-C tuning, there is only one page of chord diagrams, and those 10 chords are only suitable for songs in C.

My favorite singing key is C, so I prefer the Standard-C tuning, and it's also more versatile than Standard-G, when I want to play in other keys.

Just my two bits,



slunsford - Posted - 04/29/2020:  14:09:20

Thanks John. I just wanted to try double C. I'll try more c tuning

Lew H - Posted - 04/29/2020:  15:30:22

Here's a link that I've found useful in trying to learn old jazz standards. It's an online version of the chord books that johnedallas mentions.
On the left, change the G tuning to whatever notes you have your strings tuned to, then select the chord you want and press GO!

Unfortunately, the G chord in double C tuning is kind of wonky on this website.

johnedallas - Posted - 04/30/2020:  01:23:41


Originally posted by Lew H

Unfortunately, the G chord in double C tuning is kind of wonky on this website.

The G chord in double C tuning is kinda wonky in the Banjo Case Chord Book, too!frown


Broken Ballad - Posted - 04/30/2020:  12:11:24

Have you tried different keys? That might help.

ITACUD - Posted - 05/04/2020:  16:24:39

Wow, I love this posting and the replies! And Brooks Martin special thanks for that detailed description. Extra Kudos for being in MT.

Dan Gellert - Posted - 05/04/2020:  21:14:51


Originally posted by slunsford

I can pick out a melody and like to sing but chords sound odd. What are suggestions for accompaniment to singing

Double C just isn't a good tuning for full chords, in first position at least.  Most of the old time players didn't use full chords behind their singing, usually playing a rough outline of the sung melody along with another note or two on the open strings in whatever tuning was used.

That's the reason there are so many old time banjo tunings....

If you want chords, try  "standard" C tuning (gCGBD).  

Lew H - Posted - 05/05/2020:  01:38:33

slunsford I did a video on the fly about your question, but forgot where you had posted. Unfortunately, I put it on facebook in the CLawhammer Rules group. Here's a link to that group, the video. I would post it here, but it keeps coming in as "private" when I post to youtube for listing here on BHO.

Jim Yates - Posted - 05/05/2020:  11:46:02

Hi Sue,
Sorry I didn't read the whole thread, but I've found that double C is great for fiddle tunes and other instrumentals, but for songs in C, I would much rather use drop C (gCGBD).

Cathy Fink - Posted - 05/12/2020:  08:25:51

Singing With the Banjo is a downloadable course from with a clear method for learning song accompaniment on banjo. 

Starting with two easy songs, Worried Man Blues and This Little Light of Mine, Cathy shows how to find the right key for your voice, use the capo, play a simple accompaniment and pick out scales and melody notes from within the chords. You'll then learn how to embellish any tune you play with slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs and other important licks and tricks that will add drive, complexity and excitement to your songs.

Moving on to more intermediate/advanced techniques and different tunings, Cathy shows you double thumbing on Cumberland Mountain Bear Chase; old-time modal sounds for Shady Grove; waltz time with Irene Goodnight; and a show-stopping version of Oh! Susanna that combines a variety of advanced devices unique to this style.

As a bonus, Cathy performs five of her most popular songs, illustrating clawhammer accompaniment at its best; The Cuckoo, When Time Draws Near, Buffalo Gals, Psalm of Life and Wild Rose of the Mountain.

"I'm really enjoying using this. Have only been playing banjo for a few months, started out doing mainly bluegrass stuff but then realised clawhammer accompaniment might be more up my street as what I primarily want to do is accompany myself singing - this DVD was exactly what I needed to get me on the road and Cathy's vibrancy and enthusiasm are so inspiring!" -- Posted on

richardbernier - Posted - 05/19/2020:  10:58:12

In stead of the full C chord, trying playing just the 2nd fret on the first string, D string (an E note) which is the third of a C chord.

olddreamer - Posted - 05/24/2020:  16:37:32


Originally posted by rickhayes

I would think you could find and play chords to most any song you want to sing much like you could do in other tunings. Did you have a particular song in mind?

Well, I do:  Tennessee Waltz.  There will be no fiddler, but there's a chance that a harmonica player might accompany me (not counting on it).  If it makes a difference, I have a deep voice.

maryzcox - Posted - 05/28/2020:  11:31:52

Blue is recorded in double C with singing. :) Best wishes,

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