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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Double C or Double D

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watercarving - Posted - 07/02/2020:  11:30:42

Do you play more in Double C or do you tune up to Double D to be in the key most fiddlers would want? I've been practicing a lot in Double C but not sure if I should just tune up.


carlb - Posted - 07/02/2020:  12:55:26

I tune up (light gauge strings). For C, I use open C (gCGce). To each his own.

NWBanjo - Posted - 07/02/2020:  12:59:46

I mix it up. For solo playing, I prefer lower tunings, so I’ll often play D tunes in double C or even lower when making music. On the other hand, I don’t use a capo, so I find it’s good to practice tuned up to D so that my hands and attack are used to the tighter feel.


Bill Rogers - Posted - 07/02/2020:  13:57:51

For major sessions (long gone) I use two identical banjos, one tuned up two frets. Otherwise, I just capo up.

mrphysics55 - Posted - 07/02/2020:  14:33:11

I tune up to double-D
I never use a capo .... gave away the one I had years ago.

BTW, local jams here don’t play a lot of C tunes.
We play ...
Mostly D tunes
Then A tunes
Some G tunes, though rarely
Almost never C tunes

However, I like to play D tunes in Double C when I’m at home alone ... Like NWBanjo I like the sound of the lower tuning.

Lemon Banjos - Posted - 07/02/2020:  18:30:34

I have heard of double d, but i didn't know they came in a double c size. I think I would prefer the double d's wink

seriously, I have no clue about clawhammer style. I just saw an opportunity to make a joke and figured I would. sorry if y'all don't find it funny frown

doryman - Posted - 07/02/2020:  19:14:28

I play in jams that are a mix of bluegrass, folk, country and fiddle tunes. Numerous songs are called in C, so I'll occasionally tune my banjo to double C and capo up to double D. I did not throw away my capo and if anyone else is throwing theirs away, you can send them to me.

banjoak - Posted - 07/02/2020:  20:24:22


Originally posted by watercarving

Do you play more in Double C or do you tune up to Double D to be in the key most fiddlers would want? I've been practicing a lot in Double C but not sure if I should just tune up.


For just playing for myself,  I usually don't much differentiate, actual pitch might even be somewhere in between; it's the same relative tuning, plays the same; other than maybe effect of string tension, and/or overall bright vs warm tone.

As fiddler, I might think of many tunes as "D tunes" or "C tunes"... regardless of actual pitch I tuned to; it's in how the finger and bow.

On banjo, I might use a different relative tuning for actual fiddle C tunes. Type of tune plays a factor.

AndrewD - Posted - 07/03/2020:  00:53:19

When playing at home alone I rarely bother to capo. So I play D tunes and the few C tunes I play in C. When playing out with others I obviously have to play in the accepted key so capo. Not an issue with C/D tunes as we play few C tunes and I can remember which are which (and I don't play them all out of double C/D tuning anyway). But I know a probably equal number of A and G tunes and can never remember which key they are in. Session leader calls for an A tune. I say "Jeff Sturgeon". He says "That's a G tune". Regular occurrence. And that's possibly a bad example as I haven't a clue whether Jeff Sturgeon, one of my favourites, is G or A.

maryzcox - Posted - 07/03/2020:  07:36:13

If you are in a jam led by fiddlers--you will have to be in D.  However if you are playing solo or any situation where the banjo would be the central lead instrument--most banjos sound much prettier in double C.  

D is a better key for many fiddles--but C sounds much better on banjos.   If you are fortunate enough to play with a really awesome fiddler who has a recording quality fiddle and can play with good intonation in any key--then you will sound great in C too. :)

Best banjo wishes,

Mary Z. Cox

ps. Elvis always liked mountain dulcimer in D--so when I play with mountain dulcimers--I play in D then too :)

Edited by - maryzcox on 07/03/2020 07:38:33


Mtngoat - Posted - 07/03/2020:  08:13:52

Just like Banjoak above I place more emphasis on fingering positions than actual pitch when playing at home. When performing in public I always tune to the key called because my banjo doesn't take a capo very well. If the group changes keys for every tune I stay where I'm at and try to work out something using chord shapes. That has actually forced me to become a better player, to become familiar with the fret board, and to develop some improvisational skills. I find most jam groups tolerate retuning if done quickly and quietly. And it's a banjo so it doesn't have to be perfect.

Random Scandinavian - Posted - 07/03/2020:  10:35:21

I mostly play in Double C but now that I have just installed railroad spikes on my first banjo I may try Double D more. Never played with anyone. Only met one fiddle player in my life and she was crazy.

Before I didn’t capo up much because the capos I have tried have been close to useless.

But I have found it to be a good mental excercise to watch a tutorial video in Double D and follow it in Double C and transpose it mentally. I believe this has helped to improve my play by ear ability.

rfink1913 - Posted - 07/03/2020:  11:47:10

I have smallish hands, so I find that there are stretches easier to make when capoed up two frets.

chip arnold - Posted - 07/08/2020:  12:10:04

I don't like the stiffer strings/feel from tuning up. Also, capoing up two is easier on my left shoulder. I always capo.

John Gribble - Posted - 07/08/2020:  18:13:21

So the general consensus is...Do what works best for you! wink

Paul R - Posted - 07/10/2020:  11:28:54

I prefer the tone of 2C when playing alone. Otherwise it's using the capo (I have spikes on the open back and a slider on the resonator). A number of jam/performing songs are in Dm but keys we;ve used are all over the place. The answer to most questions: "It depends."

AndyW - Posted - 07/11/2020:  00:22:05

My banjo is permanently capoed at fret 2 to make things easier for my small hands. The only exception is at a session/jam where I take the capo off to play in G as the strings get too floppy.

So for normal practice all my G tunes get played in A.

My next banjo will be a so called 'A scale'.

hweinberg - Posted - 07/11/2020:  09:42:41

I capo to D since I like the shorter scale. Also, there are actually quite a few fiddle tunes in C although most fiddlers don't play many of them. Harry Bolick has a good repertoire of C tunes, and Lowe Stokes played a lot of C tunes back in the day.

pperkins - Posted - 07/13/2020:  21:47:06

The fiddler I play with plays in D a lot.

WVDreamin - Posted - 07/14/2020:  10:07:34


Originally posted by pperkins

The fiddler I play with plays in D a lot.

That'd be me! laugh?????? I know for a fact you could figure it out in whatever key out of open G! 


I can play C tunes and am willing to retune if you'd like to play D tunes in C. Heck, I'm currently tuned a whole step down right now, which would do just that. 

pperkins - Posted - 07/14/2020:  14:38:19

No, the other fiddler. Wait, its you.

I say we play all of the D, A, G, and minor tunes in C. I really like playing tunes in "less-than-proper" keys. Its good practice.

But really, whatever's good for the mass. I don't mind playing in D or C. I just like to play. To be honest, I can count the tunes I play (clawhammer) in double C on, at most, 2 hands.

I do 3 finger pick a good number of tunes in C, but play out of G or Drop C. Keep picking.

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