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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Do you have to match someone chord for chord?


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/382580

Expat - Posted - 04/11/2022:  13:39:01


Our local dulcimer club heard that I play clawhammer banjo and want me to join them. I've only played solo, but since I can play most of the songs that they do I am willing to give it a try. However, my classical guitarist/piano wife has me confused on music theory and I'm worried I can't play along with them.

They play almost all their songs in the key of A. I play them in G, but I figure no problem. I just need to use a capo and I'm all set. However, my wife says I must play the same chords as they do or it won't sound right.

For example, let's take an easy song like Camptown Races. The dulcimers play in the key of A and start with a D chord and then an A7 next. I know the song in G and it starts with a G chord and goes to D7 next. My plan was to just use a capo to be in the key of A and play with the same left hand fingering as I use in Open G (using whatever chords my version happens to use).

Can I play that way or do I need to redo every song to match them chord for chord? I have tried just strumming using their chords, or a bum ditty, but it doesn't sound that good to me.

Texasbanjo - Posted - 04/11/2022:  14:16:16


Use your capo and you'll be fine. Tell your wife that by using that capo, you're making a new temporary nut for your banjo so now it is in the key of A. Have her play something in the key of A on the piano and you capoed up 2 on your banjo and she'll see they sound the same.

Eric A - Posted - 04/11/2022:  14:25:42


I'm confused too. Seems like they are playing it in D, not A.

thisoldman - Posted - 04/11/2022:  14:27:35


I'll leave the music theory questions to those who are WAY more knowledgeable that me. I'm thinking the short answer to one of your questions is that do you have to play the same chords they do, and I believe that the short answer is yes. And I'm also guessing a capo will be the easy way to go.  



I played dulcimer for quite a while, searching for a stringed instrument to play, until I settled on to banjo  You can play melody on a dulcimer, or strum chords (major, minor, 7ths) by learning some basic shapes (just like you use shapes to play full chords on a banjo).



Unless they are really melody note driven, I'm going to guess that they are strumming chords. And if that is correct, there are different strumming patterns for the dulcimer. So a straight strumming or bum ditty may well clash with the strumming/rhythm pattern(s) that dulcimer players use. 



If this is an on-going thing you may want to join the Mountain Dulcimer forum and ask your questions there.  



Here are chords on the dulcimer in DAA tuning DAA and some in DAD tuning.  



Hope I didn't muddy the waters. Apologize if I did. 

 

dbrooks - Posted - 04/11/2022:  14:42:00


There is a real mix of instruments at the Louisville Dulcimer Society (LDS) jams. Most of their tunes are in D with a few in Am or G. Double-C (gCGCD) capoed to D or tuning up to D (aDADE) is probably where you need to spend most of your time. Trying to play in G tuning capoed at the 7th fret is not the best approach. At those jams, many people do play the melody for instrumentals with the newer folks perhaps chording along. Usually, there is a stronger player, maybe even a hammered dulcimer, who can play with a little more volume leading the jam. They also tend to play pretty slowly. I agree with your wife that you will need to change chords when they do. You can, of course, play the melody yourself.



Lately LDS has held Zoom jams and then began Zooming their in-person jams. Here is the jam from last Sunday:



(1) 4/10/2022 LDS Sunday Jam - YouTube



David


Edited by - dbrooks on 04/11/2022 14:43:02

G Edward Porgie - Posted - 04/11/2022:  14:59:35


It sounds to me like the dulcimer is in the key of D, not the key of A. That is probably why things sound off. KEy of A would start with an A chord, then go to E7. But they are playing a D chord going to an A7 (I-V7) so it seems they are in D. try playing in D, whether wit a capo or a D tuning, and you may find things are fine.

I will say that yes, you do need to play the same chords with a few exceptions, which I won't get into because that will just confuse the situation.

beegee - Posted - 04/11/2022:  15:45:30


Chords are chords no matter where you play them on the fretboard. Progressions are progressions. Simple math.

Alvin Conder - Posted - 04/11/2022:  15:49:40


Seconding BeeGee ..Music=Math.

Intervals, Fractions ect.

Chords are chords.

You’ll be fine.

wrench13 - Posted - 04/11/2022:  16:03:12


RIght , if they are playing it in A , the chords are A (1) and D (4) and E (5). out of D its D(1) and G(4) and A(5). What do dull simmer players know anyhow?


Edited by - wrench13 on 04/11/2022 16:03:33

Old Hickory - Posted - 04/11/2022:  16:18:14


quote:

Originally posted by Expat

 . . . my classical guitarist/piano wife has me confused on music theory and I'm worried I can't play along with them.



. . . My plan was to just use a capo to be in the key of A and play with the same left hand fingering as I use in Open G (using whatever chords my version happens to use).



Can I play that way or do I need to redo every song to match them chord for chord?






Your classically trained wife knows just enough theory to not know what she doesn't know.



I like to say the capo lets you play in one key as if in another one. In that regard, your plan is 100% correct that with a banjo in G tuning, you can put a capo at the second fret (and also raise the 5th string accordingly) and play in the key of A as if you're in the key of G.



Your wife should realize that with or without a capo, chords still live where they live. That is: in G tuning, an A Major chord is a barre at second fret. With a capo at 2, you play all strings open (in the sense that you're not fretting anything with your hand). But you're really playing all the strings barred at 2nd fret.  A as if G.  She has to see the reality of that.



Move the A chord up to the "F shape" version at 7-6-5-7 (G tuning, no capo).  Now put the capo at 2.  Make an F-shape G chord 3 to 5 frets up from the capo to again play A as if in G. You're really at 5th to 7th fret and playing an A.



Final way of saying this:  Your wife is correct that you have to match the other players chord-for-chord. Even with the capo, you're doing that. Because those are the chords you're playing. Only difference lower down the neck, closer to the capo, you get some open strings because the capo is fretting them for you.



As long as you understand what key you're really in when you capo and get the I-IV-V correct, you'll be fine.

banjo bill-e - Posted - 04/11/2022:  17:10:27


Remember that chords are tones and not *shapes*. A C chord shape played with a capo on second fret* plays the tones of an actual D chord. The capo lets you play your familiar cord-shapes in another key but the actual chords made by the tones must match. I'm not talking down to anyone and hope it is not taken as such but I have encountered new players confused about basic terms and no longer assume anything.



*fifth string adjusts separately! 


Edited by - banjo bill-e on 04/11/2022 17:11:26

Peg Leg - Posted - 04/11/2022:  17:26:02


The capo does not do it for the original poster's problem. G Edward is correct as far as I can tell.

Not sure what the rest of you are responding to.

KCJones - Posted - 04/11/2022:  17:32:05


To clarify: Key and Tuning are not the same thing. You can play any key out of any tuning. You need to play in the same key as the rest of the group.



Generally (this is a simplification), you need to match the chord progression of the group. If they're playing D chords and A7 chords, you need to play D and A7 chords. If you capo at 2, that would mean you need to play with C chord shapes and G7 chord shapes to match the D and A7. If your D and A7 chords sound discordant, try playing a different inversion and see if it works better.



To break it down further: "D chord" is D-F#-A; "A7 chord" is A-C#-E-G. Regardless of how you tune or if you use a capo, if you play some combination of those notes while the rest of the group plays those chords, it will sound alright. 

 


Edited by - KCJones on 04/11/2022 17:47:22

mrphysics55 - Posted - 04/11/2022:  17:58:33


Tune to Double-D and go to town!’

banjered - Posted - 04/11/2022:  18:39:07


Tune your banjo to open D, either aDF#AD or aDADF#. banjered

Paul R - Posted - 04/11/2022:  18:45:42


It seems that you're thinking of just doing a bum-ditty strum. How far along are you in experience? If they play tunes you know, you may not be playing chords so much. You can play melodic CH and sound fine (as long as you're in the same key). As people said, D tunes - double C tuning with the capo at 2. I play a bit of dulcimer and I don't play CH banjo the same way. I play accompaniment on dulcimer and melodic on banjo, so no "strumming" on the banjo (although, at the Bluegrass jam, I sometimes played "chunks").

Anyway, it's a nice invitation and sounds like you'll have fun as soon as the wrinkles get ironed out (if there are any). Ty it, and have a great time!

Bill Rogers - Posted - 04/11/2022:  21:07:02


I tend to play along with the melody and not particularly use chords unless they’re part of my outlining the melody. If you follow he melody, you won’t hv to worry about chords.

Jack Baker - Posted - 04/11/2022:  22:43:37


Bill,
What if someone wants to play accompaniment on another instrument...

Eric A - Posted - 04/12/2022:  05:35:45


quote:

Originally posted by Expat





For example, let's take an easy song like Camptown Races. The dulcimers play in the key of A and start with a D chord and then an A7 next. I know the song in G and it starts with a G chord and goes to D7 next. My plan was to just use a capo to be in the key of A and play with the same left hand fingering as I use in Open G (using whatever chords my version happens to use).



 






The original confusion is all contained in this paragraph from the OP.  He states that the dulcimers play in the key of A, and yet the Camptown Races example that he gives (D then A7) is clearly being played in the key of D.  Most of the respondents on this thread have missed this entirely.



To the OP:  If you plan to just take your open G tuned banjo and capo 2, then NO, you are missing it entirely and your wife is right.   Instead, you should use a C tuning and capo 2. 

thisoldman - Posted - 04/12/2022:  06:25:35


I, too, questioned playing tunes in the key of A, but took the OP's question at face value. With a dulcimer tuned DAD (root, fifth, octave), one could capo to the 4th and play in the key of A, or capo at the 3rd fret and play in the key of G. Or, like the banjo, learn to play different keys without a capo.

Dulcimer's are typically diatonic instruments, traditionally with no sharps or flats, so you only move up 4 frets with a capo to get to A, while you would capo at the 7th fret for a banjo.

thisoldman - Posted - 04/12/2022:  09:36:48


Oops. Capo banjo to the 2nd fret to get to the key of A. If they are playing in the key of D, you would likely retune the banjo (and not capo at the 7th).

maryzcox - Posted - 04/12/2022:  14:10:24


Hi,I play clawhammer banjo & mountain dulcimer . In an all dulcimer group --you will have the most volume --so you should lead the tunes with a steady melody & they should play along :) They may be playing in A --but more likely in DAD -tune your banjo to aDADE to be in the same tuning for traditional  tunes :)



maryzcox.com



 



yy



 by


Edited by - maryzcox on 04/12/2022 14:12:46

Expat - Posted - 04/12/2022:  15:19:23


Hi Everyone,

Thanks for the valuable information. As some have noted, they are playing songs in D but are tuning their dulcimers DAA. They said the key of A and I assumed A tuning for my banjo. I'm an ok player, but I'm horrible at music theory and can't play by ear so I am slow to pick up on these things.

After your input and lots and lots of patience from my wife, I understand that I can tune to D or Double C and use a cappo. I hope I'm right on that.

Bart Veerman - Posted - 04/12/2022:  22:09:44


"My wife says I must play the same chords as they do or it won't sound right." Your wife comes from a world where capos do not exist for pianos and they are not allowed for classical guitars - she obviously is wrong as she doesn't understand their function. That's quite OK but it's also quite OK for you to not go along with that thinking and to totally disregard it.



Simply ask the folks at that jam to supply you with a chord sheet for the songs/tunes they want to play and you'll know how to plunk along with them as obviously you know how to properly play chords regardless of how you go about tuning your banjo. How you "plunk" is not relevant as long as you play the proper chord at the proper rhythm and don't be afraid to throw in a strum or two to add some "beef."



"I have tried just strumming using their chords, or a bum ditty, but it doesn't sound that good to me." Check their faces as you're doing it, you may not like what you hear yourself doing but chances are they'll totally love it..



Jams like that are all about having fun - don't overthink it and allow yourself to have some already smiley



 

81goldstar - Posted - 04/13/2022:  11:17:28


quote:

Originally posted by Expat

Hi Everyone,



Thanks for the valuable information. As some have noted, they are playing songs in D but are tuning their dulcimers DAA. They said the key of A and I assumed A tuning for my banjo. I'm an ok player, but I'm horrible at music theory and can't play by ear so I am slow to pick up on these things.



After your input and lots and lots of patience from my wife, I understand that I can tune to D or Double C and use a cappo. I hope I'm right on that.






Doesn't matter your tuning or theirs...you both have to be in the same key. Sounds like you may need to find out for sure what key they play Camptown Races in. This we all know...If they are playing it the traditional way and they start on the D chord as you said than the song is in D and not A. You will then need no matter your tuning, start on an actual D chord or an A note if following the melody. If they will play it in key of A than no matter your tuning you will need to start on an actual A chord or an E note if following the melody. If they are playing it in D and you capoed 2 then your wife is right. ( how long have you been married? You should know this by now LOL) your G shaped chord (an actual A chord) will not match their D chord. NOW if you still want to capo 2 in G tuning and be in the key of D, then play AS IF you are in C...meaning capo 2 and hold your C shaped chord. Your next chord after that will be all open strings. 


Edited by - 81goldstar on 04/13/2022 11:33:55

Old Hickory - Posted - 04/13/2022:  15:04:57


quote:

Originally posted by Expat

They said the key of A and I assumed A tuning for my banjo.






If a song they play is really in the key of A, then you can do what you said earlier and leave the banjo in G tuning, put a capo at 2 to raise it to A, and then play as if you're playing in G. 



To restate in a slightly different way what someone said earlier: tuning of the instrument and key of song played in that tuning are not the same thing.  The banjo is a musical instrument. It can be used to play songs in any key regardless of its tuning. Some tunings make some keys either easier or more difficult. In standard G, plenty of people play in C, D, A minor, F, D minor, and even B-flat without a capo. I believe Alan Munde recorded a version of Salt Creek in A in open G tuning, no capo. In his online school, Tony Trischka has a lesson or two on key of E in G tuning with no capo.



Learning what a capo does will help you find easy ways to play in common keys such as A and D in G tuning, using familiar patterns from G or C. 



quote:

Originally posted by Expat

After your input and lots and lots of patience from my wife, I understand that I can tune to D or Double C and use a cappo. I hope I'm right on that.






You can also play in the key of D in G tuning with no capo.



Check out some tabs or lessons on Whiskey Before Breakfast or St. Anne's Reel. Fiddle tunes in D, commonly played on banjo without capo or retuning.



Or retune if you like the sound. It's the old-time way.



 



Bart gave the most important advice above: Get chord sheets from these people so you'll know what they're playing. Then if it's something you can't easily do in open G, you can retune or use a capo.



 



 



 



 

dbrooks - Posted - 04/13/2022:  16:24:09


In my earlier email, I posted a link to a 90-minute jam video by the Louisville Dulcimer Society. Take a look at that. Have your wife look at that to see how it matches her experience. It's a way you can do a test run in the privacy of your home.Here is the tune list they posted before the jam. The links are to some slow dulcimer versions to help peopplle prepare.



April 10




  1. Bile ‘em Cabbage (AABB)  youtu.be/aKKvYt5FRp0

  2. When The Saints Go Marching In youtu.be/qgIbRFAU7pw

  3. Mes Parents youtu.be/P73WqHH60qQ

  4. Mississippi Sawyer  youtu.be/FXMct10VGvo

  5. Simple Gifts youtu.be/WojfS1h1VI0

  6. Sugar Hill youtu.be/4oqDs-a9X-U

  7. Goodbye Liza Jane youtu.be/OLsaUvOoJMw

  8. Will Ye No Come Back Again? youtu.be/kAPn8tx0YA8

  9. Whiskey Before Breakfast youtu.be/kcofhBP40r4

  10. Julie Ann Johnson youtu.be/oIezb6LHW38

  11. Riding On a Load of Hay youtu.be/ZefzzHcUDcE

  12. Hop Up My Ladies youtu.be/G79nG7LysWU

  13. Coleman’s March youtu.be/6IB1DMXNqGs

  14. River youtu.be/JJyS7-Nkwjg

  15. Amazing Grace



David

250gibson - Posted - 04/14/2022:  00:22:32


You absolutely positively must play the same chords as they do. So your wife is right,
However you may get these chords using a capo, or you
may not. Using a capo really has nothing to do with the key of the song. It will just make it easier or harder to play certain songs. An open string strum is no longer a g chord if you use a capo (unless it is at the 12th fret). I wish people would stop talking shapes and positions and talk actual chords. If you play an open strum with the capo on the 2nd fret, it is not a G that sounds like A. It is an A. Once people start thinking this way, a capo is less confusing.

banjoy - Posted - 04/14/2022:  04:04:47


Hoo boy I've tried to stay away from this one for a few reasons, first is that this is a dispute between man and wife over music theory and who wants to step in that? But at this point I'll throw in my two cents too...

I agree that the OP is a little confusing and I agree that the dulcimer (based on the examples given in the OP) is most likely in the Key of D, not A.

Then the confusion -- as pointed out above and elsewhere in this thread -- in worsened by the entire notion of thinking in G while you're actually NOT playing in that Key.

Yes, all instruments playing together are playing the same chords, always. How you get from here to there does not matter. Re-tune, use a capo, learn to play in other keys without a capo -- are all different ways you arrive at the same Key. If you're in open G tuning and capo two, you're now in the Key of A and the chords you are playing are all from the Key of A. It is better in the long run to think in terms of Key and not use some mental gymnastics to explain it while anchoring your brain to a specific chord and then warp the universe to fit that...

This topic comes up from time to time so a while back I made a simple video to TRY to help clarify this topic. I do not know if I succeeded or not, but here it is, if it helps, I'm glad. If it adds to more confusion, well, never mind :) ...

youtu.be/BDoAwQ2GZ_U

So given the example if the OP, if the dulcimers are in the Key of D, and you use a capo, or re-tune, or just learn another key to play in, the net effect will be, you're now playing in the Key of D too.

Old Hickory - Posted - 04/14/2022:  14:15:24


Sorry to beat a dead horse, but it's what I do sometimes.  I just want to say I believe that many or most of us were in fact addressing either what Kevin actually said in his opening post or the misunderstanding (on his part or his wife's) that his words evinced.



The central issue,I believe, was this comment:



"They play almost all their songs in the key of A. I play them in G, but I figure no problem. I just need to use a capo and I'm all set. However, my wife says I must play the same chords as they do or it won't sound right."



Of course his classically trained music theory knowledgeable wife was correct that Kevin needs to play the "same chords." But what his wife seems not to understand -- at least as her words came to us filtered through Kevin's understanding, or lack thereof -- is that the purpose of a capo is to provide a different way to play the "same chords." Usually, it's an easier way to play the needed chords because the capo has probably provided open strings that might not otherwise be available in the key being played.



Can there be any disagreement on that?



This gets to the justification for talking about "shapes" and "positions" when explaining capo to the confused. When these discussions about capos and keys come up, the questioners are invariably people who are not very strong on music theory. They don't understand how to choose which fret to capo to play in different keys. They think second fret is automatically "A" when it can in fact be D, E, F# major or minor, or even another way to play G, depending on what chord shapes you make or positions you play relative to the capo. 



Talk of "shapes" is useful in explaining capo to these players because, for example, if you use capo at 2 to play in A as if in G, you're going to form what looks like a C Major to play D Major for the IV chord and what looks like a D7 to play E7 for the V7.  All of us with more than a beginner's understanding of capo know that we're playing D and E7 because the the capo does not change where notes and chords live on the fretboard. The capo simply frets some notes for us that our fingers would otherwise be fretting. By turning some fretted strings into open strings, the capo frees us to make some chords in different shapes. There's that word. As I just said a few sentences back: we can make the three-finger plus one open string C shape to play a D chord instead of the 4-finger closed position D shape.



So talking about shapes and positions is entirely appropriate and meaningful.



Of course none of this helps Kevin's original misunderstanding as to the key in which the dulcimer players were actually playing Camptown Races. He's not the first player to come here conflating tuning and key and he won't be the last.

dlm7507 - Posted - 04/15/2022:  11:43:00


I play with a key of D-centric dulcimer group. The three tabs on the right might help you out with this. To use the pull=downs you might need to use Google Sheets (it's free). docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d...p=sharing

Joel - Posted - 04/15/2022:  13:13:55


I don't know notes and all that kind of stuff, but I do know this: When my banjo is tuned to open G tuning, I can play along with people who are playing in the key of G by playing the open G, the C and the D7 chords.

If they play in the key of C, I still use the open G tuning but make the C and F chords with my left hand and the open G chord.

I can move the capo to the second fret if they are playing in the key of A, and play my banjo the same as if they were playing in G.

I can move the capo to the second fret if they are playing in the key of D, and play my banjo the same as if they were playing in C.

Does that make any sense? It should work to play with the dulcimers using the capo on the second fret.

With clawhammer, you are picking melody notes. If you have only learned to pick out your melody notes while playing in G with the open G, C, and D7 chords, put some time in to find them while playing in C with the C, F, and open G chords. They are all there somewhere.

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