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Jun 4, 2020 - 7:15:59 PM



140 posts since 9/4/2011

Hope this is in the correct forum??

So, thanks to You Tube, It's a whole lot easier to pick up new tunes on an instrument than it used to be when we had to use the turntable, and keep resetting the tone arm and playing the tune at half speed to figure out what our chosen musician was doing, when trying to learn a tune. Being able to not only hear, but often see what the player is doing, as well as being able to slow things down from warp speed, without changing pitch ... priceless! But, in trying to follow Earl, at any speed (ya, playing like Earl, right?) things get complicated because the key/tuning/pitch on some of those videos from the good 'ol days, are sharper than G, but not quite G#. And some are not. Yes, you can re-tune to match the original pitch, but I wonder if someone out there can tell me why those tunes are not at standard pitch?? Is it to do with original recording technology of the time, or was it done deliberately for some reason? Was it done to make things better for the range of the vocalist?? To make the instruments sound better ?? An example of what I mean is Earl's rendition of "Foggy Mountain Chimes" which I ran across today on YouTube, and thought I'd try to figure it out. But there was that non-standard pitch. Not a big deal, but just curious as to why. Anyone??

Jun 4, 2020 - 7:28:09 PM
Players Union Member

Eric A


639 posts since 10/15/2019

Be careful of old radio shows on youtube though. Some of them, imo, are not playing back at anywhere near proper speed. One set of them in particular that I'm thinking of make Lester Flatt sound like Alvin and the chipmunks. That being said, I remember reading, long before youtube, that Lester and Earl used to deliberately tune up to G# just to get that little something extra in their sound.

Jun 4, 2020 - 10:14:10 PM

27 posts since 3/10/2009

They tuned to G# on a lot of tunes back in those days to make the instruments sound better. As told by Earl in one of his books

Jun 5, 2020 - 7:23:36 AM



12 posts since 12/30/2017

What Earl wrote in the revised version of his book "Earl Scruggs and the 5-String Banjo", page 79:

"...for several years we tuned up a half step in pitch over standard tuning. The reason for doing so was that Lester's voice was higher back in those days and his favorite keys to sing in were G# and Bb. By tuning a half step sharp I avoided having to often capo at the first fret for G-tuning songs...made it easier for the fiddle player and everyone else as well."

Jun 5, 2020 - 10:29:24 AM



140 posts since 9/4/2011

Thanks guys!! I suspected what you confirmed! Now I know for sure.

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