I was bit by the two finger thumb lead bug and have learned Pretty Polly in G modal tuning. Some of the other tunes I want to learn are in other tunings. I'm thinking that constantly changing tunings for learning new tunes and practicing tunes I have learned will take up valuable practice time. How do you all handle changing tunings? Should I select tunes to learn that are in the same tuning? I don't sing so that is not a consideration in this. Any advice is appreciated.
Learn tunes in one tuning, then move to another. So if you are in G, you change the 2nd string to be in modal and then after that change the 4th to be in double C, etc. Once you get into a couple it can become a rabbit hole. Don't checkout Art Rosenbaum's books, just kidding, his are great for the multitude of tunings and there are two finger tabs in most of them.
Buy more banjos! One for every tuning. No problems! ;-)
I posted a post (?) 'Muscle Memory' a couple of weeks ago on a related issue to the one which has been raised.
I am semi-competant in standard G tuning in both Scrugs and frailing (thumb and back of middle finger) which I am able to play more or less by ear.Then I came across tab for'Needlecase' in Double C tuning same thumb & middle finger. I got the 1, 4 & 5 chords and progressed to being able to play Make me a Pallet.
Now I am in the process of trying to learn Angeline the Baker two finger thumb lead from the Brainjo Site banjo tuned to F# D A D a.
I am finding with all of the different fingerings and changing tunings although I have three banjos my competance (?) in standard G going south.....
I think you should organize the tunes after tuning, and when you are in one tuning, concentrate on tunes in that tuning. But you can change tuning from day to day.
It is also god to learn to retune fast,. An electronic tuner is a good help. Also retune with a plan. For example if you go G-tuning, you can just tune up the second string to be in sawmill tuning (Pretty Polly), and from sawmill tuning you just tune down the fourth string to C to be in double C tuning, and from double C you can tune down the first string to C to be in triple C (Darling Cora for example). And from open D tuning (f#DF#AD) it is easy to go to f#DGAD or f#CGAD (Dock Boggs tunings) or f# DEAD (Lost Gander) or f#BEAD (Cumberland Gap). In these examples the are one or two strings that are retuned each time.
You will soon find that to play tunes you like you will inevitably learn to use a number of tunings in old time.
Most common are Double D, (Usually GCGCD capoed at 2), A (GDGBD capoed at 2) and plain old G. Upping the 2nd string gives you G or A modal (sawmill) another relatively common tuning.
If you stick to those common tunings at first you probably can't really go wrong as it will give you the chance of playing 95% of the old time repertoire.
EDIT - Of course multiple tunings are a great excuse for an extra banjo, so you can have one at hand for say A and another for say DD. If the wife complains make up something about tuning stability or some other bs.
Outside of those, other tunings tend to be specialised towards a tune or a few tunes. Also some folks use 'Old G' instead of normal G.
I tend to stay in a tuning for a couple of weeks whether that be learning new tunes or practicing what I know already. It's very quick and easy to change tunings though, especially if you have an electric tuner.
Edited by - AndyW on 10/26/2020 08:35:51
Thank you all for your responses. For now I'll stick with G and Sawmill tunings. I found a free beginner lesson for Groundhog in G. I found a great sounding lesson on Wayfaring Stranger in triple C tuning. That one will have to wait.
Jeff, I consider changing tunings as being part of my practice time, because I consider it an essential skill. You are not going to stay in G if playing Old Time so you may as well get used to it. Just start getting quick and sure about going from G to G modal. That only changes one string, so only requires a slight change to fingering and is easy to get in and out of. So in your practice, do a G tuning song, then a G modal, then go back to G. That one is easy. Next from G modal learn to get into Double C, and back, again quickly and easily.
Consider all that as important as learning yet another tune, as it opens up many more tunes. Or put another way, you are going to be locked out of a lot of great tunes if you stay in open G.
You could always re tune as you play as this chap does here. He starts in double c, then at 2 min 6 secs he retunes to sawmill and then to g tuning at 3 mins 6 seconds
My guess is you can get by easily with 3 banjos . Tune one in double D, one in G & one in A or A sawmill . That should get lots of tunes right there & if you find you are playing a lot in another key --just add another banjo & tune it in that key . Put all your banjos on stands where you practice so you don't have to waste time getting them in & out of their cases :)
Best banjo wishes,
Thanks all, I'll incorporate practicing tuning. While I'm learning Groundhog in G, I can switch to practicing Pretty Polly in G modal. After those are under my fingers I may start on Wayfaring Stranger in triple C. I am considering getting an open back banjo, I just have to make a trip to Mountain Music in Old Forge, NY or Zachary Hoyt in Orwell, NY. Decisions, decisions!
Edited by - pickn5 on 10/27/2020 07:00:41
Remember you don't necessarily have to play a tune what you think of as the proper tuning. Most if not all of the notes are still there. Of course you can play a G-modal tune out of standard G just by planting your index finger on the second string at the first fret and leaving it there (or taking care to never hit it open). If you have two songs in different tunings but the first string is just being used as a drone (as often is in basic 2 finger thumb lead tabs) you can just try with that different drone for a different flavor (play a gCGCC song from gCGCD or vice versa). If you're in gCGBD, you can play a standard G song: just plant a finger on the fourth (or low-C) string at the second fret, or play all the usual low-D open notes (the open low string) as a hammer-on to the second fret. And so on.
For the most part, 3 tunings.
gDGBD>gDGCD>gCGCD - only one string retuned each time.
With an electronic tuner it should take mere seconds.
Consider retuning as just another thing to learn and practice.
Learning to tune, or retune quickly is a valuable skill to learn.
Practice it, to get better/quicker, less intimidated by it.
^^ RD and banjoak above already posted what I was going to add.
It pays to be aware of proximity of certain tunings. Another example is if you're playing in A modal aEADE it's only the bass string that needs to be lowered a whole step to be in D tuning aDADE (or vice versa). Similarly open G tuning gDGBD to the C tuning gCGBD.
Raising or lowering the pitch of only one string does have an effect on the other strings and it is wise to check that they are still in tune too. They made need a very slight tweak to bring them back precisely in tune.
This awareness enables you to plan your practicing in adjacent tunings so that you minimise actual tuning time if that's what you want to do.
Edited by - m06 on 10/29/2020 00:55:52
Thank you all for your comments and support. I've been practicing Pretty Polly in G modal and learning Groundhog in G. When I finish a practice session, I leave the banjo in that tuning, and that is the tuning I start with the next session. Then retune for the next tune. I'm sure that as I get more tunes, in different tunings, under my fingers, it will get more complicated. I will take your advice on retuning and grouping tunes by tunings. I do like the idea of another banjo. I have a resonator banjo now, so an open back would be in order. Keep picking.
pickn5 When you start to play in Old Time jams, the jam will stay in one tuning for a good long time, then when a key change comes along, all will have plenty of time to retune.
chip arnold thank you for the jam info. I'll be playing mostly for my self enjoyment as I live in a OT desert. Once this covid thing gets fixed, I'll look around others to play music with. Keep picking.
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