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Sep 29, 2021 - 5:19:41 AM
5 posts since 9/15/2021

Hi guys,

I’m relatively new to banjo playing. I’m loving every minute of it. I had a question pertaining into to the 5th string when jamming to Scruggs style bluegrass in different keys. It’s kinda hard to explain but I’m gonna try and word it to the best of my ability.

So basically, I don’t have a rolling capo for my 5th string. Instead, I have 5th string railroad spikes on the 7-10th frets which mean I can play the 5th string on the key of G (stock), A, Bb, B, C.

I know normally I can put the 5th string on a 3rd or 5th of the key if I don’t have the root spike available but If a jam session were to call for the key of C#/Db. At what fret would place the 5th sting in my situation? Or would you simply not play the 5th string at all? Or would you try and find another closed position chord further up the neck?

Sorry i hope this question is t written too confusing. Thanks for all your guys’ input.

Sep 29, 2021 - 5:48:12 AM
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maxmax

Sweden

1542 posts since 8/1/2005

You probably won't run into that situation very often, but if you do, you could always lower the fifth string to an f# and capo at 7, making it a g#, or you could just raise the fifth string to g# and play it as it is, or capo at 10, making it a c#. Or, as you say, just avoid the fifth string for that song. And it's never wrong to just sit out a tune now and then either.smiley

Sep 29, 2021 - 5:53:44 AM
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janolov

Sweden

41252 posts since 3/7/2006

If playing in C#/Db I would choose to tune up the fifth string to G#. If you have an electronic tuner that would take less than 30 seconds. However, I wonder what kind of jam plays in the key of C#?

Sep 29, 2021 - 6:09:30 AM
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maxmax

Sweden

1542 posts since 8/1/2005

quote:
Originally posted by janolov

However, I wonder what kind of jam plays in the key of C#?


A jam where the female singer is annoyed at her know-it-all fiddle playing husband?

Sep 29, 2021 - 6:27:25 AM
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3944 posts since 3/28/2008

quote:
Originally posted by maxmax
quote:
Originally posted by janolov

However, I wonder what kind of jam plays in the key of C#?


A jam where the female singer is annoyed at her know-it-all fiddle playing husband?


You're joking, but I've heard it suggested that Bill Monroe recorded "Memories of Mother and Dad" in F# because he was annoyed at someone.

Sep 29, 2021 - 6:27:59 AM
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100 posts since 5/8/2021

quote:
Originally posted by janolov

If playing in C#/Db I would choose to tune up the fifth string to G#. If you have an electronic tuner that would take less than 30 seconds. However, I wonder what kind of jam plays in the key of C#?


It could take less than ten seconds if we actually learned how to tune by ear. 

Sep 29, 2021 - 7:14:43 AM
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353 posts since 4/14/2014

quote:
Originally posted by Ira Gitlin

You're joking, but I've heard it suggested that Bill Monroe recorded "Memories of Mother and Dad" in F# because he was annoyed at someone.


There are few things I believe Monroe wouldn't do out of spite. I've heard the key of F# described as "the ultimate dirtbag key" at least once before. 

Edited by - Nic Pennsylvania on 09/29/2021 07:15:26

Sep 29, 2021 - 7:25:39 AM
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5 posts since 9/15/2021

quote:
Originally posted by maxmax

You probably won't run into that situation very often, but if you do, you could always lower the fifth string to an f# and capo at 7, making it a g#, or you could just raise the fifth string to g# and play it as it is, or capo at 10, making it a c#. Or, as you say, just avoid the fifth string for that song. And it's never wrong to just sit out a tune now and then either.smiley


Thanks so much! I don't know why I didn't think of tuning up or down lol. That seems so obvious. Anyways, thanks for your input that really help!

Sep 29, 2021 - 9:50:23 AM

12414 posts since 6/2/2008

What they already said: tune the 5th string up 1/2 step or spike it at 7 and tune down.  Tuning up 1/2 step is plenty safe. String break not likely.

The only drawback is that if you typically fret the 5th string, you'll have to shift one fret up or down.

In nearly 50 years of playing, I've never had anyone call C#/Db in a jam.  And those very few times I've transcribed tunes in which the whole band was a half-step sharp, I retuned the whole banjo.

Sep 29, 2021 - 9:53:30 AM

3944 posts since 3/28/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Nic Pennsylvania
quote:
Originally posted by Ira Gitlin

You're joking, but I've heard it suggested that Bill Monroe recorded "Memories of Mother and Dad" in F# because he was annoyed at someone.


There are few things I believe Monroe wouldn't do out of spite. I've heard the key of F# described as "the ultimate dirtbag key" at least once before. 


A few years ago Mike Compton pinted out to me that if you listen real closely to the intro of that recording, you dan hear a passing D-natural that has to have been an open string. So yes, it really was in F#, and not tuned sharp or speeded up when the record was mastered.

Sep 29, 2021 - 4:20:40 PM

Fathand

Canada

11826 posts since 2/7/2008

Depending on the song, a capo usually works best on the 1st or 5th of a key. I don't like it on the 3rd but some do.
I have been finding key of F or Bb sometimes works well with the 5th string left at G. Try Sweet Georgia Brown in F like that. It creates a partial 9th chord that way and a 6th chord in Bb.

Sep 30, 2021 - 7:29:40 AM

2863 posts since 2/10/2013

Years ago an old musician told me that the key they played in was one that the singer considered comfortable. I used to play with some musicians who originally lived in the southeastern U.S., and they played in unusual keys. A guitar playing neighbor plays in unusual keys. This annoys other players, but he says he can only sing a tune in that key.
If someone plays along with recordings, this is not an unusual occurrence. Time to hold a chord and go up and down the fingerboard trying to find the key.

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