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Open G minor

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Postby Ricochet » October 4th, 2005, 4:22 pm

This isn't one of the traditional blues tunings, but it's one of my favorites. I hardly invented it, of course, but started using it without having previously known of an example of somebody using it. I "discovered" it a couple of years ago when I wanted to play & sing "I Wonder As I Wander" and thought G minor a good key to do it in. I just flatted the third (second string) of Open G, so from low to high it's DGDGBbD. (Bb reads as A# on most tuners.) "I Wonder As I Wander" was easy to pick out and play, and sounded good. Messing around a bit in this "new" tuning I quickly ran across a couple of other tunes that just practically played themselves: "Summertime" and "Carol of the Bells." Excitedly I went to my next guitar lesson with it still tuned to G minor and played "I Wonder As I Wander." My teacher didn't seem particularly familiar with or excited by this old Appalachian folk Christmas song, but then I said "Check this out" and started playing a basic version of "Summertime." He watched me through one verse of it, and said "Give me your guitar!" Never having played a guitar in this tuning before, he proceeded to just wear it out with cool improvisation on this old standard. "Wait, there's more!" I said. Played "Carol of the Bells," which also got him pretty excited. It works well with or without slide, I finger most of it anyway and just use the slide a little.

We messed around and found other things that work great in this tuning, including the old Merle Travis song "Sixteen Tons" made famous by "Tennessee" Ernie Ford, "Ghost Riders In The Sky," and a slightly bizarre invention of mine, The Drifters' "On Broadway" done in a minor key. (I call it "Off Broadway," 'cause it's just a little "off.") Played as a slow slide blues, in minor key, that really sounds like the blues!

I use this tuning to play "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," and suspect that I could just be the first person to ever play that one on slide guitar. :lol:

"Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" works well in it, as does "The Thrill Is Gone."

My latest "discovery" came late last week when I was sitting in the back office jamming on "Summertime" on my tricone resonator. A coworker who grew up in New Orleans came running and asked if I was playing "St. James Infirmary." I told her it was "Summertime" (I was getting fairly jazzy and the tune was sort of buried), but I hunted around on the Web and found an MP3 of "St. James Infirmary" as played by Roger McGuinn. Thought it did sound kind of like what I was doing. I listened enough to get the basic melody in my head and went back to messing around on the guitar. It's stuck in my head, and I wake up hearing variations on it. (Too bad I can't remember them when I pick up my guitar!) But it's coming along, and I'm having fun with it. I like this song. (Which according to some notes on the Web was first published in 1912 and is arguably the first published blues song.)

This tuning works well as Open A minor on lighter-strung guitars. Same thing a step higher. EAEACE.

It's fun to try a new tuning. It'll give you new ideas and you'll run across easy ways to play things you might not have been able to do in another tuning. Cool stuff!
8)
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Postby smokindog » October 4th, 2005, 11:49 pm

I will check this out, thanks ricochet :D
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Postby Vic Lewis VL » October 5th, 2005, 3:55 am

Something I'll have to check out as well....I LOVE St James Infirmary Blues....

There are so many versions of it though....think my favourite was the Cab Calloway version...I'd be interested to know what you all see as the definitive version?

Ric, I'd probably have to do this in Dm...G isn't a very voice-friendly key for me, unfortunately...just wondering, what's the best way to tune to open Dm? DADFAD?

:D :D :D

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Postby dsparling » October 5th, 2005, 4:42 am

Funny that you mention open G-minor as I've been working up an arrangement this week of the Huron Carol, which is a Canadian carol. It's in G minor (at least in my hymnal), and it works perfectly in open G-minor. My version has a bit of a renaissance feel to it, maybe because I'm thinking more English folk in my arrangement. I hope to submit it as a lesson when I get the time...I'd never used open G-minor before, and it's been fun learning a new tuning.

Vic - I've always used DADFAD or EBEGBE (isn't that the tuning Alber Collins use?)...
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Postby dogbite » October 5th, 2005, 5:19 am

I tried those minor tunings. they didnt suit me.
however, I do have a lap steel tuned to C6. I like that because there is a minor triad on the lower three strings and a major triad on the top three strings.

so I have the best of both worlds.

for blues tho I love my regular open G.
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Postby Vic Lewis VL » October 5th, 2005, 5:53 am

Dogbite - can you tune an acoustic to C6? Sounds pretty cool...from what you say, you can play minor chords on the bottom 3 strings, and major chords on the top 3 strings....?

Just looking back at this thread....

"Huron Carol"
"Carol of the Bells"
"I wonder as I Wander"

I have never heard of any of these songs....and I'm always open to expanding my musical knowledge, maybe one of these would be nice to play at Xmas - me on acoustic, the grandkids are getting fairly proficient at flute, violin and clarinet....could be an interesting combo.....

soooo....if you can give me a link to a tab....or better still, post your tab on the Easy Song Database.....it'd be a big help....

I have to admit, I am sick to death of playing "Silent Night" every Xmas for the kiddies.....maybe I'll do it as a blues this year......

Maybe I'll do "Oh Come All Ye Faithful"....I can still remember the Latin (!) words to that.....as a blues?

These days, I don't bother with Church...I was brought up RC, but kind of drifted away when my dad died....still, there are times I want to go to church, just to hear a choir, I still love the hymns I learned as a kid... believe it or not, I was a choirboy at one time....when I was starting out on guitar, I wasn't considered good enough to play in the "folk" masses that became popular over here in the 70's.... but I did get to play harmonica on "Lord of the Dance".....

I envy you, Ric, you still have your faith and you get to play in Church....
what more could a man want!!!

Vic
Last edited by Vic Lewis VL on October 5th, 2005, 5:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Ricochet » October 5th, 2005, 5:54 am

DADFAD or EBEGBE is well known as "cross tuning," used most famously by Skip James for many of his tunes like "Hard Times Killin' Floor." A few other bluesmen have used it, too, and it'll work for most of the same things I mentioned above, just moved over a string toward the bass side. That's what I originally worked out several of them in, in fact.

I'm not suggesting this is an all-purpose substitute for Open G, by any means. But it's another cool tuning to mess with, and some things will just naturally work better in it.

Speaking of Renaissance-sounding stuff, "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" sounds like old plainsong, really ancient, though the song lyric was just translated from Greek to English and put to music in 1864. It's from the 4th century Liturgy of St. James. The tune's supposed to be from "a traditional French carol." You can hear a MIDI and read about it here: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/l/e/letallmf.htm

Lots of medieval tunes sound terrific with mixed sliding and fretting on a resonator guitar in good old Open G or Open D. A favorite I figured out a couple of years ago in Open G is "Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming." "The March of the Kings" and "Bring A Torch, Jeannette, Isabella" work well, too, as I'm sure just about anything that was ever played on a lute would.

Can you tell I'm thinking about Christmas, which is coming up soon? "Silent Night" is a terrific tune for Open G or Open D, either way.
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Postby Ricochet » October 5th, 2005, 6:15 am

Vic Lewis wrote:I envy you, Ric, you still have your faith and you get to play in Church....
what more could a man want!!!
You said it, Vic! I hear you and empathise with your longings. I turned away from the faith as an adolescent and didn't find my way back till middle age. Then it took what I consider a miracle to open my eyes, kinda like hitting a mule over the head with a 2x4. Not everybody gets a wakeup call like that. About 10 years later, just about 10 years ago now, I wrote up and posted a story about it, because I couldn't talk about it without getting choked with emotion. It's off-topic for this thread, but you can read it at: http://users.chartertn.net/johnculp/miracle.html

I hope you find your way back one day, too.
I hope you don't mind if I pray for you, 'cause I'm going to anyway. :D

Maybe I ought to record "Let All Mortal Flesh..." and play it in the background on that page? Or way better, "Amazing Grace." I've already recorded that, sliding in Open D. (Played it in church, too!)
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Postby dsparling » October 5th, 2005, 6:44 am

Vic Lewis wrote:"Huron Carol"
"Carol of the Bells"
"I wonder as I Wander"

I have never heard of any of these songs....and I'm always open to expanding my musical knowledge, maybe one of these would be nice to play at Xmas - me on acoustic, the grandkids are getting fairly proficient at flute, violin and clarinet....could be an interesting combo.....


"The Huron Carol" is also known as "'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime." It's in most hymnals under that title. I just put my arrangement in Finale this morning (music and tab), but I need to clean it up a bit. Going to make an mp3 as well.

There are a lot of beautiful old Christmas tunes that should be more well known. Another that I just started playing (besides "Bleak Mid-Winter" and "Huron") is "My Dancing Day." The Oxford Book of Carols has a lot of nice tunes...

I envy you, Ric, you still have your faith and you get to play in Church....
what more could a man want!!!


You know, I went 25-30 years without setting foot in a church, though I did grow up as a fairly active Methodist as a kid. I now work at a Methodist church as a composer/song writer/arranger, and looks like I'm getting a "promotion" to contemporary band director...but my wife and I joined the Lutheran church, and I must say, there are a lot of old Lutheran hymns I wasn't familiar with, and the worship experience is quite different from what I grew up with.
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Postby Vic Lewis VL » October 5th, 2005, 7:30 am

maybe, just maybe I'm missing out on something here...I don't want to turn this into a discussion on Religion or Faith, but maybe the part of me that's somehow unfulfilled needs something more than just getting through the day....

I read Celt's post before, asking for our thoughts and prayers for his nephew....first thing I thought, "Oh God, help that little lad"....hmmm... atheist? agnostic? lapsed?.... whatever, I've had a feeling for a few years now, there's something missing somewhere.....

Sometimes, I just feel so confused....like I need help but don't know who to ask.....

Vic
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Postby Ricochet » October 5th, 2005, 7:48 am

I think you're on the right track, Vic.
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Postby dogbite » October 5th, 2005, 7:53 am

C6 tuning is doable on acoustic. be sure to have the proper gauge strings.
I learned of this tuning from Brads Page of Steel.
also on that site is info from proper string gauges.

C6

A C E G C E

the ACE is your Am. GCE is your C

so mapping out the fret board G major is on the seventh fret with Em below that.

playing the strings. for the majors play all the strings but the sixth. it will sound major.
for the minor play the lower three strings.

really interesting stuff can be had. Ive done You Shook Me solo in C6 just for fun.

also, much country swing is in C6. check out Spade Cooley.

Ive just begun exploring or revisiting this tuning. more later.
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Postby Ricochet » October 5th, 2005, 8:02 am

BTW, I'm sitting here noodling around in G minor. "March of the Kings" works really well in this tuning!
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Postby greybeard » October 5th, 2005, 9:34 am

How about some tabs, you guys?
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Postby Ricochet » October 5th, 2005, 9:44 am

My goodness! The only thing I've tried tabbing out online was "When The Levee Breaks." Took me forever, and I kept having to go back and forth posting and editing to get the spacing to look right. (Plus, I made some tweaks to the tab itself.) I don't want to ever do it that way again! Maybe I'll get some tab software one of these days; it's got to be easier than doing it in a "Post" box on Guitar Noise!
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