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Open Tunings & Capo

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(@vic-lewis-vl)
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Joined: 20 years ago
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Topic starter  

I didn't want to hi-jack Rodder's post, but a question occured to me while reading it - Steinar suggested tuning to open E plus capoing at first fret. Wouldn't the strings be quite close to the fretboard near the capo? Or, if you were going to make a habit of this, would you use heavier or lighter strings? I'm thinking heavier strings might buzz more, but lighter strings wouldn't need to be pressed very hard to make them touch the frets....

Obviously this only applies if you're using bottleneck.....

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


   
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(@steinar-gregertsen)
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Joined: 19 years ago
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Yes, that can be a problem, but also a part of the "bottleneck experience"..... :lol:

Derek Trucks use .011 strings on his SG, and has an extremely low action for a slide guitar, so it's all in the touch - you learn to adjust according to what's necessary...

Speaking of Trucks - check this video on YouTube. What really blows me away here isn't so much his slide playing - I expect that to be from another planet anyway - but his 'fretted' solo on a guitar tuned to open-E. There's also some closeups here that shows how low the action is on his guitar...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FlOJXL4j6k

Steinar

"Play to express, not to impress"
Website - YouTube


   
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(@tinsmith)
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Joined: 19 years ago
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Derek is awesome, so is Warren


   
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(@vic-lewis-vl)
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Nice link, Steinar - although I can't really check how low the action is, the video's a little fuzzy....

Derek strikes me as a very fine slide player, who's put some hard hours in learning his craft - but also as someone who enjoys playing his music, and you can bet your socks that if a musician's enjoying playing, that'll get across to the audience and they're going to enjoy it all the more....

I'm still looking for a second electric to keep in open G - I've decided that's the slide tuning I'm happiest with, and I reckon with a bit (OK a lot!!!) of hard work, I might be able to make some decent music - I'm thinking another Squier Tele, with heavier strings - I use 9's on my Squier Tele, and currently 10's on my acoustics, one of which is permanently tuned to open G.

However, when I've tuned the Squier tele to open G, I've not had too much of a problem, even with 9's, in getting the right feel for it - just the top E sometimes causes a problem - I reckon 10's instead of 9's should cure that....

What can I say? I LIKE light strings.....

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


   
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(@ricochet)
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Joined: 21 years ago
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Yeah, 10s are workable in Open G. 12s are plumb easy. Works the same on acoustics, actually. You don't need the heavy strings I'd been lead to believe were essential. Electric 12s are what I'm playing now on my reso.

I played for about 2 months in Open E on 8s once, because that's what came on my Epi Special II (that my boy recently gave to a friend), and I was too cheap to change strings till they wore out. Helped me learn slide control.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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(@vic-lewis-vl)
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Yeah, 10s are workable in Open G. 12s are plumb easy. Works the same on acoustics, actually. You don't need the heavy strings I'd been lead to believe were essential. Electric 12s are what I'm playing now on my reso.

I played for about 2 months in Open E on 8s once, because that's what came on my Epi Special II (that my boy recently gave to a friend), and I was too cheap to change strings till they wore out. Helped me learn slide control.

Mind if I ask you a couple of questions, and pick your brain? I noticed a while back you said something like "It's been a long time since I played anything without a slide"......

first question that comes to mind might be a silly one, don't you find that limiting? I suppose not - there are so many different tunings to play around with....

2nd Question - how many guitars do you have, and what tunings are they in?

3rd and final question for now - what's your favourite open tuning? I know you've used a few, maybe you could write an article about the pro's and con's of various tunings?

I'm getting more and more into slide these days - my favourite guitarist when I was a teenager was Manny Charlton of Nazareth, I think every single of theirs that made the top 20 featured a slide solo.....

Oh and Ric, i still remember that MP3 you posted a couple of years ago - maybe more - Cold dark Ground? I remember being impressed at the time......

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


   
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(@ricochet)
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Limiting? I suppose you could look at it that way. There's a lot of stuff out there that was played without a slide, and if you want to sound like it, you should play it the way that it was played. Of course, I'd say the same thing to the people who scoff at slides and open tunings and say they can do the same things with standard tuning and string bending. They can't. It's not the same. If you want it to sound like the original, play it the original way. However, I'm not playing in a cover band, and only have to play what suits my fancy. I enjoy playing very simple blues for the most part, and figure out ways of playing other things that pique my interest. My way is often definitely a workaround for things I don't know how to do, but if I work at it a while I can usually come up with something that suits me.

My main tuning is Open D. The nice thing about it is that it's so simple to come up with melodies on the first string, it being tuned to the root of the chord. And the fourth and sixth strings are also roots. Sometimes I get on an Open G kick for a while, and it can be fun having fifths on the first and sixth strings. On a turnaround it sounds cool to end up dropping down to a low fifth on that open bass string, and it's really easy to make sevenths with the slide or fretting on the third fret of the first string, or going up to the fifth fret to make a high octave of the root. With Open D you have to go to the tenth and twelfth frets to do that. Minor chord tunings are fun, too. I've found a bunch of things that are fun to play in Open G minor, for instance I Wonder As I Wander (my original reason for exploring that tuning), Summertime, St. James Infirmary, Carol of the Bells, Ghost Riders In The Sky, Sixteen Tons, and a minor version of On Broadway that I jokingly call Off Broadway. Open D minor is the "cross note tuning" used by Skip James for the majority of his recordings, like Hard Times Killin' Floor Blues, and Booker White used that tuning, too. Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone is a natural in that one.

I was reminded last night (I went to see my guitar teacher and his singing partner perform) that tuning the first string of the Open D pattern down to a seventh (in Open D, DADF#AC) makes a really cool open seventh chord tuning. He plays Mr. Banker that way, and it's awesome! He showed me that a long time ago, and I need to mess around with it and get it down.

I still haven't figured out what DADGAD's good for, though. :lol:

I do nearly all my playing in the key of the open chord the guitar's tuned to. You don't have to do that. You can base the I chord somewhere besides the open strings and twelfth fret. For instance, if you're in Open D and want to play in G, your I is on the fifth fret. IV is on the 10th fret, and V is on the twelfth or open. Or suppose you're in Open G and want to play in D. I is on the seventh fret. V can be on the second or fourteenth frets, and IV can be the twelfth fret or open. Gives a different sort of voicing when you go down for the IV and V and back up for the I. I don't do this sort of thing often, because I seldom play with anybody else.

How many guitars have I got? Too dang many. What I actually use regularly are my Agile AS-820 with P-90s, which is in Open D right now, my Johnson Tricone that's also presently in Open D, and I have an Artisan lap steel I play with by spells that's in Open D. Lately I reclaimed my Gibson Pete Townshend SJ-200 from my boy. It's in standard tuning and sucks for slide. I've been playing around with it to come up with a suitable accompaniment for I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry, having gotten that old Hank Williams song stuck in my head. It is handy having guitars in different tunings for quick changes, but I tend to stay stuck on one guitar and one tuning for a while, then I move on to another. Mostly I cycle between the Agile when I'm in an electric mood and the Johnson for acoustic. They both suit me perfectly. I've got a set of Bob Brozman slide blues DVDs I've been meaning to go through forever; I'll be back in Open G mostly for that.

Now, by "It's been a long while since I've played without a slide on my finger," I didn't mean that I only use the slide. There's a lot of room for fretting with bottleneck sliding, and even things like the simple blues shuffle require fretting. And it adds variety to do certain things with the slide sometimes and with the fingers other times. Just because you use an open tuning doesn't mean you have to forget about all that other stuff. (But if you don't have full use of your fingers, open tuning sliding can let you do stuff you couldn't easily do otherwise.)

I'm glad you liked my version of Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground. I love that tune, and I was proud of that. I did it 3 years ago, I think (maybe 2), and if I listen to the recording now I wince at parts of it that I'm sure I could do better. But hey, that's how it goes.
:D

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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(@tinsmith)
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I've used DADGAD for like a minor key slide tuning. Works pretty good.

I was just noticing in the vid how slick Derek made the transition from no slide to slide.

Very smooth.


   
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(@demoetc)
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It's so true about what Ricochet says, especially about the idea of people assuming they can do the same things in standard, non slide. Maybe someone like Vai could, or maybe Beck or others who really have a handle on using the whammy bar, but normally, the vibrato you get with a fretted/fingered note on a guitar is way different from what you get with a slide. It's always the note with the vibrato being a higher pitch. Of course if you're already in a bend, you can go above and below the intended note, or use the whammy to do the same thing, but usually, just putting vibrato on a fretted string, the pitch is going up and then back to center.

If you listen to singers, their vibrato is just the opposite (unless it's the East Indian or Middle Eastern type trills); it goes from note, down, then back up to note. Using a slide is the easiest, smoothest way to achieve a real 'vocal' type vibrato.

I've never met anyone who's a non slide snob, but I'm sure they're out there. I figure though, if they want to do all that extra work, then go ahead ;)

EDIT: I should add that with a slide (or steel) you can easily go both above and below the pitch in question; it's just that I've been trying to do the vocal type vibrato more.


   
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 Long
(@long)
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I used to be a non slide snob. Then I decided to embrace my inner bottleneck. Now I never play without one.


   
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(@ricochet)
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Allright, Long! There's two of us. :D

Speaking of different types of vibrato, I'd noted the same about bending and slide vibrato. My normal slide vibrato is just as DemoEtc said, going down below the pitch and back up. (Usually about 1/4 tone for me, sometimes up to 1/2.)

There's another type of vibrato seen with the Leslie rotating speaker. As the speaker spins, the Doppler effect shifts the pitch equally above and below the steady pitch. (The built in electronic vibrato on Hammond organs is of the slide guitar & vocal kind, dropping below the pitch and back up to it.) Two-speed Leslies can be sped up and slowed down while playing, an effect that's been used a great deal in gospel, soul and rock music on the Hammond. As the speaker speeds up and slows down, both the rate of the vibrato and its range increase or decrease proportionally. I think that's an interesting idea to experiment with on slide guitar. Lots of guitarists like to play through Leslies. I think we could accomplish much of the same effect with slide control.

(The Leslie vibrato is similar to what's achieved with the old pipe organ technique of "Celeste," where pairs of pipes are deliberately slightly mistuned from one another. As they mix, they make a slow beat frequency that's heard as both a tremolo effect modulating the amplitude of the sound and a vibrato effect as the beat frequency adds to and is subracted from the main pitch. Leslie was in fact trying to make the Hammond sound more like a pipe organ when he came up with the spinning speaker idea.)

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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(@vic-lewis-vl)
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Topic starter  

I always keep one acoustic in open G - matter of fact, I was stuck for some music for an SSG song from a couple of weeks back. Song had a kind of Bob Dylan feel to it, so I was messing around with a few chord shapes I've worked out in open G and actually came up with something I liked. Problem was, it was just too low - so I capoed it at the 2nd fret! Probably would never have thought of doing that if I hadn't read these posts.....!!!

(I posted a link to it on "Hear Here" - song's called "New Direction." It's only a rough first take as yet - I only finished the music 1/2 an hour before I recorded it!!)

Open E I've tried before - took me a while to realise the tuning I'd got was wrong, until someone pointed it out in this forum...

Open D I've had a play with - someone showed me "Stuck In The Middle" - the Stealer's Wheel song in open D, so I tabbed it out in Easy Songs. Someone else tabbed out "Shelter From The Storm" in open D as well, that too is in Easy Songs.

But open G is the one I always end up in, especially for bottleneck....it's easy to tune to, and seems easy enough to mess around in....I think most of George Thorogood's slide work is in open G.....

Maybe I should buy more guitars, keep them in different tunings - Marilyn'd LOVE that!!!

I think at this stage of my musical developement, EADGBE and DGDGBD are enough to be going on with....but I suppose the great thing about slide (or open tunings) is there's always something new to learn.....

Oh well - I'm going to Manchester on Wednesday, so I'll have a look what the music shops there have to offer.....still on the look-out for that second Squier tele!!!

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


   
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(@ricochet)
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I've always been fond of Stuck In The Middle With You. I'll have to check that out. :D

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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