This week I thought I'd follow up last week's post on why I use Old G tuning (if you haven't read that post you can read it by clicking here) with an example tune. "Temperance Reel" came to mind because its a notey tune that really takes advantage of this tuning. Before I get too far in the weeds about the tune, check out the tab:
Click Here for a Tab I wrote of Temperance Reel in Old G tuning
Let me give a bit of context for how I write tabs: Overall, I like to give just a bit of extra information that most tabs do not provide, which can be summarized in the following 3 points:
1) I explicitly indicate the beat above each line
In this case, there are 4 beats per measure and these are written as "1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +." This notation assumes a 4/4 meter broken into 8th notes. I write something (either note or rest) on each beat and half-beat to avoid confusion.
2) I explicitly indicate which notes are to be played as drop thumbs
I do this by putting [brackets] around these notes. Generally these notes occur on the "and" beats, indicated by pluses (+), unless I'm doing a galax lick or something similar. Though it doesn't come up in this tune, all notes on the 5th string are assumed to be played with the thumb, and I do not typically write brackets around notes on the 5th string. I hear that some people will use their striking finger to play the 5th string on occasion, but my playing hasn't brought me there yet : )
3) (Perhaps most importantly!) I like to indicate left hand positions in a tab.
If you're not sure what I'm talking about check out my blogpost on hand positions by clicking here. This takes the guesswork about which finger to use for which fret; in this tune, only one hand position is used and I illustrate it at the bottom of the first page of the tab.
So, why does Temperance Reel work well in Old G (gDGDE)? The biggest advantage from my perspective is that Old G tuning allows you to play the whole melody in a single hand position, while other G tunings do not. To explain a little further, the lowest note in Temperance Reel is the D below middle C on a piano (a.k.a. D3) while the highest note in the tune is the A above middle C (a.k.a. A4). Below, I've reintroduced the various G tunings from last week's blogpost and indicated where these notes occur on the fretboard (assuming that you'd like to stick as close to the nut as possible on the melody strings):
Open G (gDGBD): D3 - open 4th string; A4 - 1st string, 7th fret
Sandy River Belle tuning (gEADE): D3 - not available (!); A4 - 1st string, 5th fret
Guitar G (gDGBE): D3 - open 4th string; A4 - 1st string, 5th fret
Old G (gDGDE): D3 - open 4th string; A4 - 1st string, 5th fret
If you play this tune in Open G, you have to jump out of first position to hit the high notes (7th fret) in the B part, which can slow you down overall. In Sandy River Belle tuning, the high notes are moved down a couple of frets, which is good, but the low note actually disappears! Adam Hurt has a great version of Temperance Reel (which he plays as a medley with "Rebel Raid" on his CD "Insight") that he plays in Sandy River Belle tuning; while this is likely my favorite recorded version of the tune, he does have to alter the melody slightly to remove the low D3 note and I do find myself missing it a little when I hear his version. However, clawhammer forces one to make choices and I think that the positives of Sandy River Belle tuning for this tune probably outweigh the importance of this note for Adam in this Case.
As an aside - if you're not familiar with Adam Hurt's banjo playing, google him and buy his albums right now! His playing is unbelievably polished, most-likely due to his highly-critical ear. Every note he plays seems to be exactly as loud/soft as he wants it to be with exactly the tone he's chosen as well. While I'm a fairly lazy banjo player at heart (for example: I'll always pick a pull-off over a drop thumb all other things being equal, even if a drop thumb sounds better), Adam's choices, however, seem to be made to serve the tune rather than to make things easier. I'm willing to bet that he favors Sandy River Belle tuning here because more notes are fretted (you are playing out of a "chord shape") and he favors the tone of fretted notes over open strings (also, you can easily control the duration of fretted notes by lifting up your finger); just a guess : )
To continue: as you can see above, both "Guitar G" and "Open G" allow you to play the whole tune below the 5th fret (and in one hand position, as indicated on the tab) without having to sacrifice the D3 note. However, I've tried to eliminate "Guitar G" from my repertoire, mostly because it never sounds all that "in tune" to me and throws my neck out of whack (once again, this is covered in last weeks post: here). Furthermore, notes in G major on the 2nd string of "Guitar G" are on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th fret; since you have to reach back to the first fret (essentially switch hand positions) to get a C, I find myself avoiding that string and playing C's on the 5th fret of the 3rd string. If "Guitar G" is going to force me to do all of those left hand acrobatics, I may as well be playing in Old G...which I do : )
To go along with the Tab, I've included a video of me playing "Temperance Reel" on my Buckeye Banjo (#159):
Just a few more comments about this tune: Its super notey (lots of un-interrupted 8th note runs). The version I've included here also doesn't have a single brush or 5th string pull so it may be excessively-melodic for a jam. I recorded this on my couch using a Yeti microphone - hope you like it!
Next weekend, I'm making my first trip to Clifftop - hopefully I'll have time for a short post before I leave!
About this blog
I have lots of ideas about banjo playing and music in general - this blog allows me to get them all out of my head and see what you think.