Formby tuning

Ambient Doughnut

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Well, I'm sure everyone has watched this at some point:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfmAeijj5cM

But what's he actually doing? The shapes look to be in C but for this to work he'd have to be tuned to D# G# C F or to put it another way 2 tones down from normal. Could he be playing a baritone tuned up a semitone - does anyone do that?
 

Jnobianchi

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That's one of George's tenor ukes, he had a couple of Keeches, and he's playing in standard GCEA tuning, according to the sheet music. I don't have a uke in front of me to test that, but I am pretty sure that's the correct tuning.

George used three tunings, depending on the song and his voice: CGEA, ADF#B, and BbEbGC . A lot of folks assume he couldn't play in other keys - not so. The style of play he devised depended on using open chords to create the effects that split stroke made possible, so several ukes in different tunings made sense.

The chord shapes should look familiar - they don't change at all from tuning to tuning. What changes are the pitches of the strings and the name of the chords. The shapes are what mattered to his style working.
 

SailingUke

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That's one of George's tenor ukes, he had a couple of Keeches, and he's playing in standard GCEA tuning, according to the sheet music. I don't have a uke in front of me to test that, but I am pretty sure that's the correct tuning.

George used three tunings, depending on the song and his voice: CGEA, ADF#B, and BbEbGC . A lot of folks assume he couldn't play in other keys - not so. The style of play he devised depended on using open chords to create the effects that split stroke made possible, so several ukes in different tunings made sense.

The chord shapes should look familiar - they don't change at all from tuning to tuning. What changes are the pitches of the strings and the name of the chords. The shapes are what mattered to his style working.

Very nicely explained !!
 

Jnobianchi

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Thanks, Allen! But of course, the first thing we have to do when we get home is play along with George and see if standard tuning is right!
 

Ambient Doughnut

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Thanks, that's all useful to know!

Pretty sure he's not in standard there though. The shapes are definately in C - C/C7/D7/F etc pretty easy to see. Doesn't sound right until I try the tuning above though.
I've tried tuning my soprano down which sound pretty much spot on but is pretty baggy - or by tuning the pocket uke right up - which acutally sounds pretty good! :)

Give it a try and see what you reckon.

(I've just realised you're all in a different time zone - bedtime for me)
 
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SailingUke

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I remember seeing one of his banjos listed for sale somewhere. On the skin was penciled Bb, must have been his tuning on that banjo.
I use two tenor ukes DGBE and GCEA instead of a capo. Have been known to tune a step up to match other players so I don't have to learn new finger patterns.
 

Ambient Doughnut

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I reckon that's it - Tenor uke with reantrant G tuning (DGBE)-tuned up a semitone.
Great, now i need another uke... ;)
 
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chiefnoda

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George used three tunings, depending on the song and his voice: ***CGEA***, ADF#B, and Bb Eb G C

I guess this is a typo, and you meant GCEA which makes very good sense.

If you have a capo, you can keep the ukulele in the same GCEA tuning and then, no capo, capo 2 and capo 3 will do the same function as retuning the strings. You can keep the same chord shapes. ONly the actual pitch (and key) will go up.

Cheers
Chief

PS: In old recordings, (a) people did not tune strictly to A=440 Hertz, or (b) the recording speed varied. Very often, the result is that the actual pitch can be a little off.
 

Ambient Doughnut

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or (b) the recording speed varied

Yes, that would explain why I can't keep up with him. ;)

Think that's it though - DBGE either tweaked up or speeded up slightly.
 
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Jnobianchi

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Yes, Chief - thanks for catching that - it IS a typo - GCEA is right.
 

I Ukulista

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Here's a snippet.
I know a gentleman in North Wales who knew George and he claims that George altered the standard tuning on one string by half a tone for some of his songs.
 
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Hippie Dribble

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Member spookefoote is a dear friend of mine and he lives just around the corner from george's old place....it's a six degrees of separation thing, you know....anything to feel close to the great man will do me!!! :eek:
 

I Ukulista

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I got to speak to the old guy in North Wales who knew George Formby.
He finally told me that I should try G C E A tuning but
the C should be an octave higher. (change C strings and try methinks).
Any one tried this?
 

spookefoote

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I've always argued that Cleaning Windows is in C and played by Formby in C tuning. Sometimes old film ain't played at the correct speed you know. Could account for some of the views on "mystical" tunings.
 

I Ukulista

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I changed a string last night, low C to high C (using a Worth A string for high C).
Bingo....can you hear me mother.....
 

Ambient Doughnut

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Ok, current theory - DGBE tuned uke with a high D AND G string plus film running slightly fast to bring key up to G#.