standard tuning melancholy/old time tunes

Piecomics

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I have a bad habit of monkeying around with tunings when I get a new instrument... anyway I just got a beautiful amazing wonderful ohana tiple that I purchased here in the marketplace. it sounds so so good. I was inclined initially to retune it to Ee aAa eEe aa but I think I would like to keep it in the gcea family.

I will likely, at least initially, use it to play some old time music, particularly the modal sounding stuff. Currently I'm working through:
a minor version of Snowdrop
Shady Grove
Wayfaring Stranger

all of which I am working out on gcea.

But I'm looking for other ideas. Any thoughts? in a perfect world I'm working on learning the songs by listening rather than tabs, so I'm really looking for song titles or examples...

many thanks!
 

Piecomics

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Thanks, and I can't believe I've never come across that before. The old time I am talking about is more properly appalachian/round peak stuff I suppose, rather than old timey... But I love that website and I'm checking it out for sure.
 

CPG

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I play old-time banjo. A lot of OT musicians I know like to go to early source recordings on https://www.slippery-hill.com/

Lots of early source recordings there.

Personally I tend to listen to modern players takes on those tunes. I particularly, like to come up with banjo parts by listening to the fiddle parts as opposed to listening to banjo player. Rayna Gellert has lots of fiddle examples where she plays the fiddle part at 3 speeds. These are intented for fiddlers learning the tunes, but since fiddle is the lead voice in OT music I think they are a great way to come up with solo OT arrangements on other instruments (e.g. Banjo or Uke or Harmonica, etc...). https://www.raynagellert.com/tune-videos. Here is a version of Winder Slide that I worked out on banjo based on Rayna's fiddle playing. Never tried to work it out on uke but it's a great tune that I imagine would sound good on uke: https://youtu.be/1ZvjOaOawWQ

Lil' Rev also has this book that I've never used but looks pretty good: https://www.elderly.com/products/fiddle-tunes-for-ukulele

I have an arrangement of The Blackest Crow that lays out really nicely on the uke in F major/D minor. It has sorta become the thing that I just sorta automatically play when I pick up a uke and I've used it in lots of my sound sample videos here. F major/D minor is not the traditional key of that tune but I find it just works well on uke. This demo I did of one of my sopranos shows my version of it: https://youtu.be/CyB3JxcjZJc. I like to throw some sus and 7 chords in when I turn around back in to the A section after the B section that are not at all traditional and can safely be ignored if you want. Can also ignore the noodling at the end of this video.
 
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Piecomics

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That is very helpful! Okay first, I love your playing and your version of Blackest Crowe.

I looked at the lil' Rev book but there are an awful lot of jigs and reels which frankly don't quite reach melancholy for me.

Something I have struggled with though, is taking a fiddle tune like, say John Riley the Shepherd, which to me often sounds very upbeat and... energetic? and get it to have a quality like this version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgi6MERDAp8

(also I keep using that word because I don't know what else to say, but there is contemplative quality to a lot of mountain modal/sawmill tuned songs for the banjo that I am after on the uke/tiple.)
 

emba

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Because I’m not sure what “modal” is, I’m not entirely sure this will be what you want, but what about “All the Good Times Have Past and Gone”? If that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for, the song list from Wayne Erbsen’s book The Rural Roots of Bluegrass might interest you.
 

CPG

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Because I’m not sure what “modal” is, I’m not entirely sure this will be what you want, but what about “All the Good Times Have Past and Gone”? If that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for, the song list from Wayne Erbsen’s book The Rural Roots of Bluegrass might interest you.

In old time music (old time being a catch all term for a genre that mainly, but not entirely, consists of appalachian string band music originating in the pre WWII era) "modal" tunes are generally tunes that are not strictly major or minor. They are most often based on Dorian or Mixolydian scales and many tunes switch between different modes from the A section to the B section. Because it's a folk tradition it's not usually talked about in a music theory perspective but I assume the term stems from the fact that these tunes are based on modes other than the Ionian (major) and Aeolian (minor) modes.

Shady Grove, Cluck Old Hen, Cold Frosty Morning, and Kitchen Girl are some fairly common examples of old time tunes that would be considered modal.
 

emba

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In old time music (old time being a catch all term for a genre that mainly, but not entirely, consists of appalachian string band music originating in the pre WWII era) "modal" tunes are generally tunes that are not strictly major or minor. They are most often based on Dorian or Mixolydian scales and many tunes switch between different modes from the A section to the B section. Because it's a folk tradition it's not usually talked about in a music theory perspective but I assume the term stems from the fact that these tunes are based on modes other than the Ionian (major) and Aeolian (minor) modes.

Shady Grove, Cluck Old Hen, Cold Frosty Morning, and Kitchen Girl are some fairly common examples of old time tunes that would be considered modal.

Yeah, the book I suggested is definitely old time in that sense, and has Shady Grove in it (which doesn’t help op I know, since he’s doing that one already) but as for any of the other songs being modal, couldn’t say. My understanding of music theory doesn’t stretch that far yet.
 

CPG

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Yeah, the book I suggested is definitely old time in that sense, and has Shady Grove in it (which doesn’t help op I know, since he’s doing that one already) but as for any of the other songs being modal, couldn’t say. My understanding of music theory doesn’t stretch that far yet.

I somehow overlooked the author'a name in your original post. Yes, Erbson definitely does old time music.
 

ripock

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Since you have eight strings you could just tune it in fifths like a mandolin.
 

Piecomics

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It is actually 10 strings. but the number of strings is irrelevant. I know I could tune it like a mandolin but I have one of those. I like the tiple for what it is...
 

CPG

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As I mentioned to another poster most old-time "modal" tunes are generally based on the Dorian and/or Mixolydian scales. Can you play a C major scale? If so all you need to do to play the Mixolydian drop the 7th a half step. To play Dorian just drop the 3rd and the 7th a half step. For example, if you want top learn Cluck Old Hen (which is in Dorian if I recall correctly) first play the C dorian scale. that is C D Eb F G A Bb C. That will give you all the notes in that tune and its just a matter of arranging them in the right way to get the melody. You won't be in the same key that you typically hear banjo players play it in (which is usually G or A) but it will sound like Cluck Old Hen. By that same logic you could take just about any tune and find the notes that occur on the 3rd and 7th of the scale, then drop one or both of them a half step to get the contemplative "modal" sound. It probably won't sound good for every tune you do that with but that scale (The Dorian in particular) is really what gives you that quality. The other thing that gives it that quality is that the "Mountain Modal" aka "Sawmill Tuning" that banjo players often use for these tunes takes open G (or open A) tuning gDGBD (or aEAC#E) and raises the 3rd of the open chord on the 2nd string up half step to C (or D in the case of open A). This means that when you play all the strings open you are playing Sus4 chord and it means that when you fret the 2nd string at the 2nd fret you are playing a power chord. Like the aforementioned scales neither of these chords are really major or minor (since they lack the 3rd) and this further contributes to that quality you speak of. To get these same relative chords in C on the ukulele you could play 0013 (for Csus4) or 0033 (for C5 aka C power chord). Lastly, if you want to use the same realtive tuning on uke instead of playing in standard you could raise your E string(s) up to F and drop your A string(s) to G. That would give you the same "mountain modal" tuning that banjo players often use. It would just be "C model" instead of G or A and since reentrant ukes lack the lowest note that a banjo has it may make arranging the melody a bit challenging at times.

I wanted to write a longer response to your Adam Hurt link (he is amazing) and record an example for you but I'm short on time this week, so I'll leave you with the above. Hope it helps.
 
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Piecomics

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CPG, your explanation about what modal tuning is was super helpful! I didn't know why they had that name, just that I tended to like those songs.

thanks, and I am unfamiliar with kitchen girl so checking it out now.
 

CPG

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CPG, your explanation about what modal tuning is was super helpful! I didn't know why they had that name, just that I tended to like those songs.

thanks, and I am unfamiliar with kitchen girl so checking it out now.

Glad it helps. Kitchen Girl is a great tune. The A section (or what I play as the A section some people play it the other way around) is in Mixolydian and the B section is in Dorian. I think most recordings you find of it will be fairly up tempo (Cathy Fink has a recording on one of her albumns that is quite fast) but if you slow it down it definitly has that quality you speak of, especially the Dorian section.

Here is one of Cathy and Marcy playing it that is somewhat fast as it is being played at a typical old-time speed but not crazy fast and it sounds fantastic, especially with Marcy playing her cello banjo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qP0KeymSQI
 
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Piecomics

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That's a nice song, reminds me a little of cluck old hen. I love those two!