October 03, 2004

#88: Playing in D using G tuning

Pete,

So that's the most typical way I play in D: G tuning but the 5th string raised to A.

I am steering myself this way, mostly because I find the A-D-F#-A-D tuning too confusing. I am constantly trying to build my ability to play in D/E/F as you describe above ... it's easier than retuning!

I assume you have tab books out :-) Can you recommend any of your tab books that has a higher than average number of tunes played the way you described in your post?

I know you know what's below ... just to be clear in what I am looking for:

  • Tunes in D: open G tuning, fifth string to A
  • Tunes in E: open G, capo 2, fifth string to B
  • Tunes in F: open G, capo 3, fifth string to C

-- Rolf in NJ

P.S. I was listening to one of your CDs this morning! Great stuff!

I do indeed have tab books out. A total of two in print right now and available on my web site, and both have a fair amount of what you are interested in. Hot Rize had quite a few songs like that, Nellie Kane, Colleen Malone, Walk the Way the Wind Blows (whoops, I play that open, in F), Midnight on the Highway, Wild Ride, Frank's Blues, Life's Too Short, Untold Stories, quite a few. A fair number are in my tab book for the first two Hot Rize albums, and another bunch are in my AcuTab book, based on my On a Roll album (with a few from Hot Rize). On a Roll has Spring Break, Down in the Valley to Pray, Birdsong Creek, When the Snow Falls On My Foggy Mt. Home, Man of the Mountain... I hope that's enough, though I think there must be more.

It's really a fun format to play in, more than a lot of people realize. A great sounding D on the 4th string, and one on the first too. A pretty third (F#) on the 4th fret of the 4th string and the 1st. Just because Earl rarely had to be in those keys, people seem to think it can't be done, or it has to mean D tuning (which I don't especially like, plus it means relearning the fingerboard). In Hot Rize I had to do it, and it worked out just fine. Find the melody, find chord variations, experiment, keep experimenting, and choose the best stuff. It helps to have played 1500 shows with one band that does a bunch of tunes in those keys!

Female singers are here to stay in bluegrass, and with the keys they like to sing in, this kind of playing is becoming more and more necessary for a fully equipped player.

Have fun with it, and if you play in a band that does songs in those keys, be brave and jump in!

Pete Wernick

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