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Thread: Your favorite OT/trad tunes for Sawmill tuning?

  1. #1
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    Your favorite OT/trad tunes for Sawmill tuning?

    It occurs to me that I have plenty of material to play in Open G tuning, as well as Double C, and a few oddball tunings like Last Chance. But I only have a handful that are part of my normal repertoire in Sawmill tuning (gDGCD, either open or capoed up). Modal tunes really grab me in this tuning. I want to add more, and I'm looking for your favorites that you think I should try.

    The ones I currently play in Sawmill:

    Brushy Fork of John's Creek
    Clinch Mtn. Backstep (either Open G or Sawmill)
    Cluck Old Hen (either in Open G or Sawmill)
    Hail Against the Barn Door
    Jake's Got the Bellyache
    The Pateroller Song
    Shady Grove
    Squirrel Hunters
    West Virginia Girls (very recently)

    I know The Cuckoo is one that (apparently) every banjo player should know, so I plan to add that one. What else is on the top of your Sawmill tune list?

  2. #2

    Re: Your favorite OT/trad tunes for Sawmill tuning?

    You might as well say, "All". Literally every sawmill banjo song is the same. Learn one and you know all of them. It's more of a trick than a tuning.

    -Patrick

  3. #3

    Re: Your favorite OT/trad tunes for Sawmill tuning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Costello View Post
    You might as well say, "All". Literally every sawmill banjo song is the same. Learn one and you know all of them. It's more of a trick than a tuning.

    -Patrick
    You could say that about the banjo in general :P
    hey cool Patrick Costello, love you're book how and Tao!

    Just to add to the thread while I'm here. I also don't know a ton of tunes in g modal. And I should change that because it's a hassle only knowing a couple of tunes in a particular tuning. Most of the ones I know are on your list already, but I do capo up and play kitchen girl, so that's a good one if you count the capo. And I'm working on sugar babe (red rocking chair) because that's one of my favorites

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    Re: Your favorite OT/trad tunes for Sawmill tuning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Costello View Post
    You might as well say, "All". Literally every sawmill banjo song is the same. Learn one and you know all of them. It's more of a trick than a tuning.

    -Patrick
    Well, that's disappointing. I don't think they're all the same. Sure, that tuning has the same feel or mood on different tunes, but I wouldn't call it a trick. Just another tool in the toolbox. When I play Clinch Mountain Backstep in Open G, it has a completely different feel than in Sawmill. Same exact notes, but the sympathetic ringing tones just change everything. It's nice to get some variety and change the voice now and then.

    Thanks for the recommendations, Longblackveil.

  6. #5

    Re: Your favorite OT/trad tunes for Sawmill tuning?

    Why is it disappointing? If you are going to learn to play a musical instrument You have to develop an honest understanding of how music works.

    One of the things I see happening nowadays is a sort of willful ignorance when it comes to musicianship. Sit back, gather up a collection of banjo tab files and talk about playing online but never getting out there and making music. Even if I can motivate somebody to go out and jam nine times out of ten I have to explain that a big part of jamming is playing music that is new to you.That making music is not reciting memorized notes but rather a conversation.

    Sit down with your banjo and play a few songs in sawmill. Don't just play the notes. Look at the structure of the songs. You will see the same chord progression over and over again. You will see licks repeated from song to song. Then go back to open G and play Cinch Mountain Backstep and Old Joe Clark. Those two songs share the structure of the sawmill tunes. Once you do that the next steps are to start asking questions and start exploring.

    If that is disappointing to you, why are you making music?

    -Patrick

  7. #6

    Re: Your favorite OT/trad tunes for Sawmill tuning?

    That's a bit harsh.

    Not to speak for Tobin, but I suppose that he (like all of us) is making music because it's an enjoyable experience for him. And I also suppose that he asked his question in the hope that participating in the forum will be part of that enjoyable experience. Your posts fall a little short of that hope. His question simply asks others for their favorite tunes that they do in Sawmill tuning so he can try those himself. I get your point (that just about any tune can be done this way), but I'm pretty sure it can be stated in a manner that is "polite and courteous" (part of our posting guidelines).

    The consensus among the moderators and owner of the Forum is that the tone here is unnecessarily condescending and not in the spirit of what music is all about.
    Banjo Cafe Administrator

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  9. #7

    Re: Your favorite OT/trad tunes for Sawmill tuning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobin View Post
    What else is on the top of your Sawmill tune list?
    Kitchen Girl, John Riley the Shepard Boy, and Bonaparte's March are nice ones.

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  11. #8
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    Re: Your favorite OT/trad tunes for Sawmill tuning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Costello View Post
    Why is it disappointing? If you are going to learn to play a musical instrument You have to develop an honest understanding of how music works.

    One of the things I see happening nowadays is a sort of willful ignorance when it comes to musicianship. Sit back, gather up a collection of banjo tab files and talk about playing online but never getting out there and making music. Even if I can motivate somebody to go out and jam nine times out of ten I have to explain that a big part of jamming is playing music that is new to you.That making music is not reciting memorized notes but rather a conversation.
    Ok, but what does that have to do with this topic? I understand music just fine. I have played instruments for about 40 years, including piano, tuba, baritone, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and banjo. I am well versed in music theory, and I am an active player. I go to weekly jams and play public gigs. Why would asking about Sawmill tuning examples lead you to believe that I'm ignorant of music and just want to sit around and talk about it instead of playing?

    Sit down with your banjo and play a few songs in sawmill. Don't just play the notes. Look at the structure of the songs. You will see the same chord progression over and over again. You will see licks repeated from song to song. Then go back to open G and play Cinch Mountain Backstep and Old Joe Clark. Those two songs share the structure of the sawmill tunes. Once you do that the next steps are to start asking questions and start exploring.

    If that is disappointing to you, why are you making music?

    -Patrick
    As I mentioned before, I already do play some of these tunes in both Sawmill and Open G. I can play them both ways, and I fully understand the difference in fingering between them, as well as the musical structure. But Sawmill tuning works better or easier for particular tunes, and it changes the mood. I believe a well rounded and competent player would take advantage of that.

    I avoided cross-tuning for a long time on the mandolin. I was of the opinion that cross-tuning was just a cheat, and that a "real" player didn't need to do it, or use a capo. And still, I tend not to cross-tune my mandolins or use a capo, just out of habit. But learning to play fiddle opened my eyes to the power of tunings beyond standard. Aside from making fingering easier in certain keys or tunes, it changed the resonance and voice of the fiddle. It works the same on banjo.

    Don't get me wrong - I do firmly believe that a player should be as versatile as possible in standard tuning. But that doesn't mean one should avoid alternate tunings when they serve a purpose, does it?

    The folks I play with don't bother to announce the key they're going to play in, much less give a poor banjo player time to retune. So I've become quite adept at playing in all keys in whatever tuning I happen to be in at the time. Keeps me on my toes.

  12. #9

    Re: Your favorite OT/trad tunes for Sawmill tuning?

    Tobin, thanks for starting this thread. I have been playing banjo on and off for a few years, but I have avoided alternate tunings. For a while I gravitated towards Scruggs style, so that did not help my G-centric view, but also when I started to learn the fingerboard for the purposes of reading music in standard notation it was just easier to think in G. Anyway, this thread reminded me that I really need to start to expand my tuning world. For a long time I could not figure out why some tunes I played on banjo in G tuning just sounded so different than when I heard other people playing the same tune. Somehow their versions sounded more banjo-y than when I played. I finally realized that it was simply that different tunings give the same tune a very different sound.

    Patrick, your videos (and of course your book) got me started. Even before I bought my first banjo, I had already found your videos and had watched a bunch. By the time I got a banjo I was already an expert (in my own mind) on the basic frailing stroke! When I started the thread about YouTube instruction I was going to add a post with a few of your videos, but then you beat me to it.

    Anyway, this weekend I plan to put my banjo into Double C and just force myself to play in it for a while. Sawmill will be next on the list....

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    Re: Your favorite OT/trad tunes for Sawmill tuning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Baker View Post
    Anyway, this weekend I plan to put my banjo into Double C and just force myself to play in it for a while. Sawmill will be next on the list....
    The cool thing about Sawmill is that it's halfway between Open G and Double C. I play a lot of tunes in the key of C using Sawmill, and the chord shapes are easy to adapt from Open G.

    Double C is the happiest sounding tuning to me.

  15. #11

    Re: Your favorite OT/trad tunes for Sawmill tuning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobin View Post
    It occurs to me that I have plenty of material to play in Open G tuning, as well as Double C, and a few oddball tunings like Last Chance. But I only have a handful that are part of my normal repertoire in Sawmill tuning (gDGCD, either open or capoed up). Modal tunes really grab me in this tuning. I want to add more, and I'm looking for your favorites that you think I should try.

    The ones I currently play in Sawmill:

    Brushy Fork of John's Creek
    Clinch Mtn. Backstep (either Open G or Sawmill)
    Cluck Old Hen (either in Open G or Sawmill)
    Hail Against the Barn Door
    Jake's Got the Bellyache
    The Pateroller Song
    Shady Grove
    Squirrel Hunters
    West Virginia Girls (very recently)

    I know The Cuckoo is one that (apparently) every banjo player should know, so I plan to add that one. What else is on the top of your Sawmill tune list?
    Ducks on The Pond ( from Henry Reed ) ( on my 5 strings attached #1 ) is a favorite of mine to play
    also
    Hanings Farwell ( which I did on The Banjo Special ) - killer tune!
    I love this tuning! Don't listen to stupid nonsense from grouchy posters. It's all good music!

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  17. #12

    Re: Your favorite OT/trad tunes for Sawmill tuning?

    June Apple works good that way too.

  18. #13

    Re: Your favorite OT/trad tunes for Sawmill tuning?

    Charlie's neat
    Foggy Dew

  19. #14

    Re: Your favorite OT/trad tunes for Sawmill tuning?

    "Cold rain and snow" as well as being on the first Dead record works nice in sawmill tuning.
    https://soundcloud.com/tele1310/cold-rain-and-snow

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  21. #15

    Re: Your favorite OT/trad tunes for Sawmill tuning?

    Ok..... Not exactly what the OP might have wanted, but I'm pretty fond of tuning to a-modal (sawmill up 2) and playing out if G (f in sawmill).

    A few tunes that works pretty nicely with is Sally Ann, Lost Girl and Big Sciota.

    So.. You start with this chord --- 3203

    The video here is just some lesson notes I did for a student, but it'll get you started thinking about the tuning differently.


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  23. #16

    Re: Your favorite OT/trad tunes for Sawmill tuning?

    Here's Lost Girl


  24. #17
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    Re: Your favorite OT/trad tunes for Sawmill tuning?

    Good stuff there. In an amazing coincidence, I was working on Big Sciota over the weekend (albeit in open G tuning). I hadn't thought of converting G major tunes to F using modal tuning. I'll have to play with that and see what kind of possibilities it opens up. You've certainly given me some food for thought there, thanks!

    And in a further coincidence, I play a custom Ome Jubilee that looks and sounds just like yours! And if those are Liberty overalls you're wearing, well, then I'm hearing Twilight Zone music in my head.

  25. #18

    Re: Your favorite OT/trad tunes for Sawmill tuning?

    The Ome belongs to a student. It's a great banjo! The Liberty overalls are standard attire.

    Have fun in F out of G.

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