I want to talk today about a new tuning I have been playing with, and present a simple arrangement to go along with it.
I am mostly known for using the Orkney tuning which is CGDGCD. I picked it up from Steve Baughman many years ago and it has been my main tuning ever since. I used it for all the tunes on my cd, and generally play rhythm backup in it with a capo at the second fret when at irish sessions.
I think its a really great tuning, especially for arranging in G and C, obviously. The second interval between the first and second strings allow for some nice harp effects and playing across the strings.
That being said I have been feeling the pull to do some different things lately, and explore another tuning. One downside about Orkney is that flatpicking in it is not the easiest, in my opinion. I usually backup with a capo at the second fret, means the strings are tuned to DAEADE. So unlike most other tunings there is no open D note on the fourth string. This is kind of pivotal for celtic music, since that note comes up in tunes a lot. I could grab it on the fifth string fifth fret with my pinky, but that is kind of awkward, especially playing fast.
I could also pull off the capo and then flatpick, which would give me an open D on the fourth string. But that is not my preferred configuration for backup, and I hate to switch back and forth.
So enter this new tuning I have been playing with, CFCGCD. You can see its similar to Orkney except the fifth and fourth strings are tuned down another whole step. Steve Baughman uses it some on his newest cd and his celtic guitar DVD. I also recently found out that it has become one of John Doyle’s main tunings as well. If two guitarists I admire are using it I might as well try it out.
Without a capo it obviously works well for the keys of C and F, but I think its main strengths are with a capo at the second fret, giving you the tuning of DGDADE. You’ve got open D and G notes in the bass, which are common in celtic music. If you ignore the sixth and second strings you get the notes GDAE, which are the same as the mandolin. Flatpicking in most of the common celtic keys seems easy enough.
I have only worked out a handful of chords, and this is where it will probably just take a while to get used to some new things. I am so familiar with the chords in Orkney, and all the little riffs, runs, and tricks I can use the when backing up a tune. Now its just a matter of learning where those same shapes and sounds lie in this new tuning.
I probably won’t totally switch tunings for good. I still know Orkney better and can see where it is more advantageous when arranging certain things for fingerpicking. But I am enjoying exploring this new tuning and trying some different things.
To wrap things up I want to present a simple arrangement of the standard reel, The Mountain Road. Its nothing super complicated, just a standard melody plus baseline arrangement. I have included some triplets in places, which I usually play ring, middle, and index finger. ?I also vary the bassline a bit to make things more interesting. The arrow above certain notes indicaites a technique called the Middle Finger Thwack. You basically flick the given string with your index finger, produced the note but also a percussive effect.
This tune works well with an arrangement of the Banshee, another traditional irish reel. I will present that one in a future blog post.
Check it out and let me know what you think. I have a feeling I will be exploring this tuning more in the coming months.