I've just had a rather interesting discussion with Peter on the merits of using different tunings for a Nyckelharpa & I thought I might broaden the discussion out a little, to see how other Fiddle players feel, on this issue of using different tunings.

I took this photo at our session last night, when our friend Maurice arrived in with a set of Uilleann Pipes in B, so I had no hesitation in tuning my Fiddle down from EADG to CFBE, so that, rather than him sitting playing with himself, I might join in, but also because I just love playing with Uilleann Pipes, whatever pitch.

Now I don't have any problems tuning down because I regularly tune my 2nd Fiddle down to DGCF every Saturday night, when I play with a Northumbrian Piper whose Pipes are in F. However, I know some Fiddlers who would not retune their Fiddles, some because they, believe it or not, don't actually like playing with Pipes! Perhaps some of them don't know the Piping tunes, while others may feel that it doesn't do the Fiddle any good to be tuned up & down like this.

My thinking is that the Fiddle is not some sort of sacred idol, but rather it's simply a tool that we use for producing tunes & we regularly upset the tension balance anyway, when we're changing strings.

I'm sure Guitar & Bouzouki players don't have a problem with this concept, as many of them experiment with different tunings anyway. However, if I was playing Mandolin or Tenor Banjo, I'd still be happy enough to retune them, when required, although usually you can simply use a Capo on other stringed instruments to get close to the lower pitch & then you just need some minor adjustments.

Of course, most Old Time musicians are constantly retuning their Fiddles & Banjos, as do many Scandinavian Fiddlers, but as far as I know, not too many Irish players adopt open Fiddle tuning for playing Trad. here. Although I wouldn't be surprised if some of the Kerry men experimented with different Fiddle tunings, to get more droning in their music.

Obviously, this retuning carry on is not so practical, or friendly, if you have any fixed pitch instruments in your session, but I am sure there are many occasions when it could be used to good effect.

Anyway, I'd be interested to hear from other stringed instrument players, to see if most are happy to tune down .... or not.

Perhaps any Fiddle making members here could chip in & tell us how this practice effects the structure of the instrument & if the practice is really not a problem, or if it might not actually be good for the instrument?

Cheers,

Dick 

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Well it looks like most Fiddlers actually DON'T like tuning their Fiddles down! ;-)

Hi Dick,

I was amused by your second post!  Maybe the fiddlers do tune down but just don't talk about it!!  I suppose in a noisy pub session it's a bit of an inconvenience to re-tune a fiddle.  I like your idea of having a second fiddle already set up.  Anyway, I have never tried it, probably owing to the fact that I'm only playing about a year and haven't yet had the opportunity.  However, I was only recently talking with a piper friend who loves playing his B flat set, as he prefers the sound of them to the 'brighter' sound of the D set.  Anyway, the plan is that we're going to give it a go sometime in the next few weeks.  At this stage I'm sure we'll find some tunes in common, and I'll let you know how it goes. 

In the meantime, I downloaded Mick O'Brien & Caoimhin O Raghallaigh's 'Kitty Lie Over' - a brilliant album which might encourage more Fiddlers to tune down.

Regards,

Paul  

Hi Paul,

I'd be surprised if you don't enjoy playing with those B Pipes.

As the strings are not nearly as tight, when tuned down, I find I have to adjust my playing a little & the notes don't seem to leap out of the Fiddle, as they do in concert pitch. However, I really like the lovely warmth of the tone down there & the glorious coming together of the sounds from Fiddle & Pipes.

I also enjoy playing through the typical pipers tunes, which are often a little different from the usual Fiddle rep.

As for my last comment ... aye, it was just a bit of a poke, to see if I could provoke a response. ;-)

Which reminds me of a comment on another thread, on another site, where someone posted that he didn't reply to discussions, as they were one reason he really didn't like the Net, because he didn't like to read people expressing their opinions! Very strange attitude really, for I would have thought that's exactly what a discussion was, people simply expressing their opinions. Makes sense, perhaps, of that lovely expression ~ There's nowt as queer as folk!

Cheers,

Dick

Well, I would have said something, but I'm not a fiddle player :-)

On the subject of tuning mind, I do know that many pipers resent the imposition of 440. You have to sympathise with them, it took them all those years to develop a wonderful instrument and then some eejut moved the goalposts. More seriously, I don't know if its actually a tuning thing or not, but I have noticed that many baroque pieces of music sound, to my ears, much better on the early versions of instruments that were around when the pieces were being written. The sound somehow seems more complete.

Hi Dick,


We have two pipers in the area who play pipes in C (me being one of them), and many of the fiddlers I know love to tune down their instruments as it lends a very different, resonant sound they seem to enjoy.  One of them has an extra instrument she keeps tuned in C just in case. A few with older instruments won't go there as they fear it may muck up their bridge set up, but others enjoy it when they try it.  Several of us also have C flutes, so a small crew will conspire to hold our own C sessions when we can, usually in someone's home and outside the 'regular' D sessions hereabouts.

All the best,

Mark

Typically, I have to tune up because of accordions, and those flutes like to go sharp after a while too! :P My former band's harpist insisted on tuning at 442. Traditionally (in the classical world), there was no standard pitch to tune to and that's why the concert master or oboist gives the A.

I like tuning down with pipers when I get the chance. Sometimes the flutes like to pull out their Ebs, so I might tune to those too. I feel better about messing with the lower strings than the higher ones because they have less tension. A fun bluegrassy/scottish music tuning is AEAE. 


I'm trying to get to a point where I can transpose on the fly so that I don't have to re-tune each time if, say, I'm in a session setting. Also beneficial if someone plays a tune you know in a different key.

 

Hi, I play as a duet of uilleann pipes and fiddle (I am the piper). We use 2 pitches : "concert" and "flat", in our case Bb. My friend has 2 fiddles, one of them being tuned down to Bb. We find it very pleasant as the volume also corresponds to the softer sound of the flat set...

Lucky you Mark, we enjoyed a 12 hour Session in C, at a festival in Fermanagh, a few years back & the joy of that day/night is still with me. 

Kristin, it's fun to play in E Flat sometimes & in fact we played in E Flat for 3 hours at our session last night. Easy for me, cause I was playing Banjo last night, so I always have a Capo handy, especially as our Guitar player likes playing in F. ;-)

Jean, that reminds me of a Piping concert I attended a few years back. there were 3 pipers & the first two played Flat Sets, which made the music sound warm & lush, then the 3rd Piper played a Concert Set & it was surprising just how harsh & shrill they sounded, by comparison. I suppose our ears, over the years, have grown accustomed to D, but I often wish we could all slide back down to C!

Cheers

Dick

Yes Dick, when you compare both pitches , D can be surprisingly shrill, a thing one doesn't notice when all the session is in concert pitch.

You can hear us there : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zh5SiQ9lR1c&feature=plcp

E flat can be great fun (I play the whistle in those instances). I played in many sessions in Galway where they were using that pitch. It is very "light" and energetic. Suits the whistle very well, with a warbling effect...



Dick Glasgow said:

Lucky you Mark, we enjoyed a 12 hour Session in C, at a festival in Fermanagh, a few years back & the joy of that day/night is still with me. 

Kristin, it's fun to play in E Flat sometimes & in fact we played in E Flat for 3 hours at our session last night. Easy for me, cause I was playing Banjo last night, so I always have a Capo handy, especially as our Guitar player likes playing in F. ;-)

Jean, that reminds me of a Piping concert I attended a few years back. there were 3 pipers & the first two played Flat Sets, which made the music sound warm & lush, then the 3rd Piper played a Concert Set & it was surprising just how harsh & shrill they sounded, by comparison. I suppose our ears, over the years, have grown accustomed to D, but I often wish we could all slide back down to C!

Cheers

Dick

Thanks for the link Jean.

Hope you don't mind, but I've posted that over on my group on:

Flat Pipes, C Flutes/Whistles & Bb/F & Ab/Eb Concertinas!

Cheers,

Dick



Of course not, Dick ! That's what links are for !

Jean.

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