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Author Topic:  A "Long Lost" E7 Tuning
Guy Cundell


From:
More idle ramblings from South Australia
Post Posted 21 Jul 2013 5:33 am     Reply with quote

I have recently discovered an E7 tuning that appears to have been lost in the sands of time but has reappeared as rare recordings have been exposed to the light (by Les Cook). The tuning is a variant of the regular E major tuning used by Sol and many others. I have searched the primary texts (Kanahele, Ruymar, Philips, Volk) and have trawled internet sites (Brad’s, John Ely, Scotty’s, SGF) and have only found one tuning that is anything near.

The tuning is E B E G# D E (low to high) and is reached by raising the 2nd string of an E major tuning a minor 3rd (B to D). The tuning is also easy to reach from Dobro G, Low or high A tunings. The sound is quite distinctive with its dominant 7th sonority and the major second interval on top.

I first found this tuning in Sleep by Charles Diamond, recorded in 1925, which was included on Grass Skirt’s “Sol in Hollywood” CD. A transcription appears below.

Another instance can be found in Wong Wong Blues recorded by Prince Wong (George Ah Louis) in NY in January 1926. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TCnT4Zp_uc

A third example is Hula Mama Blues recorded by the Kaai Serenaders in Chicago in October 1926. Sadly, this recording has not yet been rereleased. Only two recordings by this group are known and only one, not employing the tuning, is included on the Arhoolie Hawaiian Steel Guitar Classics album.

In reaching this tuning you pass through Sol’s C#m tuning and so it could be argued that it was a predecessor of C#m or the missing link, if you will. I don’t think that is the case as I have been unable to find any instance of Sol employing this tuning before he revealed C#m in 1934. Also, I think it relevant how little Sol employed (or had need to employ) the more common E7 tuning of E B D G# B E.

I would be interested to know if there have been any other sightings of this interesting tuning in 1920s recordings.






Last edited by Guy Cundell on 26 Jul 2013 5:19 am; edited 1 time in total
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Guy Cundell


From:
More idle ramblings from South Australia
Post Posted 22 Jul 2013 6:01 pm     Reply with quote

Thanks to Steve Hotra for resurrecting Bob's post of an E7 tuning in a different thread. The reference I found to a similar tuning was from Bob, here on the forum but didn't mention sacred steel. It wasn't the one that you found, Steve. The connection with sacred steel raises more questions. According to Robert Stone, the sacred steel tradition evolved later and the steel assumed its leading role as an electric instrument from the late 1930s. The existence of this early tuning may be of interest to sacred steel enthusiasts.

Since posting yesterday I have found another two examples of the tuning being used in acoustic Hawaiian playing. In addition to the three examples above I think that the tuning was used in "Kane's Blues" by Kane's Hawaiians recorded in 1927 which can be found on a compilation entitled Honolulu to Hollywood. I believe that it is was also used in "Happy Hawaiian Blues" recorded in 1928 by the Hawaiian Songbirds which can be found on the Sliding On The Frets compilation by Yazoo.

The five examples I have found are all different artists recorded in different locations at different times. Other than "Sleep", the tunes are all blues oriented. "Sleep" is a magnificent piece of work. I bypassed it for ages thinking it was a duet and not all that impressive, but once I got started I was knocked out. After getting the sound of the tuning in my head, the other examples were not that hard to identify.
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Matthew Dawson


From:
Portland Oregon, USA
Post Posted 24 Jul 2013 8:52 am     Reply with quote

Thanks Guy, fascinating detective work! I'll have to give that one a try.
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post Posted 24 Jul 2013 9:10 am     Reply with quote

That is interesting stuff, Guy.

I remember learning a tune in regular E7 tuning years ago--I believe it was by Andy Sannella, a horn player/bandleader/steel player from NY in the '20s.

Ah, found it: Slidin' On The Frets https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phgXtb03E3I
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Guy Cundell


From:
More idle ramblings from South Australia
Post Posted 24 Jul 2013 12:41 pm     Reply with quote

Yesiree, Mike. That Sannella track caught my ear, too. Stacy tells me that the earliest dominant tuning on record that he is aware of is dated 1928. I think Diamond's recording is very significant.

Diamond is a fascinating but unfortunately shadowy figure. There are only two known recordings, both of which are on the "Sol in Hollywood" CD. I have transcribed a slab of the other one which is a killer diller solo arrangement of Stars and Stripes. It is in Low G. According to Les he had a radio show in the mid 20s and this tune may have been his signature/show stopper.

Sleep may be significant as the earliest example of a dominant tuning. I have been searching early scores, method books and recording and it is the earliest that I have found. My resources are, however, fairly limited and given the large collections of 78s exist, who knows what is out there?



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Nate Hofer


From:
Overland Park, Kansas
Post Posted 24 Jul 2013 1:06 pm     Reply with quote

Guy, (and Mike),
Would you guys mind sharing the Tabledit files with us mere mortals to hear?I love the tab you guys have authored and would love it even more if I could download and listen to the MIDI files that I suspect you may have?

Is that cool? Very Happy
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Guy Cundell


From:
More idle ramblings from South Australia
Post Posted 24 Jul 2013 1:20 pm     Reply with quote

Sorry, Solomon. I don't use Tabedit. I use Sibelius. My method (BTW)is to get the dots down first. In Sibelius you can set up any tab tuning that you like. Then you can copy and paste your dots on to a tab template and see if you can make it work. It helps to have a guitar on your lap.
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Sebastian Müller


From:
Berlin / Germany
Post Posted 24 Jul 2013 1:28 pm     Reply with quote

Hey Guy,

this is great stuff,

thanks for posting!
Greetings from Berlin

Sebastian


Last edited by Sebastian Müller on 24 Jul 2013 1:41 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Nate Hofer


From:
Overland Park, Kansas
Post Posted 24 Jul 2013 1:34 pm     Reply with quote

Guy
Ah! Interesting! I'm just getting into the Tabledit (MIDI capable). My bad.
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Nate Hofer
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Guy Cundell


From:
More idle ramblings from South Australia
Post Posted 25 Jul 2013 5:35 am     Reply with quote

Just sitting, veging out on the couch after a day's teaching not thinking anything in particular except maybe when is "Dry July" going to be over.

The Beatles "For You Blue" from Let It Be. Same tuning.

Funny how the mind works. Could be stress from the current temperance.
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Brad Bechtel


From:
San Francisco, CA
Post Posted 25 Jul 2013 6:32 am     Reply with quote

I have taken the liberty of uploading two of the songs being discussed to Soundcloud.com.

https://soundcloud.com/wellvis-1/wong-wong-blues-prince-wong

https://soundcloud.com/wellvis-1/hula-mama-blues-the-kaai
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Nate Hofer


From:
Overland Park, Kansas
Post Posted 25 Jul 2013 6:36 am     Reply with quote

Thanks, Brad!
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Guy Cundell


From:
More idle ramblings from South Australia
Post Posted 26 Jul 2013 5:19 am     Reply with quote

Well, I should probably retract the "Lost" epithet for this thread as the tuning definitely appears in the later Sacred Steel context and in the pop context of the Beatles, and who knows where else. I must also recognize Stacy Phillips' transcription of Palolo Medley by Charlie Wilson (1928) which appears on Rounder 1052 "Steel Guitar Masters" and in Stacy's second volume of "The Art of Hawaiian Steel Guitar." It uses the same tuning, or, at least, the top four strings. Nevertheless, most of examples that I have found predate the Wilson recording.

What is intriguing is the styles of the 5 examples. The four blues oriented tunes are quite sophisticated in comparison with Sylvester Weaver's 1923 recordings of Guitar Blues and Guitar Rag, which are in E maj tuning. There is scope for close examination and comparison between Hawaiian blues and Afro-American recordings of the same era. This may be provide more fuel to John Troutman's argument on the origins of blues slide.

What is really astounding is the sophistication of Charles Diamond's piece. IMO it stands head and shoulders above the other four and yet was recorded first. There seems to be a missing piece of the puzzle in the line of development between the first generation of Hawaiians, Ferera, Kolomoku, etc and the early style of Sol Hoopii as demonstrated on Sol in Hollywood. Diamond seems to fit the bill. Were there other players of Diamond's caliber? Was he an influence on Sol?
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Guy Cundell


From:
More idle ramblings from South Australia
Post Posted 26 Jul 2013 9:36 pm     Reply with quote

"Dry July Blues" A very quick composition in E7 in the style of Andy Sannella. (Composed and recorded between arriving home from son's Saturday morning soccer and taking him out to lunch. They lost but he made some gutsy saves.)

https://soundcloud.com/guy-cundell/dry-july-blues
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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post Posted 27 Jul 2013 5:12 am     Reply with quote

Thanks, Guy & Mike - I've really been enjoying this thread. Other than this tune from a few years back ...

http://www.reso-nation.org/audio/andy-volk/blues-bobbie-gentry

... I haven't spent any playing time with dominant 7th tunings or early steel styles. Sliding on the Frets was easy to learn and immediately begin improvising variations. What fun! I think perhaps I've been too dismissive of some of the earlier players. I'll have to dig into the archives more. Guy, can you please post a sound file for Sleep?

And speaking of the archives, here's a nice one from Roy Smeck ...

https://soundcloud.com/aev/dream-sweetheart
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post Posted 27 Jul 2013 6:12 am     Reply with quote

I'm reminded of a recording I did back in 2006, probably the last acoustic steel thing I ever recorded. I used an E7 tuning of my own:
D
B
G#
E
B
E

I'm not particularly proud of the playing, but the tune was an improvisation for the most part, except for the basic idea. I called it The Swamps of New Jersey, because I wanted to capture a Cajun vibe and I come from the meadowlands of NJ.

The Swamps of New Jersey

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Stephen Abruzzo


From:
Philly, PA
Post Posted 27 Jul 2013 7:52 am     Reply with quote

Hey Mike......for you, what is the determining factor as to whether you have the D on the 1st string or the 4th?

Do you find one superior to the other or is it based on the particular tune you are working on?
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post Posted 27 Jul 2013 9:31 am     Reply with quote

Stephen Abruzzo wrote:
Hey Mike......for you, what is the determining factor as to whether you have the D on the 1st string or the 4th?

Do you find one superior to the other or is it based on the particular tune you are working on?


I wanted the 7th to be in the melody range and also it gave me a minor 3rd between strings 1 and 2 to work with, which was better for harmonies than the 4th (B and E).
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Scott Thomas


Post Posted 27 Jul 2013 1:33 pm     Reply with quote

Andy Volk wrote:
And speaking of the archives, here's a nice one from Roy Smeck ...


Nice work, Andy (and everyone for the postings/sound files.) And good call on Smeck. I was thinking of his "Twilight Echoes" and suspect this tuning, but I'm only going by sound.

Guy, this is an interesting thread. I can't shake the feeling that I have another in mind---but it's like trying to remember some allusive tune you can't quite put your finger on. Now that I have the sound of this tuning in my head, it will be fun looking.

On the other question, I wonder if the steel guitarist David Napihi Burrows could be considered a candidate as another player of Diamond's caliber. He would have been a contemporary of his in Hawaii, and recorded his great solo pieces in the '20s. Six singles were reissued on The History of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar (Cord).
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Guy Cundell


From:
More idle ramblings from South Australia
Post Posted 27 Jul 2013 4:18 pm     Reply with quote

Scott, I am aware of the Burrows recordings. Of the collection, The Rosary holds the most immediate interest for me. The recordings were made in Hawaii in 1927. I don’t know if Burrows had spent much time on the mainland but for me these examples are fairly well grounded in the style of the first generation. To my ears, elsewhere things had already moved on. I think Diamond is in another bag, one way or another.

I am not inclined to post a sound file of Sleep. If Les, or someone else who owns a copy of the 78 and has made their own digital transfer, wants to do so that’s up to them. I see Grass Skirt as a precious but fragile resource that we need to protect. Precious because their transfers are great and the accompanying research (by Cook, Marsden, Rockwell, et al) is without peer. Fragile, because the way I see it, their market (That’s us) is small and the likelihood of them recovering the expenses of production are diminishing as their audience (That’s also us) slowly drops off the perch. Grass Skirt has a relatively tiny catalogue. They don’t look likely to make the kind of commercial move that Proper Records made. I would dearly love to see them continue their work so I am pleased to support them.

Accompanying documentation is essential for archival reissues such as the Hawaiian genre. I can’t imagine anyone buying this material who is not also interested in its derivations. Though I am not across it all, I can say that there is a broad range of Hawaiian steel reissues available. At the top of the heap IMO is Grass Skirt with Michael Cord and Origin Jazz close behind. In the middle are Rounder, Yazoo and Arhooli who provide reasonably accurate notes that are either scant or scratchy. At the bottom is mindless reissues category like Hotter Than Hawaii that provides nothing and may have been farmed from other people’s restorations. There are also some one-off collections by enthusiasts like the remarkable Honolulu to Hawaii and the not so reliable Hula Blues. I am interested to know what else is out there.

One other resource that I should mention that is also a labour of love is Malcolm Rockwell’s discography Hawaiian and Hawaiian Guitar Records 1891-1960. It is an incredibly detailed work of over 1400 pages in PDF form, and thus, computer searchable! It is a truly remarkable resource. The amount of work that has gone into it is astounding.
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Scott Thomas


Post Posted 27 Jul 2013 8:38 pm     Reply with quote

Yes, the Grass Skirt releases have raised the bar.

These Harlequin comps formed the backbone of my cd reissue collection. The booklets are very well written, scholarly and informative.

http://amykstillman.wordpress.com/2009/12/12/vintage-reissues-harlequin-records/
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Guy Cundell


From:
More idle ramblings from South Australia
Post Posted 27 Jul 2013 10:53 pm     Reply with quote

Thanks for the recommendation, Scott. I will check out the Harlequin releases.

On reflection it is probably a bit harsh to characterize Burrows as being entirely grounded in 1st generation style given Yellow Dog Blues and the second half of Drifting. But there certainly is a marked contrast in touch and tone between his and M.K. Moke's recordings at the same Hawaiian sessions.
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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post Posted 28 Jul 2013 3:23 am     Reply with quote

Quote:
I am not inclined to post a sound file of Sleep.
perfectly understandable, Guy. Les has done terrific work in resurrecting the early work of the players in modern formats and has been personally very helpful to my work so I'd be the last one to want to take a euro from his pocket.
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Jeff Strouse


From:
Jacksonville, Florida, USA
Post Posted 29 Jul 2013 9:50 am     Reply with quote

Very cool thread!

I just found a way to order the Sol in Hollywood CD directly from the Grass Skirt Site:

http://www.grassskirt.co.uk/6.html

This was out of print for a while, so glad it's been reissued!


Last edited by Jeff Strouse on 30 Jul 2013 5:48 am; edited 1 time in total
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Les Cook


From:
Derbyshire, UK
Post Posted 1 Aug 2013 6:17 am     Reply with quote

We seem to be having problems with our US distributor which must explain why Amazon don't have copiesof the Sol in Hollywood release. But should anyone want a copy we do have a few on Ebay at a discounted price at the moment and these will be shipped within the US from Bob Armstrong in California

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/190877648558?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649

Yes the Cd was a joint enterprise with Dave Stewart of Beer Records but the 78s were sourced from 5 or 6 different collectors including Mike Kieffer of OJL. The Diamond 78...the only copy known...came from John Marsden in England, and luckily is in pristine shape. Sadly though nobody seems to have the other Diamond 78
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