INSTRUCTION STRINGS ACCESSORIES MUSIC LINKS
 Visit Our Catalog at SteelGuitarShopper.com for Steel Guitars, Strings, Instruction, Music and Accessories 
Forum Index
where steel players meet online
The Steel Guitar Forum

Post new topic Don Helms tuning for 8 string laptop
Reply to topic
Author Topic:  Don Helms tuning for 8 string laptop
Richard Stoops


From:
Ohio, USA
Post Posted 1 May 2017 4:28 am     Reply with quote

I am currently playing a SUPRO 8 string tuned to C6, but would like to also play some of the Hank Williams songs that Don Helms played. The tuning that I found was listed as what Don used, E13TH, (G#,E,C#,B,G#,E,D,B(orE). I like this tuning, but can't seem to get the same sound that Don got. I'm probably doing something wrong, but don't understand what it is. His sound seems to be more like E9. I'm new to steel playing (about 2 years) and don't know enough about steel playing to know where I went wrong.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post Posted 1 May 2017 7:34 am     Reply with quote

If you're lucky you might be able to locate the instruction book that Don published some years ago that laid out his playing style and etc.
I just noticed that you have your guitar tuned to C6th. The 1st thing you need to do is re-tune to Don's tuning and trade your guitar for a Fender.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
C. E. Jackson


From:
Mississippi, USA
Post Posted 1 May 2017 8:03 am     Reply with quote

This is what Don gave me regarding his major tunings.

_________________
My Vintage Steel Guitars
My YouTube Steel Guitar Playlists
My YouTube Steel Guitar Songs
A6 tuning for steels
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Jeff Mead


From:
London, England
Post Posted 1 May 2017 8:28 am     Re: Don Helms tuning for 8 string laptop Reply with quote

Richard Stoops wrote:
I am currently playing a SUPRO 8 string tuned to C6, but would like to also play some of the Hank Williams songs that Don Helms played. The tuning that I found was listed as what Don used, E13TH, (G#,E,C#,B,G#,E,D,B(orE). I like this tuning, but can't seem to get the same sound that Don got. I'm probably doing something wrong, but don't understand what it is. His sound seems to be more like E9. I'm new to steel playing (about 2 years) and don't know enough about steel playing to know where I went wrong.


That tuning should be perfect. His primary tuning was the one listed above as E6th (If Don says it's E6th, I'm not going to argue with him). Although the tuning you found was different on the bottom 2 strings, he hardly ever played them, almost all of his stuff being played on the top 6 (which is the same as your tuning).

If you play the strings in pairs or threes across the neck, without moving the bar, you should be able to hear at least the flavour of his licks.

In fact the opening lick of Walking After Midnight (which Don recorded with Patsy Cline) is right there, note for note without moving the bar at all.

If you are using C6 with a high E, you should notice that Don's E6 (top 6 strings) are exactly the same intervals, just moved up 4 frets so pretty much anything played by Don is playable in C6 but at a different fret position.

I believe Don used his E6 as a sort of split tuning - in other words an E6 tuning on the top 6 and a fat low A major chord on the bottom 3 (which he didn't use much).


Last edited by Jeff Mead on 1 May 2017 8:42 am; edited 5 times in total
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Jeff Mead


From:
London, England
Post Posted 1 May 2017 8:29 am     Reply with quote

Erv Niehaus wrote:
The 1st thing you need to do is re-tune to Don's tuning and trade your guitar for a Fender.


Don traded his Fender for a Gibson pretty early in his career didn't he?
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post Posted 1 May 2017 8:35 am     Reply with quote

Jeff,
I believe you're right. Very Happy
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Richard Stoops


From:
Ohio, USA
Post Posted 1 May 2017 8:53 am     Reply with quote

actually I've had my guitar tuned E13TH for a couple of weeks now and am getting familiar with the string and fret positions. The tuning I used was from scottys music tuning.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post Posted 1 May 2017 8:58 am     Reply with quote

Don was the 1st steeler I was aware of who tuned his high string to G#.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
C. E. Jackson


From:
Mississippi, USA
Post Posted 1 May 2017 9:59 am     Reply with quote

Don's famous Gibson Console Grande was a 1948 model, and he called it "Ol' Red".

We were very good friends for several years before his death. I used to visit in his home, and we would play our 1948 Gibson Console Grandes. I also had the opportunity to play "Ol' Red" and get some pointers on how to play his style. I sure miss him.

These are some of the photos taken during these visits.











_________________
My Vintage Steel Guitars
My YouTube Steel Guitar Playlists
My YouTube Steel Guitar Songs
A6 tuning for steels
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post Posted 1 May 2017 10:08 am     Reply with quote

Great pix. Thanks for sharing.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post Posted 1 May 2017 10:29 am     Reply with quote

Those pictures were great!
I'll bet he could tell a lot of stories. Very Happy
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
C. E. Jackson


From:
Mississippi, USA
Post Posted 1 May 2017 11:25 am     Reply with quote

Jack, I am glad you and Erv liked the photos.

Erv, you are right, he could tell many interesting stories. This is a photo where he is probably telling an old story.




I made a YouTube Video after his death about my memories of Don. He was a great friend and I sure miss him.
_________________
My Vintage Steel Guitars
My YouTube Steel Guitar Playlists
My YouTube Steel Guitar Songs
A6 tuning for steels


Last edited by C. E. Jackson on 23 May 2017 5:51 pm; edited 1 time in total
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post Posted 1 May 2017 1:03 pm     Reply with quote

There was a video put out some years ago about Hank Williams and they talked to some of the surviving members of the Drifting Cowboys Band.
I remember them talking to Don Helms and he was driving Hank's big old Packard automobile.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Dennis Saydak


From:
Manitoba, Canada
Post Posted 1 May 2017 3:01 pm     Reply with quote

I'm dumbfounded to have missed this great tribute video to Don previously. I really appreciate you posting it again. I'm a huge fan of don and Roy Wiggins style of playing.
_________________
Dennis
Just when you think you're getting ahead in the rat race, the rats get faster.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
C. E. Jackson


From:
Mississippi, USA
Post Posted 2 May 2017 6:30 am     Reply with quote

Dennis, glad you liked the YouTube Memories Video I made.

Reflecting on the other comments in this post, regarding Don and his 1948 Gibson Console Grande, there is a YouTube Video of Don playing with Charlie Pride. After they finished the song, Don talks 4 or 5 minutes about how he traded his Fender Steel for his Gibson Console Grande which became so famous. He also talks about a stroke he had and how he came to play again. Lastly, he plays his favorite Hank Williams song, "Cold, Cold Heart." Don was a country boy and a gentleman, and never changed.

He was a true friend of mine and greatly missed.


C. E. Jackson Smile Smile Smile
_________________
My Vintage Steel Guitars
My YouTube Steel Guitar Playlists
My YouTube Steel Guitar Songs
A6 tuning for steels


Last edited by C. E. Jackson on 23 May 2017 6:02 pm; edited 2 times in total
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post Posted 2 May 2017 7:48 am     Reply with quote

Thanks so much for putting that video link up.
I really enjoyed that.
I got a kick out of watching Mike Johnson soaking it all in. Very Happy
Erv
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Jeff Garden


From:
Center Sandwich, New Hampshire, USA
Post Posted 2 May 2017 8:30 am     Reply with quote

Thanks for posting your photos, memories, and the videos Mr. Jackson...I enjoyed them.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
C. E. Jackson


From:
Mississippi, USA
Post Posted 3 May 2017 4:57 am     Reply with quote

Thanks, Richard, for the interesting post. I am glad I could share photos, comments and a video link about Don that were enjoyed.

C. E. Smile
_________________
My Vintage Steel Guitars
My YouTube Steel Guitar Playlists
My YouTube Steel Guitar Songs
A6 tuning for steels
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Bob Watson


From:
Champaign, Illinois, U.S.
Post Posted 3 May 2017 11:52 pm     Reply with quote

This is a great post. I have a single neck Fender Deluxe 8 that I have tuned to the E6 tuning and I found that it cuts through the mix a lot better on gigs than when I'm playing C6. C.E. Jackson, thanks for sharing your pictures,videos and memories with us about Don Helms. I love watching the reruns of the Wilburn Brothers Show on RFD TV. You'll either see Don Helms, Hal Rugg or Curly Chalker playing steel on the show and its really cool to hear the different styles all three of them contribute to the band. I've been meaning to read his book, Settin' The Woods On Fire, sometime. I bet its a great read. https://www.amazon.com/SETTIN-WOODS-FIRE-Confessions-Guitar/dp/0976213729/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1360628947&sr=1-2&keywords=Don+helms
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Brad Davis


From:
Texas, USA
Post Posted 8 May 2017 1:09 pm     Reply with quote

Richard I haven't been playing much longer than yourself, but I really enjoy trying my hand at Don Helms stuff. The Scotty book with CD is a hoot to play along with, but I've learned enough Don Helms from it to start to figure out some of his other arrangements or just do some things in a Don-like style. From what I can tell there seem to be a few key things that go into getting "that" tone, aside from playing style, not that I've figured it all out yet.

As far as the tuning goes, what you started with is fine. Its the same E13th tuning you'll find on the Scotty's/SIT E13th strings, very close to C6th 4 frets up. With Don's "E6" alteration to the bottom 2 strings you'll find that the relative IV chord can always be found on the bottom 3 strings, and the V chord just two frets up from there. Useful for some backup and low dobro-type 1-3-5 triad stuff. But not at all necessary to play most of Don's intros, fills and solos, which focus on the top 6 strings. I also love finding melodies in this tuning for its ability to cut through. Its also part of the reason I stick to Low C6 on my other neck, as the same patterns work on each neck, and it helps me avoid just doing dobro stuff on the top 3 (with a 5 top) and forces me to learn where my notes, chords and sounds are at on C6/E13 using the grips.

Some people approximate Don on a C6 or other tuning by moving up several frets and/or transposing. Not everybody can sing in the same key Hank did anyway. Depending on what you're doing though the timbre of the sound may not seem quite right.

Another aspect is string gauge. Those thin gauges (.010 - .036) on that set I mentioned really help make the guitar cry and scream. The tones I get up around the 17th fret cut right into your heart.

Also part of that sound is the rest of your equipment. Now I'm not saying you have to go out and get a Console Grande to sound like Don (but it doesn't hurt). I did buy one and I absolutely love it, and simply having it has been a big motivator for me to try harder to learn the lap steel. But in general you're looking for a vintage tone. Single-coil pickups (p90, Alnico slug), little or no reverb, simple tube amps - although I use a very clean and simple solid state, judicious volume pedal use, and plenty of sustain (console or use a stand). Don't change your guitar, just know you may have to do some experimenting with tone shaping, mid and high adjustments, things like that to get closer. Don actually started his Hank career on a Fender, but he always sounded like Don.

Don also appeared to use a Stevens type steel. These tend to have less mass and use a different slanting technique than bullet bars, but Don didn't slant much anyway. I found a Shubb SP-2 super convenient on my 8 string after I quickly gave up on being able to competently handle a bullet bar. Too many years playing dobro.

The last and most important part is in your hands. You just have to feel it and express it. You're always going to sound a bit like you, and not somebody else, but that's a good thing. Some days I do something that I fancy sounds very Don-like. Will just take a lot of woodshedding, but its a fantastic journey. Very Happy

Take all this with a grain of salt, I'm a perpetual novice just having fun.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
C. E. Jackson


From:
Mississippi, USA
Post Posted 10 May 2017 3:20 pm     Reply with quote

Thanks to all who made comments regarding the pictures, YouTube videos, and memories about Don Helms. He was certainly a great musician and super fine man.

C. E. Smile
_________________
My Vintage Steel Guitars
My YouTube Steel Guitar Playlists
My YouTube Steel Guitar Songs
A6 tuning for steels
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website

All times are GMT - 8 Hours
Jump to:  

Our Online Catalog
Strings, CDs, instruction,
steel guitars & accessories

www.SteelGuitarShopper.com

Steel Guitar Music
Instrumental steel guitar CDs for your permanent collection
www.SteelGuitarMusic.com

Please review our Forum Rules and Policies

The Steel Guitar Forum
148 South Cloverdale Blvd.
Cloverdale, CA 95425 USA

Support This Forum


BIAB Styles
Ray Price Shuffles for Band-in-a-Box
by Jim Baron
HTTP