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Author Topic:  C6 tuning...slow to assimilate!
Mike A Holland


From:
United Kingdom
Post Posted 1 Nov 2017 6:04 am     Reply with quote

I am trying to get to grips with C6 and its variant tunings. Lately I have been working hard at trying to understand the chords structures, patterns grips and positions. Although I am improving its a very slow process.
I had not touched a conventional guitar for quite a while but picked one up yesterday. Although not played for a while I was all over it! Without thinking I was playing tunes, improvising chord substitutes.
I went back to the Lap Steel.....Looked at the neck.....nothing......I have to think all the time. Jeez this is going to be a long job!!!!!
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James Hartman


From:
Pennsylvania, USA
Post Posted 1 Nov 2017 6:41 am     Reply with quote

In case you're not aware of them, there's a well conceived and very comprehensive series of instructional videos for C6 tuning on the Sierra website: http://sierrasteels.com/lessons/lap-lessons.html Free to stream from the website.
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George Piburn


From:
The Oklahoma Hills, USA
Post Posted 1 Nov 2017 6:53 am     Free Reply with quote

Very Happy

Last edited by George Piburn on 3 Nov 2017 5:22 am; edited 2 times in total
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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post Posted 1 Nov 2017 8:13 am     Reply with quote

Years ago I went into a music store and had a personal, mental ultimatum in mind: "do I concentrate on jazz guitar or keep trying with steel guitar?" I played a nice, high-end archtop for 20 minutes then I picked up a steel guitar, put the bar on the strings, slid one chord for about ten seconds and had to admit to myself, "Damnit!" it's not even a contest." I still play guitar but steel guitar really got me and never left - ten or twelve books and 30 years later, it still has me in its grip.

Having started on guitar, I do think there's something about the tactile, two-hands on the instrument factor of standard guitar that makes remembering patterns easier - at least for those of us who were guitarists first. Knowing some basic music theory helps. There's also the conceptual leap from years of thinking in an E-based tuning to using tunings based out of a C or other non-E chord. It just takes a lot of time and repetition to build the muscle memory but eventually, it comes. Hang in there! It is so worth the effort.
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Michael James


From:
La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA
Post Posted 1 Nov 2017 9:47 am     Reply with quote

Maybe try the Cma11 tuning. It can be very intuitive for many guitar players. I had a really bad cold when I made this video. I need to re-make it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5A-M1gfDksg
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James Hartman


From:
Pennsylvania, USA
Post Posted 1 Nov 2017 9:48 am     Reply with quote

Andy Volk wrote:

I do think there's something about the tactile, two-hands on the instrument factor of standard guitar that makes remembering patterns easier


Absolutely. Steel is kind of like playing standard guitar with only one finger. The tactile memory of shapes and patterns is significantly lost, and we're much more dependent on visual memory. It is more challenging.
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Nic Neufeld


From:
Kansas City, Missouri
Post Posted 1 Nov 2017 10:29 am     Reply with quote

As someone who has only really started learning steel in the past few months, I feel your pain. I'm not taking lessons (yet) but most of my familiarity with C6 has come from just sitting and playing along with music. I have the Jerry Byrd course but have had a hard time devoting myself to it yet because he takes you into a variety of other tunings first (that I don't have string gauges for right now) before getting to C6.

But eventually with a lot of playing, I've found I'm starting to "know where the notes are". Where the chords are is a little trickier, but knowing the relative stuff, ie., roots on 2 and 6, top string being the maj 3rd, knowing where that sneaky G-A interval is, knowing where to grab the 4th from in a melody line, etc., that seems to sneak in gradually the more you play. It's not a great system but I sound a lot better than I did a few months ago. Learning by osmosis?

That said, if I switch over to B11th, which I do frequently, I'm lost. I can play songs I've learned in that tuning, like Sand, Hula Heaven, How'd Ya Do...but I can't improvise or pick things out like I can normally do in C6. C6 seems a lot more forgiving (although not having as many interesting chordal options). I'm convinced I could probably get comfortable with it if I just resisted the temptation to 1.) quickly tune back to C6, or 2.) just play the tunes I've learned in B11.

If it were me, I'd just make a habit of working out melody lines to songs. I've been doing that with pretty much anything that pops into my head...Christmas songs, Hawaiian songs, old hymns (inspired by that old video of Sol Ho'opi'i), and heck, I even started to work out Schubert's Ave Maria and the Liebeserlösung motif from the end of Wagner's Ring Cycle. Doesn't matter what it is, but if you practice working out melodies in a tuning, you can start getting familiar with where the notes are, relatively. Caveat emptor...this is advice from a beginner, not an expert, and is worth equal to or possibly less than what you paid for it. Smile
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Bill Groner


From:
QUAKERTOWN, PA
Post Posted 1 Nov 2017 12:24 pm     Reply with quote

Michael James wrote:
Maybe try the Cma11 tuning. It can be very intuitive for many guitar players. I had a really bad cold when I made this video. I need to re-make it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5A-M1gfDksg


Went on youtube and listened to some of your stuff. NICE!
I especially liked "Take the A Train". Good job Michael!
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Mike A Holland


From:
United Kingdom
Post Posted 1 Nov 2017 1:03 pm     Reply with quote

Thanks for all your replies:
James Hartman. I went on to the Sierra website and indeed there is some great material by a Joe Wright! I have been looking through the lessons and will check them all out. He seems like a great player.
Andy Volk. Thats a good little story. The steel guitar does seem to get under our skins. I agree that the different home base from E to C as proved more of a challenge than I could have imagined. I do have a grasp of music theory and I think that is why I am surprised by the problems I have encountered in assimilating the fretboard concepts of the tuning. As you and James have alluded to the single steel finger loses the patterns and shapes which help me to memorise the fretboard.
Nic Neufeld. I think that is also a problem for me.....jumping around from tuning to tuning and never really internalising any tuning completely! This is why I would like to stick to one tuning at the moment. The extended 7th chords in B11 are great though. I have been working out tunes lately for C6 and it is certainly helping.
Michael James. You do some great stuff with that tuning and the temptation to change tunings again when I hear good music is high. But I am trying to get at least one tuning under my belt that I feel I understand. Hence the decision to stick with C6. I have a good grasp of a slightly modified G tuning that I use on Weissenborn... EBDGBD low to high. It is Emin7(G6). I think I can understand this because it is very close to standard guitar tuning.
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Guy Cundell


From:
More idle ramblings from South Australia
Post Posted 1 Nov 2017 1:35 pm     Reply with quote

Mike A Holland wrote:
Thanks for all your replies:
But I am trying to get at least one tuning under my belt that I feel I understand. Hence the decision to stick with C6. I have a good grasp of a slightly modified G tuning that I use on Weissenborn... EBDGBD low to high. It is Emin7(G6). I think I can understand this because it is very close to standard guitar tuning.


I think that the 'one tuning' thing is a good idea. Many of the greats had a go-to 6th tuning for melody and a tuning on the second neck used more for chord solos.

For a 6th tuning, choosing the top note is the big decision. The two main ones seem to be either a 3rd on top or a 5th on top. I am getting fairly fluent in A6 but I can't scratch myself in C6 with a 3rd on top despite the rest of the intervals being the same.

I would suggest that, as you have a handle on your modified G tuning, you should stick with a 5th on top. You could do that through C6 high G or A6.

BTW, if you haven't already, check out Greg Booth's YouTube videos as he uses your Weissenborn tuning on many tracks. Beautifully crafted stuff.
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 1 Nov 2017 5:04 pm     Reply with quote

Nic Neufeld wrote:

That said, if I switch over to B11th, which I do frequently, I'm lost. I can play songs I've learned in that tuning, like Sand, Hula Heaven, How'd Ya Do...but I can't improvise or pick things out like I can normally do in C6. )


And I have the same issues switching from A6 to B11!

I can read music on A6, can improvise, etc. On C6 and B11 I am still learning to do that, even though I can play tuned I learned in those tunings.

I have less excuse, since B11 is the same on the top 3 strings as A high bass, low bass, and A6 - A C# E.

At least you have the excuse of the top 3 strings being A C E.
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 1 Nov 2017 5:10 pm     Reply with quote

[quote="Guy Cundell"]
Mike A Holland wrote:


For a 6th tuning, choosing the top note is the big decision. The two main ones seem to be either a 3rd on top or a 5th on top.


Yup!

But there was the E6 (C#m) tuning Sol Hoopi, Bud Tutmarc, and other guys used with the tonic on top:

L-H

E B E G# C# E.

Some of the Indonesians like DeFretes and Wairata used this tuning down a step, as a D6. Same patterns.

And then there are variant tunings with the tonic on top and BOTH the 6th and 5th, tunings that have these notes on top:

G# B C# E.

I've seen tunings with the 6th on top, too, like

GBDGBE and many other variants.

I'm still getting trying to get comfortable the C6 which has the 3rd on top, as I am more used to the 5th or tonic on top.
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Mike A Holland


From:
United Kingdom
Post Posted 2 Nov 2017 10:58 am     Reply with quote

Thanks again for all of your thoughts!
Guy Cundell.....I decided to try and learn C6 because there seemed a lot of information out there on this particular tuning. Also the fact that Jerry Byrd championed it and a lot of big hitters in the lap steel world have adopted it. I have Doug Beaumiers books and most of those are in C6. That said it may not be the tuning for me in the long run. I have found that A6 is more understandable for me because it is similar to the modified G tuning but a whole step higher. It was just a bit of a surprise how long it is taking for me to be adept with C6 tuning.
I have checked out Greg Booth's Youtube videos. I am a fan and indeed do play some of his arrangements on the Weissenborn. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ej67wPatWh0
David M Brown....I am coming to the same opinion re the 5th on top. It may be the way for me to go. I will just battle on a little longer and see what happens!
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 2 Nov 2017 11:20 am     Reply with quote

Mike A Holland wrote:

David M Brown....I am coming to the same opinion re the 5th on top. It may be the way for me to go. I will just battle on a little longer and see what happens!


Hey, i'm with you - and still trying to learn C6 better myself.
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James Kerr


From:
Scotland, UK
Post Posted 2 Nov 2017 12:17 pm     Reply with quote

Mike,
Like a lot of people on here you seem to have run into a position of doubt about which way to go and get bogged down on Music theory and what others have done or are doing. I can honestly say I have never tried to copy what others have done, no matter what reputation they may have, I have absolutely no Musical knowledge and have never had the inclination to burn the midnight oil trying to learn it. I can play a number of instruments but none open themselves to me like a Steel Guitar, the pieces I play won't be found in any book, nor will the version of C6th I use with a G on top.

Here is a recording of two songs you won't find anywhere, one "Ikona" is a Slack Key song, the other Palau Ambon is from the Maluku Islands in Indonesia, I just liked the music and sat down and played it, I could not tell you the Chords or intervals used here, all that stuff is a mystery to me and a mystery I have no intention of spending time to solve.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHrtgjiPNUA

I'm not saying everyone should do the same, I like to spend my time playing, others like to spend their time working on theory, its a personal choice.

James.
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David Matzenik


From:
Cairns, on the Coral Sea
Post Posted 2 Nov 2017 12:34 pm     Re: C6 tuning...slow to assimilate! Reply with quote

Mike A Holland wrote:
I am trying to get to grips with C6 and its variant tunings. Lately I have been working hard at trying to understand the chords structures, patterns grips and positions. Although I am improving its a very slow process.
I had not touched a conventional guitar for quite a while but picked one up yesterday. Although not played for a while I was all over it! Without thinking I was playing tunes, improvising chord substitutes.
I went back to the Lap Steel.....Looked at the neck.....nothing......I have to think all the time. Jeez this is going to be a long job!!!!!


Mike, it is a long job, so is the violin. But for C6 steel guitar, you cannot do better than Mike Neer's Tetra Chord Studies.
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Tim Whitlock


From:
Colorado, USA
Post Posted 2 Nov 2017 3:33 pm     Reply with quote

Michael James wrote:
Maybe try the Cma11 tuning. It can be very intuitive for many guitar players. I had a really bad cold when I made this video. I need to re-make it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5A-M1gfDksg


Really good stuff here Michael! The OP would do well to take a look.
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Guy Cundell


From:
More idle ramblings from South Australia
Post Posted 2 Nov 2017 4:33 pm     Reply with quote

Mike A Holland wrote:
Also the fact that Jerry Byrd championed it and a lot of big hitters in the lap steel world have adopted it.


True that there is much more C6 material available but for heavy hitters, you have Byrd and Murphey on one side or Boggs, McAuliffe and Remington on the other, so you can take your pick. That said, Murphey did end up using C6 High G in the 50s.

As far as C6 High G vs A6 goes, raising the C to C# is a great option of the former that doesn't work so well in the latter, I've found. However, I do like the extra grunt of the heavier E string on top of A6.
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Mike A Holland


From:
United Kingdom
Post Posted 3 Nov 2017 3:53 am     Reply with quote

Once again thanks for all of your replies.
Guy Cundell....I have been playing with C# on the 6 string C6 tuning that I have been using. I like the fact that I can get an easier 7th chord plus diminished and a bunch of other useful variations.
David Matzenik....I am realising just how long a job it actually is! Thanks for the Mike Neer info. Will definitely give it a look.
James Kerr..... Thanks for the different perspective. There's always more than one way to get to your goals. Judging by your recordings you seem to have made a success with your own mantra. I also like to spend my time playing!
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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post Posted 3 Nov 2017 4:01 am     Reply with quote

I can speak from hard-wrought personal experience that when you're first learning the steel guitar, it can be highly detrimental to your progress to keep changing tunings. Pick one or two tunings and really dig into what they have to offer. Do what you'd do on any string instrument: learn where chords, scales and arpeggios lie on the fretboard and simultaneously, play and memorize tunes. Use a metronome or backing tracks often. This is something I always recommend but seldom do myself and it shows in my playing that I neglect it.

All this out of the way, the non-pedal steel is an instrument where tunings are multiple, non-standardized, and often, idiosyncratic. No one tuning will give you the sounds that work for every genre and some players will even tweak a tuning for a specific song. C6th, for example, is very powerful because you have inversions available for most chords and scales and arpeggios lie on the fretboard in a very logical way. The 6th note and/or third gets in the way, however, for some genres - like Celtic music and some kinds of folk where the lack of a 3rd lends beautiful modal ambiguity.

There is a core group of tunings that seem to work well (see my book Slide Rules)that over many years, have become favorites for good reason. The C6th vs A6th (3rd or 5th on top) debate has gone on here for as long as I've been a SGF member (20 years! Gulp). What I've discovered over the years is just how much you can change the character and utility of a given tuning by changing just one string as little as one half step. Examples: Greg Booth's Em7 - standard G Dobro tuning with a low E or Dmaj7 tuning - standard Open D with a C# on string one.

So, to come full circle, when you're starting out on steel, pick a tuning and stick with it for a while. Later on, explore what other sounds are available through other tunings - they all have their advantages and disadvantages.
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 3 Nov 2017 5:53 am     Reply with quote

Andy Volk wrote:
Pick one or two tunings and really dig into what they have to offer. Do what you'd do on any string instrument: learn where chords, scales and arpeggios lie on the fretboard
.........
So, to come full circle, when you're starting out on steel, pick a tuning and stick with it for a while. Later on, explore what other sounds are available through other tunings - they all have their advantages and disadvantages.


This!!!!

I wonder what tunings I would favor if I had been exposed to C6 before A6 and E7/E13 tunings?
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Mike A Holland


From:
United Kingdom
Post Posted 3 Nov 2017 6:03 am     Reply with quote

Andy Volk.... I really appreciate the experience you guys have and thank you for passing the information on. I seem to be one of these guys who have to make all the mistakes before I satisfy myself. I am coming to the same conclusion that I must settle on a couple of tunings. Hence the Emin7 for acoustic instruments and C6 for the electric lap steels. I think I was expecting it to be absorbed a little quicker!
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Keith Glendinning


From:
United Kingdom
Post Posted 3 Nov 2017 6:16 am     Reply with quote

Hi Mike,
I've listened to you playing on YouTube and I don't think you're having too much of a problem with any tunings. It all sounds good to me.
Keith.
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post Posted 3 Nov 2017 6:37 am     Reply with quote

I agree with Andy. Pick a tuning (no pun) and stick with it for a while... at least six months or a year. Learn the chord positions well, majors and minors, so you can instantly go to whatever chord you need in a song. Learn the major scale in a couple of positions, and the harmonized major scale using slants. Those will be the basis of your improvisation. And play to tracks or find some musicians to play with. Mike, try playing the chords only to those backing tracks you have. I do that a lot with my students. Once they can play a song in my book reasonably well, I have them play the chords only along with the backing track. Sometimes I make a separate chord chart for that. If the goal is to someday play with other musicians you need to know the fretboard up and down so you can quickly get to any chord, and have a bunch of "go to" licks and riffs that work in any key. So it's important to stick with one tuning and learn it well.

I like to experiment with different tunings, but I always default back to C6. That's probably because I played C6 pedal steel for 20 years before I even owned a lap steel or any non-pedal steel. And there was more C6 lap steel instruction on the market when I started with lap steel.

As far as C6 vs. A6, I tend to prefer C6 because I like the higher voicing of the minor chord. On 8-string I play C6 w/high G. Having the 5th on top is definitely an advantage in some songs. Jerry Byrd didn't have the high 5th, but he was a master of reverse slants. When I got his hand written tab of "Hula Lady" I was surprised to see that he played a series of fast reverse slants moving down the fretboard on strings 1 & 2 for the melody. It hard to play! But with high G the same thing can be played with no slants. It makes me wonder why he would work so hard to play all those slants instead of just retuning to A6 w/high 5th. Then I realized... he's JB and the rest of us are mere mortals! Cool
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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post Posted 3 Nov 2017 7:01 am     Reply with quote

Quote:
he's JB and the rest of us are mere mortals!


You said a mouthful, Doug!
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