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Post new topic Continuing adventures of the Alkire Journey
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Author Topic:  Continuing adventures of the Alkire Journey
Bill McCloskey


Post Posted 30 Jan 2018 7:13 pm     Reply with quote

Strung up both eHarps with C6th for a few days to get a sense of how they would sound with a more traditional tuning I was familiar with. And they both sounded great. But Alkire gauge strings arrived in the mail and I strung one of them back to Mr. Eddie's masterpiece. This instruments really come alive with the Alkire tuning on it.

Rich Arnold says if you can't play blues, you can't play jack. So, I gave my self a break from learning some of the tougher Roy Thomson tab and just sat down to see if I could play the blues on it.

And man, this thing is a blues machine. I just played some of the coolest stuff that has ever flowed out of me. One of the coolest things about this tuning is the diagonal nature of it. Nearly every interval is under your fingertips. If you can't find interval you are looking for, move up one fret and down one string and you have same bass note, but new intervals. And you can just go right up the neck like that, string by string.

I had to force myself to stop playing and take a break. You can do all these very nice fluid chromatic licks that I've never played before but sounded cool as hell.
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post Posted 30 Jan 2018 8:55 pm     Reply with quote

Speaking of cool stuff on the Alkire tuning... the late Claude Brownell played some nice rockabilly guitar-style solos on his Alkire tuning. About 15 years ago I heard a recording he did in that style. I couldn't believe it was a steel guitar! Claude was a master of the Alkire tuning. Unfortunately there are few, if any, recordings of him around today.

Below are some interesting comments that Claude posted here on the steel forum back in 2002...

Quote:
I really enjoy my eharp, started many moons ago in Easton PA, played everything Eddie ever wrote. Eddie had NO time to practice, as I know he worked writing and printing 10 to 14 hours a day 7 days a week. Never took a vacation, did not drive a car until about 1950, had a secretary and his wife working in his 6 story building in Easton Pa. and used all floors. I will say, if you don't want to wear 4 picks and get your ring finger working, eharp is not for you. If you don't want to read music, forget the eharp. If you need to slant forward and backwards, forget the eharp as you do not need to slant with this tuning. Yes you can slant and sometimes I do, it's your choice. I always liked the idea of six and seven string chords. which you do on rolls. You can have 3 and 4 if you like. Sometimes single notes are best. The person that tells me he is happy with a 3 string chord and sometimes happy with a 2 string harmony, I would like to sit and play with him or her. I may not be the best in the world, but I wouldn't trade my eharp tuning for any other. I thank all the guys who have said good things about the eharp and me. God Bless you all Pro or Con. Happy Picking. Claude Brownell

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The 30 1/2 in scale I use puts the middle of my guitar at the standard 7th fret. With 32 chords at each fret this gives me a whole lot more chords staying on the top strings for my melody. If you never played a steel and you sat down at the eharp you would find that picking certain strings together you would get chords, just as a piano player does with his right hand. Simple. The tuning allows you to play all the scales in full harmonics. All inversions are there. Many times you can run a 9th add a 7th to a 6th. Eddie really worked hard on this tuning. And wrote a complete course of thousands of studies to arranging music. With his teaching, when I was in high school, that was___ years ago, I was writing and arranging music for the high school band. His teaching was more then just the eharp and playing. One other thing he did was to bring the music down on the staff so you could read store bought piano sheet music. Remember the steel music notes were WAY WAY up there, that got changed.


Claude playing a 10-string Cougar steel guitar.


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Bill McCloskey


Post Posted 30 Jan 2018 9:31 pm     Reply with quote

That is great. I just sent away for copies of the complete Alkire method from the University of Illinois. Can't wait to get them.
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James Hartman


From:
Pennsylvania, USA
Post Posted 31 Jan 2018 7:16 am     Reply with quote

Bill McCloskey wrote:
That is great. I just sent away for copies of the complete Alkire method from the University of Illinois. Can't wait to get them.


Do let us know what you think of that when you've had a chance to get acquainted with it. I've been very curious to see some of Alkire's published material.
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Bill McCloskey


Post Posted 31 Jan 2018 7:24 am     Reply with quote

My wife had to come down at 2am this morning to pry me off of playing the eharps. This tuning is a marvel for me. Once I realized what an amazing blues tuning it is, just opened up all sorts of possibilities. Hopefully, I can encourage other folks with 10 strings sitting around to give it a try.
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James Hartman


From:
Pennsylvania, USA
Post Posted 31 Jan 2018 8:10 am     Reply with quote

Bill McCloskey wrote:
My wife had to come down at 2am this morning to pry me off of playing the eharps. This tuning is a marvel for me. Once I realized what an amazing blues tuning it is, just opened up all sorts of possibilities. Hopefully, I can encourage other folks with 10 strings sitting around to give it a try.


Pretty sure I commented here some years ago about having a similar blues revelation while messing around with the Leavitt tuning.
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Bill McCloskey


Post Posted 31 Jan 2018 5:28 pm     Reply with quote

I thought an interesting exercise to help me learn the Alkire turning is to start at the beginning of the Jerry Byrd Course and see how much I could translate over to the Alkire tuning.

Just finished transcribing the first Slant Bar exercise (track 5 on the first CD in the course). But of course, there are no slants necessary. I certainly didn't miss the slants and the confidence knowing the intonation was going to be spot on freed me up to put more emotion into it.

The first tuning Jerry teaches is A Major tuning which translates pretty well over to the Alkire since the top 4 strings of the alkire is A B C# E, so the A major tuning is an easy translation over. The range of the Alkire tuning will let you transcribe everything except for the low A (6th) string. The Alkire stops at C#.

I'll be curious to see how far I can get before I hit a tuning that won't translate over.

Roy gave me a tip on the tuning when he said he tunes "the chords" pointing out that the tuning is an E chord and an A chord.

E: E F# G# A B C#
A: A B C# E F# G#

Edit: First Sweet Lei Lehua lays out nicely as well. No slants
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Andy DePaule


From:
Saigon, Viet Nam & Eugene, Oregon
Post Posted 31 Jan 2018 6:02 pm     About the tone? Reply with quote

Hi Bill,
About the tone on the newer model. Is it very brittle bright like mine or do you have good mid and bass range available on the tone knob?

I opened mine up and see all connections seem good and the ground wire was also right under the bridge so not sure why the tone sucks so bad and the hum is from where???? Maybe the capacitor is no good? I'll have to try to change it.

One bad thing about the design is the strings need to be removed to get the control plate to open. I'll have to do testing with just two strings on it.

So sorry to hear of your trouble with your feet. Well like you said you'll have plenty of time to practice your lap steels and no need to justify using your time that way.
Best wishes,
Andy Smile
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Bill McCloskey


Post Posted 31 Jan 2018 6:13 pm     Reply with quote

The tone on both of the eharps is wonderful on mine. I prefer the later model with the legs, it has a brighter tone to it, but both sound great, certainly no hum, just great sounding steels. So sorry you are going through your issues. That can't be fun. Definitely sounds like something is wrong some where. Not having any of your issues.
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Andy DePaule


From:
Saigon, Viet Nam & Eugene, Oregon
Post Posted 31 Jan 2018 7:06 pm     Thanks Bill Reply with quote

Thanks Bill,
That kind of confirms my thought that there is some issue in the electronics.
I'm guessing my best route is to first change the capacitor. Then string it with just two strings and test the tone and hum and see where the gets me.
Then if the problem is solved string that sucker up and go nutzzzzzz!
If not it will be back inside to see what else can be done.
Really looking forward to actually being able to play the thing without cringing....
Best wishes,
Andy
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Bill McCloskey


Post Posted 31 Jan 2018 7:34 pm     Reply with quote

Andy I've been obsessed. Literally had to be dragged away from the eharp in the wee hours of the morning by my wife who was disappointed to discover I wasn't dead yet. Smile

I hope you are planning to try the Alkire tuning at least for a while and give it some time. There is a logic to it and the best blues tuning I've ever played.
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post Posted 31 Jan 2018 8:39 pm     Reply with quote

Quote:
I just sent away for copies of the complete Alkire method from the University of Illinois.


Are you sure it's his 10-string instructional material? Alkire wrote lots of 6-string material and some of it comes up for sale on eBay occasionally. I've never seen any 10-string material of his for sale. I know that his 10-string tuning was only for his advanced students. The vast majority of his students studied 6-string lap steel.

Interesting to read that Mr. Alkire had a six story building for his business, teaching, sales, and innovating steel guitar technology. Times have certainly changed! I can't imagine such a booming steel guitar business today.
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Bill McCloskey


Post Posted 31 Jan 2018 8:47 pm     Reply with quote

Doug,

You can get anything of Alkire's from the University of Illinois who has his entire collection. you can order copies, or PDF's of everything he every published:

https://archives.library.illinois.edu/archon/?p=collections/findingaid&id=3554&q=&rootcontentid=25998#id25998

I'm starting out with Box 36, Folder 7: Complete Alkire Eharp system - Step 1, 1953

I'll also be buying: Box 36 Folder 13: Alkire Eharp System - How to Tune the Eharp; Complete Chord Charts
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Andy DePaule


From:
Saigon, Viet Nam & Eugene, Oregon
Post Posted 31 Jan 2018 9:16 pm     Is this the tuning? Reply with quote

Hi Bill,
I did a short search and found this... Is this the tuning your using?



If thats it, I'll have to write it out for a few frets to see where it goes and the chords and scales available.
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Todd Clinesmith Joaquin Murphy style Aluminum 8 String Lap Steel Tuned A6th.
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1960 Wright S-10 Cable PSG
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Morrell 8 string lap steel in E13th.
Resophonic Steel Body by Edwin Root.
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post Posted 31 Jan 2018 9:24 pm     Reply with quote

Wow, they have a lot of his stuff. I guess he was a workaholic, 7 days a week.

There are some nice instruments in the collection. The Oahu Jumbo Hawaiian guitar is a rare bird, a nice, quality square neck, built by Kay for Oahu. Eharps, prototypes, and a Rick A-22 Frying Pan.
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Bill McCloskey


Post Posted 1 Feb 2018 6:06 am     Reply with quote

Andy,

That is the tuning.
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Bill McCloskey


Post Posted 1 Feb 2018 6:38 am     Reply with quote

The recommended string gauges (according to Eddie Alkire's widow) are:

14 p
16 p
18 p
20 p
22 p
24 p
26 w
28 w
32 w
36 w

Some immediate things you'll notice is a major A triad at grip 1 2 4 and an E triad at 3 5 9.

Also notice the diagonal nature. For instance, if you start with an A in the bass on string 4, fret 0, you will also find the A in the bass on string 5, fret 1, string 6, fret 2, string 7, fret 3, and so on up the neck. This opens up all sorts of possibilities.

If you have the Jerry Byrd course, there is a transcription from Jerry's first arrangement of Sweet Lei Lehua (which is filled with slants in the course, none in the alkire tuning):
(underlined number is the fret, followed by the grip)

8 1 2 | 13 2 4 7 1 2 | 8 1 2 7 1 2 | 6 1 2

13 2 4 | 15 2 4 13 2 4| 13 2 4 7 1 2 | 8 1 2

13 1 | 15 1 13 1 | 15 2 4 | 10 1 5

10 1 2 | 8 1 5 | 10 1 2 15 2 4 13 1 2 15 1 2

13 1 5

as you can see: no slants at al, very easy grips. To read the above first bar is 8th fret, strings 1 and 2, Second bar is fret 13, strings 2 and 4 and Fret 7 strings 1 and 2
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Ron Ellison


From:
D.C.
Post Posted 1 Feb 2018 7:49 am     Reply with quote

AHHHH!
Fish on....
OK I'll play along, even though I'm no expert on C6th yet, you've intrigued me for sure!
And I have this killer 10 string just chillin,
let me get some strings!
Smile
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Andy DePaule


From:
Saigon, Viet Nam & Eugene, Oregon
Post Posted 1 Feb 2018 8:16 am     Got my head spinning Reply with quote

Got my head spinning for sure.
Late here on this side of the big ball and I've been up since dawn so maybe I need to sleep and look again tomorrow.

One thing though is I like the sound of slant bar work. Yes it's tricky to get the hang of it just like learning harmonics is not so easy until you got it.
But once you got both of those they are easy and sound so cool.

Still I'll keep an eye on this thread and maybe give that a try when I get the E Harp fixed up. Very Happy
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Promat #11 2007, D-10 Blond & Mahogany with Gold Tuners. Tone Monster.
Todd Clinesmith Joaquin Murphy style Aluminum 8 String Lap Steel Tuned A6th.
Mullen SD-10, G2 5&5 All Polished Aluminum including covering.
1960 Wright S-10 Cable PSG
Todd Clinesmith Triple 8 Console Ordered.
Korean D'Angelico EX-SS.
Morrell 8 string lap steel in E13th.
Resophonic Steel Body by Edwin Root.
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Bill McCloskey


Post Posted 1 Feb 2018 8:53 am     Reply with quote

Andy,

You can still do the slants if you want. They don't disappear. But you now have the choice. to get that slant sound but with perfect intonation, and no slants, has to be heard to be believed.
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Stefan Robertson


From:
London, UK
Post Posted 1 Feb 2018 12:21 pm     Reply with quote

For you guys who need a fretboard layout. drag and drop it onto your desktop from my site and print it off.

https://ilapsteel.wordpress.com/eddie-alkire-e-harp/

Although it gives you lots of chordal options Basic Jazz 7th chords seem to miss the mark or simply aren't there. Lots of lower voicings surprisingly aren't.

Think of some Drop 2

II - V - I

in the Key of C

II - find D, C, F - that voicing looks painful

V - D -F -B (or G -F -B) looks manageable

I - C - B -E - WTF its nowhere have to use a different voice like a G-B-E

something to consider that you may have to do quite a bit of moving or opt for different voicings alot. Anyway still great to see what you guys come up with.
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HowardR


From:
N.Y.C. & Fire Island
Post Posted 1 Feb 2018 12:43 pm     Reply with quote

If I recall, Claude Brownell did have a cd......I think I bought one.....I'll have to go on safari for it.....
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post Posted 1 Feb 2018 12:54 pm     Reply with quote

I seem to remember a post by Roy Thomson many years ago saying that Claude had sent him a recording, and Roy was very impressed with it.
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Bill McCloskey


Post Posted 1 Feb 2018 1:58 pm     Reply with quote

Just got a clinesmith bar and have been playing the eharp with it. Beautiful bar that comes in its own pouch. Black, 7/8 3.375 . I also got a chance to play with Basil's new bars when Howard R came up to the house bearing some treasures from his collection including a Benoit, a work of art and an addictive 7 string dobro made by some guy in long island.Beautiful Inlay.

Hate to compare them other than to say they are both the best bars I've ever used. The Clinesmith is sleek noiseless with perfect sustain especially on the top string which was ringing muddy with some other steels. Basil's were amazing. I wish I had them both in front of me to compare. The thing that impressed me about Basils was the feel. Didn't feel like metal. It was comfortable and my playing got better instantly.

I've been using the clinesmith bar to work on tetrachords from Mike Near's Steelin' Scales & Modes vol 1. Of course I'm adapting it to the Alkire tuning. Mike uses two 3 string grips with bar movement limited within the confines of one fret. On the eHarp I've found 3 very easy 3 string Ionic tetrachord shapes, a couple of more that were less easy to play and then a beautiful 4 note tetrachord all in a single bar and using 4 picks. In fact there is a 4 note tetrachord single bar chord for each of the four types of tetrachords that Mike lays out in his book: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian. Working on those grips now. The Alkire tuning was designed to save bar movement. Having the option of three 3 string and one 4 string Ionic tectrachords available should help me get a handle on this neck and the various grips.
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Joel Meginsky


From:
Springfield,MA,USA
Post Posted 2 Feb 2018 6:22 am     Akire tuning Reply with quote

Hi fellow ultimate tuning seekers,

Every tuning, other than a fully chromatic (piano) setup, has inherit limitations.
It's how the tuning is used, and in which kind of melodic and harmonic environment, and by whom, which is the key to its success. How do you explain the
fact that the four string violin, which has had a fixed tuning of fifths for at least three hundred years, has been able to move right along and play in so many different contexts?

When someone comes along and shows the potential of this tuning, that'll be something to pay attention to. That will require a ton of work and time. Any volunteers?

In the meantime, until the Second Coming of the "Mother of All Tunings", I have no
choice but to keep plugging away at the few I've stumbled upon.

Respectfully,
Joel Meginsky
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