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Author Topic:  What re-entrant 7-string tunings were popular circa 1940?
Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post  Posted 1 Feb 2022 6:43 am    
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I recently acquired a cool old 1940 KEH Oriole 7-string. The instrument appears to be completely original, with the possible exception of a replaced volume pot. I had intended to set it up for C13, installing a low Bb in the 7th string position. Since I use a .038 for the low C, I decided to install a .042 for the low Bb.

A .042 didn't fit. A closer examination revealed that a thinner slot had been cut in both the nut and the bridge for the 7th string, which to me would indicate the instrument was shipped from the factory with a re-entrant tuning.

Would any of you steel guitar tuning historians out there have any ideas what tuning it most likely would have been? The factory order number begins with the "F" prefix, indicating it was manufactured in 1940.
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Michael Lee Allen

 

From:
Portage Park, Chicago, Illinois
Post  Posted 1 Feb 2022 9:05 am    
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Circa 1940 would have been A7th or E7th is an educated guess. They are the only 7th tunings I have any published instruction for in that time frame. Unless you count C#mi7th.
MLA
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Tommy Martin Young


From:
Sacramento-California, USA
Post  Posted 1 Feb 2022 9:20 am    
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Jack, this info comes directly from a 7-string 1936 Gibson EH-150 that may have sat in it's case for 80+ years as the owner was drafted in 1937/38. It still had the original strings on it and 2 full sets of replacements along with unused fingerpicks, pitch pipe and 3 tonebars. Oh and all the lesson books on The Gibson System and the Home Study Lessons for the Hawaiian Steel Guitar- untouched.

Per the picture you can see that the re-entrant 7th string was C#, the Puccini brand on the right. So an E13 to my mind (C#m is also correct but odd to my eye) don't have my micrometer on me but can find if you need gauge.

And yes, I'm pretty sure there's an angelic sound and I'm bathed in a supernatural light everytime I open the case Smile


_________________
The One & Lonely Tommy Young

"Now is the time for drinking;
now the time to beat the earth with unfettered foot."
-Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65-8 B.C.)
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Noah Miller


From:
Rocky Hill, CT
Post  Posted 1 Feb 2022 9:25 am    
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From the 1939 Gibson catalog:

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Tommy Martin Young


From:
Sacramento-California, USA
Post  Posted 1 Feb 2022 9:35 am    
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Noah Miller wrote:
From the 1939 Gibson catalog:



I guess we have definitive proof that the tuning debate started with the advent of steel guitar!
_________________
The One & Lonely Tommy Young

"Now is the time for drinking;
now the time to beat the earth with unfettered foot."
-Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65-8 B.C.)
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Allan Revich


From:
Victoria, Canada
Post  Posted 1 Feb 2022 9:35 am    
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Noah Miller wrote:
From the 1939 Gibson catalog:



From that image, it looks like the 7 string A9
E
C#
A
E
C#
G
B — (b?)
would have had to be reentrant.
EDIT: Taking a second look at this, and thinking that it would work just fine as a linear tuning.
_________________
Current Tunings:
6 String | G – G B D G B D
7 String | G6 – G B D E G B D
https://papadafoe.com/lap-steel-tuning-database


Last edited by Allan Revich on 15 Mar 2022 9:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Allan Revich


From:
Victoria, Canada
Post  Posted 1 Feb 2022 9:42 am    
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Herb Remington used a reentrant tuning on his 8 strings in the 40s. I wonder if there was a contemporary 7 string version as well?



*source; https://steelc6th.com/tunings.htm
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Noah Miller


From:
Rocky Hill, CT
Post  Posted 1 Feb 2022 9:46 am    
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Trying to determine old string gauges from tunings, or vice versa, is really a guessing game. In most pre-War catalogs, no tuning is given - one string set for Hawaiian guitar was offered, as if the tuning was obvious. One of the more interesting catalogs in this respect is an early one from Rickenbacker, where they relate Hawaiian strings to Spanish ones (including for 7-stringers):



The use of a plain string for the 7th suggests to me a reentrant tuning. Note that they're also recommending a plain string for the Spanish G, which was quite unusual at the time.
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Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post  Posted 1 Feb 2022 9:58 am    
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Thanks so much Michael, Tommy, and Noah. Very interesting information. As is evident in the above photo of Tommy's incredible EH-150, it's apparent that my KEH -- although sporting an entirely different bridge -- shares a similarly cut slot for its 7th string, and was apparently intended for a re-entrant tuning.
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Glenn Wilde

 

From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 1 Feb 2022 5:24 pm    
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Great thread!
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Joe A. Roberts


From:
Seoul, South Korea
Post  Posted 2 Feb 2022 12:20 am    
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Noah Miller wrote:
From the 1939 Gibson catalog:



This is super cool. Most of these tunings are re-entrant!
The 10 string one is particularly nuts, it has the standard E7th B D E G# B E on the top 6, then the bottom 4 are re-entrant E G# C# E to get the C#min slants and shapes on the same neck, so you don’t have to retune the second string B. Its kind of like a double neck with two tunings but on one neck!
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Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post  Posted 3 Feb 2022 10:55 am    
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Allan, are you familiar with an amp tech in Victoria named Gord Butterfield?

https://www.butterfieldamps.ca/
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Allan Revich


From:
Victoria, Canada
Post  Posted 4 Feb 2022 4:08 pm    
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Jack Hanson wrote:
Allan, are you familiar with an amp tech in Victoria named Gord Butterfield?

https://www.butterfieldamps.ca/


I wasn’t until you “introduced” me Jack! Thank you.
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Guy Cundell


From:
More idle ramblings from South Australia
Post  Posted 4 Feb 2022 8:21 pm    
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Alvino Rey, Modern Guitar Method, Hawaiian style. 1937


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Allan Revich


From:
Victoria, Canada
Post  Posted 8 Feb 2022 4:45 pm    
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Jack Hanson wrote:
Thanks so much Michael, Tommy, and Noah. Very interesting information. As is evident in the above photo of Tommy's incredible EH-150, it's apparent that my KEH -- although sporting an entirely different bridge -- shares a similarly cut slot for its 7th string, and was apparently intended for a re-entrant tuning.


Is it in your hands yet? Have you decided on a tuning?
_________________
Current Tunings:
6 String | G – G B D G B D
7 String | G6 – G B D E G B D
https://papadafoe.com/lap-steel-tuning-database
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Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post  Posted 9 Feb 2022 12:50 am    
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Allan Revich wrote:
Is it in your hands yet? Have you decided on a tuning?

I've had the set for about a week now, Allan. I initially installed strings 1-6 with my normal string gauges for standard C6, leaving the 7th slot open -- mainly so I can play it whilst I contemplate the possibilities.

I'm currently awaiting delivery of a string order which USPS tracking would indicate is taking a circle tour between New England and the Intermountain West. When it finally arrives, I plan to begin with a re-entrant Bb in the 7th position for a C13 with a little different flavor.

Somewhat astonished to successfully sneak this set out of B.C. right from under your nose, Allan! It was purchased from a lady on Salt Spring Island who said it belonged to her dad.
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Allan Revich


From:
Victoria, Canada
Post  Posted 8 Mar 2022 4:46 pm    
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Jack Hanson wrote:
Allan Revich wrote:
Is it in your hands yet? Have you decided on a tuning?

I've had the set for about a week now, Allan.
...
Somewhat astonished to successfully sneak this set out of B.C. right from under your nose, Allan! It was purchased from a lady on Salt Spring Island who said it belonged to her dad.


HAHAHA! Nicely played sir!
_________________
Current Tunings:
6 String | G – G B D G B D
7 String | G6 – G B D E G B D
https://papadafoe.com/lap-steel-tuning-database
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Scott Thomas

 

Post  Posted 9 Mar 2022 8:04 am    
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Tommy Martin Young wrote:


And yes, I'm pretty sure there's an angelic sound and I'm bathed in a supernatural light everytime I open the case Smile



Ho Chi Minh! What a time capsule. Thanks for sharing. I feel like Howard Carter--I see wonderful things.
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Anthony Lis

 

From:
South Dakota, USA
Post  Posted 10 Mar 2022 12:00 pm    
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Guy Cundell wrote:
Alvino Rey, Modern Guitar Method, Hawaiian style. 1937




Yes, good of you to post this; been looking a lot at this page (and the following page) recently.
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Anthony Lis

 

From:
South Dakota, USA
Post  Posted 15 Mar 2022 8:41 am    
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Noah,

Thank you for posting Gibson's 1939 list of tunings; I've heard it being mentioned, but I had never actually seen it until now. I'm just wondering—is this the complete list? It looks like it ends a bit suddenly, but perhaps it ran at the very bottom of the page (or very top, with something below it).

I have a relative on my mother's side of the family who lives in Rocky Hill; when his parents were alive, they played in a "plectrophonic orchestra" led by Walter K. Bauer in his later days in Wethersfield, FWIW.
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Noah Miller


From:
Rocky Hill, CT
Post  Posted 15 Mar 2022 9:41 am    
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It's a snippet from one page of the catalog, but that's the full section on tunings - nothing has been cut off.

There's also a whole section, something like 6 pages (!) on tunings in the 1940 National catalog. I need to take pics of my copy.
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Anthony Lis

 

From:
South Dakota, USA
Post  Posted 15 Mar 2022 3:19 pm    
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Noah,

Thanks for the further information. It would be interesting to see National's thoughts on tunings from the following year, if you had time to photograph and post the pages.

I was wondering if I might trouble you for an additional bit of information—could you possibly give me the page number the tunings-list was placed on, and also any information about the catalog? The year is obviously 1937, but are there volume- and issue numbers, etc.? I'd like to mention that list in the text and a footnote of a book draft I'm writing about the steel guitar up through the first commercial pedal steel guitars of Gibson and the Harlin Brothers. if I could trouble you for that, that information would help me out.
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Noah Miller


From:
Rocky Hill, CT
Post  Posted 15 Mar 2022 4:37 pm    
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It's on page 28 of the 1939 catalog, and page 29 of the 1942 catalog: https://acousticmusic.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Gibson-1942-Catalog-BB.pdf

There's also a shorter list on page 37 of the 1937 catalog: https://acousticmusic.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Gibson-1937-Catalog.pdf

I'll scan the National stuff tomorrow at work.
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Allan Revich


From:
Victoria, Canada
Post  Posted 15 Mar 2022 10:01 pm    
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Noah Miller wrote:
From the 1939 Gibson catalog:



Am I missing something? It doesn’t look to me that any of the 7 string tunings here are reentrant.
_________________
Current Tunings:
6 String | G – G B D G B D
7 String | G6 – G B D E G B D
https://papadafoe.com/lap-steel-tuning-database
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Noah Miller


From:
Rocky Hill, CT
Post  Posted 16 Mar 2022 1:46 am    
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Allan Revich wrote:
Am I missing something? It doesn’t look to me that any of the 7 string tunings here are reentrant.


They don't tell you what octave everything is in. But if you look at the way the nuts were slotted, it's clear that some were meant for a lighter string on the bottom.
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