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An Open (D)oor

It seems preposterous that after more than six years of playing banjo that I've never gotten very adventurous with tunings. Barring one or two instances, I've remained within the three most common intervals for old-time music: G/A, sawmill and CC/DD. Last night, I opened a new door and tried Open D tuning.

For those unfamiliar, Open D is f#DF#AD, whereas I usually play D tunes in Double-D (aDADE). That versatile tuning is well-suited for playing in a group setting, as the tunes seem to lay out easier and keep the scale notes and chord positions within easy reach. The thing is lately I've been confined to playing at home alone.

Now seems like the perfect opportunity to branch out a little.

Open D is sometimes called "graveyard tuning" — a perfect tuning with Halloween around the corner. To my ears, it has a bluesy quality and seems better suited for playing on the lower strings. Or maybe that's my own bias. Just from exploring the fingerboard, it seems I can get most the notes I need on the first two frets.

I tried to see if I could find the tunes I already know, but instead just noodled around for half an hour. Maybe this weekend I'll work harder to learn a tune and find my chord positions.

While the fiddle remains my focus, exploring new avenues on the banjo keeps things fun. I hope the experience will make me a better player in the end.

What are some of your favorite tunings? Do you have any you haven't tried yet? Let me know in the comments ... 

Comments

  1. Two classic banjo tunes in open D are Reuben('s Train) and Wade Ward's "Peachbottom Creek." Both are pretty intuitive for left-hand fingering while offering drop-thumb embellishment opportunities for the right hand.

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