Robert Johnson Tunings

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Robert Johnson Tunings

Postby mariner1 » Wed Jul 06, 2005 5:30 pm

Trying to figure out specific tunings that RJ used in several songs (Crossroads, Phonagraph Blues, Fishing Blues). Anyone ever seen a list of tunings he used by song?
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RE: Robert Johnson Tunings

Postby stiff » Fri Jul 08, 2005 7:41 pm

I haven't seen a whole list, but I play Crossroads in open G and Phonograph in standard tuning. Fishing blues?
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RE: Robert Johnson Tunings

Postby stumblin » Fri Jul 08, 2005 7:48 pm

"Fishing blues?"

Well...
He might've played it. Maybe our new member has one of those unpublished songs?
Seriously though, there's a great book of Robert tab transcriptions by Woody Mann, not sure if it's still in print, but you might find one at abebooks or similar.
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RE: Robert Johnson Tunings

Postby oakbone » Fri Jul 22, 2005 10:23 pm

There's no "Fishing Blues" by Robert Johnson.
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RE: Robert Johnson Tunings

Postby tom » Sat Jul 23, 2005 2:54 pm

Dead Shrimp Blues maybe?
Johnson played Open A on alot of songs.
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RE: Robert Johnson Tunings

Postby bighollowtwang » Mon Jul 25, 2005 4:59 am

If you're talking about "Dead Shrimp Blues" it's in standard tuning, key of A and uses the same chord shapes as Phonograph, Kindhearted Woman, Me & the Devil, Little Queen of Spades, etc.
32-20 is also played in the same style, only with a very different rhythm.

Cross Road Blues (it was NOT called "crossroads") is in spanish tuning, as are Milkcow's Calf, Stones in my Passway and Terraplane, along with unrelated tunes like Walking Blues, Last Fair Deal Gone Down and Stop Breaking Down.
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RE: Robert Johnson Tunings

Postby blues power » Wed Sep 21, 2005 3:48 pm

i was on the RJ kick a few years back. most of his stuff is in open tunings mostly G and A and he uses a capo from there. just listen for the bass notes and open strings. so if you hear Bb go to open A and Capo 1st fret etc
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RE: Robert Johnson Tunings

Postby bighollowtwang » Wed Sep 21, 2005 4:15 pm

>i was on the RJ kick a few years back. most of his stuff is
>in open tunings mostly G and A and he uses a capo from
>there.

There are only a COUPLE of Robert Johnson songs WITHOUT slide that are in open tuning. Stop Breaking Down is in open A, and he does Sweet Home Chicago and When You Got A Good Friend in an otherwise rarely used "Add9" tuning.
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RE: Robert Johnson Tunings

Postby jellyroll baker » Sun Sep 25, 2005 9:40 pm

> he does Sweet Home Chicago and When You Got A Good
>Friend in an otherwise rarely used "Add9" tuning.

I'm still sceptical about this "Aadd9" tuning. It is perfectly possible to play those songs in open-A. The idea of a secret lost-tuning that no one else used just strikes me as more needless myth-making.
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RE: Robert Johnson Tunings

Postby bighollowtwang » Mon Sep 26, 2005 8:57 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Sep-26-05 AT 04:57 PM (EST)]Bo Carter used this tuning as well, it's not a "long-lost, secret" tuning, just a less commonly used one.
There are lots of rarely used banjo tunings too, mainly associated with specific songs. Just because people don't use them any more doesn't mean they didn't exist.
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RE: Robert Johnson Tunings

Postby stumblin » Tue Sep 27, 2005 6:08 am

I used to have access to a copy of Woody Mann's Robert Johnson transcription book.
Most (e.g. When You've got a Good Friend, Dead Shrimp Blues etc.) were in Standard (keys of A, E & G), Rambling On My Mind and Preaching Blues were in Open-D. Malted Milk, Dust My Broom and Drunken Hearted Man were in Dropped-D, the rest (Cross Road Blues, Milkcow, Travelling Riverside Blues etc.) were all in Open-G.
Capo as appropriate. No mention of an Aadd9 tuning was made in the text of Mr. Mann's book.
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RE: Robert Johnson Tunings

Postby blues power » Thu Sep 29, 2005 12:14 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Sep-29-05 AT 08:15 AM (EST)]^^^ i agree. i have that book with the cassettes and its describes it as you say.
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RE: Robert Johnson Tunings

Postby jellyroll baker » Thu Sep 29, 2005 9:52 pm

>Bo Carter used this tuning as well, it's not a "long-lost,
>secret" tuning, just a less commonly used one.
>There are lots of rarely used banjo tunings too, mainly
>associated with specific songs. Just because people don't
>use them any more doesn't mean they didn't exist.

Maybe I should clarify. The tuning is often presented as such and is compunded onto the already excessive Johnson Mythmaking. IF the songs can be played without the tuning (and they can, perfectly) then Occams razor leads me to think that a more conventional tuning was used.
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RE: Robert Johnson Tunings

Postby grady » Thu Sep 29, 2005 11:10 pm

You know,,,,it's hard to tell what some of those old Blues guys did.

If I can't play it in Standard or Open G or Open E,,,I'm not gonna play it at all.
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RE: Robert Johnson Tunings

Postby ricochet » Fri Sep 30, 2005 1:09 am

Now, Grady, let's don't leave Open D out. (It's just like Open E, only in D.)

I do sometimes like to play in the minor variations of Open G, Open D, or their A or E equivalents. Especially G minor tuning is a lot of fun to play in. And there's a Mississippi blues style that you've just got to go into D or E minor to cover properly.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."
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