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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Doc's Black Mountain Rag in D or D#?


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.flatpickerhangout.com/archive/49321

ThePhantom - Posted - 05/16/2018:  18:32:46


Hello,

I'm transcribing Doc's version of Black Mountain Rag from his self tittled 1964 album and getting a little frustrated. I think his guitar is tuned a little sharp? His arrangement is in D and he puts a capo on the 2nd fret and plays out of C position. There's lots of footage of him doing this on youtube. However, when I try to play along to the original recording with my capo on the 2nd fret, it sound flat. If I capo up to the 3rd fret it sounds sharp. I'm drawing the conclusion that he was tuned a little sharp so the original recording is somewhere in between D and D#. Was curious if other players agree with my diagnosis or if I'm on one. Thanks



P.S. I can't post a link because I'm a new user but the version I'm referring to is on the 1964 album Doc Watson. It's also on youtube as "Black Mountain Rag (Instrumental)" from a compilation called The Doc Watson Guitar Instrumental Collection 1964-1998.


Edited by - ThePhantom on 05/16/2018 18:37:08

Tony O Rourke - Posted - 05/16/2018:  23:59:00


I have two recordings of Doc from 1964, the self titled LP you mention and another called "The Essential Doc Watson" which says "copyright 1973" but was a recording of a live performance at The Newport Folk Festivals of 1963 &1964. The live recording features Doc playing solo and he is close to but not quite in Eb, slightly sharp. My guess would be he didn't tune up to a pitch pipe or tuning fork of those times and is slightly over A440 and playing Eb/capo 3 in C, or possibly in the then mechanical process of pressing the record the speed of the source recording was just a little bit fast and pushed the pitch up slightly. The other recording on his self titled LP is in Eb so I'm guessing he probably recorded that one in C and capoed on the third fret. On the pressing I have the guitar is certainly tuned to A440, not sharp as you suggest in your post. As far as I know my record player is running at the correct speed. Also on the previous track(No.6/side A) he is playing guitar and mouth organ and the guitar is perfectly in tune with the mouth organ so for him to be out of concert pitch the mouth organ would also have to be out to the same degree; extremely unlikely. There is some fine back up there on Black Mountain Rag by John Herald from The Greenbriar Boys. I don't know what it was about John Herald but every time he turned up on a recording something magical happened. He had great "touch". Hope this helps.........

ThePhantom - Posted - 05/17/2018:  09:05:14


Thanks for input!

Jim Yates - Posted - 05/18/2018:  05:53:45


quote:

Originally posted by Tony O Rourke

I have two recordings of Doc from 1964, the self titled LP you mention and another called "The Essential Doc Watson" which says "copyright 1973" but was a recording of a live performance at The Newport Folk Festivals of 1963 &1964. The live recording features Doc playing solo and he is close to but not quite in Eb, slightly sharp. My guess would be he didn't tune up to a pitch pipe or tuning fork of those times and is slightly over A440 and playing Eb/capo 3 in C, or possibly in the then mechanical process of pressing the record the speed of the source recording was just a little bit fast and pushed the pitch up slightly. The other recording on his self titled LP is in Eb so I'm guessing he probably recorded that one in C and capoed on the third fret. On the pressing I have the guitar is certainly tuned to A440, not sharp as you suggest in your post. As far as I know my record player is running at the correct speed. Also on the previous track(No.6/side A) he is playing guitar and mouth organ and the guitar is perfectly in tune with the mouth organ so for him to be out of concert pitch the mouth organ would also have to be out to the same degree; extremely unlikely. There is some fine back up there on Black Mountain Rag by John Herald from The Greenbriar Boys. I don't know what it was about John Herald but every time he turned up on a recording something magical happened. He had great "touch". Hope this helps.........






Sorry for the thread drift Tony, but John Herald's playing was what first got me interested in learning to flat pick the guitar, even before Doc. I first heard him as Ian & Sylvia's back up guitarist, but his playing with Joan Baez, The Greenbriar Boys and The Honkies was brilliant as well.  I believe he is (uncredited) also on Ramblin' Jack Elliott's first album as well.

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