Learn a won­der­ful tra­di­tional Scot­tish horn­pipe with Tris­tan Se­ume’s exclusive video!

Guitar Techniques - - Contents -

Writ­ten in the late 19th century by Scot­tish com­poser and violinist, James Scott Skin­ner, this horn­pipe ex­plores the full range of the acous­tic gui­tar, and should pro­vide a great chal­lenge for any­one wish­ing to ex­pand their tra­di­tional tune reper­toire. This tune is played in typ­i­cal horn­pipe style with a dot­ted or swung feel, and with its wide arpeg­gios and quirky ac­ci­den­tals, stands out as a high­light in the Scot­tish folk tune book.

The melody was orig­i­nally writ­ten in D ma­jor. How­ever, we’ve trans­posed it down a tone to C, in or­der to al­low a lit­tle breath­ing space at the neck’s dusty end for those high notes. If you’d like to play it in D, how­ever, sim­ply place a capo at the 2nd fret and pre­pare for a lit­tle stretch­ing through­out the tune’s ‘B’ sec­tion.

First, let’s take a look at the al­tered tun­ing – CGDGCD. At first glance, it may look rather un­usual but on closer in­spec­tion, we see sim­i­lar­i­ties to the ever-pop­u­lar DADGAD, which gives a Dsus4 chord with the fol­low­ing in­ter­vals; root, 5th, root, 4th, 5th, root. Look­ing at CGDGCD tun­ing, imag­ine for a mo­ment that our low C string is re­moved, and you are left with a Gsus4 chord. The in­ter­vals? Root, 5th, Root, 4th, 5th. There­fore, it shares DADGAD’s in­ter­val struc­ture (al­beit in G, not D), but moved across by one string. The bonus is the ex­tra C in the bass: The tun­ing read­ily lends it­self to the key of C as well as G, mak­ing it very ver­sa­tile, par­tic­u­larly for tra­di­tional pieces.

One of the joys of this tun­ing is the whole tone be­tween the top two strings, al­low­ing parts of scales to be eas­ily played in cas­cad­ing runs. An ex­am­ple of this is in the triplet lick in bar 4. You should aim to al­low mul­ti­ple strings to ring to­gether here for full ef­fect.

To play the bass line of this piece, you will need to fret the low­est string us­ing your thumb over the top of the neck at times. Specif­i­cally, with the ex­cep­tion of bars 14 and 34, the thumb should be used ev­ery time the 2nd fret of the sixth string is needed.

The ‘B’ sec­tion of this tune point­edly demon­strates the fact that Skin­ner con­sid­ered him­self very much the ‘violinist’ and not merely a ‘fid­dler’, and the full range of the in­stru­ment is needed to play the large arpeg­gios here. I won’t lie to you – this sec­tion is some­thing of a fin­ger-twis­ter and, what with the al­tered tun­ing, the fret­board pat­terns will prob­a­bly feel de­cid­edly un­fa­mil­iar. It’s very much a case of ‘no pain, no gain’, how­ever, be­cause this re­ally is a cracking sec­tion of the melody and well worth the ef­fort. At cer­tain points, I’ve ar­ranged open strings be­tween chord changes, such as in the mid­dle of bar 17 and also bar 21, to buy a split sec­ond to move the fret­ting hand into po­si­tion for the fol­low­ing chord shape.

Fi­nally, I must stress that ac­cu­racy comes from per­se­ver­ance at slow tem­pos – re­main hon­est with yourself about the clean­li­ness of your play­ing be­fore speed­ing up, and the re­sults will be all the more re­ward­ing.

Tris­tan Se­ume ex­plores the CGDGCD tun­ing

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