I recently built a tenor guitar and noticed that most tenors (but not all) have a fret position marker at the 10th fret, not at the 9th. This makes the tenors consistent with banjos, mandolins, citterns and bouzoukis, which traditionally mark the 10th, not the 9th fret position.
But 6 string guitars do it at the 9th.
There is probably some interesting history behind this. Can anyone explain how it ended up this way?
Was there some sort of split at the First International Conference For Fretboard Inlay, insults were hurled, the guitar makers walked out, refused to answer any further correspondence, have been seething about it ever since.......
I have a 1941 (F41) Harmony tenor with a 10th fret dot
I had always understood that the marker on the tenth fret was a throwback to the days of ukulele orchestras and playing in the key of c. I've a couple of 1920 Stellas which would fit in to the correct era and these are marked on the tenth.
Quote: "a throwback to the days"
- Snipped for Shortness -
This brings up a thought.
I remember a Recording Engineer worrying about a "Tam Tam", that featured in the Musical Score that he was going to have to Record, and he didn't know how to Mic it.
Now Percussion Instruments are many and varied. It is renowned as the "Kitchen Utensil Section" and there can be different types of Tam Tam, in Music from different Geographical Regions, but I happened to mention to him that it in the Score concerned, it was actually a straight forward type of Gong that would be used, so to Mic it as if it were a Gong.
For some extraordinary reason with this Young Engineer, my comment appeared to provoke a response, where he immediately argued strongly that it wasn't a Gong, but another Instrument Entirely, so treating it as if it were a Gong wasn't ever going to be the Answer. He needed to go into the Recording Session knowing how he was going to Set Up the Mic's, so I understood his concern, although very surprised that he would argue with me about this.
Fortunately, many years ago I attended Lectures in Oxford University given by the World's Greatest Percussionist, the late James Blades, so I figured I had learnt a little about the Instruments.
For those Luthiers that understandably might not know of him, let me tell you a little about James. His interest in Percussion Instruments was first aroused when as a young boy, he would follow the Salvation Army Band as it marched around his Town on a Sunday Morning, entranced and fascinated by the Big Bass Drum.
At the Advent of the Silent Movies, when Charlie Chaplin wanted to make a Film where he had a "Showdown at High Noon" with a Baddie and the Film repeatedly referenced a Grandfather Clocks Hands gradually moving to Twelve, Heightening Tension, they needed to Record a Clock Like "Tick Tock" but couldn't get a Tellingly Convincing Sound. So James Tuned Two Large Kettle Drums, and Placed Two Large 20" - 22" Cymbals, Flat on their Skins. Then he got Two Heavy Half Crown Coins, one in Each Hand and Clicked them on the Bells of the Two Cymbals, in time with the Clocks Pendulum. This gave a really Deeply Solid "Tick Tock" Sound, Charlie Chaplin was Happy, and the Film was a Major Success!
In WWll when Sir Winston Churchill wanted a Good Idea as to how his Inspiring Wartime Addresses to Peoples and Troops around the World should be "Introduced", he turned to James for an Answer.
Churchill (who was born and is buried nearby) was deeply concerned at the time, that Nazis Propagandists might be able to Copy Recordings and Plant False Messages. So wanted a Commandingly Unique Sound to Precede, Authenticate and Introduce Him to the Worldwide Audience.
And James (with his incredible collection of extremely rare, unusual and Historically Notable Musical Instruments, some of which he obtained quite cheaply many of which I've seen and experienced) produced a very rare type of African Drum, and on it played the first few notes of a Beethoven Symphony, using a soft yellow cloth as a mute on some of the notes. The "V-for-Victory" theme on BBC Broadcasts during World War II. Blades was proud of his recording of the Morse code for "V," which was played up to 150 times a day at the start of British Broadcasting Corporation Broadcasts to occupied Europe.
You will have seen the Huge Gong played by the Strong 'He Man' at the opening scenes of the J. Arthur Rank Films.
In actual fact that Gong used to Introduced the Films was made out of Cardboard. The Real Gong of course belonged to James Blades, who Actually Played It for me, and it was around 2 1/2 feet in diameter.
James was a wonderful character to be around. He was a long-time associate of Famous British Composer, Benjamin Britten with whom he conceived many of the Composer's Unusual Percussion Effects. In 1954, Blades was appointed Professor of Percussion at the Royal Academy of Music.
James wrote what is regarded as "The Bible" on Percussion Instruments which covers Several Volumes. Here are some of the Celebrated Books he wrote.
Orchestral Percussion Techniques (Oxford: University, 1961) ISBN 978-0-19-318801-3
Percussion Instruments and their History (London: Faber & Faber, 1971) ISBN 978-0-571-08858-4
Orchestral Percussion Techniques (Oxford: University, 1973) ISBN 978-0-19-318803-7
Percussion Instruments and their History (London: Faber & Faber, 1975) ISBN 978-0-571-10360-7
Percussion Instruments and their History (London: Faber & Faber, 1975) ISBN 978-0-571-04832-8
Early Percussion Instruments from the Middle Ages to the Baroque (Oxford: University, 1976) ISBN 978-0-19-323176-4 (with Jeremy Montagu)
Drum Roll: A Professional Adventure from the Circus to the Concert Hall (London: Faber & Faber, 1977) ISBN 978-0-571-10107-8
Ready to Play (London: BBC, 1978) ISBN 978-0-563-17610-7 (with Carole Ward)
From Cave to Cavern (London: Sussex, 1982) ISBN 978-1-86013-138-7
A Check-List of the Percussion Instruments in the Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments (Edinburgh: Reid School of Music, 1982) ISBN 978-0-907635-07-9
Percussion Instruments and their History (London: Faber & Faber, 1984) ISBN 978-0-571-18081-3
How to Play Drums (London: Penguin, 1985) ISBN 978-0-241-11670-8 (with Johnny Dean)
Percussion Instruments and their History (London: Pro Am Music Resources, 1992) ISBN 978-0-933224-71-1
These I Have Met... (London: Music Sales, 1998) ISBN 978-0-905210-77-3
How to Play Drums (London: St Martins, 1992) ISBN 978-0-312-08212-3 (with Johnny Dean)
Percussion Instruments and their History (London: Kahn & Averill, 1993) ISBN 978-1-871082-36-4
Percussion Instruments and their History (London: Kahn & Averill, 2006) ISBN 978-0-933224-61-2
So having Studied and Learnt from a man like this, (I collect Percussion Instruments along with Other Types of Instrument) you can understand "Why" having a Recording Engineer question me about them was so surprising.
The thing is.
They Both Sound Like Gongs!
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a Tam Tam as "A large metal gong, spec. one of a Chinese kind which lacks a definite pitch."
The Domed Gong has a more Fundamental and Distinct Pitch and Shorter Decay, whereas the Tam Tam has no Distinct Pitch, although the Absolute Truth is, Size Does Impose a Form of Pitch.
The Domed Gong "Sounds Majestic and Exotic" whereas the Tam Tam has a Greater Dynamic Range and in Particular can Ring Through in Crash Sound even with a Full Orchestra and can Ring on for Minutes, so more of "An Effect".
The Gong is "Inherently Musical" to the Western Ear, whereas the Tam Tam has more of a "Noise Like Sonic Personality". It Produces a large number of Inharmonic Partials by Virtue of its Design This is "Why" no Definite Pitch can be Determined.
The thing is, anyone who heard either Instrument would say, "Its A Gong" and That's How you Mic Them!
So I asked the Engineer "Who Actually Invented the Gong?" He didn't know, so I explained to him that it was actually the Chinese.
I asked him "What do the Chinese who Invented the Instrument, themselves Call the Instrument in Question, that you call a "Tam Tam"?" Again he didn't know, so I explained that they called it a "Gong".
What is the difference we are talking about here I asked? Again he didn't know, so I explained that the difference is in the "Type of Gong". What he would call a "Gong" features a Domed Bell in the Centre, and what he would call a "Tam Tam" has a Flat Centre with NO Domed Bell.
There were all Large Gongs involved in this Piece of Music, so I said to him, whether you prefer to call it a "Gong" or you know it as a "Tam Tam", trust me that if it Looks like a "Gong", if it is Played like a "Gong", and if it Sounds Exactly like a "Gong" it actually is a "Gong"!
Most especially so if the people who Actually Invented the Instrument in the first place.
Originally Referred to it as a "Gong"!
If you "Mic It Up" the way you would a "Gong", all with be fine, I reassured him, (which was of course, what he really needed to know), and exactly what I had told him in the first place, but which he had questioned.
Then came the inexorably inevitable question from him. "Why do people call it a "Tam Tam" then?" Which Prompted the Immediate Answer "200 Years Ago, Europeans who enjoy Collecting Things (Even Countries), like to Make Lists, Give Titles and Apply Distinct Classifications to Various Types of the Similar Things, to Differentiate the Small Differences between them."
"So 200 Years ago, in Europe, a Deliberate Attempt was made to Completely Classify and Differentiate between All the Instruments of the Orchestra, to aid Composers in making their Sonic Intentions Better Understood. To Aid Conductors in Better Interpreting their Music, and to Aid Musicians as to the Clear, Practical Implementation of their Tasks. It is a Purely European Imposition of Names upon Musical Instruments whose Pedigree Derive No Historical and World Wide View of such in their Countries of Origin."
Then I asked him "Do you think that if you Invented a Musical Instrument, you should be Rightly Entitled to Give the Instrument its Name?"
"Of Course" he replied. I Answered "Well the Chinese who Originally Invented this Instrument, Originally Called it a Gong, and still do so Today in much of that Part of the World. So you are Safe in thinking of the Instrument, as a "Gong!"
The Need for Standardisation.
The Focus upon Minutiae and Drive for Distinct Classifications.
Is Symptomatic and Indicative of Western Cultural Influence, that Inventors and Originators Lack.
When you understand Who, Why and How the Banjo was Invented. And Understand All the Many Related Derivatives that Hybridised Multiple Existing Instruments to Produce New Cross Over Forms of Musical Instrument.
It is easy to understand Who, Why and How the Minutiae that is the Concern of this Thread Occurred. But Having a Wider Grasp of History, Of the Social and Economic Factors Involved, of the Cultures Impact of Migration and the Spread of Musical Forms as a Result are Key Factors to Properly Appreciate, as Explained in Earlier Posts.
A Very Happy Easter!
Many Ukes also follow the mando scheme. Being a guitar player, I moved my ukes' dots.
Ukuleles are discussed in the Link above.
My Son, his wife and two friends, have recently returned from Madeira.
The Family of one of their friends has always lived there, and so its where his friend originated from.
The Island is a Portuguese Archipelago, and a Group of Cabinetmakers from Madeira and Cape Verde left there to Travel the World about 125 Years ago.
Augusto Dias, Manuel Nunes, and Jose do Espirito Santo eventually settled on the Hawaiian Islands and started a Workshop in Honolulu making and selling the “Machete de braga”.
The “Machete" used Metal Strings and was an Instrument that had been brought to the Islands by Portuguese Immigrants. The Hawaiian People loved the Instrument, took to it straight away, and it quickly evolved into what we know today as "The Ukulele".
"The Ukulele" is a member of the "Lute Family of Instruments".
It's an Instrument that Originated in one part of the world, and became adopted by and further developed in another.
In much the same manner as which the Guitar Originated in one Continent of the world, and became adopted by and further developed on another Continent.
Apart from the Three Noted Nose Flute, (The Four Noted Nose Flute is the Most Ancient Instrument Known to Humankind, so an even more basic Form), Native Hawaiian Music featured Simple Percussion Instruments Alone.
As far as we know, the “Machete de braga” was the First Melodic Instrument the Hawaiian's had ever encountered. It's Sound totally fascinated them, and thus with the help of the Madeira Cabinet Makers, the people Bought and Played it and the Instrument Developed into the "Ukulele". A name one theory purports it got as the Players Hands on the Fingerboard, reminded them of "Jumping Fleas" a literal translation.
However, Queen Lili'uokalani, the last Hawaiian Monarch, stated that the name "Ukulele" means “the gift that came here” from the Hawaiian words uku (gift or reward) and lele (to come), an idea not sustained by Authoritative Dictionary Explanations of the History of the Word. The King of the Island, David Kalakaua was very Musical, he was a friend of Augusto Dias and so quickly became an Avid Enthusiast of the Instrument. Endorsements don't come any better than That! But Kalakaua encouraged it's use to promote a Counter Culture to help resist incoming Zealous Missionary Endeavours upon the Island, he felt were a Threat.
"The Machete" was slightly Re-Designed made now with local Koa Wood, with a Change to its Tuning which made it Easier to Learn to Play. These are the Essential Differences that Differentiate the Instruments along today with its Softer Strings. "The Cavaquinho" is another European Instrument, thought of as the Portuguese Mainland name for "The Machete", whose Ancient Origins seem to have come from Biscay in Spain, and Earlier still, from the Celts in Gallaeci. The Guitarro, Timple and Tiple (Spanish for Treble) are other Similar Instruments. The Tuning of the "The Cavaquinho" was D-A-B-E, and typical of Spain, from the Guitar Family of Instruments, and it's easy to see how that D-A-B-E could become D-G-B-E, but "The Cavaquinho" enjoys amazing similarities to the “Machete de braga”.
According to Published Authorities in Honolulu memorialised in 1915. Angeline Nunes and A.A. Santos maintain that Tuning as was Tradition for the 19th century "Machete" D-G-B-D. Furthermore they described the Madeiran Tuning as being the "Correct Tuning" for The Ukelele. C6 or D6 Tuning eventually became a Hot Controversy as the Ukulele later became a Popular Instrument in Pacific Western America and Atlantic America, Canada and Europe. Both sides that argue about this should be happy to see the other side be proven entirely wrong. Even though both C and D Tuning are known to Slightly Predate the Publication. That they too are also proven wrong according to the 1915 Tutor is perhaps the Balancing of the Scales of Justice or just an Inconvenient Truth. To my mind the truth is these Popular Tunings Prompted what was seen at the time as the "Necessity of the Assertion of Tradition" as it was worryingly being Superseded. But Unless Die Hard Advocates are in Possession of Material Evidence of Documentation that Precedes 1915, they both seem to have a Problem with their Theories, as to Proving Definitively who is Right!
I believe it to be as Described without Documentary Evidence to the Contrary but that leaves far too much that is Failed to be Taken Into Account. One of the Beauties of the Ukulele, is that it easily lends it self to Different Tunings. An advantage this affords is that its Tuning can be quickly Tailored, and Customised to the Demands of any Particular Song. In Point of Fact, this feature of Customising Ukulele Tunings was SO Prevalent, and Widespread, that if you Study Early Song Sheets that feature Ukulele Chords. You will find that All the Chord Tablature of the Time, Often Preceded the Song with Specific Advice on WHICH Tuning to use for that Particular Song. This really gives the Game Away. A Traditional Tuning had been Transcended by the Advantage of Employing Multiple Tunings according to the Music at Hand. The Ukulele had become so ubiquitous that it was used in a Growing Variety of Different Modes. The Other Side of this Coin however, was that it's Cheapness, Ease to Learn and Play, and Popularity meant that it increasing became seen as a Populist Toy. Not a Serious Musical Instrument. Thus, became a Victim of its Own Success. Particularly as Virtuoso Instrumentalists of the Banjo, Tenor Guitar and the Wide Compass Guitar in Particular became Popular, especially as it became Amplified and seen as a Lead Instrument of the Day.
There are many Variants of the Ukulele as discussed in the Link featured in my Original Post. Many Hybrid Musical Instruments such as the Guitalele, (Guitarlele), Banjo Ukulele, (Banjolele, invented in 1917 by Hawaii-born Alvin Keech), Harp Ukulele, Lap Steel Ukulele, Mandolin Banjo's and many types of Small Ukulele Sized Instruments featuring Mandolin Like Eight Strings in Four Courses that hail from various parts of the World, each with their differing Names. The Taropatch is another Eight String Four Course Instrument derived from a Related Earlier Instrument, and there are Others with Five Strings, the list seems endless of the many Variants. But although they appear to come from Various Continents, from the Locations they Appear in, it is clear that Spanish and Portuguese Adventurers brought these Instruments in some Form or Another, and/or the Native Residents Locally Evolved, Further New Instruments in Forms straightforwardly Derived From Them.
Although The Baritone Ukulele is a Mainland American Evolution and does not proceed from the Hawaii Islands. There are none the less, Basically Six Different Types of Ukulele, and their Combined Musical Compass or Range in Pitch, Supersedes that of the Classical Guitar at both ends of the Spectrum.
All things being considered, One Classical Guitar almost Completely Covers the Range of All these Six Instruments taken Together. Is this a little considered Additional Reason for the Universal Supremacy of the Guitar as a Popular Instrument? I believe it is so.
None the less the Easy to Learn and play Ukulele was in Hot Demand from People attending the Long Panama Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco in 1915, from American Servicemen returning from Hawaii, and at Various Points from the Early Part of the Last Century right to the Middle of it and Once Again even Today.
Its Popularity Soared like a Bird and Sank like a Stone, through the last Century as Musical Fashions Chopped and Changed and Came and Went like the Massive Upheavals in the World Around, and the Massed Migrations of Peoples in a World that had become Increasingly Difficult to Live In and Folk were Laying their Lives on the Line to do Something about that Problem of Global Conflict.
Economically, the same can be said of Challenging Recent Years and Once Again we Note the Insatiable Rise in Popularity of this Cheap, Simple Instrument, in Locations All Around the World. Just Last Night I read in my Local Paper and Saw a Picture of Folks of All Ages Learning the Ukulele in Groups for £5 a Lesson.
Learning and Playing Together is a rediscovery of the Spirit of Community of Many, Many Decades Ago. Today, so often we have a Fragmented Society, where people Live Together in Close Proximity, without ever Knowing Each Other or Being Involved Together in any Community Activity.
We have Proximity Without Community. Years Ago Community Orchestras featuring many Instruments of the Same Type (and many of the Instruments previously mentioned were involved) brought People Together, Enriched Their Lives Personally, and Strengthened Communities Throughout the World.
If you Study The Guitars made by Stradivarius, although they lack Dot Markers, the Wood of the Bodies Top Enjoins Joins the Traditional Darker Wood of the Rest of the Fretboard at the 8th, 9th and 10th Fret, so appears there's No Set Pattern, given that being an Easy Way to Spot which Fret you are at on the Higher Section of the Neck. However, Stradivari was Continually trying to Improve his Instruments, so tended to Make Small Changes in an Evolutionary Manner to Detect Sonic Differences. I would suspect there's no more to it than that. Sound and Stability.
Many Early Pure Instruments of the Types I discussed above, as well as many of the Hybrid Instruments, feature Dots at the 3rd, 5th, and 7th Fret and many also add the 10th Fret Dot.
These were very often Small, Cheap, Easier to Make, Learn and Play Instruments, that at an Era of Geographical Exploration and Discovery, Transcontinental Travel took these Conventions All Around the then Known World, launching from the Continent of Europe.
So if you can see where I'm going with this. Their Transference onto Newly Developed Instruments, like the Banjo and its Variants including some New Guitar Builds should not be at all Surprising. My Personal Belief, (and I don't believe anyone's Complex Theories can provide Proof to the Contrary), would be that this is the Authentic Reason for the 10th Fret Tradition with these Particular Instruments. Including many Early Guitars Produced in Factories that also made large numbers of these Many Other Smaller Instruments with similar Cosmetic Aesthetics, during the same Eras as their Particular Heydays in Fashion.
The Note C would be seen by Banjo Players in Particular as a Pivotal Point on their Fretboard, and many Players of other Instruments too. It's a perfectly logical Key Point of the Banjo Natural Scale that also locates Common Relative Chords Easily.
The Tenor Banjo, first fabricated by Chicago's J.B. Schall very early in the Last Century was based upon Designs by Professor Louis Stepner, a Virtuoso Mandolin Player. And was Originally Marketed as a Cross Over Instrument to Mandolin Players.
As Musical Fashions came and went, Travelling Musicians adapted to New Crazes to Stay in Work and Meet Popular Demand for New Music. The Tango being just One Example that Encouraged Further Hybrid Crossovers by Such Makers as Schall. One Anomaly of the Tenor Banjo was that it featured a Higher Pitch instead of Routinely Conforming to the Standard Line in Classical Voices and Musical Instruments of Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass. So its "Title" doesn't really make Traditional Musical Sense in the Classic Mode of Thinking as you would expect it to be Lower in Pitch and Tonality. However, it was a New Lead Instrument. Its advantage was it could be Easily Adapted to by Viola Players and those Used to Symmetrically Tuned Instruments i.e. with Fifths between the Consecutive Strings.
With such Banjo's, when they Include Double Dots at the 17th, 12th and 7th Frets as well, it even looks good to Guitar Players, so some Guitars feature Banjo influenced Multiple Double Dots plus Single Dots at Multiple Positions, but most often at the Regular Guitar Positions that have Emerged and are Established Today as Standards. From the Designers of the Popular Traditional Guitars we Know and Love Today, Aesthetic Point of View, there is Another Issue Entirely. In The World at That Time, Accurate Symmetric Shapes are Broadly Considered to be "Correct". Lack of Symmetry would be Considered "Wrong" or Poor Design.
So having a Clearly Marked 12th fret at the Octave and Double Blank Frets Either Side would be Symmetric, and Well Balanced from an Aesthetic Point of View. This Aesthetic, at the 12 the Fret and Beyond is of course in Most Designs, (but not all, especially where Gibson Block Markers are concerned), Directly Echoed by the Lack of Dot Placements at the same point from the Nut of the Guitar to the 3rd Fret.
It Balances the Overall Design Out Perfectly, and the Player enjoins the Second Octave in Entirely the Same Manner, in which he Played the First. What could be More Sensible than that?
It Smooth's Out the Overall Layout of a Guitar to make it More Readily Comprehendible through an Era when the Virtuoso Guitar Soloist was an Iconic, Heroic Figure.
With Lead Guitars Approaching and Reaching the Two Octave Neck and the Instrument Compass increasing to a Full Total of Four Octaves in Cases.
The History of Most Musical Instruments involves Developing Projection, Improving Tone and Increasing the Range of Compass.
The Positions of Dots, Directly Reflect this Axiomatic Truth.
When Modern Guitar Players have No Dots to Follow on their Fingerboard but get a Solo, they Inevitably and by Default Become Influenced by the Mediterranean Roots of their Instrument.
Totally Confused by this State of Affairs, they Play like a Cross Between a Guitarist, Bouzouki, Banjo and Mandolin Player.
Frank Vignola with the Incredible Organist Joey DeFrancesco (Sicilian by Descent) & Trio :)
Here's What you Get when Blocks Are Present in the Symmetric Position and a Further Wooden Block is added to the Inside of the Instrument.
The Pulling of Faces and Odd Body Positions.
Paul McCartney talking about Ukuleles.
And Wonderful Joe Brown.
Have a Happy Easter Everybody :)