Galax Tunings - A historical perspective

Robin Clark
09/10/11 06:44:26AM

I was wondering if anyone could shed some light on the tunings used by Galax players from a historical perspective?

Having listened to tracks by Bonnie Russell and Jacob Ray Melton I have only heard the standard d,d,d,d tuning used (although Bonnie's recordings are all a little above D#, which could be due to the LPs production (there are many over dubs) rather than the tuning used by the musicians). Out of the 40 or so recordings I've heard, there are no tunes in minor keys, or anything outside the keys of d and g.

Phyllis Gaskin is the earliest player I have found talking about getting to the key of A (minor, or major with a 6+) for some fiddle tunes by lifting the drones to e,e, with a reverse capo. A full tune up to e,e,e,e, would have given A major (ionian) - this should be quite possible on a 26" scale Galax. I've just never heard of the Melton's et al doing so? Yet all the fiddlers they played with would have used the key of A mix, maj, min quite freely through cross-tunings?


There are a number of recordings of "key switch" tunes - where part A is in the key ofG and part B is in the key ofD or visa versa(Flop Eared Mule etc). And this seems to be quite a feature of Melton family Galax playing style.

I'm really interested in finding out about the tunings Galax players used.