I know that there are a few good banjo players here on FOTMD and I'm interested if anyone knows more history about or has played banjo in aAEAE tuning basically to match a cross-tuned fiddle.
I stumbled across the tuning yesterday. last weekend a friend sent me a link to Dwight Diller playing Yew Piney Mountain in gGDGD so I retuned and had a go at catching the tune. Last night another friend said he played the tune on fiddle so I went round to his place and he had the music (not sure whose version?) in the key of A for cross tuned fiddle AEAE. So I said I'd simply re-tune my old banjo to match his fiddle and try and play along. After messing around with the tune for a while I asked what else he could play in cross-tuning. So we set off on Cripple Creek, June Apple, Cluck Old Hen, OJC, Shady Grove, Buffalo Gals and a couple of others. What struck me was how simple it was to find those melodies from this banjo tuning (basically it is the same fingering as fiddle or the top two strings on mandolin with drones behind) and, more interestingly, how the tuning 'worked' for major, minor and mixolidian mode tunes because all the open strings were just root and 5th.
In looking on the internet for information on this tuning I found this on Zeppmusic:
A-minor modal tuningShorty Ralph Reynolds, Want to Go to Cuba But I Can't Go Now ( "Old-Time Banjo in America" ). On sleeve notes for this recording, Art Rosenbaum says that Reynolds learned this archaic tuning, dating from the Spanish American War, from his father.
I'm not sure that the description 'A-minor modal tuning' is really correct as the tuning is neither major or minor? I think it is quite interesting from a traditional dulcimer perspective as I certainly saw opportunities in the tuning because of my experience playing the dulcimer. If I was an Appalachian fiddler and banjo player I think that I would also drift towards a tuning that would be so familiar to me.
Have any of you used this tuning or have any more information about it? As I managed to 'accidently' find aAEAE simply because I was sitting in with a cross-tuned fiddler I'm darn sure that many, many other players would have stumbled on it too (I found one guy on banjo hangout who use it).