#1
 For years I've been interested in frailing or clawhammer, where the fingerpicked melody is played with finger downstrokes rather than upstrokes, but I've never stuck with it. Then, motivated mostly by curiosity about the sound, I modded my Republic Miniolian to take nylon strings:



The main mod was the tailpiece, to increase the string break angle over the saddle. The hole in the coverplate was already there from an earlier mod to install a strat SC pickup when it had steel strings.  

The neck is wide enough to be comfortable with nylon strings, about 1 7/8", with a fairly flat fretboard radius.. The sound is loud and punchy, somewhere in the territory bounded by steel string resos, flamenco guitars and gourd banjos. It has turned out to be really nice for frailing, and while my playing is still pretty rough, it is certainly better than it was a few months back. I'm not really doing it banjo style, more like substituting a downstroke for an upstroke in standard fingerpicking, but is certainly feels different when playing, and the timing comes out a bit different, with opportunities for quick double notes as down-up. I can switch fairly seamlessly from downstrokes to typical upstrokes, and the feel of the melody shifts a bit.

Is anyone else doing this kind of thing, or put nylon strings on a reso?
#2
Never heard of it, honestly. So you're striking the string with the nail side of the finger?

What's the benefit or purpose? Is it mostly a tonal thing?

It's an odd choice, since the hand and fingers definitely have both more precise and more powerful muscle control in the contraction direction.

Do your toilets flush in the wrong direction too?
My God, it's full of stars!
#3
It's a technique commonly used by old-time banjo players, where the string is struck with the back of the nail in a downstroke. IIRC (and this might be wrong), it originates from the way in which some African string instruments are played, and according to a discussion I had on Usenet years ago, it can produce a stronger attack the the more commonly used upstroke. Here's a banjo example, Steve Martin:



That is all downstrokes.

It is a lot less common on guitar, but this is Molly Tuttle demonstrating the method:



Molly is using a banjo-like style, a hypnotic style that I really like. The way mine is evolving it isn't much different from conventional picking, but it has much different feel when you're playing it. I first got interested in backstrokes while trying to emulate bluegrass flatpicking styles:



Our toilets flush clockwise.
#4
Ah I missed where you said clawhammer in the first lost, that's at least a name I've heard before.

I really like the attack Molly gets in that video you posted, so I guess I can see the appeal.

I've used some kind of variant of this technique in certain parts of fingerpicking songs before, usually just to get some extra percussion or attack, but I'm pretty unfamiliar with bluegrass/banjo music so I've never really encountered it as a playing style.
My God, it's full of stars!
#5
Quote by Dreadnought  Do your toilets flush in the wrong direction too?

Only if you crap directly into an ocean.......  It works the same in South America as well......can I get an "OLE"?   
Last edited by Captaincranky at May 13, 2017,
#6
Didn't realize using the back of the fingernail for picking had a name.

I do it sometimes, even on electrics. Especially when I'm using pick & fingerstyle hyrbrid playing.
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#7
Quote by Dreadnought

Do your toilets flush in the wrong direction too?

I'm further south than Tony, and our toilets flush upwards, instead of down like yours.   

Frailing or clawhammer. Yep, Bum ditty, Bum ditty.

The melody note is struck first with the finger nail , then the brush down of chord, then the thumb pulls the drone.
The thumb tends to slap the skin before the pull, which gives a rhythmic thump.
Left hand Hammer ons then give the illusion of faster picking.

There are a lot of variations, like drop thumb, knockdown etc.
It basically has elements of melody, harmony, rhythm and percussion all combined in various degrees.

It is a little different on Guitar, there is no percussive skin slap, and the Guitar is not usually tuned re entrant (high tuned drone on bottom, standard G)

There is a bit more to it than just playing with the back of your finger nail.

For Banjo, there are two main types. The Blue Grass players use resonator closed backs, and the Claw hammer old timers use open back non reso.

My partner plays Banjo with clawhammer, on an open back, mainly old Appalachian tunes and Cripple Creek stuff. Awsome to watch and listen to her.

The technique works well on a standard re entrant tuned Ukulele too.

Tony Done 
Have you tried taking your bottom E off, and replacing it with a high E , pulled up to G, depending on your open tuning.
I strung up an old electric this way. Took of the low E. Replaced the A string with a high E pulled up to G. Tuned the rest D, G, B, D
Standard Banjo. My missus played this to get her technique down while waiting for her Banjo to arrive from the States.
#8
Vreid 

I've tried re-entrant tuning occasionally, but more for a Scruggs style or slide  than frailing. 

This is in a re-entrant tuning:

http://www.soundclick.com/html5/v3/player.cfm?type=single&songid=9232065&q=hi&newref=1

As I mentioned, the style I'm trying now is evolving into something more closely related to conventional fingerpicking and flatpicking emulation than banjo, but I might try putting a high 6th on the reso and tuning to opening G.

For anyone interested, Molly is using Orkney tuning , CGDgcd, in that vid.
#9
Quote by Tony Done

For anyone interested, Molly is using Orkney tuning , CGDgcd, in that vid.

Orkneys are also known as Killer Wails. 
#11
I tried to stir all  this disparate trivia into one coherent soup, so to speak. Regrettably, I couldn't.

So for me, "the Orkneys", will always be a group of islands, off the coast of Scotland:





Well, "Molly", (I think?), is a Scottish name, so maybe that's where she learned to tune her guitar.

And here's Loreena McKennitt with a story about a tragic young love among the "Standing Stones" of the Orkney Islands.



No frailing though. She plays the harp, and I think that's mostly  in strokes... (You would have to lay the harp on its back and straddle it, then you could call them "upstrokes"). 
Last edited by Captaincranky at May 17, 2017,
#12
Captaincranky 

I couldn't find out where  Orkney tuning got its name, but maybe it is associated with the kind of music they play to the sheep up there.
The result for Molly wasn't much better, the Gaelic diminutive of Mary, a Hebrew name, seems to be the answer.

Your harp playing discussion doesn't conjure up a pretty picture, but the music was OK nevertheless.
#13
Tony Done  There's a backstory for me personally with the harp. I am truly fond  of Ms McKennitt's music. At any rate, a nice Irish girl who plays the harp, is pretty much a cliche. I had a neighbor who was truly invested in his Irish "roots". One might say maniacal even.Years after they moved off the block, I had occasion to catch up with them at their new house. I walked into the living room, and there it was, a harp.   The eldest daughter, (I'm speculating), was having harping lessons "suggested to her".

OK, so here's Ms.Mckennitt and her Celtic string band, live from the Alhambra.


Loreena tends to be a twitch verbose between cuts, but she means well. Her vocals are at their blood curdling, edgy best, by the time she hits track 7, "The Bonny Swans".

Oh, and no dead poet's rhyme is sacred, Yeats, Tennyson, it all gets put to music... 

EDIT: Yes, that is a hurdy gurdy. I have this DVD, and I really should make time to fire it up in 700 watts of multi-channel splendor.
Last edited by Captaincranky at May 17, 2017,
#14
From what I can find, Orkney tuning was named by  Steve Baughman.

He's got a site and a some interesting YouTube vids.
#15
Captaincranky 

Vid blocked here, but I did look up a few vids of modern harp music. There was one I remember from years ago, but I can't recall the tile, the sub-title was something like "Don't try this at home."  Bogota has a few good busker groups that included harp, as it is a traditional Andean instrument;  my dad was a fan of Los Paraguayos.

Vreid 

Yeah, Steve Baughman seems to be the main exponent of frailing and Orkney tuning, I have one of his books. If he did invent the name, I wonder why he chose it? Maybe something to do with a song, like Vestapol and Spanish for open D and open G.
#16
Quote by Tony Done
Captaincranky ...[ ]...Vid blocked here, but I did look up a few vids of modern harp music. There was one I remember from years ago, but I can't recall the tile, the sub-title was something like "Don't try this at home."  Bogota has a few good busker groups that included harp, as it is a traditional Andean instrument;  my dad was a fan of Los Paraguayos....[ ]....
The video is up under the name "George Vidakis. So it's originating in Greece? Here's sample of the alphabet he's using: (γεννημένη στις 17 Φεβρουαρίου 1957) είναι μία Καναδή τραγουδίστρια, συνθέτης, αρπίστρια και πιανίστρια γνωστή για την δημιουργία, εγγραφή και παρουσίαση διεθνούς μουσικής με Κέλτικους και Ανατολίτικους ήχους. Επίσης η Mc Kennitt" Perhaps you recognize it?

At any rate here's two other versions from ..., god knows where:




Perhaps you'll have better luck with these.

If you genuinely liked the one track you did manage to hear, it's likely worth grabbing the DVD, sight unheard. It has two sound tracks, 5ch ? AAC, and PCM stereo.....and yes....a hurdy gurdy. Do let me know if either of these links survive the long and arduous journey to Botany Bay...

The upper video is short and the sound is out of sync..

BTW, I thought the Peruvians were the ones who made ukuleles out of Armadillo shells. No? Sometimes I get my folklore all confused...
Last edited by Captaincranky at May 17, 2017,
#17
Captaincranky 

Thanks, the first one is OK, but the second one is blocked. A quick Google translation of a bit of the text revealed that it is indeed Greek. The instruments are really interesting. I briefly spotted bagpipes, which I guess were gaita, given the location. And that reminded me of this, by Carlos Nunez. He's a pretty good showman, reminds me of cross between Andre Rieu and Paco de Lucia:

#18
Loreena McKennitt is great
My God, it's full of stars!
#20
Quote by Tony Done
...[ ]...Funny, I had never heard of her that I can recall before this thread, but I generally tend to listen more "folksy" stuff in world music.
And look how much reverse engineering had to be done to Ravel's "Bolero", to make it such. I mean, the whole point of the piece, is continually restating the melody along with adding instruments and crescendo from an entire symphony orchestra until "orgasm" is achieved. If you go to the record store, you'll find it, (or should find it), in "classical", not "world music".

Quote by Tony Done
Doncha like Carlos' tomcat emulations?  
The reason bagpipes are played at funerals, is because the dead can't be offended by them.

One member of Ms.McKennitt's band does play these: STEAFAN HANNIGAN :Uilleann Pipes But you don't have to blow those up, you use an, "underarm fart motion", to inflate them. They are pretty well back in the mix though. I suppose you could say, "the tomcats are still fighting, but now they're a few blocks away.
Last edited by Captaincranky at May 17, 2017,
#21
Captaincranky 

True enough, "Bolero" is a classical piece, but I came across that version from a passing interest in the different kinds of bagpipes. I don't know much about his repertoire, but he also plays "Concierto de Aranjuez", my main criticiism is that his versions are a bit too short to do them justice. I suppose it takes a lot of wind to keep those things going.

Speaking of Uilleann ("elbow") pipes, one of the well-recognised folk performers when I was young was Finbar Furey, a master of the Irish pipes. I can't understand why this hasn't had more views:



The lament that starts at 4:20 is just about the saddest tune I know.

I love Youtube.
#22
Tony Done  My definition of "world music", is quite a bit looser than yours. . But IMO, it's better if you play it on a synth, with an opera singer up front. Can't figure out if this is a jig or a hornpipe. It's might be both as the time signature seems to go back and forth between 6/8 & 4/4... (it's likely 4/4, but the trips on top are a bit misleading at times).



(Don't forget to set all the gain controls on "eleven"). Brace yourself.. 

As for Mr. Furey, his virtuosity is undeniable, but I can also understand what it hasn't had all that many views. I'm sort of confused about the last 30 seconds or so. The fox starts barking again..? Maybe he's reached fox heaven and is romping though an Elysian field..
Are the drones in the pipes, planned, or a side effect of the process? Or, is the piece modal, and we're setting the drone notes to suit the mode?

I can't I tried to hold this in, but I can't. Thank god the guitar eventually came in. Those pipes at point blank range are a tonality to be reckoned with..The recording quality is excellent, which is confusing due to what you've said about the age of the material.

The saddest tune ever written is, "Danny Boy", (or so I've been told).
Last edited by Captaincranky at May 18, 2017,
#23
Captaincranky 

Oh, I like that, I'm pretty liberal as long as it's folky.

I can't remember what the last movement is about, I think it is a wake for the fox.. Finbar Furey is noted for his ability to use pitch changes on the drones in the same way that we do chordal accompaniment on guitars, using his right forearm to work the levers. One of the other Irish pipe virtuosos, I can't recall who, adds another dimension by changing the pitch of the chanter by stopping the end against his leg. Clever, these Irish lads.

The great highland pipes (the common Scottish ones) don't do it for me, but have a listen to the Northumbrian pipes, also bellows driven.
#24
Oddly, that piece is a cover. The original artist is Gary Moore. (Thin Lizzy). But he is from Belfast, so that counts as "world music, doesn't it?.
Quote by Tony Done
I think it is a wake for the fox..
Oh, an Irish wake, now I get it...
Quote by Tony Done
One of the other Irish pipe virtuosos, I can't recall who, adds another dimension by changing the pitch of the chanter by stopping the end against his leg. Clever, these Irish lads.
Holy shit, you even know the names of the parts of those things!
Quote by Tony Done
The great highland pipes (the common Scottish ones) don't do it for me,

Yeah, for the regulation bagpipes you need about 50 guys in kilts playing "Amazing Grace", for it to be meaningful!

I went to a Loreena McKennitt concert, and met my nurse from cardiac surgery there. She is a lesbian who plays the bagpipes! (Word of God). It seems I've come full circle..
Last edited by Captaincranky at May 18, 2017,