Double C Tuning - Discussion Forums (2023)

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roywboy - Posted-05/17/2008: 10:46:26

Double C tuning seems to be a favorite by many over regular C and Open C. When I play
in Double C, the G and the G7 chords just do not sound as good as the other C tunings.
I play chords with some melody notes. I have a first class open-back so it is not the banjo.
I am interested in any comments. Thanks!

Double C Tuning - Discussion Forums (11)

Bill Rogers - Posted-05/17/2008: 10:55:14

Double-C is really not a chord-friendly tuning. It's used a lot for fretless playing, which doesn't lend itself to chords either. The chord-based players I've seen, including Walt Koken and Jody Stecher, use standard C tuning, as I do. If you're generally a chord-based player, I'd suggest C tuning for most material; save double-C for tunes that simply work better there.


prossignol - Posted-05/17/2008: 11:00:06

(Video) Ariel Posen discussing his song How Long with Justin! Open C Tuning Guitar Lesson

this is just my opinion, but for what its worth...Most OT/CH style players like double C because its easy to pick out one and two string melody notes rather than chords. most OT songs we play on the banjo may use the chord structure in a song but we rarely play the complete chord, playing in this way makes the double C and double D tunings very usefull for playing notes in the key of C, D, A, or mixolydian or dorian mode of these keys...but I might wait for an answer from Dan Levenson or Old Woodchuck for a better explaination

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Edited by - prossignol on 05/17/2008 11:00:49

janolov - Posted-05/17/2008: 11:04:47

I agree with both of you. The G "chord" does not sound as a chord, because all notes are not present - the B note is missing. I think that most double C (or D with capo) is best when playing single note brushes. Instead of a G chord you play either the open first string or the open third string instead of brushing the full chord (and do the same for F chord and C: play a single not brush). If you really want to focus on chords the standard C tuning (or G tuning) is to prefer.


oldwoodchuckb - Posted-05/17/2008: 11:04:52

I suppose that if you are playing folk siongs and strumming chords the single C tuning would be better, and mean no retuning for the key of G. For melody double C has a lot of advantages over single C, and I've never felt there is any problem with the chords - unless you are into doing a lot of chord-melody inversions.
The G (assuming you are talking about the key of C) works out well at:
with a nice 7th at the 3rd fret 1st string

The 7th note on the open 2nd string means that up the neck work in single C Must involve both the 1st and 2nd string. But I"m not much of a person for chords - they strike me as the guitarists job.

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RJFreeman - Posted-05/17/2008: 11:09:53

Yeah, I agree with Bill. Double C is not good for playing chords. It's great if you play a lot of melody and don't use chords much. I'm a chord based player and tend to use regular C instead of double C. Regular C (or standard G) works much better for singing accompaniment and breaks played out of chord shapes.
I no longer use open C because unless I use a very light guage of string on the 1st, it breaks a lot when tuned that tightly.

Edited by - RJFreeman on 05/17/2008 11:14:25

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chip arnold - Posted-05/17/2008: 12:33:11

I suppose I like C/C D/D best because I learned a lot of D tunes there to begin with. It's true that a 5 chord built on the 2nd fret is lacking one note but as Woodchuck says, there's a nice 7th to be built from the 3rd fret and a 5 can be made from the 5th fret as well. My playing is pretty light on brushes but I often fill holes with what amount to 2-finger rolls over three or four strings. When I do this, I usually make a chord shape under the roll my right hand is doing. In D/D I use the A 7 a lot and the A at the 5th fret a lot too. I also have some funny looking shapes I use to roll out a melodic passage or for a trip from one melody note to the next. If these latter shapes were strummed they'd sound awful but when rolled through, they sound nice. More than once I've noticed a banjo picker watching my left hand then see them trying to play that "chord" with a brush. Anyway, I think it's not hard to get a full sound out of D/D tuning even on the 5 chord..

Take what is given
Give what is taken

Chip Arnold

oldwoodchuckb - Posted-05/17/2008: 12:52:24

I'm not even sure I understand why anyone would find x420 all that difficult a chord position, and it has a built in hammer-on/ pull-off factor with the open string (both notes are in the chord) giving an rather interesting accompaniment of the Bum slur Did dy variety
Try it with Bum and slur on that 3rd string either starting with the 4th fret and pulling off to the 0pen string, or vice versa. Dit would be a strum on the 2nd and 1st string while dy is the 5th string. It's a nice rolling chord sound and goes well with the slur from the 2nd fret to Open 3rd string used with the "F" chord (this is all pre-supposing un-capoed key of C) This gives a pedal point on that 3rd string open that can really punch up a chord backup.
I find block chords over and over rather stultifying. We were listening to a string band album the other night where that was all the banjo players did. We switched albums after 4 tracks.

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You can watch the videos for some Rocket Science Banjo subjects starting here:
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howseth - Posted-05/17/2008: 13:49:15

I love Double C tuning - but it sounds best on my Buckmaster banjo tuned down to 'Double B" which then makes the strings - B ( the low 4th string), F#, B, C#, and 5th string - F#

I use medium gauge strings on such a low tuned banjo (not light gauge) - to prevent mush.

I play single notes, chords, semi chords and I-know-not-what chords, in this tuning. It is my favorite tuning.


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Bill Rogers - Posted-05/17/2008: 15:00:07

Some of us who use more chords go up to the 12th fret and beyond. That makes std C easier becaue the 1st 3 strings are the same in both tunings.


chip arnold - Posted-05/17/2008: 15:20:10

I use both ends of the neck too but I usually leave the 4th string behind at the 5th fret and just make three string chords. The shapes for D/D tuning are different from Std C but they're easy to make. Just like finding the melody in different tunings, the chords become second nature too.

Take what is given
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Chip Arnold

John Gribble - Posted-05/17/2008: 18:17:59

I've never used Double C all that much, although it alows for some lovely drones, almost like a dulcimer. I do miss, though, the open V chord and the leading tone on the second string open.

I do like to play R.D. Lunceford's "Old Slipstone" and Stephen Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More" in Double C.

I've never had a reason to play in open C (I assume gCGCE) on banjo but maybe I'll spend a week or two there, just to see what secrets might lie there. Guitarists Tony Cuff and John Fahey both used tuning similar to it.

John Gribble
Tokyo, Japan

howseth - Posted-05/17/2008: 19:34:26

Open C tuning has a special bright brilliance to the sound. I like it - but do not play as many tunes in it - but again, due to my preference for lower pitch - I prefer to de-tune to open B rather than open C.


oldwoodchuckb - Posted-05/17/2008: 20:29:44

I find the business of having the "same" chord positions work for this that and the other thing rather pointless - I used to do at least four or five high breaks every set - if you are playing with a poor mic and even worse sound system any break you want the audience to hear has to be done up high. I never found any advantage to G tuning positions over the Double C tuning positions. A break is, by it's very nature, usually melodic, or based upon scale runs and it is just as easy to learn the scale of C in Double C tuning as it is to learn it in G tuning. A scale is a scale.
However if that is the sort of thing you are looking for have I got a set of tunings for you:
All are capo 2
gDGDE Key of G
aDADE Key of D
aEADE Key of A Dorian (aka modal)
The top two strings are the same in all three tunings - which means that you only have to learn them once for all 3 keys G, D, and A modal. If you take the capo off you get the Key of C --- along with F which okay, isn't too popular - but you got it if you need it. Now how much would you pay?
You could also say that at least two of those tunings (G and D) are extra good bargains since they can be used for tunes in all four of the common old time modes (Major, Mix, Dorian, & Minor).

Once you start adding 3rds (eg: "B" in the key of G) to the open strings you reduce the modes you can play to Major and Mixo - that's it. When you add 7ths (B in the key of C) to the open strings it makes it very hard to play any tune that calls for a flatted 7th -- like mixolydian mode. So single C tuning really only works well for C Major plus G Major & MIxo. Which is why I find the tuning so useful for tunes that use those relationships (they are actually in D and A but it is the same thing with capo 2 - "Richmond Cotillion" and a number of other similar tunes work beautifully in this tuning.

Rocket Science Banjo, Chapters 1 - 4.6 REVISED and 25 EZ tunes are ready now
You can watch the videos for some Rocket Science Banjo subjects starting here:
Banjo Brad is hosting How To Mold A Mighty Pinky adn other material at

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