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Old 08-06-2018, 05:08 PM
funkapus funkapus is offline
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Default The "Rev. Gary Davis" C7 -- is there any hope?

I have a question that relates mainly to my morale.

I call this chord shape the "Rev. Gary Davis" C7 because that's the context in which I've been taught it, by a variety of instructors. It was used a lot by RGD, and seemingly it comes up whenever someone wants to teach me a RGD song.

It's a moveable chord involving all six strings -- that is, all six strings are fretted. There is no barre. The chord is 332313. It's formed by first using your four fingers to form a common C7 shape, with index and middle fingers used on the 2nd and 4th strings like an Am7, ring finger on the 3rd string 3rd fret, and pinky on the 1st string 3rd fret. That's not an uncommon C7 at all. But then, one wraps one's thumb around from the top, and catches the 6th and 5th strings in the third fret.

You can see Stefan Grossman doing it up the neck around the 0:18 mark of this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqyGM36lXiU

If you're familiar with this fingering and use it from time to time, I'm hoping you can tell me whether it seemed like your hand just wasn't big enough when you started trying it, and what changed, and how you changed it.

I mean, once upon a time I couldn't make barre chords, or couldn't wrap my thumb around to catch an F in an F chord or the F# in a D/F#; and now I can, if clumsily. So on that basis, one might think that if I kept at this, eventually I'd get it. After all, other people have. But it seems *so hard* to wrap that thumb around, given that I'm doing so in the 3rd fret rather than the 1st (as in the case of the F), let alone catching two strings. I'd love to compare my left hand size/finger lengths to folks who make this chord, to find someone with a smaller hand/shorter fingers than I have who does it; that would be encouraging. Given that that's not so feasible online, I wonder if your hand/fingers seemed too small too when you started with this fingering. Is this really going to come if I keep at it?
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Old 08-06-2018, 05:36 PM
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rick-slo rick-slo is offline
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In the video not every note played cleanly (some muted notes) which helps some. A V shaped neck helps for thumb wrapping compared to a C shaped neck.
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Old 08-06-2018, 08:10 PM
Mr. Jelly Mr. Jelly is offline
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You may have to learn a work around. RGD and Grossman have long fingers. Not everyone can play all the chords. That's life.
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Old 08-07-2018, 04:11 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by funkapus View Post
You can see Stefan Grossman doing it up the neck around the 0:18 mark of this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqyGM36lXiU
Well, he's not fretting the 5th string. Thumb is fretting 6th only, because his bass line is 6th and 4th strings. His thumb might well be muting the 5th though.

Personally, I can play the shape relatively easily, even fretting the 5th. I have normal-size hands, maybe even a little small for an adult male, but I can do it on classical neck as well as a steel-string neck (when I say "as well as" I don't mean "as easily as" ). I can't remember a time when I couldn't do it, but I'd bet I wouldn't have been able to as a beginner (that was a long time ago...). Hands - as you've found - do get more flexible the more you practice.

Do you know an RGD tune where all 6 strings are part of the pattern? I don't know that many of his songs, but I'm suspicious that all 6 strings of that shape are really necessary.
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Old 08-07-2018, 05:49 AM
Rocky Dijohn Rocky Dijohn is offline
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This is a wonderful question I too have pondered. I too seem to have smaller hands or thumb/fingers that are not as long as I wish (as someone else on this thread says, "that's life"). I have even wondered if Fred Kelly could fashion an appendage I could wear on my thumb to extend it an make it longer or whether surgery of the web where my thumb meets my hand might give me more length!

Anyway, I cannot fret that A string half way decently coming over the neck. All I can get is a mute on it. Or, if I can do it cleanly, the other notes in the chord will suffer.

I started out as a Travis picker and good old Mere could fret those low E and A strings with his thumb all day long. I think he had really big hands. He was my first challenge at this technique.
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Old 08-07-2018, 05:50 AM
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Funkapus -

Earlier this year I invested in the Ernie Hawkins series of RGD lessons from Stefan Grossman’s site. Ernie's a lot looser in his description of these chords and he states pretty clearly that the Rev. didn’t play all six strings; he would often vary the pattern with each playing.

As I keep working on these songs, I find there are a several things that bring me closer to the style. The first, of course, is the syncopation. Gary Davis’ music has a heavy ragtime\minstrel influence. I don’t know the technical term for his syncopation, but it is almost on the verge of a stutter.

Then, in his chording, he puts in unique notes - that’s of course, why you started the topic.

Third, his songs are very verbal (again, pardon me for not knowing the actual term). A breakthrough for me occurred when learning, “Sally, where’d you get your liquor from” when I realized the syncopation and the music needed to be played as spoken syllables. That’s how he gets the music to bounce along. It’s partly a minstrel dance.

If I was pretentious (and a real jerk) , I might call the RGD style a little sloppy, but it was anything but that. It is very expressive music; it’s a style that makes the instrument speak and preach to you. It could be played clinically, with regular beats and proper chords, but everything he played came from deep within. Ernie Hawkins makes it a point of including original recordings as a preface to each lesson implying that you can only learn his style by listening to the Reverend and his message.

Isn’t it interesting how influential RGD was in the lives of his students? He was not only a musical mentor, but a spiritual mentor to these kids. Stefan Grossman has even published an audio of some Gary Davis sermons. He touched many people on a deep, deep level. That, to me, is the secret of his playing. Go deep within and let your spirit cry out - not an easy goal to achieve.

Best,

Rick
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Last edited by srick; 08-07-2018 at 07:09 AM.
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Old 08-07-2018, 06:50 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rocky Dijohn View Post
Anyway, I cannot fret that A string half way decently coming over the neck.
Right. But you hardly ever need to, that was my point. I would be very interested to find a tune where you need to fret the A string in that way. (I'm not saying they don't exist, I've just not found one. Yet.)
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Old 08-07-2018, 07:34 AM
mattyc71 mattyc71 is offline
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Hi Funkapus,
I recently learned this lesson the hard way, trying to copy Eric Clapton's unplugged version of Old Love. It looks like EC's fingers are about a foot long. :/ So I figured out my own way to do it, which I hope to have down in just another year or so.

I'm guessing that all of the greats, to some extent, just do what comes natural to them. Why shouldn't we? Good luck on your journey!
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Old 08-07-2018, 08:37 AM
MC5C MC5C is offline
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Thanks for a new chord shape - I never once thought of doing that.
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Old 08-07-2018, 10:21 AM
mattbn73 mattbn73 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonPR View Post
Well, he's not fretting the 5th string. Thumb is fretting 6th only, because his bass line is 6th and 4th strings.
that's it.

I have stumps for fingers and can't really fret over the top with my whole thumb, but I can still get top string notes over the top. When I stop to analyze it, it's actually the fat on the bottom of my thumb.

He may be muting 5th string with the one that's freeing 4th string (2nd finger?). Would need to rewatch...

Last edited by mattbn73; 08-07-2018 at 10:28 AM.
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Old 08-07-2018, 10:27 AM
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RRuskin RRuskin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonPR View Post
Well, he's not fretting the 5th string. Thumb is fretting 6th only, because his bass line is 6th and 4th strings. His thumb might well be muting the 5th though...
..Do you know an RGD tune where all 6 strings are part of the pattern? I don't know that many of his songs, but I'm suspicious that all 6 strings of that shape are really necessary.
1. He's fretting and playing all of the fretted notes in this chord. 2. "Buck Dance" is one of the tunes in which this happens. 3. "Pattern" is not a term I would use to characterize Rev. Davis's playing.
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Old 08-08-2018, 07:54 AM
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Toby Walker Toby Walker is offline
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Davis had fairly large hands and most of the time played those Gibsons with a narrow nut width and a slim neck. I also believe that he had broken his wrist, which threw off his axis and may explain why he was able to play some of those chords.

Do what srick suggested: get into the spirit of his playing. I would also suggest finding alternate ways of playing those chords that will do the job.
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Old 08-08-2018, 10:33 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RRuskin View Post
1. He's fretting and playing all of the fretted notes in this chord.
In that specific example, I don't hear him playing the 5th string. (I guess he might still be fretting it.)
Quote:
Originally Posted by RRuskin View Post
2. "Buck Dance" is one of the tunes in which this happens.
Thanks. (You mean Buck Dance not Buck Rag? Just checking....)
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Last edited by JonPR; 08-08-2018 at 10:44 AM.
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Old 08-08-2018, 11:42 PM
tdq tdq is offline
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I had a look at that and can't manage it - but I can manage using my third finger to hold down both the 5th and 6th together - perhaps try that?

I'm a Rev fan, but never really looked too closely at his fingering - I'm happy with "sounds like" and "close enough".
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Old 08-09-2018, 02:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonPR View Post
In that specific example, I don't hear him playing the 5th string. (I guess he might still be fretting it.)
Thanks. (You mean Buck Dance not Buck Rag? Just checking....)
The YouTube recording I just listened to doesn't have the 5th string C in it. He did play it when he taught it to me.
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