Why didn't The Dead tune their guitars when they played live?

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by iaresee, Mar 18, 2015.

  1. iaresee

    iaresee Member

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    Serious question. I'm back filling my jam band knowledge and listening to a lot of Dead these days and...while I do really love 'em...they seem to play slightly out of tune live.

    Was it like a "thing" that they did? Was it a function of not really stopping to switch instruments? Not having techs? Something else?

    Example:



    Beautiful but oh man...that tuning!
     
  2. modulusman

    modulusman Member

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    Because all the hippies that actually liked the band were on acid and didn't care.
     
  3. MrX

    MrX Member

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    ^^^
    This
     
  4. dcbc

    dcbc Member

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    Every video of shows I have seen and tapes I have heard start off with them tuning for at least four or five minutes before they play anything. It just may be that they weren't all that great at tuning.

    /love the Dead
     
  5. iaresee

    iaresee Member

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    That's honestly something I wondered and a totally legit answer. Was hoping someone who was there might comment on whether that was true or not. As a Phish-head there's certainly a similar thing going on live when I see them -- I don't care about the bum notes in the moment.

    In fact, I had this conversation with our singer the other day:

    Singer: How do yall feel about doing "Jesus left Chicago"?

    Me: you cannot pick a phish tune i wouldn't like to play.

    Singer: I think it would fit perfectly into our set. But I'm pretty sure it's not originally a phish tune?

    Me: i know it only as a phish tune. like...until last year i had no idea Rock N' Roll was a Dillon tune.

    Singer: Phish: the greatest cover band in the galaxy

    Me: or...uh...phish fans: too high to care if someone else wrote the tune.
     
  6. lhallam

    lhallam Member

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    Garcia changed his strings before each show and during every break.

    They would often come out, tune up, fiddle with knobs, play a tune or two and sometimes tune up and fiddle some more.

    They didn't usually do this after the break.

    They played in tune more often than not.
     
  7. Sirloin

    Sirloin Supporting Member

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    Hendrix was out of tune a lot of the time
     
  8. iaresee

    iaresee Member

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    I feel like this is contradictory to my live show binge listening experience I've been on for the last two weeks. Maybe give me some top notch live shows to listen to? Guide me a bit? I've been using the Dick's Picks series mainly...
     
  9. smolder

    smolder Gold Supporting Member

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    Everyone tuned by ear or against the piano/organ back then... Until rack systems came along.
     
  10. Schroedinger

    Schroedinger Member

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    Perhaps some of this goes back to their musical traditions too. The jug bands and country blues singers that they cut their teeth on often played out of tune, and rarely with any objective reference to tune by. A=440 wasn't really a thing in most rural music. Going back a few steps further, the african music that led to the jug bands and country blues had a completely different sense of pitch, harmony and rhythm than we're used to. That stuck with a lot of the first-line bluesmen, and maybe by extension with the Dead. "Lightnin' change when Lightnin' wanna change." Lightnin' Hopkins to band.

    Oh yeah- plus, everyone was really really high.
     
  11. TheoDog

    TheoDog Silver Supporting Member

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    Phil is reputed to have perfect pitch, I think.
    All the recordings I have listened to (back to tape trading days) had some tuning in the midst. They would tune to a reference rather than to a strobe. So they tend to be in tune with themselves (except for Donna) and the piano might have suffered from rough travel and dramatic temp swings.
    Bobby was learning to play slide the whole time, so any amount of key turning becomes irrelevant.
     
  12. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    i keep referencing this and wondering why nobody else latched onto it back in the day before stage tuners, but supposedly neil young would set up five conn strobe tuners behind him, each set to one string on the guitar (one for both Es), so he could quickly tune and perfectly.

    if only hendrix and the dead had done this trick, there would be a whole lot better selection of live bootleg tapes today!
     
  13. sfarnell

    sfarnell Gold Supporting Member

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    Before electronic tuning the Dead were in tune as much as any other touring band. There are so many live recordings of the Dead that there's just more evidence of it.

    I remember that during some shows in the early '70s the band would seemingly take 20 minutes to tune up, always to the piano.
     
  14. TeleBlack

    TeleBlack Senior Member

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    They're just making sure everything's exactly perfect.
     
  15. TeleBlack

    TeleBlack Senior Member

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    Yet were the highest grossing live act for many years. Too bad everyone didn't just listen to you and give up.
     
  16. Polynitro

    Polynitro Member

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    maybe its the water ...all bands from sfca area were out of tune.
    listen to big brother and the holding company-even their studio
    releases are a cacophonic disaster of out of tune garbage
     
  17. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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    All that Alembic gear and no Peterson?
     
  18. Kurt L

    Kurt L Member

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    On account of their new name's gonna be "The Just Exactly Perfect Btothers Band..."
     
  19. speedtaco

    speedtaco Member

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    Very insightful, thanks for posting.

    If the Dead are classified as idiots, I would love to hear your other rankings for bands.
     
  20. Pickaxe

    Pickaxe Member

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    This is exactly what I was thinking.
     

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