The song of the week is 'Buffalo Gals' in the key of A, played as an instrumental.
Aubrey Haynie (mandolin break - key of A, fiddle break - key of D, banjo break - key of A, dobro break - key of D, fiddle break - key of A, guitar break - key of D, mandolin break - key of A)
Mike Scott - key of G
Alan Munde (who will be one of the main instructors at Weiser Banjo Camp this coming May) - key of A
Eric Weissberg - key of B
Buffalo Gals is a two-part fiddle tune. Each part is 8 measures long, and is repeated before going on to the next part. This form (2 parts each repeated) is called AABB. 'A' stands for 'A-Part', i.e., first part, and 'B' stands for 'B-Part', i.e., second part.
Since each part is 8 measures long, it takes 32 measures (8x4) to get through a single complete break for Buffalo Gals. (The same is true also for 'Boil The Cabbage Down', 'Soldier's Joy', 'Angeline The Baker', 'Liberty', 'Turkey In The Straw', and 'Old Joe Clark'.) This is twice the length of a single AABB form break for 'Cripple Creek', 'Cluck Old Hen', and 'Shortnin' Bread'. For, in those tunes each part is only 4, instead of 8, measures long.
Both parts of Buffalo Gals use the same chord progression:
This is Prog. Z5 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout.
It takes 8 repetitions of the 4-measure line 1151 to get through a complete AABB form break for Buffalo Gals.
In the key of G: 1 = G, 5 = D
In the key of A: 1 = A, 5 = E
In the key of B: 1 = B, 5 = F#
In the key of C: 1 = C, 5 = G
In the key of D: 1 = D, 5 = A
Starting the Tune
Buffalo Gals is one of the relatively few AABB form fiddle tunes that I prefer not to start with an 8 potato intro at a jam, because the way I usually play the first half measure of my breaks for Buffalo Gals (except for when playing it on the banjo in the keys of C, D, E, and F) is essentially the same as the way I play the first half of each of the 4 measures of an 8 potato intro, thus making it sound unclear where the intro to the break ends and where the intro break begins. So, like on the Mike Scott and Eric Weissberg recordings of Buffalo Gals, I usually start instead with three quarter-note pickups that ascend up to the note that the melody begins with.
These notes are:
5 6 7 leading to 1
sol la ti do
key of G: D E F# G
key of A: E F# G# A
key of Bb: F G A Bb
key of B: F# G# A# B
key of C: G A B C
key of D: A B C# D
key of E; B C# D# E
key of F: C D E F
This same set of pickup notes will work well for starting intro breaks for 'Down The Road', 'Mama Don't Allow', and 'Amazing Grace'.
On the Mike Scott recording, an eighth note pinch/double stop is played before the first of the three quarter-note pickups. I often do this on banjo, but on the other instruments, I change this to a single eighth note. Weissberg also uses on banjo a single eighth note - the first note of the Major Scale, the root note of the 1 chord - before his three quarter-note pickups.
However, if the way you play the first half measure of your intro break for Buffalo Gals differs enough from the way you play your 8 potato intro to make using an 8 potato intro an effective way to start the tune, then you may prefer to kick off Buffalo Gals with an 8 potato intro instead of with a pickup phrase. For examples of 8 potato intros in the keys of G and A for fiddle, mandolin, banjo, and guitar, refer back to the attachments included in the song of the week write-up for Shortnin' Bread:
Buffalo Gals has a fast enough moving melody that one can play a satisfactory beginning-level bluegrass break for it without adding much around the melody. But, because the tune is so repetitive, I can't help but want to vary it up as I go through the phrases that constantly recur in the tune.
I have included in the attachments an example of a pattern I make use of on the instruments I play for adding notes around the melody. I call this the checkmark pattern, because if one were to represent the pattern on a graph, the dots would connect to form checkmarks. (See also the additional attachment labeled as 'Buffalo Gals - graph for the first one-and-a-half measures'.) This pattern is made use of sparingly in various spots in some of the breaks played on recordings of the tune included here.
I use this pattern very often on guitar and mandolin, and to a somewhat lesser extent when playing clawhammer (old-time) style banjo, but to an even lesser extent when playing 3 finger style banjo. Scruggs-style banjo lends itself well to other types of note choices that are determined by a repertoire of various right hand picking patterns (rolls), and clawhammer banjo has its own set of patterns that are characteristic of the clawhammer style, but for banjo players who are curious about how the notes given for the other instruments might fall on the banjo when played in 3 finger style and in clawhammer style, I have included banjo examples of the checkmark pattern applied to the first four measures of Buffalo Gals on the attachment. On banjo, this involves some pretty advanced-level playing relative to the much lower level of difficulty in getting the same combinations of notes on fiddle, mandolin and guitar.
To grasp the system whereby notes are added around the melody using the checkmark pattern, compare the first four measures of the A Part melody for Buffalo Gals with the 'Buffalo Gals - checkmark patterns example' attachment, breaking both of them down into half-measure chunks. (Note: there are more examples of the pattern on this sheet than what would tend to occur in my playing within any four consecutive measures: I use all these moves in my playing, but I don't usually string them all together back to back.) Within each half-measure unit, observe whether the melody is ascending from a lower to a higher note, descending from a higher to a lower note, or remaining on the same note, and observe whether or not the same thing is happening between the note that ends one of the half-measure units and the note that begins the next half-measure unit.
In the first half of measure 1, the melody remains on the same note, but then ascends to a higher note at the beginning of the second half of that measure. In this case, I start with the first melody note, then dip down to a slightly lower note, then return to the note I started with, and then ascend to a note that connects smoothly into the even higher melody note that the second half of the measure starts with.
The same idea applies to the second half of measure 1, though, in that case the melody ascends within that unit, rather than just when moving into the next unit: so the fourth/final note of the checkmark pattern that connects into the first note of measure 2 ends up being the same note as the second/final melody note in the second half of measure 1; the melody note in question is displaced in the process, coming an 8th of a measure later in the checkmark pattern example than where it occurs within the unembellished melody.
In the first half of measure 2, going into the second half of that measure, the melody moves in the opposite direction: descending instead of ascending. In that case, after the starting melody note, I first ascend to a higher note, then return to the starting note, then descend to a note that connects to the even lower next melody note that starts the second half of measure 2: thus, we end up with an upside down checkmark in this case.
On the Alan Munde and Eric Weissberg recordings of Buffalo Gals given here, there are an extra 4 measures played at the end of the tune after the final B-Part. This is called a 'double ending', for it consists of two 2-measure length ending licks played back to back. (Weissberg shortens the last measure of the final B-Part to half of a complete measure, so his four measure double ending starts half a measure earlier than what one would ordinarily expect.)
At bluegrass jams, it is common for a double ending to be played after the final break on AABB form tunes like Buffalo Gals. For an explanation of how double endings work, and for examples of double endings in the keys of G and A for fiddle, mandolin, banjo, and guitar, refer back to the section on double endings and to the attachments in the song of the week write-up for Shortnin' Bread: https://www.idahobluegrassassociation.org/jasons-beginner-jam-blog-2019---2020/category/shortnin-bread
16 songs were played at the jam on last night: 12 from the main list, 3 from the additional songs list, and 1 that is on neither list:
Buffalo Gals - A
Bury Me Beneath The Willow - G
Columbus Stockade Blues - G
Cripple Creek (played twice) - A
Down The Road - B
In The Pines - A
Leaning On The Everlasting Arms - A
A Memory Of You - G
Mountain Dew - A
Soldier's Joy - D
Sweetheart You Done Me Wrong - C
Worried Man Blues - A
Boil The Cabbage Down - A
Turkey In The Straw - G
Your Love Is Like A Flower - G
She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain - A
Jason's Beginner Jam Blog 2019 - 2020
Weekly on Thursdays
Songs regularly called at Bluegrass Jams and links from Jason's "Song of the Week" emails. (from Renee)
in alphabetical order