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', and 'Old Joe Clark'.) This is twice the length of a single AABB form break for 'Cripple Creek' 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', 'Amazing Grace', 'Goodnight Irene', and 'Light At The River'.
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 recent song of the week write-up for Shortnin' Bread:
The melody of the A-Part of Buffalo Gals uses the first six notes of the Major Scale, and the melody for the B-Part uses all the notes of the Major Scale. In ascending order of pitch, the notes the melody consists of are:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 (= 1 an octave higher)
do re mi fa sol la ti do
Key of A: A B C# D E F# G# A
Key of Bb: Bb C D Eb F G A Bb
Key of B: B C# D# E F# G# A# B
Key of C: C D E F G A B C
Key of D: D E F# G A B C# D
Key of E: E F# G# A B C# D# E
Key of F: F G A Bb C D E F
Key of G: G A B C D E F# G
In my experience, the keys given in bold are the five most common for Buffalo Gals to be played in at jams. Unless someone is singing the song, it is best to avoid calling Buffalo Gals at a jam in keys other than these.
Like in the melodies for many other AABB fiddle tunes, the two halves of each part of Buffalo Gals begin the same way as each other, and both parts end the same way as each other. Notice on the attached melody sheets that measures 5 and 6 of the A-Part are identical with measures 1 and 2 of the A-Part, that measures 5 and 6 of the B-Part are identical with measures 1 and 2 of the B-Part, and that measures 7 and 8 of the B-Part are identical with measures 7 and 8 of the A-Part.
Besides these commonplace repetitions within fiddle tunes, there are a few other repetitions within the melody of Buffalo Gals. Notice that measures 2, 4 and 6 of each part are all identical. (That is, of the 32 measures of melody for the complete AABB form, 12 are identical with each other.) Measure 3 of the B-Part is the same as measure 3 of the A-Part, and measure 7 of both parts is almost identical with measure 3 of both parts.
The only thing that distinguishes the two parts of the tune from each other is the first three notes of measures 1 and 5 of each part. But this difference is enough to make the two parts readily distinguishable from each other in terms of a 'low part' and a 'high part', with the B-Part being the higher of the two parts (The first three notes of measures 1 and 5 of the B-Part are significantly higher in pitch than the first three notes of measures 1 and 5 of the A-Part.)
One final observation that some may find helpful to keep in mind when learning and memorizing the melody is that measure 3 of each part simply takes the notes in measure 2 of each part and moves them down one whole step lower.
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
Jason Homey & The Snake River Boys
Here is the performance of the first 5 songs of the week for the new beginner jam (Shortnin' Bread, My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains, Beautiful Brown Eyes, Nine Pound Hammer, Boil The Cabbage Down) that I did on Tuesday with Brent King (guitar), Doug Jenkins (fiddle), and Ryan Blizzard (bass) at the Bluegrass Open Mic at Liquid:
17 songs were played at the jam on Thursday: 13 from the main list, and 4 from the additional songs list:
Beautiful Brown Eyes - G
Boil The Cabbage Down - A
Buffalo Gals - A
Bury Me Beneath The Willow - G
Cripple Creek - A
Foggy Mountain Top - G
Gathering Flowers From The Hillside - G
I'll Fly Away - G
My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains - G
New River Train - F
Shortnin' Bread - G
Soldier's Joy - D
Will The Circle Be Unbroken - G
Amazing Grace - A
Angeline The Baker - D
Old Joe Clark - A
This Land Is Your Land - G
Jason's Beginner Jam Blog 2019 - 2021
Weekly on Thursdays
Songs regularly called at Bluegrass Jams and links from Jason's "Song of the Week" emails. (from Renee)
in alphabetical order