The song of the week is 'Shortnin' Bread' in the key of G, played as an instrumental.
Flatt & Scruggs - key of G (starts at 0:49)
Ron Block - key of G
The Freight Hoppers - key of A
Form & Arrangement
Shortnin' Bread is a two-part fiddle tune. Each part is 4 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 4 measures long, it takes 16 measures (4x4) to get through a single complete break for Shortnin' Bread. This is half the length of a single AABB form break for 'Boil The Cabbage Down', 'Buffalo Gals' and 'Soldier's Joy'. For, in those tunes each part is 8, instead of only 4, measures long.
On the Flatt & Scruggs recording, the AABB form is altered the second time through it. After playing AABBAA, Scruggs plays four B-Parts back to back, the first two of which are a variation on his basic B-Part.
The Ron Block recording copies Scruggs on this, but also has four B-Parts back to back for the last banjo break as well. The arrangement in full is as follows:
Mandolin/Fiddle (split break): AA (mandolin) BB (fiddle)
Banjo: Double Ending (4 measures)
The Freight Hoppers consistently stick to the AABB form, despite the fact that only one of their vocal sections in the arrangement (the second one) takes up the length of one complete round through the form. The first, third, and fourth vocal sections are sung over the second A-Part of the form and the two B-Parts that follow it. The fifth vocal section is sung over the final two B-Parts of the song, which is then followed by a double ending.
8 Potato Intros
On the recordings provided here, the tune starts with nothing more than either a quarter or a half measure's worth of pickups leading into the first A-Part. At a jam, however, this is not a very effective way to start a tune.
One of the best ways to kick-off most AABB fiddle tunes at a jam is to drone in a straight but rhythmic manner the root note of the key that the tune is in (often together with another one of the notes that also belong to the 1 chord) for four measures to lead into your intro break.This is called in bluegrass and old-time circles the '8 Potato Intro'.
To hear examples of this way of starting a tune, refer back to the recordings given in the recent 'Boil The Cabbage Down' song of the week email. On the Grascals and John Hartford & The Dillards recordings, the fiddle starts the tune with an 8 Potato Intro. On the Tommy Jackson recording, and in the mandolin video lesson, a shorter two measure version of this manner of starting a tune is used, which is called a '4 Potato Intro'.
In the attachments, I have included sheets that show good ways to play on fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and banjo, 8 Potato Intros for the keys of G and A. I have also included on these sheets, simpler (unfortunately, also less effective when both are played correctly) ways to play this type of intro on each of these instruments for those who are new to playing this type of intro, and may have difficulty playing the more developed forms of the 8 Potato Intros with the right feel and with rock-solid timing.
Playing with the right feel and timing are crucial to making the 8 Potato Intro an effective jam tool. If anything at all goes wrong with the timing or feel of the 8 Potato or with the transition from the 8 Potato into beginning of the A-Part, the whole purpose for using it is thereby defeated.
Both parts of Shortnin' Bread use the same chord progression:
1 1 1 5/1
That is, three measures of the 1 chord, followed by half a measure of the 5 chord, followed by half a measure of the 1 chord. The progression is played four times to get through one complete round of the AABB form.
In the key of G: 1 = G; 5 = D.
This progression shows up frequently in fiddle tunes in which each part is only 4 measures long. Other tunes besides Shortnin' Bread that use this progression for at least one of their parts include 'Cotton-Eyed Joe' (both parts), 'Cripple Creek' (B-Part), 'Cumberland Gap' (both parts), 'The Eighth Of January' (B-Part), and 'Sally Goodin' (both parts).
On the recordings of Shortnin' Bread given here, there are an extra 4 measures played at the end of the tune after the final B-Part. These are called 'double endings', for they consist of two 2-measure length ending licks played back to back.
For most songs that use a progression that ends with two measures of the 1 chord (e.g., songs that use any of the progressions in row V, W, or X on the basic chord progressions chart), it is common for a two-measure ending lick to be played on one or more of the instruments over the last two measures of the progression to end the song. Most AABB tunes, however, do not use progressions that end with two measures of the 1 chord, and the last melody note in their parts almost always occurs at either the beginning or in the middle of the last measure of the progression, rather than at the beginning of the second to last measure of the progression. For these reasons, ending licks for AABB fiddle tunes almost always are playedafter the last measure of the final B-Part rather than during the tail-end of the final B-Part.
In the attachments, I have included examples of double-endings for fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and banjo suitable for most key of G and key of A fiddle tunes.
On the recordings, the double endings are played on the same instrument that played the final break. On the Flatt & Scruggs recording, the double ending is played on the banjo alone, while being backed up by the other instruments on the first half of the ending, and, then on the last note of the second half of the ending. On the Ron Block recording, the fiddle plays the double ending together with the banjo, while being backed up by the other instruments on the whole ending.
At the beginner jams, what tends to happen most often, and usually works better than some of the other options, is for everyone who wishes to play a double ending to do so, regardless of which instrument section played the last break, while the rest of the players play nothing during the double ending, except on the last note of the ending.
What is played on the last note of the ending by the backup instruments typically includes things such as a single strum on the 1 chord (good for guitars and mandolins, and sometimes for banjos), the root note of the 1 chord being played by itself (especially good on the bass and in the low register of the fiddle), a double stop consisting of two notes of the 1 chord (especially good for fiddles), and a three-note pinch on banjo consisting of notes of the 1 chord
When played in the key of G, the melody of Shortnin' consists of, in ascending order of pitch, the notes GABDEG.
Compare this with the set of notes used to play the melody for two other recent songs of the week: 'My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains', and 'Nine Pound Hammer'. When played in G, the melody notes for these songs are, in ascending order of pitch: DEGABD. Notice that both sets of notes have in common with each other that they consist of nothing but G's, A's, B's, D's and E's. Only the range of the notes is different: G (lowest note) to G (highest note) for Shortnin' Bread, and D (lowest note) to D (highest note) for the two other songs.
Like in the melodies for many other AABB fiddle tunes, the two halves of each part of Shortnin' Bread begin the same way as each other, and both parts end the same way as each other. Notice on the attached melody sheets that measure 3 of the A-Part is identical with measure 1 of the A-Part, that measure 3 of the B-Part is identical with measure 1 of the B-Part, and that measure 4 of the B-Part is identical with measure 4 of the A-Part.
Besides these commonplace repetitions within fiddle tunes, there are even more points of similarity within and between the parts of Shortnin' Bread than is typical for fiddle tune melodies. The 2nd measure of the A-Part is almost the same as the 1st and 3rd measures of the A-Part, and the 2nd measure of the B-Part is identical with 1st and 3rd measures of the B-Part.
Finally, the only difference between the 1st and 3rd measures of the B-Part on the one hand, and the 1st and 3rd measures of the A-Part on the other hand, is which octave the G note is played in that starts the measure. There is very little in the melody of Shortnin' Bread to learn and memorize, for the tune is about as repetitious as what an AABB tune can be, while still having well-defined parts. The prominence of the high G note in the A-Part coupled with the absence of this note in the B-Part is enough to make the two parts readily distinguishable from each other in terms of a 'high part' and a 'low part'.
The melodic content of many of the breaks on the recordings given here deviate significantly enough from the version of the melody I have provided in the attachments to warrant comment. The most commonly recurring differences involve little more than a reversal of the order in which two consecutive melody notes are played. For example, to reproduce a close semblance of the implied melody for the A-Part in the banjo breaks on the Flatt & Scruggs and Ron Block recordings, all one needs to do is to play E notes in place of the D notes, and D notes in place of the E notes. When playing breaks for Shortnin' Bread at the jam, I tend to make use of both types of versions of the melody, freely mixing them together with each other in a variety of combinations.
On the main song list for the beginner jam, both the key of G and the key of A are given as options for playing Shortnin' Bread when the tune is called during the first half of the evening. On account of this, I have included in the attachments melody sheets in standard notation and in mandolin tab written in A (in addition to the ones written in G), so that one can easily compare the notes used to play the melody in A with the corresponding notes used to play the melody in G.
While most fiddle tunes have only one key in which they are traditionally played in (e.g., 'Angeline The Baker', 'Liberty', and 'Soldier's Joy' are 'D' tunes; 'Boil The Cabbage Down', 'Cripple Creek', and 'Old Joe Clark' are 'A' tunes), some have two, or even three different keys associated with them (e.g., 'Miss McLeod's Reel' - G and A, 'Fisher's Hornpipe' - D and F, 'Golden Slippers' and 'Turkey In The Straw' - G, A, and D.) However, in the case of Shortnin' Bread (and also 'Buffalo Gals'), it would not be odd for the tune to be played at a jam in any of the four most fiddle-friendly keys: G, A, C, or D.
In the key of G: 1 = G, 5 = D
In the key of A: 1 = A, 5 = E
In the key of C: 1 = C, 5 = G
In the key of D: 1 = D, 5 = A
Here is a short solo fiddle version of Shortnin' Bread in D, complete with an 8 potato intro, and single ending:
The notes that make up the melody for Shortnin' Bread form a scale that is called the Major Pentatonic Scale. The Major Pentatonic Scale consists of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th notes of the Major Scale. The following chart shows the notes that make up the G, A, C, and D Major Pentatonic Scales.
1 2 3 5 6 (8 = the same note as 1, but an octave higher)
do re mi sol la (do)
Key of G: G A B D E (G)
Key of A: A B C# E F# (A)
Key of C: C D E G A (C)
Key of D: D E F# A B (D)
14 songs were played at the jam on Thursday: 12 from the main list, and 2 from the additional songs list:
All The Good Times Are Past And Gone - A
Beautiful Brown Eyes - G
Blue Ridge Cabin Home - A
Boil The Cabbage Down - A
Buffalo Gals - A
Cripple Creek - A
I'll Fly Away - G
My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains - G
Nine Pound Hammer - A
Shortnin' Bread - G
Soldier's Joy - D
Will The Circle Be Unbroken - G
Old Joe Clark - A
She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain - D
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