The song of the week is 'Shortnin' Bread' in the key of A.
David Parmley & Cardinal Tradition - key of A
Jason Homey & The Snake River Boys - key of G
Ron Block - key of G
Hillary Klug - key of D
On the current main song list for the beginner jam, the keys of G, A, C, and D are all given as options for playing Shortnin' Bread.
In attachments, I have provided melody sheets in standard notation and mandolin tab for the keys of G and A. For the key of C, on fiddle and mandolin, lower the fingerings for the key of G down one string. For the key of D, on fiddle and mandolin, lower the fingerings for the key of A down one string.
For banjo and guitar, I have provided melody sheets in the keys of G, C, and D. For the key of A, capo the 2nd fret and play as if 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.
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.
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
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).
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)
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 David Parmley and Ron Block recordings, all one needs to do is to play, when in the key of G, E notes in place of the D notes, and D notes in place of the E notes, or when in the key of A, F# notes in place of E notes, and E notes in place of F# 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, much as I did in my banjo breaks on the Snake River Boys recording.
8 Potato Intros
On the Snake River Boys and the Hilary Klug recordings the tune starts with an 8 Potato Intro before the first A-Part is played. This is a highly effective way to start most fiddle tunes at jams.
An 8 Potato Intro consists essentially in droning 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 an intro break.
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.
For 8 Potato Intros in the key of D (and for banjo and guitar, the key of C also), refer to the attachments in the song of the week write up for Soldier's Joy:
For 8 Potato Intros in the key of C on fiddle and mandolin, drone C and E notes together, with the C being the lower of the two notes. This can be done on either the fourth and third strings (5th fret on the fourth string and 2nd fret on the third string on mandolin), or on the second and first strings (3rd fret on the second string on mandolin, and open first string).
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.
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 played after 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.
For double endings in the key of D (and for banjo and guitar, the key of C also), refer to the attachments in the song of the week write up for Soldier's Joy.
For key of C double endings on fiddle and mandolin, take the fingerings you use for the key of G double endings and lower them by one string, so that you will have C notes in place of G notes, A notes in place of E notes, G notes in place of D notes, etc.
17 songs were played at the jam on Thursday: 13 from the main list, 2 from the additional songs list, and 2 that are on neither list:
Beautiful Brown Eyes - G
Buffalo Gals - A
Bury Me Beneath The Willow - G
Cripple Creek - A
Foggy Mountain Top - G
I'll Fly Away - Bb
Little Birdie - Bb
Mama Don't Allow - A
Nine Pound Hammer - A
Old Joe Clark - A
Shortnin' Bread - A
Soldier's Joy - D
Sweetheart You Done Me Wrong - C
Jambalaya - D
Wild Mountain Flowers For Mary - E
She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain - D
You Are My Sunshine - B
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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