The song of the week is 'Cripple Creek' in the key of A.
Flatt and Scruggs, key of A (the instruments are tuned a little bit sharp):
Butch Robins with Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys: key of A
Jason Homey & The Snake River Boys: key of A (starts at 8:31)
Jason Homey and the Snake River Boys, IBA Open Mic, 6_25_19 - YouTube
Here are three youtube jam videos I have made for Cripple Creek. I recommend starting with the one listed first. In that one, I am on guitar.
Jason’s YouTube Links – Alphabetical Listing – Parisology (cyberplasm.com)
Form & Arrangement
Cripple Creek is a two part fiddle tune (AABB form) that is traditionally played in the key of A.
Each part of Cripple Creek is 4 measures long. Each part is repeated before going on to the next part.
Although Cripple Creek has lyrics, it is usually played as an instrumental in bluegrass circles, and is often thought of as being more of a banjo tune than a fiddle tune.
The chord progression for the A-Part of Cripple Creek is:
1 4/1 1 5/1
The progression for the B-Part is the same as the progression for both parts of Shortnin' Bread:
1 1 1 5/1
(In the key of A: 1=A, 4=D, 5=E. In the key of G: 1=G, 4=C, 5=D.)
Notice that: a) the only chord that is played for more than half a measure at a time is the 1 chord; b) the A-Part uses three chords (the 1,the 4, and the 5), whereas the B-Part uses only two chords (the 1 and the 5); and c) the only difference between the progression for the A-Part and the progression for the B-Part is whether or not a change to the 4 chord occurs in the first half of measure two of the part.
The progression for the B Part of Cripple is typical for fiddle tunes in which each part is 4 measures long (instead of 8 measures long) before it is repeated. Other fiddle tunes that use the same progression as the progression for the B Part of Cripple Creek include: Shortnin' Bread (both parts), Cotton-Eyed Joe (both parts), Sally Goodin (both parts), Cumberland Gap (both parts), Black Mountain Rag (A and B Parts), The Eighth Of January (B Part), Sourwood Mountain (both parts in some versions; other versions use for the A-Part the same progression that is used for the A-Part of Cripple Creek), Ida Red (both parts), Lee Highway Blues (A Part), Fire On The Mountain (both parts, minus the two-measure tag that the last B-Part in the form usually ends with), Four Cent Cotton (both parts), and Hell Broke Loose In Georgia (A, B, and D parts).
8 Potato Intros and Double Endings
Like most AABB form fiddle tunes, Cripple Creek is most effectively started at a jam with an 8 potato intro, and it is customary to end it with a double ending tacked on to the tune after the final B Part has been completed. For written examples of simple 8 potato intros and double endings in the key of A for fiddle, mandolin, banjo, and guitar, scroll down to the files at the bottom of this write-up. On the Snake River Boys recording and in the jam videos, I start Cripple Creek with an 8 potato intro. On the Flatt & Scruggs recording, Earl starts the tune with a single B-Part before the band comes in to join him, and this serves the same function as an 8 potato intro. On all the recordings, Cripple Creek ends with a double ending.
It is important to remember that any pickup notes that you play for your intro break for Cripple Creek (that is, notes that occur before the first full measure of the A Part) must be included within the last measure of the four measures that the 8 potato intro consists of. It does not work to play 4 full measures of 8 potato intro and then the pickup notes. For instance, if you are using two 8th notes as pickups into the A Part for your intro break for Cripple Creek, you must substitute those two 8th notes in place of the last quarter of the measure of the 8 potato intro, so that your first full measure of the A Part starts exactly four complete measures after the start of the 8 potato intro.
Melody & Breaks
In the version of the melody given in the files at the bottom of this write-up, the notes that make up the melody for the A-Part of Cripple Creek are, in ascending order of pitch:
5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1
Key of A: E F# A B C# D E F# A
Key of G: D E G A B C D E G
The melody for the B-Part uses only the first five (the five lowest) of these nine notes.
Notice that the melody for the last half of the B-Part of Cripple Creek is the same as the melody for the last half of the A-Part. So, there are only six, rather than eight, measures to learn and memorize.
Concerning the melody sheets provided here: Each sheet has two versions of Cripple Creek on it. The version at the top of the page is the melody as I would hum or sing it. (This is only one of many possible interpretations of the basic melody of Cripple Creek.) With the exception of the banjo tab sheet, the version at the bottom of each page is a more elaborate interpretation of the melody of Cripple Creek, and makes for more interesting breaks on fiddle, mandolin and guitar. When playing guitar or mandolin breaks for Cripple Creek at the jam, I often play something very similar to this.
But, just as often I will play a break that is somewhere about halfway between the basic version of the melody and the more elaborate version of the melody. So, if you find that the version at the bottom of the page is too difficult for you to play at the faster speeds that Cripple Creek is sometimes played at the jam, you might wish to take this approach. By doing this, you can come up with many different ways to play a break for Cripple Creek, and this also makes the tune more interesting when all your breaks on a song don't sound exactly the same as each other.
(Note: Instead of writing first and second endings for the A and B Parts of the second version of Cripple Creek on each page, I wrote the last measure of each part as an incomplete measure. This measure is completed by the short pickup measure found at the beginning of whichever part one is going to play next.)
For those who find it helpful to listen to a sung version of a tune to get a better sense of the melody, here is a sung version of Cripple Creek that I remember from my early childhood:
Buffy Sainte-Marie - key of Ab
Guitar & Mandolin: Alternate Picking
When playing successive eighth notes on the guitar and mandolin with a flatpick, be sure to make use of alternate picking: for each pair of eighth notes, play the first note in the pair with a downstroke, and the second note in the pair with an upstroke. Dividing the measures into eight equal sections: 1e&a2e&a, the downstrokes belong on the 1's, the 2's and the &'s, and the upstrokes belong on the e's and the a's.
This system is important to use (for the sake of speed, ease of playing, volume, timing, and feel) not only for passages consisting solely of eighth notes, but also for most passages that contain a variety of different time values within them. For instance, the first measure of the A-Part of Cripple Creek as given in the files consists of a quarter note followed by a pair of eighth notes, followed by a quarter note, followed by another pair of eighth notes. These six notes should be played as: down-down-up-down-down-up: the four downstrokes coincide with the 1&2& spots within the measure, and the two upstrokes coincide with the two 'a' spots within the measure. Since no pick strokes coincide with the 'e' spots within the measure, no upstroke occurs between the first two downstrokes or between the third and fourth downstrokes.
Banjo: Melody & Breaks
On the banjo tab sheet, the version of Cripple Creek at the bottom of the page is not a more elaborate version of the melody, but is rather a Scruggs-style break that is based upon the basic version of the melody.
Bluegrass fiddle, mandolin, and guitar players, when surrounding a melody with additional notes, will tend to choose notes that closely neighbor the melody notes on the scale. This tends to make many of the extra notes sound like additional melody notes. Bluegrass banjo players have less of a tendency to take this type of approach when adding extra notes. Bluegrass banjo players from the Scruggs-style tradition do very little of this, but instead usually use in their breaks not much more than only the most essential melody notes of a tune, and then surround these notes with 'chord' notes (notes that belong to the chord being played at the time in the song), and/or 'drone' notes (usually notes that belong to the 1 chord - e.g., G chord when playing in the key of G, regardless of what chord is called for at the time in the song). These notes are chosen in accord with certain set picking patterns (called 'rolls'), and with little regard to the width of the interval between any two successive eighth notes. The overall effect that this has is to make the notes added around the melody not sound at all like additional melody notes.
18 songs were played at last night's jam: 12 from the main list, and 6 from the additional songs list:
All The Good Times Are Past And Gone - A
Beautiful Brown Eyes - C
Boil The Cabbage Down - A
Bury Me Beneath The Willow - G
Cripple Creek - A
Foggy Mountain Top - G
A Memory Of You - A
My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains - G
Nine Pound Hammer - B
Soldier's Joy - D
Way Down Town - F
Will The Circle Be Unbroken - G
Leaning On The Everlasting Arms - A
Light At The River - A
Little Cabin Home On The Hill - A
Mountain Dew - A
Old Joe Clark - A
Red River Valley - G
Cripple Creek - melody in A
Cripple Creek - mandolin tab
Cripple Creek - guitar tab
Cripple Creek - banjo tab
8 Potato Intro in A
Double Endings in A