Song of the Week
The song of the week is the old-time fiddle tune 'Turkey In The Straw' in the key of G. The melody sheets attached here show the form (AABB) and chord progression for the tune.
Here is an excellent Bluegrass performance of 'Turkey In The Straw' to listen to: some pretty advanced playing going on here at a relatively high speed (in excess of 140 beats per minute) for a fiddle tune played with so many melody notes per measure.
Intermediate Level Breaks
The melody sheets attached here for fiddle, mandolin, and guitar do not require anything to be added to them to make intermediate level breaks for Turkey In The Straw. They contain a good balance of quarter and 8th note, and very few of the melody notes are lingered on long enough to lend themselves well to the typical Bluegrass embellishments. The version of the melody given here, played as is as a break, is suitable for an intermediate level player to work with for getting his playing on the tune 'up to speed'. Aim to get up to 120 beats per minute. (2 clicks, not 4 clicks, of the metronome per measure). While you may need to eliminate a few notes here and there at first in order to be able to play your break up to speed, be careful not to take too many notes out: otherwise, your break will start to sound more like a beginner level break rather than an intermediate level break. With enough repetitions through the break, isolating and looping the passages you find most difficult, paying attention to your right and left hand technique, seeking to eliminate any and all unnecessary motions of the fingers that could slow you down, and pushing your speed with the help of a metronome, your ability to play at faster tempos will improve.
The first banjo tab attachment contains almost all the same notes that are given on the melody sheets for the other instruments. It is a melodic-style arrangement. Unless you already play in melodic style, I recommend referring instead to the second banjo tab attachment which contains a skeletal version of the melody that can be used as a guide for creating a Scruggs style break by putting rolls and left hand techniques (slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs) around the most essential or main melody notes of the tune.
Strong Beginnings & Endings
Also in the attachments is a chart of 8 potato intros and double endings that will work well for Turkey In The Straw, since the use of these types of beginnings and endings are the most effective ways to begin and end most fiddle tunes in the context of a Bluegrass jam.
Since it is crucial to get a tune off to a good solid start, for this affects how the whole song will be played, be sure to practice not only your 8 potato intros, but also the transition from the 8 potato intro into the beginning of your break. It is important to be aware that if you choose to begin your break with the two 8th note pickups written on the melody sheets, you will need to play these in place of the last quarter of the last measure that makes up your 8 potato intro, otherwise your timing will be off and the tune will get off to a bad start.
In practicing 'tack-on' endings (e.g., the double endings given in the attachments) that are played after the last note of the tune proper, be careful to hold the last note of the tune for exactly the right length of time before starting into the ending. And the same goes for the last note of the first half of a double ending. For otherwise, your timing will be off, and there are few things more anticlimactic at a jam than people being out of time with each other in playing their final note or chord for a song.
For Turkey In The Straw, this means, among other things, that the last melody note played needs to be held as a half note before starting into the double endings given here. The reason why this melody note is written on the melody sheets as a quarter note instead of a half note is simply because the melody sheets show how long the last note would need to be held if one were to go into the beginning of the break again after playing the last note. They do not show what needs to happen in order to transition into a tack-on ending, for no tack on endings are given on the melody sheets.
For figuring out the timing involved in going from an 8 potato intro into the beginning of a break, and the timing involved in going from the end of a break into a tack-on ending, just remember that, with the exception of specific spots in 'crooked' tunes (e.g., Down The Road, Clinch Mountain Backstep), all measures of a song, from the first full measure onward, need to be of equal duration.
Jason's Intermediate Jam Blog 2017 - 2018
started as Beginner Jam in Jan 2015
Songs regularly called at Bluegrass Jams and links from Jason's "Song of the Week" emails. (from Renee)
in alphabetical order