The song of the week is 'Cherokee Shuffle' in the key of A.
Country Gazette (Alan Munde on banjo) - starts at 7:30
Gravel Road Bluegrass
As played at the jams in the Pioneer Building, the chord progression for Cherokee Shuffle is:
A-Part: 1 1 1 6m B-Part: 4 1 4 1
4 1 5 1 4 1 1 6m 4/5 1
In the key of A: 6m = F#m. In the key of G: 6m = Em
Notice that: a) the 5 chord is played for the entirety of the 7th measure of the A-Part, rather than just for the second half of the 7th measure; b) the B-Part starts with the 4 chord, and alternates between the 4 and 1 three times; c) the B-Part is ten measures long instead of eight; and d) the second to last measure of the B-Part is split between the 4 and the 5 chord.
Cherokee Shuffle is closely related to the key of D fiddle tune 'Lost Indian', but unlike Lost Indian, Cherokee Shuffle has an unusual form. The B-Part of Cherokee Shuffle is 10 measures long instead of the usual 8 measures that make up a part in a double reel. The A-Part of Lost Indian is essentially the same as the A-Part of Cherokee Shuffle. The B-Part of Lost Indian uses the same progression as, and a similar melody to the A-Part. In some versions of Lost Indian, the B-Part is little more than the A-Part melody played an octave higher.
Lost Indian: Norman Blake, Doc Watson, and Tony Rice
Starting the Tune
Cherokee Shuffle is one of the relatively few AABB-type fiddle tunes that I prefer not to start with an 8 potato intro at a jam, because the first melody note of the first measure is identical with the main note I would be droning in an 8 Potato intro (in the key of A, an A note that is in the same octave as the A note that the melody begins with), thus making it sound unclear where the intro ends and the tune begins. So, I start with three quarter note pickups instead that ascend into the A note (E, F#, G#: the 5th, 6th, and 7th notes of the A Major Scale.) Other tunes like this include Buffalo Gals, Salt Creek, and Red Wing.
Melody & Breaks
The first four melody sheets attached here are just one of many hundreds of differing printed versions of the melody for Cherokee Shuffle. Most, but not all, of the alternate versions available fit just as well with the chord progression I have given for Cherokee Shuffle, so feel free to mix and match as you like the different versions you may know or may come across, but, in doing so, keep the chord progression in mind.
Although the melody sheets contain far more 8th notes than most other song of the week melody sheets, please remember that these sheets give only the melody (or rather, a melody); they are not full-fledged Bluegrass breaks, they provide you with nothing more than just a good starting point for creating such breaks (compare the melody sheets with the breaks you hear on the youtube links provided here, and notice the kinds of embellishments that are used in these breaks that are not represented anywhere on the melody sheets).
Melody & Breaks: Banjo
The fifth melody sheet attached here gives only the most essential melody notes relative to the version of the melody given on the other melody sheets. The reason why I include it here is because it is characteristic of Scruggs-style banjo breaks for fiddle tunes to take a skeletal version of the melody and surround it with combinations of 8th notes and quarter notes that are clearly distinct from the melody and that often deviate significantly from the combinations of 8th notes and quarter notes that the other Bluegrass lead instruments tend to use as melody notes and/or filler notes. In order to be able to play the sequences of 8th notes written on the fourth melody sheet (banjo tab #1), which are the same notes given on the first three melody sheets, up to speed with finger picks, a banjo player would need to use single-string style or melodic style. (The fretboard locations I wrote for the notes in the A Part are intended for single-string style, and the fretboard locations I wrote for the notes in the B Part are intended for melodic style.)
Of all the melody sheets attached here, the fifth melody sheet has the least in common with a bluegrass-style break. It contains far too many consecutive quarter notes, and no embellishments are given for any of the many half, dotted-half, and whole notes.
The 6m Chord
Most songs played at Bluegrass jams with a 6m chord in their progression could be played without the 6m and still sound musically correct, and Cherokee Shuffle is no exception to this. Although I don't think I have ever heard anyone play it like this, it would work to use the 4 chord in place of the 6m, because the main melody note in the 6m measures is a note that is part of both the 6m and the 4 chord (an F# note in the key of A.) F#m, which is the 6m for the key of A, consists of the notes F#, A, and C#. The D major chord, which is the 4 for the key of A, consists of the notes D, F#, and A.
The 6m chord shares two notes in common not only with the 4 chord, but also with the 1 chord. For this reason, when the 6m chord occurs in a progression for a song, it is common to be able to find other versions of the same song in which, depending on what the melody notes are at that point, either a 1 chord is used instead or a 4 chord is used instead.
For instance, some versions of Will The Circle Be Unbroken (Prog. V3 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout) use 1116m, or rarely 116m6m, in place of 1111 for the third line. At every bluegrass jam I can remember playing Sitting On Top Of The World, 116m6m was used for the third line, yet on all the old classic bluegrass recordings of the song that I am familiar with, that same line is played as 1111 (Prog. V3). In a previous incarnation of the beginner jam, Lonesome Road Blues was often played with 4416m for its third line in place of 4411 (Prog. W4). The Clumsy Lovers, the 'Raging Celtic-Bluegrass-Rock' band originally from Vancouver, BC that I have been a member of since the Spring of 2001, uses 6m511 for the last line of Amazing Grace in place of the much more common 1511 (Prog. V6), and 4416m in place of 4411 for the third line of You Are My Sunshine (Prog. V4).
At Bluegrass jams, the B-Part of Big Sciota is typically played as 155446m51, but at the Old-Time jam held at Pengilly's on Tuesday nights (right across the street from where our Wednesday and Thursday night jams are held), they usually play 6m in place of 4 and 4 in place of 6m, thus reversing the order in which the 4 and 6m occur in the progression: 1556m6m451.
When Down In A Willow Garden is made the song of the week for the jam in the near future, it will be played at the jam with only 1, 6m, and 5 chords. But you will hear on some of the recordings that will be sent out in the song of the week email for the song the 4 chord being played in some of the spots where I have put the 6m in the progression.
19 songs were played at last night's jam:
Angel Band - Bb
Ashes Of Love - A
Beautiful Brown Eyes - G
Cherokee Shuffle - A
Clinch Mountain Backstep - A
Columbus Stockade Blues - G
Gold Watch And Chain - C
Homestead On The Farm - A
Little Cabin Home On The Hill - A
Little Willie - B
Old Joe Clark - A
Temperance Reel - G
Turkey In The Straw (played twice) - G
We'll Meet Again Sweetheart - D
Wreck Of The Old '97 - D
Forked Deer - D
Mountain Dew - A
Paradise - D
Will The Circle Be Unbroken - Bb
The chord progression we used last night for Forked Deer was:
A-Part: 1 4 1 5 B-Part: 5 5 5 1
1 4 1/4 5/1 5 5 1/4 5/1
Notice the similarity of the progression for the A-Part of Forked Deer to the progression for the A-Part of Boil The Cabbage Down and for the B-Part of Soldier's Joy. For some versions of the melody of the B-Part of Forked Deer, the first line of the B-Part would more appropriately be played as: 5 5 5 5/1.
Jason's Intermediate Jam Blog 2019 - 2021
Weekly on Thursdays
Songs regularly called at the Beginner Bluegrass Jam and links from Jason's "Song of the Week" emails. (from Renee)
in alphabetical order