The song of the week is 'Old Joe Clark' in the key of A.
Here are some youtube links of good bluegrass live performances of Old Joe Clark that I hope you will enjoy:
Carolina Bluegrass Express
UK98 Bluegrass Band
Gravel Road Bluegrass Band
Form & Arrangement
'Old Joe Clark' is a two-part fiddle tune traditionally played in the key of A. The form of the tune is AABB. This means that each part of the tune (called the A-Part and the B-Part respectively) is played through twice before going on to the next part.
Like most of the fiddle tunes played at the beginner jam, Old Joe Clark does have lyrics, but, more often than not, Old Joe Clark is played as an instrumental at Bluegrass jams. It is more common at Old-Time jams for lyrics to be sung for fiddle tunes.
The chord progression for the A-Part is:
1 1 1 5
1 1 1/5 1
The chord progression for the B-Part is:
1 1 1 b7
1 1 1/5 1
In the key of A:
1 = A
5 = E
b7 = G
With the capo in the second fret, the chord shapes become:
1 = G
5 = D
b7 = F
Note: the way that many people, myself included, play the F chord on the guitar looks very similar to the fingerings used for the C chord. So, if you are following a guitar player for the chord changes for Old Joe Clark while at the jam, it can be helpful to keep in mind that there is no '4' chord in the progression.
Note: The B-Part progression given for Cluck Old Hen on the new main song list for the beginner jam also has the b7 chord in it.
The b7 Chord
A quick way to determine what the b7 (flat-seven) chord is for any given key is to think of it relative to the 1 chord. The b7 will always be one letter lower and one whole-step lower than the 1. Make it a point to remember this.
For each of the 8 Major keys we play in at the jam, the b7 chord is:
Key (1) b7
It is called the b7 (flat-seven) chord because the root note of the chord is a half-step lower than the 7th note of the Major scale (flat means a half-step lower). E.g., The G Major Scale consists, in order, of the notes: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#. The 7th note of the G Major Scale is therefore F#. The note that is a half-step lower than F#, and uses the same letter in its name as F#, is F. Therefore, in the key of G, the b7 chord is F.
Intros & Endings
The most effective way to kick-off most AABB-form fiddle tunes, including Old Joe Clark, at a jam is not by playing a pickup measure consisting of three quarter notes to lead into your intro break, but is by 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 your intro break.This is called in bluegrass and old-time circles the '8 Potato Intro'.
It is also customary in Bluegrass circles to end most AABB-form fiddle tunes (as well as most fast instrumentals) with a tack-on 'double ending' that is played, not in place of the last 4 measures of the tune, but rather immediately after the last measure of the tune has been played. 'Double' refers to the ending being 4 measures long rather than only 2 measures long. Most of these types of endings consist of two 2-measure length ending licks played back to back.
See the attachments for some beginner-level examples of 8 Potato Intros and Double Endings for the key of A.
The melody of the tune is based upon the mixolydian scale. This scale, which shows up frequently in the traditional music of the American South and the British Isles, and in Gregorian Chant, is in all respects like the major scale that we are all familiar with (do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do), except that the seventh scale degree ('ti') is lowered by a half step.
The result is that a mixolydian scale always has one less sharp (or one more flat) in it than the major scale that shares its same letter name. Since the A major scale has 3 sharps (F#,C#,G#), the notes of the A major scale being, in ascending order of pitch: A B C# D E F# G# A, the A mixolydian scale (like the D major scale) has 2 sharps (F#,C#), the notes of the A mixolydian scale being: A B C# D E F# G A. Since the G major scale has 1 sharp (F#), the G mixolydian scale (like the C major scale) has no sharps. The G major scale is: G A B C D E F# G. The G mixolydian scale is: G A B C D E F G.
The melody sheets attached here give only a very basic version of the melody. Put some filler notes around it (e.g., rolls on banjo, shuffle rhythm on the other instruments, etc.), make use of double stops (especially on fiddle and mandolin), slide into some notes, etc., and this will suffice for beginner-level break for Old Joe Clark. However, quite a few more notes can be added to the basic melody, many of which may be considered as melody notes instead of as mere filler notes. If you already know how to add these into your breaks for Old Joe Clark, don't hold back in doing this at the beginner jam. In the Fall, we will revisit Old Joe Clark as a song of the week for the beginner jam. At that time, I will provide attachments showing some of the extra melody notes. In the meantime, if you are curious to see what more developed breaks for Old Joe Clark might look like (like many of the breaks on the recordings), check out the song of the week write up on intermediate jam blog on the IBA website that was given when Old Joe Clark was recently revisited as a song of the week for the intermediate jam:
Have a happy New Year!
weekly on Wednesdays
Songs regularly called at the Beginner Bluegrass Jam and links from Jason's "Song of the Week" emails. (from Renee)
in alphabetical order