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G Mania

Posted by bj on Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I came home from Lake Genero in September with a huge bunch of G tunes (GDAE tuning.) Luckily a lot of them got recorded, since there was no way I was going to remember them all! Terri also sends me tunes now and again, especially PA tunes, and many she's sent me are in G.

I've been really loving playing in G. I used to hate it when I started out, since it's all over the strings and fingerboard and really gives your pinkie a workout on the E string, and I guess I wasn't ready for it earlier. Now those are all good reasons to be playing in G! Yeah, I guess you can say I'm actually getting comfortable playing this damned devil's box.

It seems that the non fiddle members of our jammer group love the key of G also. One time over the summer I started the set in G, Craig commented that it was about time we played in that key! He also commented that we didn't do it enough, and others who weren't fiddlers agreed. I heard what he said, and was happy when G was a prominent key we played in at fiddle camp, so I could add to my G list. In truth, up until recently, our G list was a bit anemic. Now we've got enough tunes on the list to play for an hour or so in that key, and enough to vary it up each time we play in it, so nothing gets stale.

What have I been playing?

These are ones that have been on our G list for awhile:

  • Nail That Catfish to a Tree
  • Cuffy
  • John Brown's March
  • Metzer Polka
  • Redwing
  • Seneca Square Dance
  • Shove That Pig's Foot a little Further In The Fire
  • Puncheon Floor
  • Marching Through Georgia
  • The Girl I Left Behind Me
  • Cripple Creek
  • Golden Slippers

I often use Cuffy as my warmup since that one is a workout and a half, and I love that tune. It's also a tune that seems to tune in my intonation since it's one of those tunes where any little off note glares out at you.

These are the ones I'm working on now, getting ready to introduce to the group, or that we played for the first time at a recent jam. I've especially been playing the heck out of the first few on the list, with the later ones being ones I'm still working on.

  • Bullfrog on a Puncheon Floor
  • Old Horse and Buggy
  • Down The River
  • Paddy on the Pennsylvania Pike
  • Eadle Alley
  • Lost Girl
  • Booth
  • Bound to have a Little Fun
  • Citaco
  • Big Scioty
  • Jaybird Died of the Whooping Cough
  • Miss Brown

Many of these can be found in Terri's Jam Recordings. Check her Clifftop '09 set first.



9 comments on “G Mania”

robinja Says:
Tuesday, October 20, 2009 @12:30:38 PM

I love G, too! Just FYI, several of the tunes on your list are commonly played in A: Cripple Creek, Old Horse and Buggy (if this is the same tune as Horse and Buggy-O), Booth, and Citaco. No problem playing them in G - just be aware that you may encounter them in A someday. (Guess that means I should brush up on them in G, just in case!) - Judy

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Tuesday, October 20, 2009 @4:26:13 PM

The bluegrassers with whom I play now prefer Old Joe Clark in G as it's easier to sing--AND great to play in that key, easy to get sort of an "Irishy" feel to it in G. Gm for "Oh Mary Don't You Weep." Cm--just go down one string--for "I Am a Pilgrim [but I wasn't on the Mayflower]." Yet I do not like, said I do not like, "Cripple Crik" in G, don't like it 'tal. Let's see, you got Down by the River, that Neil Young song? Hmmmmm... Didn't know it was in G...Oh Em--yeah okay.

bj Says:
Tuesday, October 20, 2009 @4:54:48 PM

Not "Down By The River" by Neil Young. It's "Down the River" which is an OTcentral PA tune.

Judy, this must be one of these regional differences things. I've got some field recordings from the 1970's sent to me by one of the folks I met up at Lake Genero, and those tunes are all played in G on those recordings, none in A. He lives in New Hampshire, and most of the fiddlers on the recordings are from the Norheast. One of the fiddlers, now deceased, was Alan Block, who was Rory Block's dad.

bj Says:
Tuesday, October 20, 2009 @4:57:07 PM

Oh, and Dave Bing from WV plays Old Horse and Buggy in G also.

OTJunky Says:
Wednesday, October 21, 2009 @3:44:12 AM

Well, these are all fine G tunes - but I'd encourage you not to "skirt" the old "war horses" that are also played in G.

- Turkey in Straw (Yes, I know this is commonly played in D, but it belongs in G)

- Cumberland Gap (Most revivalists play the D version from North Carolina, but the "real" version of Cumberland Gap belongs in G and you'll find it remarkably challenging because of the need to get up on the open E string without changing bow direction)

- Hop High Ladies (or Did You Ever Go to Meetin', Uncle Joe)

- Wild Horses (or Stoney Point)

These last two tunes also have E minor parts.

And finally Leather Breeches.

If you can play all these tunes in G, you can fiddle any American fiddle tune in G. IMHO, these tunes are the basis for the essential essence of American OT fiddling in G.

Many fiddlers don't play them because they find them very difficult and - like OBS - they excuse the ommission by saying they're "trite" and "overplayed". In fact, they're not overplayed at all - they're underplayed precisely because they're hard to play well.

But they're an essential component of the American OT fiddling repertoire in G.

--OTJ

OTJunky Says:
Wednesday, October 21, 2009 @4:31:18 AM

Duh, I forgot to mention the most important one, Katie Hill - the three part version.

That tune is basically just an excuse for making American OT fiddle sounds in G. ;-)

--OTJ

bj Says:
Wednesday, October 21, 2009 @5:23:58 AM

I'll put them on the "to learn" list. We actually have played Turkey in the Straw at the jam when Rick shows up. I can sorta get through it, but it's one of those tunes that I'm not quite ready for. A couple months of working in G and it'll start to fly out of my fingers. That's usually what happens with the more difficult tunes.

I've found that there's a time for every tune eventually. I don't force 'em. I'm just getting Arkansas Traveller and I'm not liking it yet. But it comes up at the jam occasionally, so I added it to my playlist and it's finally starting to sound like something.

I have NEVER heard Cumberland Gap in G. Sourwood Mountain a couple times (we play that in A) but never Cumberland Gap! Guess I will have to poke in the field recordings. You have a source for that? Re getting up on the open E on a slur, I'm doing that all the time. It seems to have become a trademark of my playing, LOL! I was determined to beat that no-sound E string issue!

robinja Says:
Wednesday, October 21, 2009 @11:29:41 AM

BJ - Cumberland Gap in G: Clyde Davenport (check the Digital Library of Appalachia or Field Recorders Collective), Skillet Lickers (check 1001tunes), Roan Mountain Hilltoppers (their CD for sure - not sure where on line - Amazon maybe?), and Marcus Martin (try Juneberry78's, if not - from his CD "When I Get My New House Done" - a must-have in my opinion). I'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite among these. I'm still working on this tune in G - it's a GREAT tune, and it is deceptively hard to play well.

FiddleJammer Says:
Friday, October 23, 2009 @5:43:29 PM

And, I'm always a little vigilant when folk talk about tunes being in G or A. Might be a trad A tune, played GDGD. Technically in G, but basically cross A finger patterns.

The G Cumberland Gap is very fine. I'll see if I can't dig up a version.

No wonder my website traffic is picking up. :-) Always glad to share the jams, BJ, thanks. There will be that many more folks who are familiar with the tunes.

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