End-of-Year Song Sprint Report

End-of-Year Song Sprint Report

Back at the beginning of December, I took inventory of the tunes and songs that I know, that are callable in a jam (meaning I know them well enough to lead, teach, sing, etc), and was disappointed with the small number. As a result, I launched into a end-of-the-year sprint to learn three new tunes and two songs each week, trying to add an additional 12 tunes and 8 songs.

I was not quite as productive as I hoped, adding only 7 new tunes and 2 songs. Looking back, I could have paced things better, but it looks like 2 tunes and a song a week is my comfortable limit at the moment. As a result, I have revised the 2023 Tune of the Week list and the 2023 Song of the Week list down to two tunes and two songs for each week.

End-of-Year Tune and Song Sprint

I recently took inventory of the bluegrass and oldtime tunes and songs that I know. While it is a huge increase from the 4 fiddle tunes I “knew” in July of this year, it just isn’t a very big list. Nothing compared to the pile of jazz standards I know, and not anywhere near enough to have the same kind of literacy in bluegrass/oldtime as I enjoyed on the piano with the body of jazz music. I want to know more, have a better vocabulary, and be all-around more fluent in speaking bluegrass (musically, that is) on my mandolin.

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Tunes I Know

brown violin
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

I started back in July of this year knowing 4 fiddle tunes (if I am very generous with the meaning of “know”). I have generally been keeping track as I’ve added new ones over the last months. Presented here is the list of tunes I know to date.* Some of the tunes have resource pages here on the site, so I have linked to them.

  1. Bag of Spuds
  2. Bonnie Tammie
  3. Soldier’s Joy
  4. Liberty
  5. Cold Frosty Morning
  6. Clinch Mountain Backstep
  7. Whiskey Before Breakfast
  8. Blackberry Blossom
  9. John Stinson’s
  10. Old Favorite
  11. The Wind that Shakes the Barley
  12. Goodbye, Liza Jane
  13. Bill Cheatham
  14. Old Joe Clark
  15. Cluck Old Hen
  16. Chinquapin Hunting
  17. Angeline the Baker
  18. Boil Them Cabbage
  19. Cripple Creek

As you can see, the list is not very large, but it is what it is. I have two initiatives – one underway and the other planned – to boost the amount of material in my tune vocabulary. During the month of December, I am doing a end-of-year tune and song sprint (which I will post about separately) to add an additional 12 tunes and 6 sings to my repertoire. Then next year, I have planned out a Tune of the Week, with a designated TOTW and a bonus tune each week (because I try to always learn at least two tunes a week). I also have a Song of the Week plan, with a SOTW and bonus song each week (because I am trying to increase the number of songs that I actually know the melody and lyrics to). There will be posts about the TOTW and the SOTW plans closer to the end of the month.

* I also know two or three Hungarian fiddle tunes from my book, but I can’t pronounce or spell their names, which really gets in the way of talking about them.

History of the Mandolin in America

Among the various YouTube playlist I keep is one titled “Bluegrass Idle,” where I save bits and clips that are interesting or informative, but that aren’t directly instructional. Today I saved one to the list that I thought also needed to be shared here: multi-instrumentalist and composer Tony Williamson explaining, in 1995, the development history of the American Mandolin.

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Párnástánc (Pillow Dance) – Tabs for Mandolin

I am still working my way through Chris Haigh’s Hungarian Fiddle Tunes. Some of the melodies are super alien to my ears. Some of them I recognize. This one (the Párnástánc) I posted a recording (below) to a mandolin Discord and someone asked for a tab of the tune. So here is a PDF (also below) of the melody in standard and TAB notation.

Image of the sheet music, containing standard and TAB notation for mandolin, for the tune Parnastanc.
Click for PDF
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