Our (possibly) last jig of the term is an English Morris tune, Balance the Straw (Fieldtown). The reason for the brackets is to specify the Morris tradition, and to therefore distinguish the tune from others that share the title.
Here is a demo of the tune:
We started by learning a skeleton version of the tune, as written out here. This gives you a sense of which notes are essential, and which can be swapped or even removed.
From there, we added slow skips, fast skips, fidgets, scales and repeated notes to create the full tune:
Here is a video of the walkthrough:
I gave an optional extra challenge of creating melodic and rhythmic variation to the tune. As with Rig a Jig Jig and Dory Boat, we played with substituting some of the melodic figures for others. By ‘melodic figures’ I mean short notable phrases in the tune. Below, I’ve laid out some of these shapes and pointed out which ones you can substitute fairly easily:
Here’s a video that talks through this process:
Finally we have the ornament of the moment – the turn. The turn is essentially made of a start note (G in the example below), a finish note ( an F# in the example below) and extra two notes that come in between. These two extra notes are normally a step higher than the start note and then a reiteration of the start note, and they ‘steal’ time from the first note. They are best used when notes move by step or in small jumps and they can emphasise the smoothness of the melody. Here is an exercise to try (slow and steady, and then faster with the notes pushed closer to the final note:
And finally a video about this ornament. Try it out on all of the jigs from this term, in places where the melody moves by step or in small jumps.
Here are some PDFs of the tune and of the various chord sequences we tried out:
A tune to go with Rig a Jig Jig, this is The Dory Boat. It has a lot of the same melodic shapes and rhythms as Rig a Jig Jig, and lots of opportunity for trying out varying the tune in subtle ways. Here is a demo and a walk through of the tune:
This tune contains a lot of arpeggio shapes, so I set the challenge of adding some extra notes in between the small intervals that these shapes give us- you might have spotted some of these variations creeping into in my demo video! So for instance, you could add an A in between the first two notes of bar 2, giving you a quaver run of BAG. These subtle little variations are just one way in which folk musicians play around with tunes, and they can be dropped in here and there for variety and as a way of putting your own stamp of individuality on the tune. Try a few out – maybe one every couple of bars or so – and see what you like the sound of!
The penultimate tune of the term is a tune that I learned from Laurel Swift. It’s listed in Dave Townsend’s English Dance Music vol. 1 as the C and D parts of the better known Rogue’s March, as sung here by John Tams and Barry Coope:
This well known tune dates back to the late 1700s, and is said to have been used across the British Isles and America to drum disgraced soldiers out of the army. However, I’ve not been able to find any reference to the C and D parts of the tune, so it’s a bit of a mystery!
Here is a slower and faster version of the tune. The faster part includes the turns that we added throughout the tune wherever a step-wise crotchet-quaver pattern occurs on the first beat of a bar.
Here is a walkthrough:
Here are the dots:
A PDF with the dots can be downloaded below, along with a second PDF with standard and alternative chords:
This week we learned a tune called Jack’s Alive, a tune from the 18th century that’s in the English, Scottish and American traditions. This is an English version, but it’s worth looking up others, I recommend folktunefinder.com and https://tunearch.org/ as fairly reliable sources of tunes and, critically, of background information.
Video 1 is a slower and faster play through for you to listen to:
We then have a walk through:
Here are some ideas about about ornamentation:
And a few more about little variations for the tune:
Finally here are the dots, with a PDF available here:
The chord chart with the second chord sequence is available here– these show how you can get stuck in a G -D – G – D pattern if you only stick to the obvious chords, but suggest a route out of this!
This is a tune that came into being last week – I was looking at a tune called Chartley March, but my brain kept pushing me towards the tune I’ve covered here, which is pretty similar. Having played it down the phone to a number of friends, no one could work out what it was, but luckily the hive mind of the class (I think Bob cracked it!) managed to identify it as a jig version of Ievan’s Polkka, which we’ve renamed Ievan’s Upcycled Jig.
Here’s the slow and faster version to listen to before you try learning it:
And here’s the walk through:
Here are videos on ornamentation and on melodic variations:
And finally here are the dots with a PDF here , with a second PDF with possible jig rhythms for chords instruments or for fiddle shuffles (chord shapes are listed in the bonus post below this one).
I also did an Acapella arrangement, with fiddle shuffles and two melody lines to demonstrate the chord rhythms and to show how varying the ornaments and melody doesn’t necessarily create clashes – I tried to make the two parts as different as possible without going overboard, and I didn’t plan anything out before I started so it’s more an example of how the tune might sound in a session – for a concert performance or recording I would probably standardise things a little and definitely arrange the structure more.
Hi all, here is the last tune of the term, the Irish slide Star Above the Garter. Since we’ve played some tunes from Kerry over the last few weeks, in our warm ups and as a main tune, it seemed appropriate to stay in that general area! There’ll be a bit of a break now until mid-April during which I’ll experiment with different formats, structures, subscriptions and technologies since it’s currently looking like we won’t be able to meet in person for some time. Please assume that online content will replace meetings until further notice.
Again these videos are supposed to be a substitute for our group sessions, so if you’re not a yearly subscriber and have enjoyed this post, please consider making a small donation via Paypal (you don’t need a Paypal account to donate). Enjoy, and I’ll be in touch soon!
The PDF of the basic tune is available here, but I would really recommend relying on your memory and relearning the tune from the video as and when you forget it – each subsequent time you learn the tune from the video, you will pick it up faster and will be a little more likely to retain it over time. If you rely on the sheet music then you’re not practising remembering the tune!
Next, here’s a video with bowings and ornaments, with a PDF (including a harmony and bass line) available here.
Last but not least we have a video of the tune, harmony, chords and bass line together – the harmony part is high in the mix, but I’m since I’ve not recorded it anywhere else I’ve decided to leave it as is!
Here’s Black Nag, also from January 13th, a tune from the Playford collection (1657 edition). We learned the tune and then created a variation in the B section by substituting different melodic shapes for the argeggios in the original.
A delayed post from January 13th: Bacca Pipes is a tune and dance from the Cotswold Morris tradition and is danced over two crossed tobacco pipes, making it a form of sword dance of the kind found across Europe. It’s related to the tune Greensleeves and was collected by Cecil Sharp on August 30th 1909 from musician Thomas Delaney in Sevenhampton, Wiltshire.
Monday 6th January was our first week back and we covered a range of tunes, starting with the Plane Tree jig and its possibly original 4/4 counterpartSchottishe a Bethanie (video link to the fabulous Mel Biggs of Morai and ‘Pick Up and Play’ fame). We used this tune as inspiration and the second half of the night was taken up with Kit White’s no.2, which we recapped and then collectively turned from a polka into a jig.
I’ve roughly notated the various stage we went through to reach the end product; at stage one we played even quavers in 6/8 to fill out the bars, at stage two we simplified the rhythm and at stage three we replaced key patterns with ‘hill’, ‘ditch’, ‘zig zag’ or scale shapes. Each replacement was selected from two or three options presented by me and voted on by the group – the title refers to the idea that a camel is a horse designed by committee!