If you read last weeks post (here), you'll remember that I'm planning on spending the next 10 weeks or so recording an "album" one track at a time. This pursuit included some big plans that have already succumbed to reality : ).
First off, I planned on recording the tracks in the order that I wrote them, starting with "Cheese and Krackers"...however, I couldn't find my guitar capo so I decided to start with the only tune for which I wouldnt use one: "Stripey Cat," in G major (in contrast to my capo-free banjo playing I normally play D and A tunes, but not G tunes, with a capo on guitar). Secondly, I'd planned on 3 repeats per tune...but recording was taking a bit so I capped it after 2 repeats (one with solo banjo followed by one with guitar accompaniment). However, "done" is better than "perfect" and, other than a bit of lagginess in the second B part, I'm pretty happy with the results; without further ado, I give you "Stripey Cat:"
"Stripey Cat" - an original fiddle tune by Jeff Norman (me). Played twice through by me on my Buckeye tuned to gEADE; guitar accompaniment the second time through using a 12-fret Epiphone Masterbilt in standard guitar tuning sans capo. Tune and recording Copyright 2017 - Jeff Norman.
About the tune
I wrote this tune in honor of a friend's rambunctious little cat "Heathcliff" who stayed in my apartment for about a week while they were out of town. Correction: Heathcliff was supposed to stay with me for a week, but he was a little ball of energy and I was just too exhausted to keep up with his antics after about 3 days (also my cat Peekay was not thrilled with an intruder and started "marking her territory" in response...sigh). Thankfully, another friend volunteered to watch Heathcliff for the duration of the week and (with some dogged cleaning) Peekay's efforts fell short of depriving me of my security deposit when I moved out.
This is the only tune I've ever written in what Adam Hurt calls "Sandy River Belle tuning" (gEADE); though it looks a lot like A modal, its meant to be treated as a non-open tuning for the key of G major. To use Sandy River Belle tuning, one plays melodies around chord shapes; this approach is akin to what Chet Atkins did on guitar. Speaking of guitar, this tuning should feel quite comfortable to guitarists since the 3 lowest pitched strings are tuned the same (though 1 octave higher) as those of a guitar in standard tuning.
One interesting feature of "Stripey Cat" is that 1 beat of the A part (ignoring the lead in notes) starts on a phrase best backed by the IV chord (C major) of the key rather than the 1 chord (G major). I suppose you could therefore think of the A part as being in C Lydian rather than G Ionian (click here for my post on modes if you don't know what I'm talking about)...? This is certainly not unique, however - for instance, the B part of "Nail that Catfish..." starts on the IV chord. The B part of "Stripey Cat" starts on the relative minor chord (E minor) and, like many of my tunes, employs some "big brushes" (post on this technique here). There is a 3 note sequence repeated twice between each big brush that you can sing the title to if you're feeling goofy ("stripe-y cat, stripe-y cat") in the B part as well.
I think of the tune as going AAB (with a B part thats quite long); I suppose you could play it AABB as well, but that means that most of your time is spent on the B part - I do think it would be neat to double up on the B part the last time through (but I didn't do that on the above recording). This isn't the most interesting fiddle tune I've written, but I do think its pretty catchy! I've never played this one with a fiddler, but I'd love to hear what a fiddle could do with it one day!
You'll notice that I have a copyright statement below the tune. I asked the good folks over at Banjohangout what was necessary for copyrighting a tune (you can find that discussion here) and they pointed out that simply putting a creative work into "tangible form" was enough to claim copyright on it. Someone else mentioned that I should write that copyright statement in association with each tune as well...so I did. Apparently I can register a copyright for ~$35 but I don't see these tunes as a road to riches so I guess the "tangible form" argument is good enough for me. I'd encourage anyone reading this to take these tunes to jams and festivals if you like them; if you'd like to record one of these tunes for commercial purposes I'm likely all for that too but please contact me before doing so.
About this blog
I have lots of ideas about banjo playing and music in general - this blog allows me to get them all out of my head and see what you think.