For the latest installment of my album of original fiddle tunes (more on that here), I've chosen to record Track 9, which was originally unnamed, but which now has been crowned "In a Jiffy" (explanation of the name in a bit). Here you go:
"In a Jiffy" - an original fiddle tune by Jeff Norman (me). Played twice through by me on my Buckeye tuned to aDADE; 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:
"In a Jiffy" has a standard AABB structure, and is played in double D tuning (aDADE). The A part starts in Mixolydian (reference post on modes here) meaning that I hit C naturals pretty hard in the melody. If you listen through to the second repeat, you'll hear some C major chords on the guitar as well. Here are the A part chords for reference:
A part (x2)
D D G G
C C A A
D D G G
C C A D D
A quick aside about my guitar playing in the A part: While A major chords are indicated above, yoll actualyl hear A sus 2 chords rather than A majors...this is less an artistic choice and more a "I really need to practice guitar more often" choice. To explain: A major chords are fretted as 002220 in open position on guitar in standard tuning...apparently covering all three 2nd frets is just too much for my dumb banjo fingers to handle this morning. Furthermore, my attempts to "cheat" with an index finger barre were also disastrous. Using an A sus 2 chord, which is fretted as 002200 was the only way for me to get a relatively clean guitar sound. Listening carefully, I think it actually clashes a bit and takes away the old time vibe. I'm just now realizing that I could have tried an A7 chord (002020) which may have sounded a bit more "old timey" and also requires only 2 fingers to fret....live and learn.
As you can see by the chords (and hear in the recording) the A part is also crooked in that its got a couple "extra" (but not superfluous!) beats. I'll admit, I just wanted a chance to plunk my open D 4th string...I play the A part of "Snake Chapman's tune" like this and its kinda my favorite part of the tune.
The B part was actually the first part of the tune I wrote and it mostly came out of a brain teaser for myself. (Not sure why this idea popped into my head, but) I wanted to try writing a tune where I used every note in first position on my 3rd string (i.e. the open string, and frets 1-5); importantly, I wanted the melody to sound "coherent" as well. This exercise made it so that I had to put a B-flat major chord in the B part....certainly another hurtle for my old time guitar skills : ). Here are the B part chords for good measure (the lower case b indicates a flat...not sure how to get the actual flat symbol on here):
A part (x2)
C C A A
D D Bm Bm
Bb Bb Bb Bb
D D D D
On the 2nd D in the last line, I wrap my thumb around the guitar's neck to fret the 2nd fret on the 6th string...bit of a gimmicky bluegrass trick perhaps, but I think it sounds pretty nice : ).
The only other thing worth noting about the recording is that I changed to medium gauge strings for the Buckeye. I normally use a custom set of 9.5, 11, 15, 22w, 10 that is about the bare minimum in tension for the 25" scale length to be playable but I thought I'd beef it up to a martin medium set (10, 12, 16, 23w, 10) on a whim this weekend - I love the sound but my delicate left hand fingers (and right hand fingernail) may not be able to take them for long : ). You can hear my struggles to fret them properly in the 2nd B part the first time through - I definitely flub a note just before the guitar comes in...but these recordings have been "warts and all" rough drafts at this point so I just kept it.
About the tune name
"In a Jiffy" is kind of a roundabout pun. I wanted a name that included "mix" to hint at the mixolydian-ness of the tune (yeah...lame, I know). Being that the tune was written since I've moved to Michigan, I thought it'd be funny (read "even lamer") to substitute "Jiffy" in for "mix" as Jiffy-brand mixes are a Michigan product. I've actually seen the factory from afar on a random trip to Chelsea Michigan. "In a Jiffy" sounded like a good enough name for a fiddle tune, so there you go.
See you next week for another installment!
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.