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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW (OT) 2/7/2014: Old Bunch of Keys


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/279297

ScottK - Posted - 02/06/2014:  23:08:03


Hi All,



We have a snowy winter night on our hands this Thursday evening in Portland, Oregon.  Perfect night for snuggling up with a fretless banjo.  Seems like whenever I spend time with my fretless banjo, I always end up playing Old Bunch of Keys.  So that’s the tune I’ve chosen for this week’s TOTW.



I just chose this tune tonight, so I haven’t done a lot of research on it.  But the Fiddler’s Companion has a pretty good write-up on it here.



There are lots of good commercial recordings of this tune.  The version on Tommy & Fred is probably the definitive version.  Bob Carlin and Brad Leftwich also have a good version on Banging & Sawing.  



One of my favorite fiddle versions is Dan Gellert’s on his Waitin’ on the Break of Day CD.  You can hear that and watch moonshinev dance to it here.



There are lots of YouTube videos of folk playing Old Bunch of Keys.  A few notable versions:  Cathy Fink on solo banjo;  Chicken Train with John Hermann on banjo; Riley Baugus on banjo with Ira Bernstein flat-footing; the Bubba Red Hots with Tom Riccio on banjo; Uncle Earl; Locust Honey; Bertram Levy & Kirk Sutphin.



I made a recording tonight and posted it to my BHO music page.  The version I play is an amalgam of the version in Brad Leftwich’s Round Peak Style Clawhammer Banjo book and the Mike Seeger version in Ken Perlman’s Clawhammer Style Banjo book.  There are also lots more good recordings of Old Bunch of Keys in the BHO media archive.



All for now, Scott


dbrooks - Posted - 02/07/2014:  10:09:10


Scott, I am surprised you have received no comments yet on this fine choice.  I have played this tune occasionally in the past.  Now, thanks to you, it's time to go back an revisit it and enjoy it again.



David


blockader - Posted - 02/07/2014:  10:21:30


Its one of my favorites on fiddle for sure! Tommy thought it was about the best square dance tune that there was. I've always wondered about the title but never have tried to research it, anyone know about that?


trapdoor2 - Posted - 02/07/2014:  11:02:19


Yah, very high on my favorites list. One of those tunes that has a very strong 'groove' to it...easy to go to sleep playing the A part overandoverandoverandover. big



Thanks for posting it!



 


janolov - Posted - 02/07/2014:  11:21:50


I think it is an interesting tune because it is one of the tunes that is neither major, neither minor, and neither modal, because of the "microtones" that are between the normal tones/notes in the traditional scale.



According to the tab in Brad Leftwich's book (and his recording) the low G note is played something between G and G#, on the fretless banjo it is somewhere between the 3rd and 4th fret, and he notated it as a 3+ on the fourth string in the tab. That is one of the micro-tones that can be heard in a lot of traditional music (and blues - the bluesy 7th) but can be heard in traditional music from the British Isle and also from Scandinavia.



In Ken Pearlman's book Mike Seeger's version (on fretless banjo) it was notated as 3 on the fourth string.



In the fiddle notation in Milliner-Collection of American Fiddle Tunes (based on Tommy Jarrell's fiddle version) this note is played as a G# (on banjo - the fourth fret of the fourth string).



In all these versions the high G (on the first string) is notated as G (third fret on the first string). However the notation in Fiddler's Companion indicates that the high G usually is played as a G-G# sequence (corresponding to 3-4 on the first string of the banjo), but the low G is played as a G# corresponding to the fourth fret on the fourth string on the banjo. 



I think this tune is a good example of tunes played on fiddle (that is fretless) and fretless banjo, where different microtones play an important role, but is difficult to transpose to tab and music notation.



 


RG - Posted - 02/07/2014:  16:27:44


Scott-GREAT pick!  This is definitely one of my favorites on both banjo & fiddle...I love Tommy's recollection of the tune from an OT Herald article a ways back...



"Up on the mountain (near Fancy Gap, Va.) from my daddy‑in‑law (Charlie Barnett Lowe), an' John Rector, an' Fred Hawkes, an' some of 'em...Well, we'd go on the high part twice, y'know, but we played the low part a long time 'fore we'd go to the high part. We'd just keep playin' the (low part) til one of us wanted to change an' them we'd punch a knee. We'd sit (facing each other) with our knees together. An then if I took a notion to go on the high part, all I had to do is (bump knees), an' if he did, why, he'd do the same thing to me. An' we knowed exactly what the other one was gonna do thataway. In place of raising the fiddle up, that's what we'd do, y'know. Course when Lawrence (Lowe) got to playing with us, we couldn't do that, we had to raise my fiddle up when we'd go to go on the high part. Uncle Charlie and Daddy both (signaled by raising the fiddle) all the time. That's when I knowed when they was a‑gonna change, y'know. They played like that, played the low part of it maybe over half a dozen or a dozen times 'fore they'd play the high part, an' just go over the high part twice" (Tommy Jarrell interview, Old Time Herald, vol. 3, No. 2, Winter 91‑92, pg. 46)



Man, I bet THAT would be fun to hear!



Justin-I don't know about the tunes name origin, but this was in a blog about "The Bunch of Keys" reel on a UK website...maybe it has something to do with it...??



"It’s a whole bunch of wretched keys if you play it on the piano accordion…" - thesession.org/tunes/344



 


ScottK - Posted - 02/07/2014:  17:25:07


Thanks for the comments guys. Janalov, I think your observations are what made this tune grab me. I first learned it on a fretted banjo, but it wasn't until I started playing it on a fretless that I started to really have a lot of fun with it. I haven't tackled it on fiddle yet. May have to make that one of my spring projects.

Scott

blockader - Posted - 02/07/2014:  17:43:54


Thanks for that blurb, Rick. OTHerald is a treasure. And thats a good lead on the title too. 



BTW Scott, i enjoyed your playing on this tune very much. I usually just wing this tune on banjo, maybe i'll dial something in now. 


mbuk06 - Posted - 02/08/2014:  06:45:59


A great tune and I agree with other comments about it's trance-like 'round-and-round' quality. Perfect for cloggers. Despite that I kept my recording of this tune pretty short:



 



 




Old Bunch Of Keys

   

gailg64 - Posted - 02/08/2014:  07:11:02


quote:

Originally posted by blockader

Its one of my favorites on fiddle for sure! Tommy thought it was about the best square dance tune that there was. I've always wondered about the title but never have tried to research it, anyone know about that?







Tommy Jarrell's son B.F., (Ben Franklin Jarrell) who was a skilled bluegrass fiddler, was often at the house when people came visiting Tommy. (BF may have lived in the basement for a while). BF was a bit of a rascal & when he heard his dad playing the often-requested Old Bunch of Keys , he would throw his huge set of car keys at his dad's feet so they landed on top of Tommy's shoes. 



BF's favorite tunes on the fiddle were Wheel Hoss & Dance Around Molly.


bhniko - Posted - 02/08/2014:  07:35:43


Now... what to do...pick up the banjo or put on  my clogging shoes?

Can't do both...not  John Hartford.

Nice thread.


hendrid - Posted - 02/08/2014:  09:55:23


Very nice tune Scott.  Good pick



For those of you learning it by ear, take care as there are two Bunch Of Keys listed in the Fiddlers Companion Scott mentions above and this is the "Old" one.  This is the second tune listed there.  A number of the youtube.com videos, especially the ones from across our eastern waters are the first one.



This is a sheet music and abc source for this tune plus a piano type version:     abcnotation.com/tunePage?a=tun..._of_Keys_(2).no-ext/0001



For comparison, the versions in one file in thesessions.org for the other tune, Bunch Of Keys (not Scott's) are:    thesession.org/tunes/344



Edited by - hendrid on 02/08/2014 10:05:10

JanetB - Posted - 02/08/2014:  11:37:34


Here's my go at it on my Robert Browder small scale oak fretless gourd.  A fun tune to learn, Scott, and good like you said for a rainy day by the fireplace (with gratitude for rain in California today).  Thanks for pointing our way to this one.  I can imagine in this tune some of those old keys on a ring where you might not remember which goes where, something we've all experienced.






VIDEO: Old Bunch of Keys
(click to view)

   

RG - Posted - 02/08/2014:  12:07:34


Very nice Janet!


ScottK - Posted - 02/08/2014:  12:49:57


Great picking Mike and Janet!  That's a sweet looking / sounding gourd, Janet.  Looks like a really comfortable size to play, too.



More snow in Portland today.  Going to be another good day for woodshedding.  Unfortunately, it meant that Bill Evans had to cancel his Banjo in America house concert here this evening.  The new snow-pack in the mountains will be good news for our farmers this summer, though.



Scott


Paul S - Posted - 02/08/2014:  14:32:22


Janet, do you have some tab you could post, love that version you play?



Paul


JanetB - Posted - 02/08/2014:  15:46:35


Thanks!  Here's the tab I made after listening to Brad Leftwich's fiddling on Banging and Sawing and looking at the way he tabbed Tommy Jarrell in his Round Peak Style Clawhammer book.  When tabbing I made the decision to use the 3rd fret on the fourth string, but when playing on the fretless attempted to hit that sharper micro-tone, as noted in Brad's tab and in discussions for the tune.  Hope the tab is helpful.




Old Bunch of Keys

   

gailg64 - Posted - 02/08/2014:  17:12:12


KY fiddler Jim Bowles' Mary Marshall was almost the same tune as Jarrell's Old Bunch of Keys. Not sure that this will be a hot link, but here's the url from the DLA:


cdm272901.cdmhost.com/cdm/ref/...4/id/1767


 


 


quote:


Originally posted by ScottK

Hi All,




We have a snowy winter night on our hands this Thursday evening in Portland, Oregon.  Perfect night for snuggling up with a fretless banjo.  Seems like whenever I spend time with my fretless banjo, I always end up playing Old Bunch of Keys.  So that’s the tune I’ve chosen for this week’s TOTW.




I just chose this tune tonight, so I haven’t done a lot of research on it.  But the Fiddler’s Companion has a pretty good write-up on it here.




There are lots of good commercial recordings of this tune.  The version on Tommy & Fred is probably the definitive version.  Bob Carlin and Brad Leftwich also have a good version on Banging & Sawing.  




One of my favorite fiddle versions is Dan Gellert’s on his Waitin’ on the Break of Day CD.  You can hear that and watch moonshinev dance to it here.




There are lots of YouTube videos of folk playing Old Bunch of Keys.  A few notable versions:  Cathy Fink on solo banjo;  Chicken Train with John Hermann on banjo; Riley Baugus on banjo with Ira Bernstein flat-footing; the Bubba Red Hots with Tom Riccio on banjo; Uncle Earl; Locust Honey; Bertram Levy & Kirk Sutphin.




I made a recording tonight and posted it to my BHO music page.  The version I play is an amalgam of the version in Brad Leftwich’s Round Peak Style Clawhammer Banjo book and the Mike Seeger version in Ken Perlman’s Clawhammer Style Banjo book.  There are also lots more good recordings of Old Bunch of Keys in the BHO media archive.




All for now, Scott







 


RG - Posted - 02/08/2014:  17:52:37


That is a close tune Gail, and by one of my favorite KY fiddlers...




Mary Marshall performed by Jim Bowles

   

Paul S - Posted - 02/09/2014:  13:01:07


Thanks Janet, your the best!!!



Paul


aeroweenie - Posted - 02/09/2014:  20:02:10


Good pick Scott, this tune has been on my list of tunes to learn, and being TOTW, I've been working on it.  I find it fun to play, it can be played very simply but is wide open to variations.  The versions presented so far have been very helpful, thanks folks!  I'll try and record something later this week.


hweinberg - Posted - 02/10/2014:  05:34:45


I might have hallucinated it (it was a while back),  but I recall Mike Seeger saying that this was one of his favorite banjo tunes. -- Howard


banjogaz - Posted - 02/10/2014:  14:01:17


Ken Perlman's Clawhammer Style Banjo (Centerstream/Hal Leonard) has Mike Seeger's tabbed arrangement of Old Bunch of Keys. Mike learned it from Tommy Jarrell who played it on a fretless banjo. Mike and Alice Gerrard play it their Greenhays album, according to Ken.

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 02/13/2014:  08:02:50


I tried to "feature" the snow out the windows over my shoulder, and ended up looking as though I was filming a secret deposition with a Deep Banjo source who wanted to remain in the shadows. 



Here's my snowy day crack at the tune rendered so well by Janet and Scott and Mike, shot after shoveling countless cubic feet of weather.



 





 



The next film has no banjo relevance at all.  Just my hounds wrestling in the deep white.  Insert background banjo music as appropriate.



 





 



Stay warm. Play hard.



 



Lew



Edited by - Brooklynbanjoboy on 02/13/2014 08:10:32

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