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EPISODE 6: "Darling Corey"
by Josh Turknett, clawhammerbanjo.net
I don't think it's possible to overstate how great of a banjo song Darling Corey is (originally “Cora,” but pretty much everyone pronounces it “Corey”) . On display is nothing short of everything that's great about the banjo and its traditional repertoire.
It's commonly played out of a tuning, gCGCC, that only a banjo player would dare dream up. A tuning that, despite looking redundantly ridiculous on paper, sounds incredible, wrapping our ears in a blanket of droning banjo bliss.
Plus, it's about moonshining. And somebody gets buried.
So you have no choice but learn it.
Step 1: Know Thy Melody
Before embarking along the fretboard in search of the notes of the melody, make you sure you've committed the melody to memory. Warning: once implanted in your cranium, it'll likely worm it's way around there for quite some time.
Step 2: Find The Melody Notes
As is the case with many of the modal type banjo tunes, which emanate from a "pre-chordal" tradition of music, this isn't really a chord based song. As discussed in previous episodes, I typically find the chord progression as the first step in working up a new song, since these will form the foundation for backup playing. But an exception to this rule are the "chordally ambiguous" modal tunes, like Darling Corey.
So rather than start with the chord progression, in this case we'll instead start with the melody itself when building our vocal backup.
And, without further ado, here's what I hear as the basic melody of Darling Corey: Corey Melody.mp3
Go ahead and tune up your banjo to gCGCC (those last two strings are tuned to the same exact pitch) and see if you can locate those notes on your banjo. Check your work below:
Step 3: Add Some Clawhammery Stuff
Here, a simple clawhammer arrangement of this melody will make the perfect accompaniment to our voice. So, let's clawhammerify the above melody by adding a "ditty" strum after each of the melody notes that occur on the downbeat (the ones bolded in the tab above). This will serve as the foundation for what we'll play while singing.
Here's that represented in tab:
And here's how that sounds: Corey Clawed.mp3
Step 4: Embellish To Suit Your Tastes
Now, you could stick to playing the above arrangement both while singing, and play it as a “solo” in between the verses.
Or you can mess around with it a bit. One of the great things about this tune and tuning is that it's melodically sparse, and there are really only a few fretted notes to worry about, as denotes by the orange dots on the fretboard diagram below, which indicate the primary notes of the scale used for this tune down the neck (and remember that strings 1 and 2 are tuned to the same pitch):
In other words, there's lots of room for playing around with this tune. As long as you keep a pulsating clawhammer rhythm in the background and stick to these notes, it's hard to go wrong. It's a tune that's ideally suited to mindless noodling.
Here's a sample of "Darling Corey" with just a few well placed hammer-ons. Nothing too fancy, but it sounds great: Corey Decorated.mp3
Here's what that looks like in tab:
So have fun with this perfection of a banjo song. Click below if you'd like to download the tabs for this episode, including the tab for the arrangement I played in the initial video.
Want to view all of the prior Clawhammer Core Repertoire Series episodes?
About the Author
Dr. Josh Turknett is the creator of Breakthrough Banjo, the first music beginner to advanced system for learning clawhammer banjo that incorporates the science of learning and neuroplasticity and specifically target the adult learner (click to learn more)
Gary Trusty Says:
Friday, June 24, 2016 @6:53:35 PM
As a tone deaf "beginner", it is extremelly helpful when you tab the basic melody!! Thank you for helping me learn, Gary
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