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Dec 2, 2022 - 9:37:39 AM
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RG

USA

3200 posts since 8/7/2008

Picked one of my favorite banjo instrumentals for this TOTW, Clyde Troxell's French Waltz in the cool tuning of gBbFBbD. So let's dive in...

First off... this tune really has no history.  So now that that's out of the way, it's sole source seems to have been from musician's around Wayne County Kentucky, particularly Clyde Troxell from Rocky Branch, and was played by other local musician's like WL Gregory and Virgil Anderson as well (both of who are must listens in addition to the Troxell Brothers stuff on FRC, especially the Clyde Daveport/WL Gregory recordings). Clyde Troxell (1911-1994) and his brother Ralph (1920-1999) played some of the best banjo-fiddle duets I've ever heard.  That area of Kentucky (and bordering Tennessee) is FULL of VERY talented musicians, and if you listen to the Marimac cassette the Troxell brothers did in 1990 (Troxsong recorded by Bobby Fulcher), you'll be in for a treat. I'm lucky to have had the cassette from back in 1990 and digitized it a couple years ago, it's one of my most listened to old-time albums.

There's some great biographical information about the brothers in the liner notes, but they were "wood hicks" who played professionally in the area when they weren't working, or going to war (Ralph was wounded in the Southwest Pacific during WWII), and were a well kept secret outside the region until the legendary Clyde Davenport told the equally legendary Barry Poss (a great friend) and Bobby Fulcher about the brothers when Barry and Bobby recorded Virgil Anderson in 1982.  The rest you could say, is history.

So back to the tune.  It's neither a waltz, or French (more on that later). According to the liner notes to Troxsong:

"Clyde (Troxell) reports that this tune was brought back from WWI by veteran Jeff Gregory, who learned it from a banjo-playing Frenchman. The unusual tuning of gBbFBbD is used for no other piece in the region."

Mike Seeger states in the attached youtube video that Jeff was inspired by a French music box. So we know Jeff Gregory was in France during WWI and came back playing this song.  You can fill in the blanks from there-haha!

Interestingly, Clyde did play a version of Wild Bill Jones in a very similar tuning of fBbFBbD, a tune I posted in the old TOTW thread regarding that song.  For French Waltz, Mike Seeger picked up the tune and played it frequently, I think he even has an instructional video on how to play it as well.  I had never heard it played on the fiddle until I heard Kerry Blech play it with Allen Hart (and Kerry's wife Sheila).  Mac Trayham played a clawhammer version of the tune (the only time I've heard someone CH it) to a 3rd place finish at the Appalachian State Old-Time Fiddlers Convention. And of course, here's the original source of the tune (for all intents) from Clyde Troxell himself.

My version is a little mixture of Clyde and Mike's version, and I play it in the up-picking style that Clyde uses. The "rambling" nature of the tune always appealed to me, and it has a "rambling" structure to it as well, you can really mix and match the "parts" however you see fit. It's not a real difficult tune to play, and the look on someone's face when you play a "French waltz" that's neither French, nor a waltz, is always priceless. I play it a little more structured then most perhaps, but then at 61 my fingers aren't quite as nimble as they used to be, especially on those barre chords!

Well, hope you enjoy French Waltz, it's a great tune from a great source, isn't at all what it seems, and is a lot of fun to play... give it a whirl!


Edited by - RG on 12/02/2022 09:47:44

Dec 2, 2022 - 12:21:13 PM
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janolov

Sweden

42053 posts since 3/7/2006

Thanks for a nice choice!.

I learned it from Mike Seeger's instruction video: Old-Time Banjo Styles taught by Mike Seeger in the beginning of the 00's, but I have almost forgotten it (and I have no player for the video tape anymore). I once made this tab from the instruction video and the enclosed booklet. It is not exactly following the youtube link above, but I think the tab shows all music ideas.

The tuning is interesting. It can be called open Bb6 tuning. If tuned two steps higher it will be aCGCE. From another instruction by Mike Seeger I heard that he often chose to tune down the banjo a step or two because he liked that tone.

 


Edited by - janolov on 12/02/2022 12:31:24

Dec 2, 2022 - 2:26:02 PM

8332 posts since 8/30/2004

Wonderful tab as always Jan,
But I would like to know, one day, why most people post claw tunes with no chords. They are obviously for people who are in the Clawhammer elite. Many of my students request chords as a way to let their friends join in. I know that Classical Music doesn't have chords written but then the entire structure is totally different than one banjo strumming away...Just curious. Is this just an "In the know" kind of thing. Many of my students would come to BHO for clawhamer banjo if it hard tabs with chords...I just don't get it and never will...Happy Holidays...jack
Originally posted by janolov

Thanks for a nice choice!.

I learned it from Mike Seeger's instruction video: Old-Time Banjo Styles taught by Mike Seeger in the beginning of the 00's, but I have almost forgotten it (and I have no player for the video tape anymore). I once made this tab from the instruction video and the enclosed booklet. It is not exactly following the youtube link above, but I think the tab shows all music ideas.

The tuning is interesting. It can be called open Bb6 tuning. If tuned two steps higher it will be aCGCE. From another instruction by Mike Seeger I heard that he often chose to tune down the banjo a step or two because he liked that tone.

 


Edited by - Jack Baker on 12/02/2022 14:27:00

Dec 2, 2022 - 3:10:40 PM
Players Union Member

dbrooks

USA

4364 posts since 3/11/2004

Jack, I agree with you that chord names have value in banjo tabs, but I also feel I need to come to Janolov's defense (though I'm sure Jan can defend himself quite ably). For a long time, I have written my tabs with the expectation that might be shared with others, whether students or jam partners. If I were writing a tab for my own use 20 years ago, I might have taken shortest path and stopped with a draft if the tab without chords. 

You have been teaching for a long time and have been student-oriented-- a good thing for your students. I think the potential audience may drive the decision. 


I also agree with you that tabs that are more complete might draw more people to the Hangout. 


David

Edited by - dbrooks on 12/02/2022 15:11:26

Dec 2, 2022 - 3:26:44 PM

RG

USA

3200 posts since 8/7/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Jack Baker
Wonderful tab as always Jan,
But I would like to know, one day, why most people post claw tunes with no chords. They are obviously for people who are in the Clawhammer elite. Many of my students request chords as a way to let their friends join in. I know that Classical Music doesn't have chords written but then the entire structure is totally different than one banjo strumming away...Just curious. Is this just an "In the know" kind of thing. Many of my students would come to BHO for clawhamer banjo if it hard tabs with chords...I just don't get it and never will...Happy Holidays...jack
Originally posted by janolov

Thanks for a nice choice!.

I learned it from Mike Seeger's instruction video: Old-Time Banjo Styles taught by Mike Seeger in the beginning of the 00's, but I have almost forgotten it (and I have no player for the video tape anymore). I once made this tab from the instruction video and the enclosed booklet. It is not exactly following the youtube link above, but I think the tab shows all music ideas.

The tuning is interesting. It can be called open Bb6 tuning. If tuned two steps higher it will be aCGCE. From another instruction by Mike Seeger I heard that he often chose to tune down the banjo a step or two because he liked that tone.

 


 


Well, this isn't a clawhammer tune, I can't read music, can't play off a tab worth a damn, but I did post 3 videos of people playing the tune with clear views of both the left and right hand which, when you know the tuning, beats tab/notation any day of the week in my humble opinion... YMMV.  50+ years ago I learned from slowing LP's down to 16rpm and trying to figure tunes out, or watching folks play tunes, and struggled to learn to play by ear, but wouldn't trade that learning curve for anything.  Sometimes good things are hard to come by, which makes them all the more valuable in the end.  In past TOTW's that Janet has asked me to do, I had audio tutorials on how to play the tunes. but I work full time and didn't have the opportunity to do so with this tune.  

I'm curious, what are the chords Jack?  In this tuning, I wouldn't have a clue, but I'm always looking to learn something.

Dec 2, 2022 - 3:34:24 PM

RG

USA

3200 posts since 8/7/2008

quote:
Originally posted by janolov

Thanks for a nice choice!.

I learned it from Mike Seeger's instruction video: Old-Time Banjo Styles taught by Mike Seeger in the beginning of the 00's, but I have almost forgotten it (and I have no player for the video tape anymore). I once made this tab from the instruction video and the enclosed booklet. It is not exactly following the youtube link above, but I think the tab shows all music ideas.

The tuning is interesting. It can be called open Bb6 tuning. If tuned two steps higher it will be aCGCE. From another instruction by Mike Seeger I heard that he often chose to tune down the banjo a step or two because he liked that tone.

 


Thanks Jan!  Always been one of my favorites, would love to hear your version.  Clyde played it in gBbFBbD, so Mike didn't have to tune down for this one.

Edited by - RG on 12/02/2022 15:45:30

Dec 2, 2022 - 5:13:08 PM

8332 posts since 8/30/2004

Hi Folks,
I wasn't questioning Jan's tab at all, just asking out of curiosity because I know many people read these threads; many are sent by me to see what's cookin' on BHO. Mike Seeger's tab is Clawhammer via Mike Seeger I guess you could call it. I can usually put  the necessary chords in for sure but sometimes there just isn't any need as many of the Claw tunes are so simple musically (usually originate from Fiddle tunes) which is fine but I don't really want to have to re-do the tabs and add chords all the time.
This is really not a super big deal to me but I am curious as most of the b,grass tunes have chords written almost always....Be well stay healthy.   p.s. Jan often includes chords in Clawhammer tabs...Jack
Originally posted by RG
quote:
Originally posted by Jack Baker
Wonderful tab as always Jan,
 

Edited by - Jack Baker on 12/02/2022 17:18:11

Dec 2, 2022 - 5:22:52 PM

RG

USA

3200 posts since 8/7/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Jack Baker
Hi Folks,
I wasn't questioning Jan's tab at all, just asking out of curiosity because I know many people read these threads; many are sent by me to see what's cookin' on BHO. Mike Seeger's tab is Clawhammer via Mike Seeger I guess you could call it. I can usually put  the necessary chords in for sure but sometimes there just isn't any need as many of the Claw tunes are so simple musically (usually originate from Fiddle tunes) which is fine but I don't really want to have to re-do the tabs and add chords all the time.
This is really not a super big deal to me but I am curious as most of the b,grass tunes have chords written almost always....Be well stay healthy.   p.s. Jan often includes chords in Clawhammer tabs...Jack
Originally posted by RG
quote:
Originally posted by Jack Baker
Wonderful tab as always Jan,
 

Roger that Jack...

Dec 2, 2022 - 9:15:06 PM
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11163 posts since 4/23/2004

You can hear Bobby Fulcher playing "French Waltz" on Heritage records #39, "Old Five String", link below.

Great album, I've learned many of the tunes.

https://m.soundcloud.com/sprout333/sets/old-five-string

Dec 3, 2022 - 12:12:26 AM
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janolov

Sweden

42053 posts since 3/7/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Jack Baker
Wonderful tab as always Jan,
But I would like to know, one day, why most people post claw tunes with no chords. They are obviously for people who are in the Clawhammer elite. Many of my students request chords as a way to let their friends join in. I know that Classical Music doesn't have chords written but then the entire structure is totally different than one banjo strumming away...Just curious. Is this just an "In the know" kind of thing. Many of my students would come to BHO for clawhamer banjo if it hard tabs with chords...I just don't get it and never will...Happy Holidays...jack

 


 


I am sorry that my tab caused so many posts about guitar chords, instead of focus on this wonderful banjo tune.

I posted this tab as an attachmentin this thread just to show how The French Waltz was played by Mike Seeger, who learned it from Clyde Troxell. Neither Mike Seeger nor Clyde Troxell, played it with guitar accompaniment. So it would be wrong to to add guitar chords to a tune that have no guitar chords. And I don't  understand why I should provide your students with guitar accompaniment?

If I post it in the tab archive I will probably add my idea of  chord accompaniment (but my basic idea about chord accompaniment to this chord is: no chords at all!).

Dec 3, 2022 - 5:42:10 AM

8332 posts since 8/30/2004

Let me post once again. My post was not about this particular Mike Seeger tune. He usually or often played things alone as his vocals filled in the rest. My question was, why do most clawhammer people post claw songs with no backup other than the fiddle which is what most claw tunes come from. I'm from Va. where people like to join in and play along and so, with no chords or accompanyment it is just a private solo piece. I like to think of any string band music as sociable not "private" ....end of story....Jack

Originally posted by janolov
quote:
Originally posted by Jack Baker
Wonderful tab as always Jan,
 
Dec 3, 2022 - 7:03:46 AM

11163 posts since 4/23/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Jack Baker
Let me post once again. My post was not about this particular Mike Seeger tune. He usually or often played things alone as his vocals filled in the rest. My question was, why do most clawhammer people post claw songs with no backup other than the fiddle which is what most claw tunes come from. I'm from Va. where people like to join in and play along and so, with no chords or accompanyment it is just a private solo piece. I like to think of any string band music as sociable not "private" ....end of story....Jack

Originally posted by janolov
quote:
Originally posted by Jack Baker
Wonderful tab as always Jan,
 

Hi Jack, I think most people haven't the first clue how to generate a chord progression. Heck, most don't even know what key they're in...and often, they mix up "tuning" with "key".

We're lucky just to get decent tab...chords would indeed be a bonus.

Dec 3, 2022 - 7:14:54 AM

8332 posts since 8/30/2004

Ha! Well i'm putting chords in so folks have to step up their game smiles

Dec 3, 2022 - 1:12:49 PM
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342 posts since 10/26/2018

I'm not sure what the fuss is about chords; most traditional guitar players should be able figure most I IV V chords by ear. It's rare to need much more than that.

This tune is a ~bunch~ of Bb with a quick F turn around in the first part, then an Eb and an F added in the second part, right where one would think they belong due to the radical change in the sound when the chord changes. That could also be read as capoed lots of G with D and then add C and D chords since most won't play in Bb with a capo.

Dec 3, 2022 - 3:01:18 PM

8332 posts since 8/30/2004

Billy,
Ha! Pretty glib post. You're probably not a teacher or a beginner. This would not be an easy song to figure out even for an advanced beginner.   Maybe you have the "gift" but most don't...Jack
Originally posted by WVDreamin

I'm not sure what the fuss is about chords; most traditional guitar players should be able figure most I IV V chords by ear. It's rare to need much more than that.

This tune is a ~bunch~ of Bb with a quick F turn around in the first part, then an Eb and an F added in the second part, right where one would think they belong due to the radical change in the sound when the chord changes. That could also be read as capoed lots of G with D and then add C and D chords since most won't play in Bb with a capo.


Dec 3, 2022 - 3:35:21 PM

8332 posts since 8/30/2004

Ha! Not in my world would I say: "This tune is a ~bunch~ of Bb with a quick F turn around in the first part, then an Eb and an F added in the second part, right where one would think they belong"  Could you provide a little more info Bill? Not really telling us too much about where to put chords if folks are not a Pro like you...Very funny post though Billy...

Originally posted by WVDreamin

 

Edited by - Jack Baker on 12/03/2022 15:48:49

Dec 4, 2022 - 7:25:17 AM
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7722 posts since 11/4/2005
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quote:
Originally posted by janolov...

I posted this tab as an attachment in this thread just to show how The French Waltz was played by Mike Seeger, who learned it from Clyde Troxell. Neither Mike Seeger nor Clyde Troxell, played it with guitar accompaniment. So it would be wrong to to add guitar chords to a tune that have no guitar chords. And I don't  understand why I should provide your students with guitar accompaniment?

If I post it in the tab archive I will probably add my idea of  chord accompaniment (but my basic idea about chord accompaniment to this chord is: no chords at all!).


Of course, whether you put chords in your tab is entirely up to you, especially if you intend the purpose of your tab is to provide a completely accurate transcription of the Seeger's performance, which as you note has no guitar accompaniment.  Neither does Troxell's.  But we don't know if this was a deliberate choice, or just a matter of convenience.  It could be either.  It is true that the triad as a musical concept is not ancient, it first begins to show up in western music around the 15th or 16th century.  Prior to that, western polyphonic music had been characterized by melody, counterpoint and drones, usually based on 4th and 5th intervals, but not the 3rd.  It took centuries for that to change.  And the guitar itself does not show up in popular music with any regularity until the mid-19th Century.  Even today, among many old-time musicians, the archetypical ensemble is considered to be only the fiddle and banjo.  In the mountains of Appalachia, the old ways were preserved well into the 20th Century long after they were forgotten everywhere else.  I am reminded of Lester Flatt's introduction to the fiddle tune played in Carnegie Hall as a duet by Earl and Paul Warren: "You know, down in our part of the country, it hadn’t been too many years ago since just a five string banjo and a fiddle was kind a called a band down our way.  When you mentioned a band, one would reach and get the fiddle, the other’n’ a banjo, and had it all ready to go."  

But I get Jack's point as well.  It's not like French waltz is one of those ancient modal melodies that defies harmonization.  Both Troxell and Seeger make lush use of full triad chords in their renditions, particularly in the high part, where the melody is actually built off of the bar chords at the 5th and 7th fret.  So while the melodic structure is pretty freewheeling, it would not be difficult for a reasonably accomplished guitarist to add accompaniment, and I don't think it would sound out of place.  It might actually add some rhythmic context that would make the structure of the banjo arrangement easier to comprehend.  This would be especially useful to a relative novice student learning the tune from the tab, and from my experience as a banjo teacher, many students do have a friend or family member who often joins them on guitar.  So the chord notations could be very helpful for some.  I almost always include them on my tabs, for that reason.  But if your tab isn't intended for them, leave them off.

Oh, yeah, great job of picking, RG, you are doing old Clyde proud!


 

Edited by - Don Borchelt on 12/04/2022 07:29:31

Dec 4, 2022 - 12:28:25 PM
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342 posts since 10/26/2018

My intention was not to be glib, just to say if one can play those 3 chords, they can hear that there is little in the way of changes
Capo, 3rd fret (for Bb if that is where it is being played)

G G | G G | G G | G D-G [could be played as one long G but my experience is guitar players get bored by that sort of thing] 
repeat 3 times then when it changes (as it becomes obviously different to even the non-musician)
C C | C C | D D| D D | and back to G
There is the odd beat at the end of a couple of phrases that might throw off someone who isn't listening and just banging away at the chords. 

"I'm from Va. where people like to join in and play along and so, with no chords or accompanyment it is just a private solo piece"

That statement says nothing about beginners and to me implied folks know how to play along. I'm from Iowa, we have the same desire to participate in musical activities. 

Edited by - WVDreamin on 12/04/2022 12:30:40

Dec 6, 2022 - 2:48:19 PM
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6948 posts since 6/27/2009

A good intro to a Kentucky duo I'd not heard of, RG.  Thanks for your performance, links, and for Jan's tab, all which helped me.  This was a toughie.  Nobody plays it the same.  My husband liked Mac's clawed version, but mine sounds nothing like that and didn't excite him. :)  After using these many sources and trying too many times, here's a cello banjo rendition (with tuning d#D#A#D#G) whose chords I don't yet know, but I agree with RG, it's a fun tune to play. Notice I raised the 5th string which gives one note the same pitch on three strings.


Dec 6, 2022 - 5:41:53 PM
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RG

USA

3200 posts since 8/7/2008

quote:
Originally posted by JanetB

A good intro to a Kentucky duo I'd not heard of, RG.  Thanks for your performance, links, and for Jan's tab, all which helped me.  This was a toughie.  Nobody plays it the same.  My husband liked Mac's clawed version, but mine sounds nothing like that and didn't excite him. :)  After using these many sources and trying too many times, here's a cello banjo rendition (with tuning d#D#A#D#G) whose chords I don't yet know, but I agree with RG, it's a fun tune to play. Notice I raised the 5th string which gives one note the same pitch on three strings.


Loved that version Janet, and that cello banjo sounds really cool!

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