Pop Goes the Weasel

A Child’s Song, a Jig–Pop Goes the Weasel

Looking over my list of tunes in the Fiddle Tune Directory, I see a shortage of real beginner tunes. Pop Goes the Weasel is a tune requested by my younger students. It’s a jig, it’s a children’s song, but it isn’t easy. And yet, because it is so well known, it can be approachable by beginners.

Pop Goes Weasel

Let me toss in the link to the pdf file. And now continue with a little background for the song.

All around the mulberry bush,
The monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey thought that it was a joke
Pop! goes the weasel.
A penny for a spool of thread,
A penny for a needle—
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.
Jimmy’s got the whooping cough
And Timmy’s got the measles.
That’s the way the story goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.

It goes something like that, right? Unless you are in the United Kingdom. Their version is mostly like the way I first heard the song as sung by Anthony Newley in Stop the World I Want to Get Off.

Half a pound of tupenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
Mix it up and make it nice,
Pop! goes the weasel

Every night when I get home
The monkey’s on the table,
Take a stick and knock it off,
Pop! goes the weasel.

Up and down the city road,
In and out the Eagle.
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.

The Wikipedia article tells us that the song was originally a dance tune written in the early 1850’s. It was hugely popular. Words were added later. And the meaning of them has not been totally agreed on.

Just think about the cost of “half a pound of tupenny rice.” A penny, right. Rice going for two cents a pound. Talk about low prices!

Treacle is either molasses or a mixture of molasses and corn syrup. If the rice is cooked and mixed with the treacle, it’s a kind of rice pudding, I suppose.

Further into the song it gets a little more obscure. The “weasel” is part of a thread spinning machine. As the article writes, “The weasel is usually built so that the circumference is six feet, so that 40 revolutions produces 80 yards of yarn, which is a skein. It has wooden gears inside and a cam, designed to cause a popping sound after the 40th revolution, telling the spinner that she has completed the skein.”

We are not told the price of 80 yards of yarn. Do you suppose it’s a penny? Or in barter, you give me 80 yards of yarn, I’ll give you half a pound of rice. Now, those were the good old days.

As to getting up and playing the song as a jig, and why not, that’s what it was originally. The plan in the tab chart includes a left hand pluck on the E string for the “Pop” of the Weasel. I usually use my pinkie.

President Garfield’s Hornpipe

President Garfield’s Hornpipe from Sean Ryan’s

Being an election year, and the race for President being more interesting than usual, here is a blast from the past. This tune, President Garfield’s Hornpipe was first published in Sean Ryan’s Mammoth Collection of fiddle tunes, not long after the unfortunate assassination of the man elected by the people of this country.

Later almost the whole collection was republished as 1000 Fiddle Tunes by M.M. Cole. Of the two, Sean Ryan’s has the tunes in a slightly larger format, but not much. Either one is good for tracking down the oldest usable version of a common tune, as well as finding gems that have been left behind.

This hornpipe is in the key of Bb, a good key for fiddle but not found all that often. The second part of the tune is especially melodic. The descending figure over Eb, then Bb is intriguing. Maybe it’s not easy, but then it’s a hornpipe. You don’t have to play at lightning speed.

The bar that follows those two suggests an F7 chord. To me this lick feels just a little awkward. And yet the sound is completely compelling!

For printing, I recommend the President Garfield pdf. This will print better than the jpeg image.

Remembering James A. Garfield

Three quarter profile of James A Garfield
President for about 200 days.

About President garfield, the Wikipedia article says, “[He] advocated agricultural technology, an educated electorate, and civil rights for African Americans.

My belief is that he was the last elected President in favor of an educated electorate. If you think about it, a change in our culture to be supportive of an educated electorate would be a revolutionary change.

Also, I’ve read articles online that cast President Garfield into the role of an opposition to the central banking class. That position wins no popularity contests, as you probably know.

Crabs in the Skillet–Trad Irish Tune

Crabs in the Skillet in Tab

As someone who has the zodiac sign of Cancer the Crab, I should feel uncomfortable about the title of this tune. But, I don’t.

I didn’t even feel uncomfortable when playing this tune at an old time contest cost me placement in the top five. Too bad. It’s a great tune. You can hear Liz Carroll play it on the Lost in the Loop album.

This tune goes way back. You’ll find it in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland for deep traditional “cred.” Also, check Mel Bay’s Irish Session Tune Book for contemporary validation. It’s all good with this one.

Crabs_in_the_Skillet

As always, I like to include a pdf file for best printing: get your Crabs here

On the Boulevard–a Jig by Liz Carroll

Play a Liz Carroll Fiddle Tune from Tab Notation

When I first heard On the Boulevard from the Liz Carroll album, Lost in the Loop, It seemed repetitious. The similarity between the A part and the B part seemed a little redundant. It was as if the B part was a replay of the A part an octave higher.

Then, I started playing the tune. When I got involved I found that the contrast between the tow parts was subtle but interesting. Now I’ve gotten to like the jig very much and have included it in the 2nd Sunday Session we have in Palm Harbor.

Maybe  you’ve heard the insensitive comment that all these Irish tunes sound alike. (Or, all these old timer tunes sound alike. Or, all these fiddle tunes sound alike. You get the idea.) Let’s not be that person. Let’s be open minded that we may not appreciate a tune when we hear it, but we know that some people may like it alot.

I got this tune from Liz Carroll’s book, Collected. It has 185 of her original tunes. When I play it as tabbed, I include a little tweak in the A part that organizes playing the first phrase four times for me. Otherwise, it is mostly as published in music notation.

On the Boulevard--Liz Carroll

For good results in printing, here is On the Boulevard as a pdf file.

The Earl’s Chair

The Earl’s Chair–an Irish Reel Session Favorite

When I play The Earl’s Chair, sometimes I think: The Duke of Earl’s Chair. That would be a slightly Americanized version of this great Irish fiddle reel.

I first tuned in to The Earl’s Chair when I heard the Liz Carroll album, Lost in the Loop. It’s preceded by an incendiary Silver Spear, and followed by a lively Musical Priest. There’s a cool riff she does that I imitate to some extent in this tab chart.

Originally I made a music notation version of what I was teaching. That went out to the Second Sunday Session that will be meeting tomorrow.

Since then I’ve tweaked it a bit. What appears below is close to how I play it now.
Fiddle tab of The Earl's Chair

Here is what The Earl’s Chair sounds like.

This is a moderately difficult tune even at the intermediate pace of the sound file. Below is a YouTube video I made right after recording the above.

At the Second Sunday Session we play the Earl’s Chair after Silver Spear, just like Liz Carroll. Well, our Chair is more of a Lazy Boy Recliner by comparison.

In the Garden

A Gospel Favorite–In the Garden

This is what the fiddle tab chart for In the Garden sounds like when played on the violin.

Over the years that I’ve been publishing fiddle tabs online, many fiddlers have requested a gospel song. Or just gospel songs in general. There are a few on this site.

The song In the Garden was a favorite way back in the days I attended a Spiritualist church in Tampa. I’m glad to get this one online, too.

You’ll notice that it’s in the key of Bb. That’s a good key for singing. It’s also friendly to the fiddle with the availability of the open A, D, and G strings. The relative minor key of G minor has a bunch of great tunes. From Bill Monroes’s Cheyenne to the Beatrice Reel, or Crabs in the Skillet,  Bb and G minor have a lot to offer.

My favorite spot in this tune, In the Garden is where the chorus goes from an F to the Eb, a minor seventh. The interval has that yearning quality that is so satisfying in a gospel song.

In-the-Garden

In the Garden will print out best from this pdf chart.

Another great gospel tune on this site is How Great Thou Art

Lannigan’s Ball

A Good Time at Lannigan’s Ball

A few years ago, I went to the Clearwater Library to sit in on a concert presented by the Bay Area Fiddlers. I had been out of the group for a few years. So it was that I met Anson and Pat Young for the first time.

I learned before long that they were very active in promoting the group and making sure things happened that needed to happen.

I know most of the tunes we played that day. One was new to me: Lannigan’s Ball, a sprightly jig in E minor. I faked along as well as I could and resolved to really learn the tune, because I liked it.

Now I teach it to my students, using this tab chart.

an Irish jig in fiddle tab version of Lannigan's Ball
Lannigan’s Ball, an Irish jig in fiddle tab

For printing, and sharing with others, here is a pdf chart. Now that I look at it again, as I put it online, I wish I had put in a grace note from the 3rd finger to the first finger in the second bar, and the fifth bar which has the same figure of notes. Feel free to add that ornament to Lannigan’s Ball and have fun at the ball!

This audio file features me playing Lannigan’s Ball as you see in the chart, then a second time with a little more ornamentation.


http://100fiddletunes.com/FiddleMP3/lannigans_ball.mp3

 

Arkansas Traveler

 

Arkansas Traveler and Eck Robertson

 

Eck Robertson recorded Arkansas Traveller and Sally Gooden for Edison Records in 1922. These must have been the first recordings of fiddle tunes.

Sally Gooden was included in the Smithsonian Country Classics. The other side of the original recording, Arkansas Traveller, remains a very popular tune in fiddle jams.

ArkansasTravellerHere is the pdf file for the tune.

This is what Arkansas Traveller sounds like. First time, as it appears on the page, second time, a little more freely.

 

For another great hoedown in D, try Whiskey before Breakfast.

How Great Thou Art

How Great Thou Art

Gospel songs go best in the key someone can easily sing. For How Great Thou Art that key is Bb, in my opinion. This is a good key on violin, too. You can easily use the open strings, except for E. The third note of the scale is D, and that tunes in to the D string, helping your intonation.

HowGreatThouArtIf you haven’t played much in the key of Bb, review the scale. Start with the low first finger on the A string. Work your way through the steps of the scale, listening carefully.

You will ned to use your fourth finger for the Eb note on the A string and the Bb note on the E.

Then, start with the second finger in the low position on the G string. From there, you can use the open D and A strings in the scale.

Here is the link for the pdf chart

Another Gospel song for fiddle is the best known of all, Amazing Grace.