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Building a Traditional Tune Repertoire
by Wendy Anthony
Red Haired Boy
(Key of A-mixolydian)
The Red Haired Boy is a well-known tune played at both Bluegrass jams & Celtic sessions. This tune is also known by other names, many of which are based on the title & lyrics of an 18th Century Scottish ballad with the same melody, otherwise known as #279 in the Child Collection: The Jolly Beggar, Little Beggarman, The Rigadoo & Johnny Dhu.
Listen to the Red Haired Boy MIDI
- Overview of Tune: This tune is in the Mixolydian Mode, which has a flatted seventh note (G instead of G#). Thus, even though the key signature is A (which has 3 sharps), there are actually only 2 sharp notes - A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G, A. Part B differs from Part A in only the first 2 measures, both in the melody line and the chord structure.
- Chords: The chords used are the ones normally expected in the key of A: A(I), D(IV), E(V), though, because the tuning mode is Mixolydian with a flatted seventh, there is an additional G (bVII) chord in the 4th measure of both Parts A & B. Also, Part B starts with a G (bVII) chord, followed by a D (IV), before returning to same progression as the rest of Part A.
Part A: ||: A | A/D | A | G | A | A/D | A | E/A :||
Part B: ||: G | D | A | G | A | A/D | A | E/A :||
- Pick Strokes: Pick all 1/4 notes with Downstrokes & all paired 1/8 notes with Down/Upstrokes.
- Add/Replace Notes: Repeat the same note to make a 1/4 note into two 1/8 notes; replace 1/4 notes with paired 1/8 notes; add a syncopated feel by using a tied 1/4 + 1/8 note (the second note is silent), followed by a final 1/8 note which is picked with an Upstroke (eg measure 14); try a bluesy-bluegrass ending by using a hammer-on from a flatted third (C) back to the regular third (C#).
- Play As A Celtic Hornpipe: A hornpipe is played slower than a reel, with a slightly swung, syncopated rhythm. This is accomplished by either playing the notes as if they were a dotted 1/8 note paired with a 1/16 note, in place of paired 1/8 notes, or by playing the tune as in 2/4 time, with the emphasis on the first note of the first half of the measure & the first note of the second half of the measure. This is usually not notated, but understood to be played as such.