Friday, April 27, 2012

The Shape of a Tune

In my experience, 99% of fiddle tunes can be played using a note no higher than the 7th fret B note on the fiddle/mandolin's E-string/1st string, and a note no lower than the open G on the G-string/4th string (obviously).  Between those two extremes I suppose there are 29 notes to choose from.  Also, most fiddle tunes consist of an 8 measure A-part and an 8 measure B-part.  If you sub-divide each of those 8 measures into 4 quarter notes, you end up with 32 total quarter notes in each part.  In other words, these 32 quarter notes are the tune's bare bones melody.

My goal is to see if I can make any observations by analyzing a tune's shape, so I've come up with a table that should help me do that (see image below).  The table contains a row for each of the possible melody notes, from the 7th fret B to the open G.  And it contains 32 columns - one for each of the quarter note melody notes.  I've also created a separate row to document the tune's suggested chords/chord progression.  I hope that by charting several tunes in this manner it will begin to tell me certain things, such as recurring shapes, patterns, progressions, likelihood of certain notes, and more.

I'll start by compiling a short list of the most popular fiddle tunes (old-time and Irish) and chart out standard arrangements of those tunes.  I'll also include a few tunes that are common to the jams in my area.  Perhaps I'll happen upon some clues to help me make educated guesses with regard to where a tune might be headed, which could come in handy when trying to pick up tunes by ear.

Here's the table.  I'll follow up once I have some results/observations.
Tune Shape Table - mandolin/fiddle/tenor banjo

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