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  TOW #002: Soldier's Joy

ABC version

From: John Bird Date: Mon, 03 May 1999 14:20:00

Niles graciously declined my nomination of him for Tune-Meister, so I guess I'll keep at it until we can find the right person! I hope enough of us have found this tune of the week thing to be good enough to continue. I know I learned a lot about Blackberry Blossom--including that cool B part by Steve Keating! Whoa!

I'm suggesting Soldier's Joy this week. It may be one of the first tunes many people learn, but even so, good to revisit. I waited a long time to learn it. I really like to pick it. It sits there in D very nicely, and you can get some good (appropriate) speed out of it. Plus it's really a good pinky workout. I have a place in it that often trips me up, so I find that practicing that trouble spot is helpful not only for that tune, but for others and for the pinky in general.

As I drove home from Merlefest yesterday (aside: Chris Thile can play the mandolin!), I was listening to Doc Watson and Bill Monroe from the live Smithsonian CD. Doc really rips up Soldier's Joy, then Bill take his break. The crowd hardly responds, after roaring for Doc. He seems to sense this, and makes an appreciative comment during Bill's next break. Then the crowd seems to catch on. I find Monroe's approach to this and other old fiddle tunes very interesting. It's instructive to see/hear what he does that's different. He still gets the melody in there, but he keeps his break rhythmic at the same time, playing successive notes, slurring, sliding. His second and third breaks are good examples of what Mike Compton calls "Bill's sneaky stuff." Comments, Mike? Anybody?

So what are your favorite versions? Variations? Any problems with it? I think I'll crank it up myself and see what happens.

From: John Clay Date: Mon, 03 May 1999 21:35:00

That [Smithsonian] CD is great--there seems to be a lot more energy in those live performances. One thing I really noticed about Doc on that CD was what a gentleman he was--his clean picking was electric and generated a lot of applause, yet he really didn't seem to be in competition with Bill Monroe and made sure to recognize his playing. Greatness and humility combined are inspiring...

From: Nigel Gatherer Date: Mon, 03 May 1999 22:45:00

I have put my transcription (standard notation and tablature) of the Richard Greene/Bill Monroe version of Soldier's Joy on my website at It should provide an interesting comparison with other versions you're looking at.

From: John Bird Date: Thu, 06 May 1999 03:45:00

The trouble spot for me on this tune is in the B part, and as usual, it involves the pinky. Or so I thought. What I figured out as I played will have an effect on much I do, I think.

As I watched myself go up to hit the seventh fret, I saw my first finger jump off the fret. Now I knew that wasn't good. Then I remembered what somebody on here said recently: "Don't move a finger until you need to." (Thanks to whomever!) So I tried anchoring that first finger down as I went up the fingerboard. The results were amazing. I found that my pinky hit the seventh fret much more cleanly, and the problem I had in the B part went away.

That made me think about Blackberry Blossom, where I also have a problem with my pinky, a problem so severe that I start in 2nd position, then shift. So I tried by starting in 1st position, but with my first finger down on the second fret behind my second finger on the third. Much better! Now I think I can play this tune in first position.

This is an important lesson for me, and one that I am going to try to apply to a number of tunes.

From: Rob and Maria Date: Tue, 04 May 1999 10:40:00

Great choice for TOW. Celtiburra, my one gig band does a 3 part version that came from a booklet called Airs for Pairs.

From: Al 05/03/99 07:10:04 PM

I like the version done by The Rice Brother's. (same name CD). I think most of us would have to slow it down by at least 50% to play it at that speed! Where else can we find different versions of it?

From: Don Tolan Date: Tue, 04 May 1999 16:25:00

Try the "doc and dawg" cd.

From: Darrel Toole Date: Tue, 04 May 1999 19:35:00

Guitar Tab - Key of G:

Midi: ABC: Gif's and ASCII Text

From: Peters Day Date: Tue, 04 May 1999 16:10:00

I found this in a green book that Becky Smith sent me last year

Soldier's Joy (Grisman version - "Ten Tunes in Nine Keys")
& means rest.

From: Tobias J. Kreidl Date: Mon, 03 May 1999 23:25:00

Two versions as audio files, including a duet version:

and both are at pretty reasonable speeds.
From: Joel Glassman Date: Tue, 04 May 1999 04:55:00

Soldier's Joy variations (& means let previous note ring, ~ means slide).

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From: Niles Hokkanen Date: Mon, 03 May 1999 20:50:00

Since John has selected Soldier's Joy as the tune of the week, I'll repost one of my early CoMandocrucian Ex. postings. I think to "really know" a tune, you should be able to playing in half a dozen or more major (and/or minor keys) and in several time signatures as well. While a particular tune may work better (easier to play) in one key than another on a particular instrument, I don't think that the tune should be welded permanently to just that one key. What happens if the jam lineup changes and someone doesn't play it in D? Well, their possible inability to transpose shouldn't limit YOU!

Just something to think about while fooling around on your instrument...

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
CoMandocrucian Exercise Program, # 2 (Feb. 06, 1998)

Sticking with the tune Soldier's Joy, I'd like you to try a transposing exercise. Because you will be playing the tune in a key other than D major, the fingerings will be different. You may find yourself wanting to alter some of the runs or phrases using licks you already know. This is fine in an actual playing situation, but for this exercise, it will defeat the purpose. Instead I want you to play the tune EXACTLY the way you played it in D, except now you will be playing in the key of C major. Now , for the specific parts of the drill.

1) Play the tune in the key of C major, in the first position, using open string notes. SING or HUM the tune while you are playing it to help develop the ear-hand neural links. Your ear will tell you if you aren't playing exactly the same melody lines as you did in D. Also, play the B-part an octave lower as well as on the A-E strings.

2) Play the tune in C, but this time, don't play any open strings - instead, use the 4th finger at the 7th fret. Hum/sing while you play. (This will help you to play in the chop position.) (Play the B part in both high and low registers).

This was one of the first tunes I learned, out of the "Robbins Collection of 200 Jigs, Reels and Country Dances", and it was in C in that book.

PRACTICE the tune both ways in C until you can play it smoothly. (Some people play the tune in C, so you'll be ready and prepared in case you ever jam with them.) Get comfortable with the tune in C.

3) Now, move the 3rd finger up 2 frets so it is at the 7th fret. Play the tune without using any open strings - the fingerings will be EXACTLY the same as in 2), except, you are now back in the key of D! (Sing/hum the tune while you play it.) (Play the B-part in both high and low registers.)

4) Move the 3rd finger up one more fret (to the 8th fret) and play the tune, without any open strings in the key of Eb. (Sing/hum the tune while you play it.) Move up one more fret (3rd finger on the 9th fret) to play in E major.

You may want to repeat these same exercises with other tunes in D - Whiskey Before Breakfast, Over The Waterfall etc.

I would suggest that you become comfortable in playing the exercise assignments in each installment of this program, since we will be continually building upon the material previously covered.

(copyright 1998 Niles Hokkanen)

From: Paul Stoaks Date: Mon, 03 May 1999 21:30:00

By the way, us beginners thank you for picking tunes that are accessible to us. This is a great way for us to learn from the experienced pickers on the list and try out some new techniques without having to deal with advanced technique from the get-go. Again, thanks for the Tune Of the Week. It's a great way to learn and share techniques.

From: Edy Smith Date: Tue, 04 May 1999 02:15:00

Can anyone tell me how to reconcile the lyrics (What are they again?) with the notes played by the mandolin. I just can't seem to sing it and play it at the same time. Seems like there's too many notes for the words I remember. Something like "Well, it's ten cents for the mo-or-phine and it's te-en cents for the beer."

From: Lynn Garren Date: Tue, 04 May 1999 04:45:00

Don't know what notes you are using, but the tune fits the words quite well. Here are a few verses:

I am my mother's darling boy. (3x)
Sing a little tune called Soldier's Joy

Well, it's 25 cents for the morphine, 15 cents for the beer.
Sing a little tune called Soldier's Joy

Well, it's 25 cents for the morphine, 15 cents for the beer.
25 cents for the morphine, to take me away from here.

Grasshopper sitting on a sweet potato vine (3x)
Along comes a chicken and says "you're mine"

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