2020-01 Tune of the Month: Cluck Old Hen

  1. HonketyHank
    The Tune of the Month for January, 2020, is "Cluck Old Hen". The SAW thread for this tune can be found [here].

    I have never been fond of this tune even though it is played a lot in old-time string band or even bluegrass settings. It just seems to be more of an extended lick than an actual tune. But as I dug into it I discovered that there are about a million ways to play it. This is another animal tune, like Flop Eared Mule, so everybody gets to give his or her interpretation of the named animal sounds in the tune. And that is where the fun begins. Some of the versions appear to be unrelated to each other, some differ only in how the musician tries to imitate a hen. After listening to a bunch of versions on YouTube, I can report that this tune is growing on me.

    Fiddlers' Companion traces the most common version of the tune back to 1886 or earlier; they list at least seven tunes that share the same title, some of which may be related.

    The most common versions are in Dorian mode, but some are in Mixolydian mode or even in Ionian (aka "Major").

    Baron Collins-Hill has a good lesson video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUaxbhKA49s and at his website (www.mandolessons.com).

    Here is a free-for-all version presented at the Commencement Concert of Berklee College of Music in 2011. I think that is Sierra Hull kicking the whole thing off.

    If there is any such thing as a "traditional version" of this tune, I guess this 1927 recording is about as close to it as exists on YouTube:

    Now's your chance to set a New Year's resolution to work up some tunes in 2020. This is a good one to start with - not too "notey", not too fast, but capable of being pushed into some interesting shapes.

    Here is a pdf of a basic version (notes and tabs): http://www.mandolintab.net/pdf/00010...0Old%20Hen.pdf

    Here is an ABC script from Fiddlers' Companion:
    T:Cluck Old Hen
    B:Kuntz – Ragged but Right
    [Ae]a =g/a/g/f/|e/d/e/e/ df|[Ae]a =g/a/g/f/|e/c/B A2|[Ae]a =g/a/g/f/| e/d/e/e/ df|[Ae]a =g/a/g/f/|e/c/B A2||
    [Ae][Ae] [ce][ce]|[A/e/][B/e/][Ae] [=GA][GA]|[Ae][A/e/][B/e/] [c/e/][B/e/][c/e/]d/|
    e/c/B A2|[Ae][Ae] [ce][ce]|[A/e/][B/e/][Ae] [=GA][GA]|
    [Ae][A/e/][B/e/] [c/e/][B/e/][c/e/]d/|e/d/ B A2 ||

    And here is another one from hetzlersfakebook.com
    T:Cluck Old hen
    N:From Hetzler's Fakebook (http://www.hetzlersfakebook.com/)
    EA/E/GA/G/ | EA/E/D^F | EA/E/G/^F/G/F/ | E/D/C[E2A,2] | \
    EA/E/GA/G/ | EA/E/D^F | EA/E/G/^F/G/F/ | E/D/C[E2A,2] | [EA,]A,[E2C2] | [EA,]A,G,2 | \
    A,A,/B,/C/B,/C/D/ | E/D/[EC][E2A,2] | [EA,]A,[E2C2] | [EA,]A,G,2 | A,A,/B,/C/B,/C/D/ | \
    E/D/[EC] [E2A,2] || \
    W:Created with TablEdit http://www.tabledit.com/

    Happy New Year! Happy New Decade!

    edit: I omitted the first four measures in the ABC script just above, so I inserted them.
  2. bbcee
    Adam Steffey did version I love, that takes it out of that "extended lick" feeling Henry noted above. His wife is the banjo player on this, and man, does she groove:

  3. bbcee
    This may well be the weirdest arrangement of this tune that you'll hear. Who starts an old-time tune with a bass solo, anyway??

    I used different TuneFox variations to come up with the mandolin & bass parts.

    U-bass, mandola & mandolin on this one:

  4. HonketyHank
    You know, Bruce, I think the u-bass sounds great and makes this into a great fun rendition. It is almost a satire. Like, Watch out! Here comes the biggest, meanest old hen I ever saw!

    And of course, the playing and production are great. I like it. Well done!
  5. Ellsdemon
    That was awesome. Nice work bbcee
  6. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    Good job finding a way into this weird little tune, Bruce.
  7. bbcee
    Thanks for the comments. It turned out to be fun, after a point. The mandolin parts were the easiest ones, ironically - both the bass & mandola parts gave me fits in playing them more or less cleanly & more or less in time.
  8. Ellsdemon
    Here's my submission for this months tune. I couldn't come up with anything that I could repeat so I just turned the camera on and recorded this. I like playing around like this and seeing what happens on a daily basis. I have a hard time remembering tunes note by note, so this is my usual style of playing at my house. Hope you enjoy.


    Old Cluck Hen
  9. bbcee
    Sounding real good, Otto! I'm impressed you've carved out the time to be able to "wander" on a tune like this. I think it's a good way to discover new things not only in the tune, but in your own technique.
    I like the almost dirge-y feel and all the drones you've employed in this. That Northfield is a real treat for the ears as well.
  10. HonketyHank
    Hey, Otto! I think you ran into the same thing I did on this tune but you handled it a lot better. Since it is purely pentatonic, you can go pretty much anywhere with it and it still sounds good. It seemed that I always ended up finding myself playing "Little Old Man at the Mill" and I would just say NO, the tune is supposed to be "Cluck Old Hen!" Good job on keeping it centered around the tune while making it interesting (and sounding good). And I like the mando, too. Good voice.
  11. Ellsdemon
    Thanks all, I'm trying to "wander" but also keep on track with tunes. I like the exploring and having fun with it. I love the Northfield, it was a wedding anniversary present. It's a F5SA with a Engelmann top. I couldn't have found a better one for my ears.
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