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I think Adam Hurt deserves credit for bringing some well deserved attention to this wonderful and modestly quirky (to modern ears at least) little fiddle tune, including it as one of the tracks on his sublime Earth Tones album.
That was where I first heard it, though I didn’t learn it back then.
Adam also chose “Black Jack Grove” as part of the learning progression in the Brainjo “Fiddle for All” course (where he is lead instructor). Being that I’m lead video editor, the melody burned its way into my memory, refusing to let me rest until I’d learned it for myself.
(RELATED: Interested in a complete, step-by-step course for old time fiddle created by two clawhammer banjoists? Click here for details.)
Now I’m quite glad that I did, as I recently I often find it to be the first tune that falls out of my fingers when I grab the banjo.
In working it up on the banjo, I decided to try to recreate Adam’s fiddled rendition (which is quite faithful to the original source recording by Kentucky fiddler Walter McNew fiddle) note for note on the banjo.
As I’ve touched on in prior posts, the process of working out a tune in this manner – re-creating a fiddle tune note for note – is actually quite different than the usual manner of woodshedding a new song.
It’s a process that, if you enjoy solving puzzles, is both enjoyable and satisfying. The central challenges, in my opinion, is to choose, out of all the possible ways of playing the notes of a tune, the arrangement that best preserves the drive and magic of clawhammer.
Conquering the challenge of arranging fiddle tunes in a melodic style, for both clawhammer and fingerstyle, in a manner that retains the idiosyncrasies of the banjo is a topic I’ll be exploring in more depth in the near future – as part of the latest season of the Core Repertoire Series I do in partnership with the Banjo Hangout.
So stay tuned for more fiddle tune puzzle solving geekery!
Black Jack Grove
aEAC#E tuning, Brainjo level 3-4
Notes on the Tab
Notes in parentheses are “skip” notes. To learn more about these, check out my video lesson on the subject.
For more on reading tabs in general, check out this complete guide to reading banjo tabs.
[RELATED: Level 2 arrangements and video demos for the Tune (and Song!) of the Week tunes are now available as part of the Breakthrough Banjo course. Learn more about it here.
Click here for a current list of all the clawhammer songs and tunes currently available inside of The Vault