This one is for the smart alecks, the scholars and geniuses of the folklore haha.
There's a classic chord structure in cajun music that goes like this:
I I I I I V V I
I I I I I V V I I
(i.e., I and V are the first and fifth chords in the Nashville system, e.g., G and D).
There's heaps of cajun tunes that have this very harmonic structure, especially for accordion turns. A very good example is the Creole Stomp as played by Aldus Roger (we've been discussing this tune lately). I would bet any serious guitar picker frequenting the cajun music gatherings (i.e., "jamz") knows this structure (consciously or not), as it appears in a good many tunes.
For some reason, I've never heard this structure in other american styles of music, like Old Time (I may be wrong though).
Could someone enlighten me about the origins of this structure?
Does it have a name? Could it originate from some ancient tradition of black music? or French music?
I don't post much here anymore. But from time to time, I check in and see what's happening as far as discussion.
I'm currently playing in New Orleans, professionally... at least four times a week. As many of you know, New Orleans isn't necessarily the home of Cajun music in Louisiana, but we do have a few guys who play or are more than capable of playing the traditional style of Cajun music.
To furthermore discuss your post, I've run into a few instances where Cajun songs with these exact chord changes have thrown off many guitarists, drummers, bassists, and fiddlers I've played with in New Orleans that haven't grown up playing Cajun music.
For me, it was always easy to play and understand these tunes, since Cajun music is really the only style of music I play. I didn't realize until after hiring musicians that play other genres in town that this music is SO much more complex and hard to grasp for other musicians who haven't grown up with Cajun music. I'm talking about true professional musicians, guys who have played with many "big names" and have a ton of other accolades and bragging rights.
Cajun music must be one of the only types of music that has these chord changes and song structures. More notably, in songs such as Creole Stomp, Scott Playboy Special... and also such as the turn to Crowley Two Step... you get the hint. It's a recurring chord change and theme in Cajun music. I've played with a few old timey and bluegrass fiddlers around here, and they are even thrown off by these changes sometimes.
I'd bet money that's its a cajun thing, only. Just another reason that makes this music so much more unique.
Obviously I reside where Cajun music is completely alien, what I've found with guitarists- if you can keep ones attention for long enough!- is they always change chord way too early, that 3 chord rock n roll trick is completely ingrained to the point where it overrides everything.
Glad to hear you're keeping well Cameron, have you got some youtube vids up of New Orleans gigs?
It's the same here, with people who can play the guitar very good.
In the past, Octa Clark, Ambrose Thibodeaux and many others must have been the great confusers for musicians who were not familiar with Cajun Music.
Cameron is one of those nowadays :wink: :blush:
Glad to see your post Cameron. You bring a different type of point of view to the forum, no doubt. That of a young Cajun musician who's out there on the scene hashing things out with the other Cajun and non Cajun musicians trying to please the people and yourselves with the music you put together and make happen. I'm sure everyone hopes to see you on here more often now that you put your foot back in the door. Very "Brave" of you to come and sit with us! I think your Pappy used to post on here, or was that you under the Troubadours name sometimes?
On the guitar thing, I've played with great, good, ok, and bad Cajun guitar players, but not many of them. The best one ever was an old lady who still plays today. She's near 90 years old now. I had the privilege of playing music with her about eight years ago. She played guitar on the bandstand back in the old "white shirt and black tie days" when women were still looked down upon as musicians on the stage. She's quit the bandstand long ago, but plays religiously with her husband who plays accordion and fiddle just about every day. She knew every song that I took out of my bag of tricks to throw at her. She played chords, tabs, slide or whatever there called. It was awesome to hear her follow on that guitar like she was superglued to my backside! And she had that old walkin base rhythm thing going on as she played. Like Christine Balfa does. The Cajun music was engrained in her to the point that she didn't even have to try to figure me out. And her authority as an elder kind of motivated me to play as accurately as I could and keep it slow and steady. But we went at it for a few romping two steps and she was spot on no matter what I gave her! Point being, the more experience the guitar player has with Cajun music, usually the better and more accommodating they are. Hell, you could play accordion with Eddie Van Halen and he'd probably look and feel like a "one jump chump" playing Cajun music, haha. Cajun music is more like a "feeling" to the better Cajun guitar players, but they still have to be schooled in the rudimentaries of the guitar to be able to follow that "feeling".
On the "Nashville System"....Cameron, have you ever seen musicians or have you yourself used this? In other words, holding up your fingers to let all the other musicians know what was about to hit them? It has already been hashed out on the discussion forum and made clear by David Sousa and a feller named 33rdDegree on a discussion entitled "Grand Master Cajun Musician" confirmed by Jamie Bearb. There was another forum entitled "lots of references about Nashville System on the web" for everyone to reference. Simply type in Nashville into the Bravenet's search window.
My take is this. The key that the accordion player's accordion was made in is represented by the #1 or I depending if you're a Roman or not (in this case let's imagine the accordion is a "C" accordion.) That's what I think I know about the Nashville System adapted and possibly reconfigured by the Cajuns. This may not be the actual "Nashville System" since most Cajuns musicians don't spend lots of time to da Nashville lol.
If a song is about to be played in "G", then the accordion player counts up from and including "C" in the finger count until he gets to "G" and holds up 5 fingers or V fingers depending if you're Roman or not, lol. If he's about to play in "F" then he'd count up from "C" to "F" and hold up 4 or IV fingers. Is this what you're trying to figure out Boodreaux? Does anyone have a different explanation than this, because I'd like to know if there's more to it.?? Another point is that the musician holding up the fingers has to be able to do it on ONE HAND! Its got to be quick and easy and everyone needs to understand it, or what's the point of doing it in the first place. LOL, if yall keep bringing this Nashville thing up without understanding once and for all, Greezy's gonna come in here and clean the joint out! We don't want that!
Final statement: Cameron, you'd win that bet because the Cajun System is different than the Nashville System. They're related, like 4th cousins, but I think they are two different animals for the most part.
I'll attach a YouTube link in the link button below... it's just a little compilation of songs that someone put on YouTube a while back. I'm sure there's more out there, but I'd have to do some digging!
Interesting stuff! I like to think a lot of genres of music were influencing each other back then. Crazy!
Mainly my dad posted under the Troubadours name... I would chirp in from time to time... Like many others, I got tired of the back and forth bickering on this forum. Anyway, that's another conversation for another day... Let's get back to the topic.
I'll state that when I said guitar players, I meant lead guitarists. Yes, they still play rhythm when they aren't taking leads, so it's even more important for them to know the chord progressions. The only true acoustic rhythm guitar player that I play with is my Dad. Him and I really lock in to that old style of chunk guitar playing. Of course, him and I, growing up on this music, have never thought twice that the chord progression Orville mentioned was even remotely "weird".
I didn't start learning about all of this until I started playing more often with different musicians around town and learning literallty on the gig.
On the Nashville system... I'd have to say I use it at least once, twice a week. We have a regular group of guys that play with us, but every so often we have fill ins or subs that take their place. An even more common thing is throwing in a new tune here and there. That's when the Nashville numbers come in handy. I wouldn't even say for sure I'm holding up fingers, but mainly before a song, just saying "okay this one is a 1,4,1, 5 in the key of G. I usually expect them to find the changes and if they can't, then I resort to flashing numbers on my hand.
Now, I'm not sure if this "cajun method" of the Nashville system. I know the Nashville system for how it is... whatever key the song is in, that's what becomes the 1 and the rest follows. I'm not sure how they do it out in Cajun Country, but I'll explain how I approach it.
For example, let's say the only accordion I bring to a gig is in the key of C. Lets take two songs... Lawtell Two Step and Creole Stomp. (No particular reason, just the first two songs in different positions and keys that come to mind). On the stage, I would then call out, "Lawtell Two Step, 1 and 5 in the key of C"
Now here's where my method (Nashville) may differ from the (cajun) method you have mentioned. For Creole Stomp, I would then also say "Creole Stomp, 1 and 5 in the key of G"
See the difference? It's still 1 and 5. It's just based off the key of the song, not the key of the accordion. I do this for all of my accordions, from C, C#, D, Eb, and E. It takes some figuring out, but hey, learn the inside and outs of what keys and chords your box can play. That's at least what I've done. And it hasn't failed me yet, and I believe it's made me a smarter musician.
I hope this helps clear things up...
I think what you describe is very much the "standard" Nashville system. What's unique to Cajun music (or at least the accordion part) is that if someone were to call out the song as 1-4-1-5 in the key of Eb, the accordion player would have to pick up a different box than he would if the same song were called in the key of C.
And then there's all that crookedness ...
Nice work Cameron. Interesting you mention Scott Playboy Special. It's one of the few we can go back and look at the similarities of older tunes and analyze. As you can easily determine, it's a derivative of the 1949 Doc Guidry string band tune he called Crowley Two Step (not to be confused with Roger's Crowley Two Step). In Doc's recording, you can still catch glimpses of the pattern, but it doesn't seem to repeat "exactly" during the B part. It seems he jumps to eliminate repeating the last chord twice. It's quite strange on my ears, since i'm used to the pattern illustrated by O.B.
However, Doc's song is just one of many iterations of a more popular melody pattern that influenced songs like the Pickard Family's 1929 recording of "Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight". Here, you can see pattern followed the standard I I I I IV IV I I -- I I I I V V I I. In the 40s, this melody transformed into the big band jazz tune "Dance With A Dolly" sung by many artists such as Tony Pastor, Louis Prima, The Andrews Sisters, and Marilyn Maxwell.
Even Buffalo Gals is a derivative of a blackface minstrel called Lubly Fan. Although it's theme is quite scandalous (asking provocative women along Canal Blvd in Buffalo to put on a show in the street), derivatives of both these tunes ended up as children's songs over time.
In this particular case study, it seems by the 40s, this unique pattern is partially introduced and remains constant in Scott Playboy Special.
Regarding "Creole Stomp", we can look at a basic version of this that comes close enough: Amede Breaux's 1934 "Egan One Step". Mind you, Amede takes a vocal holler break, causing the progression to extend longer in some parts. He's not quite consistent, but you can easily discern those same patterns throughout his performance. In this case study, clearly Cajuns were doing this in the early 1930s.
By 1952, Pee Wee Broussard has refined the Breaux tune into a more consistent pattern as discussed earlier. By 1963, Andrew Cormier and Joe Falcon had already chosen this pattern and stuck with it on their recordings, probably influenced alot from Aldus.
What I'm having a hard time with is that a "simple" Cajun musician/accordion player back in the day had the where-with-all to realize all of these teachings and was able to apply them to Cajun music long time ago until present day. Take my mentors for instance, these old men couldn't or wouldn't teach hardly anything about Cajun music or their talents with the accordion, but they had no problem with showing you a quick little song with a hearty laugh and smile in your direction, and you had to figure it out from there on your own and only from a short and abrupt memory at that. Like reconstructing and intellectualizing the memory of someone punching you in the throat or face, lol. Right Beudreaux?
Thank god for the recordings that hopefully will never disappear. At least we can go unto them and learn the licks of those that went before us.
I'm confused, Greezy... I see what you're saying but I believe we've gone off track from the original topic.
No, my comment was on track. Just the part of the track that most cannot see. The little crack on the side of the track that after the train passes over enough causes a bigger and bigger crack, and eventually a disaster.
Cameron, there will come a time when attention will turn toward from the answer seekers. Probably more than you'd like. After all, you're a celebrity. Now there is a whole lot of pent up tension in the accordion playing and learning world. You've seen it before on this very discussion board. Everyone with their own accomplishments, point of view, and different little nuances stuck in their craws.
I realize that you're a young man. I'm not sure how old you are, but I figure 19 to 20?? That would make you of legal age to make your own decisions. Tell me, does your dad read or has been reading the goings on within this accordion discussion forum for the last year or so? I see you've been gone since 2012, came back for a short while in 2015, and then again in 2018. That means to me, that something drove you or him away. At your age, I don't know if it would be a good thing to be put under the microscope like this. Are you willing to commit? Willing to stay the course this time? For the sake of Cajun accordion players the world over?
Greasy is back with his condescending comments & no proof to offer about those comments. He must be really old.
:laughing: :laughing: :smile:
Larry, what brand accordions do you have? What key are they in? There now, I've engaged you personally. How many of the 4 known playing positions on the Cajun accordion do you know how to play in? Do you feel like you've been left out of the loop because someone didn't take the time to recognize your interest in the Cajun accordion and teach you all the secrets of playing Cajun accordion?
What types of problems are you having with playing Cajun music? Is there anything you'd like to ask me?
Hell, you could even ask a question about me personally if you want. As long as it doesn't have to do with my name, address, or phone number.
But I aint gonna make and post videos of myself. Maybe at a later time to clarify what I cannot make clear by typing it. The reason I don't care for the video thing is because I've watched so many accordion player instruction videos that feature a single accordion player not showing anything but the accordion that fall short of impressive. I've watched a few that are sort of impressive, but very few of them show the big picture or the whole story of a true Cajun playing the accordion. Very few of them actually show a "Cajun" who can play the accordion well, showing it in a way that you never forget it. I'm usually impressed by the videos of the Cajun old timers playing some accordion, but not all of them impress me either. Only some of them and only when they do it in a certain way.......from the heart. Not when they're doing it just as a show for the camera. The camera has a way of taking away the true soul of the player I think. It's always gonna be sort of "put on", not as real as when a player is truly feeling it. Like when he plays it "Back Porch Style".
When I finally show myself on video, if ever, you most assuredly won't forget it. In fact, it may even scar you for life! LOL
I own an Acadian in the key of C. I can play in the 1st & 2nd positions with reasonable competence. The 4th position to me is rather bluesy & I can play a few tunes in D. The 3rd position is weird & I really wasn't aware of it until this discussion of positions started, but I'm working on it.
I'm "out of the loop" because I don't live near any Cajun musicians. So videos help, but they aren't the same as hearing the music live. I've been to Louisiana several times & always come back charged with enthusiasm. It's the "groove" that can't really be gotten from videos & CDs that inspires me. But videos are quite helpful even if they don't show the "big picture or the whole story of a true Cajun playing the accordion." There a couple on YouTube players that are very helpful. Do you think the camera would take away your true soul? I need examples of the four positions, not talk.
So get on your back porch & scar me for life.
You heard the man fellas. Get busy on some accordion "key" positions videos. I've told yall everything yall need to know. Well, enough to at least be aware of the "Keys" that exists on all of the Cajun accordion choices, but specifically, on the "C" accordion. Somebody out there wants to make a video of just the accordion?? Well....a video of just how to approach the 4 "Keys" would be perfect for that kind of video. No bells and whistles, no singing, crying, screaming, or hilarious exaggerations of foot stomping and head shaking . Just the confirmation chords and octaves showing the locations and approach set up of each of the 4 positions. Oh, and you have to label the accordion that will be used in the video so's everyone can confirm you're not lying or guessing. LOL
Larry, The main locations of the "Key Chords and Octaves" of each "Position" were posted earlier and also, how to label your accordion. If you follow those posts, you won't need a video. You'll be on your way to learning them for yourself. And as time goes by, maybe you yourself will make one of the most valuable videos about it that ever existed!! Teamwork is a hell of a thang!
PS: The 4th position is not just for "Blues". The first time I ever saw it being done was when I witnessed a video of Marc Savoy, playing along with D L Menard and I forget the fiddler that was there with them. The accordion sound and method of play for the song they were performing was very different and ear catching. The name of the song was "Jolie Blond". If I didn't watch that video 50 times trying to figure it out, I didn't watch it once! It was in this process, that I became aware of the 4th position. It is only at this recent time that I myself am able to play in the "4th" at will without my fingers tripping over my fingers and fighting my muscle memory and mind every step of the way. No body said it was easy, but once you master it....consider yourself an accordion wielding weapon master. Ready to take on just about anything them fiddlers can throw at you.
It's not sexual like "karma sutra", lol, but more like accordion "Kung Fu". And when you learn all of the Key Positions of play, you don't have to be the work horse anymore at the jam sessions. You simply tell the 40 or more fiddle player jammers that they will be picking the song, calling the key, leading off, and singing it, while you set back, relax, and follow them for a change. Accordion players have had way too much pressure put on them. It's time for we work horses to relax and let somebody else carry the load. We let the Fiddle become the "KING" once again. Long Live The King.