Granny, Does Your Dog Bite?

arr. Paul Jennings

As with many folk songs, nobody knows the real origins or even the many variations that have occurred over the years, but we do know that this great old tune started in the Appalachian Mountains. Melodically, it has its beginnings with an old fiddle tune sometimes called "Soldier's Joy." And while we don't know when it started resembling what we sing and play today, we do see it mentioned in Civil War dispatches, saying that a commander had asked the fiddler to play it.

For our arrangement, we have chosen most of the common lyrics often used with a small exception. In many versions a last "tag" line is added that goes, "Daddy cut his biter off a long time ago." That seemed a bit crude, and the song works just fine without it. We take our version through an intro, then into three times through the tune. The first time is sung, the second time is for recorders, and for the third verse, the two are combined. The background track is bluegrass style, with banjo, guitar, and fiddle.

Instrumental Options - For the second and third verses, we give you two recorder parts, the first one playing the melody (low D, E, G, A, B, C, and high D) and the second part playing G, A, and B. It works just fine with the GAB part, as the background track features the melody played by the fiddle and banjo.

But don't hesitate to be creative. This type of tune is perfect for letting your students do simple percussion arrangements. Give them access to unpitched percussion, and plan rhythms as ostinatos for each section of the tune. They could start with just a couple of different sized woodblocks (or temple blocks) playing off-beats for the first verse. For the second, they could add a simple hand drum part, and maybe a tambourine on beat four of every other bar. With these continuing, a small shaker could be added, like an egg shaker, playing quarter, two eighths, quarter, two eighths. This is just an example, but it gives you an idea. Let the students do the arranging though, and you may be surprised at what they come up with.

The tempo and simple chord structure make this tune a good place to let your young guitarists join in, and it will also work well with autoharp and even young ukulele players. As a matter of fact, just performing this with a couple of guitars, et al., and the percussion and recorders will make a very enjoyable performance.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.