Shortnin' Bread

arr. Mike Wilson

There's plenty of activity with this song! With banjo, guitar, upright bass, drums, washboard, spoons, and other acoustic percussion, this arrangement of "Shortnin' Bread" allows you to engage your kids on several different levels. First of all, it serves as an easy guitar song using the chords C and G. Your guitarists can finger the chord according to the chord diagrams provided. They can simply strum a down stroke on beat one of each measure, except the end of each phrase as in bar 8 where the chord changes on beat two. A more advanced student might want to use the strum pattern: down, down, up, down, up, down, up, repeated. Remember to "swing" if playing this pattern. That is, use a triplet based 8th note feeling.

You'll also want to include Boomwhackers® and percussion instruments. The BWs play throughout ("applause" at the end is optional as always, but fun), while the percussionists play only on the choruses (the eight bars at measure 5 each time). Divide your percussionists into two groups. It may make sense to split percussion instruments according to timbre so you hear more of a back and forth effect. The pattern is very simple: Group one hits on beat one, group two hits on beat two. (The "part" is written out and included on the bottom of page 40 with the BW part, so you can see it. It's the same thing throughout, so it's only stated for four bars here.) It's okay if you don't have enough instruments to go around. You'll need some kids to clap on the backbeat "ands" during the chorus as well. So everyone sings, and everyone hits or plays something.

The cross curricular opportunities of "Shortnin' Bread" are obvious. (It would be ideal during African American History Month, for example.) A plantation song, it developed with a variety of lyrics. We chose three verses. You may want to search the Internet and use some of the others. Our third verse finds the children of the story restored to health at the prospect of receiving some shortnin' bread, to the point where they "skipped around an' cut the pigeon wing," which was a dance popularized in the era.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.