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8 December 2015


I doubt whether many of you could hum 'Droppin' Shucks' to me if I asked you to do so. I even doubt whether many of you would know the title if you heard a band playing it.

But it is a terrific little tune - yet another of those minor classics composed by Lil Hardin (mostly for her husband Louis Armstrong and for King Oliver) in the 1920s. So often, I think Lil's contribution to the history of our music has been under-rated.

I decided to have a go at working this tune out, so that I could play it on my cornet. You can see at the foot of this page what I came up with and have entered in my music notebook.

This witty little tune begins with 16 bars in the minor key. I call them the 'Verse'. They lead up very cleverly to a change of key to the related major, and then you have a catchy tune (which I call the 'Chorus') - aided by repetitions of phrases. It is only 16 bars long and - like several such tunes of the 1920s - lends itself to 'breaks' on bars 9 - 12.

But what makes Droppin' Shucks special - perhaps unique among sixteen-bar tunes - is that the whole of Bar 12 is based on a diminished chord. That certainly adds a bit of excitement.

Bands can do a lot with this excellent material. Listen, for example, to Tuba Skinny playing it at: