Today’s mandolin song breakdown covers the fantastic song Angeline the Baker. I first heard the Crooked Still version of this tune which is a great variation with a few quirks. It was a rarity to hear in San Diego jams, but in Seattle it’s alive and well. Sometimes it’s a vocal tune, sometimes it’s a fiddle tune – but it’s always a fun one to play.
You can get the full breakdowns below:
There’s a lot of great versions of this song which makes choosing a favorite a bit difficult. Below are some I like.
- Crooked Still
- Tim Connell and Eric Skye – great album btw
- Hot Rize
- Pine Tree String Band
- Tony Furtado and Dirk Powell – in C
- Tim Stafford and Kenny Smith – in E
Generally this song is played in the key of D which is the key I’ll use for my mandolin song breakdown today. However, every now and then someone will call it in another key so it’s good to know how to play this in a few keys. While I normally play this in D, I really enjoy playing this song in C as well. I’d recommend working that up!
The basic form is simply AABB meaning you’ll play the A part (or verse) twice, followed by the B part (or chorus) twice.
The progression is the same for both the A and B parts, but the melodies are slightly different. One big difference that can be fun to play with is how the A part starts with a low A note and moves up in pitch. Whereas the B part starts with an octave higher note and moves down in pitch. I’ll hit on that more in the melody / solo section.
Traditionally, Angeline the Baker just uses the Root or One chord and the Four chord. In the key of D, that means the D and G chords only. Since the A and B parts are the same, I simplified the chord breakdown a bit and provided 4 different voicing options. I’d recommend working up each positional variation by itself first, then start mixing them up a bit.
The key to playing chords on songs like Angeline is to move as little as possible by using Guide Fingers. If you find you have trouble changing between these chords, I highly recommend checking out my Guide Finger post here.
The biggest thing to note about the melody is how the A and B parts are essentially counter to each other. The A part starts with a lower note but moves up in pitch. The B part on the other hand starts with a higher note but moves down in pitch for the most part.
The melody itself is 100% based in the D Major pentatonic scale. I’ll dive more into that in the solo idea section below, but practicing the D Major pentatonic scale is a great way to get better on this song.
The melody notes are compromised entirely of the D major pentatonic scale – D E F# A B. Using that scale along with the b3 (F) from time to time is an easy way to start soloing on this tune. A good goal with this tune is to embellish the melody rather than just solo.
Another thing to take note of is the meter. Notice that in the first measure is quarter note, quarter note, dotted quarter, and eighth. That idea repeats a lot in the A part – specifically measure 1, 5 and 6. In the B part, measure 10 has 3 quarter notes followed by 2 eighth notes. That idea is repeated in Measures 10, 11, 14, and 15. Keeping those ideas in mind during your solo can help keep your solo connected to the melody.
Also, keep in mind that the melody goes up on the A part and down on the B part. While following that rule in your solos is a great idea, it doesn’t mean you can’t reverse it and go down in pitch on the A part and up in pitch on the B part.
I’ve included the fretboard map for the D Major pentatonic scale in two positions (you can find the full D Major pentatonic fretboard map here). Since the melody starts on the A for both the A and B parts, I’d suggest focusing on patterns that start and end on the A notes. For example, in the low neck position below, the A note on the 2nd fret on the G string is a great starting point for the A part and the open A string is great for the B part. You’ll notice that one of the melody voicings I provided uses this pattern.
I often focus on this particular segment of the D Major pentatonic when solo over this tune. I find it’s easy to get to all the notes in the melody and adding “off notes” to add tension (like the F natural on the 6th fret of the A) is pretty easy to do from this position.
For this mandolin song breakdown, I’ve included 3 variations on the harmony. The first is a low harmony starting on the F# below the first main melody note (A). The second is a high harmony starting on the F# above the first main melody note (A) but then essentially is just a closed position of the first harmony idea. The last is a high harmony starting on the D above the first main melody note (A).
If you liked this topic, please leave a comment below with any questions or feedback. For a deeper dive in to this topic, click here for more information on private coaching.
Want to get notified when I post new free content like this? Subscribe below!
If you like this free content and would like more of it, I’d appreciate a small one time or monthly donation. While I love teaching, creating these lessons and workshops take time and hosting a website isn’t free – every little bit helps! Also, monthly donations include a few perks – click here for more details on that!
- That feeling you get when you support content you use
- Access to premium content
- (click here for details)
- Bronze Plus
- 1 custom lesson post
1 video exchange per month
One time 30 minute coaching session
- Silver Plus
- 2 video exchanges per month
- One time 60 minute coaching session