• Why Do Musicians Say Stuff Like “Go Down And Eat Bread, Father!”?

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,General Music,Piano,Playing By Ear,Theory

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    If you’ve been around musicians you probably would have come across this phrase, “Go Down And Eat Bread, Father!”

    Attention: Chances are there that this is the first time you’re reading this phrase. If this is true for you, this lesson is also for you. So, don’t close this web page.

    The use of phrases have been an integral part of formal and informal music learning.

    What we’re learning in today’s blog is neither new nor wrong. So, I’ll just go ahead and bring it on. But before I do so, let’s start out by talking about musicians and phrases.

    “Why Do Musicians Use Phrases?”

    There’s always a lot to learn in music and that’s why the use of formulas, acronyms, mnemonics, etc., among musicians is very common.

    If you’ve been following this blog for sometime now, you must have seen how we mastered the major scale in all the keys just by saying “Why Won’t He Wear White When Hot?”

    When there’s a lot to learn and master, the use of phrases become very important because they simplify the learning process.

    If you have sheet music experience, you must have come across phrases like:

    All Cows Eat Grass

    Every Good Boy Deserves Favor

    Good Boy Deserves Favor Always

    …that make it remarkably easy to recall the lines and spaces of the treble and bass staff.

    So, the use of phrases to memorize and recall concepts is not entirely new to musicians and today I’m going to show you another important phrase that will help you memorize the circle of fourths and fifths.

    A Short Note On The Circle Of Fourths And Fifths

    The circle of fourths and fifths:

    …is a geometrical representation of the musical notes and keys.

    I can only imagine what must have led to its creation. The inventor must have thought, “oh, there are twelve hour positions on the clock and twelve music notes. You know what? I’m going to create a music clock where all the notes will sit on each of the twelve-hour positions.”

    Like I said, I can only imagine.

    On the 12 o’clock position, we have C. Then going clockwise gives us the circle of fifths because the distance between successive notes in the circle are fifth intervals:

    C to G (12 to 1 o’clock position) is a fifth

    G to D (1 to 2 o’clock position) is a fifth

    D to A (2 to 3 o’clock position) is a fifth

    A to E (3 to 4 o’clock position) is a fifth

    If we decide to go counter-clockwise, then we have the circle of fourths where the distance between successive notes are fourth intervals:

    C to F (12 to 11 o’clock position) is a fourth

    F to Bb (11 to 10 o’clock position) is a fourth

    Bb to Eb (10 to 9 o’clock position) is a fourth

    Eb to Ab (9 to 8 o’clock position) is a fourth

    The circle of fourths and fifths can be used in so many ways and in future lessons, I’ll break down all of those to you. But for now, I’ll go ahead and show you how you can memorize the notes on the circle using the phrase, “Go Down And Eat Bread Father!”

    “Go Down And Eat Bread, Father!”

    The Sharp Keys

    If you make a list of the first six notes or keys in the circle of fourths and fifths:

    …we have:

    G at the 1 o’clock position

    D at the 2 o’clock position

    A at the 3 o’clock position

    E at the 4 o’clock position

    B at the 5 o’clock position

    F# at the 6 o’clock position

    Now, if you go from 1 o’clock to 6 o’clock, you have the following keys:

    G, D, A, E, B, and F#

    …which can be memorized using the phrase: Go Down And Eat Bread, F#ather!”

    With this, you no longer have to worry about the music clock. You can just say the phrase and you have the notes on the right hand half of the music clock — from the 1 0’clock to the 6 o’clock position.

    The Flat Keys

    If we want to go all the way back up to the 12 o’clock position, we have to keep going in the circle:

    Just because we’re going into the flat keys territory, we have to change that F# at the 6 o’clock position to Gb and make a list of all the notes.

    So here’s the list:

    Gb at the 6 o’clock position

    Db at the 7 o’clock position

    Ab at the 8 o’clock position

    Eb at the 9 o’clock position

    Bb at the 10 o’clock position

    F at the 11 o’clock position

    From the order of the notes, you can see the following notes:

    Gb, Db, Ab, Eb, Bb, and F

    …and if you can see beyond the flats, it’s pretty much the same “Go Down And Eat Bread, Father!” phrase.

    Meanwhile, let’s compare 1 to 6 o’clock (sharp keys) and 6 to 11 o’clock (flat keys):

    Sharp Keys   –  G,   D,   A,    E,   B,   F#

    Flat Keys       –  Gb, Db, Ab, Eb, Bb, F

    I’m sure you can see it’s the same “Go Down And Eat Bread, Father!” phrase repeating twice.

    The sharp keys take you to the 6 o’clock position where you switch from F# (the end of the sharp keys) to Gb (the beginning of the flat keys.)

    “Let’s Put The Knowledge To Work…”

    After Gb is Db, on the circle of fourths. How do I know?

    Go Down — Gb to Db

    …and if I decide to extend it, I already know what comes and that’s Ab. How do I know it’s Ab?

    Go Down And — Gb to Db to Ab

    So you see?! You can call out the notes on the circle of fourths and fifths if you know the phrase “Go Down And Eat Bread, Father!” and that is sacrosanct.

    Final Words

    Thank you for stopping by to read today’s lesson.

    I’m sure the phrase “Go Down And Eat Bread Father!” is going to help you master the notes and keys in the circle of fourths and fifths.

    If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please leave them in the comment section below and I’ll gladly reply to them.

    My special appreciation goes to Jermaine Griggs (who is my role model and founder of this site) for the opportunity to share this information with you and I don’t take that for granted.

    See you in the next lesson.

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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    { 3 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Alan Sloane

    Very catchy yet very informative , It demystifies a very important musical concept and makes pleasantly easy to digest and apply
    Thanks a lot

    Reply

    2 happy wheels

    This is a great thing, I think everyone feels this information is very valuable, thank you

    Reply

    3 Wuxiaworld

    The post is very informative and useful. You and everyone are doing a great job. Go on.

    Reply

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