This song was first recorded in 1938 by the Monroe Brothers and became a standard of the early period of bluegrass music.
The performance features banjo played in the clawhammer style. The clawhammer is an old-time way of playing the banjo. In this style, the right (picking) hand is held in the shape of a claw, with the fingers bent and the thumb extended. The notes are produced with a downward motion of the picking hand as the player strikes the strings with the backs of his or her fingernails. This is different from the bluegrass style of banjo in which three fingers pick the strings in an upward motion.
1. What is this song about? What is the singer thinking about? How does he plan to catch the rabbit?
2. What is the predominant instrument in the performance? (banjo) What other songs have students heard that include the banjo?
3. Do students listen to bluegrass music? Do they like it? What are characteristics of bluegrass, and what instruments are often used? What instruments are not generally used in traditional bluegrass music?
4. This is a call-and-response song. What is the call and what is the response?
1. Have students sing along, doing the response part of the song.
2. Use the song in conjunction with a social studies lesson on the 1930s in American history. Discuss what was happening in America during that time period and how this song reflects the period.
3. Study the development of bluegrass music. Listen to other examples of bluegrass and discuss how this style of music continues to develop.
4. Listen to and/or watch videos of different styles of banjo picking. Compare the clawhammer style and the bluegrass style. If possible, have a banjo player come into the class and show students how the instrument is played.
5. Use the song to explore singing harmonies. Can students identify who is singing the high part in this song? (Singer Jane Harrod.) Discuss the various voice types—soprano, alto, tenor, or bass—and listen to examples.
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