Shave Endings

”Shave and a Hair Cut… Two Bits!”

History & Culture: Ubiquitous traditional fiddle tune ending… and friendly hello/goodbye rhythmic gesture… at least here in America.  Knock this rhythm on your friend’s door to signal it is you.  Often done in a call and answer way, where the “caller” will do the “shave and a hair cut” part and wait for the other person to answer “Two Bits!” (or “knock-knock” in this case).  Also used as a friendly goodbye by tooting the rhythm on your car horn as you leave a friend.  I’ve often wondered where this silly saying came from historically.  An adult student of mine once did a little research into that question, finding that it most likely came out of the Vaudeville era in the US (late 1800’s-early 1900’s).  Vaudeville performance troops would tour a circuit from town to town with a show that included music, dancing, and comedy.  This was pre-radio, and often the only chance for the average public to experience professional entertainment.  My best guess is that it was a punchline to a joke that was then repeated at key times in the show for extra laughs.  …and somehow it just “stuck” in our culture.

Mechanics: The basic rhythm can be simply played by even a beginner on any single note, most usually the “tonic” of the key…

Tonic-only Shave Ending

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