The song of the week is 'Way Down Town' in the key of E.
Tony Rice (key of D):
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Doc Watson (key of D)
Doc and Merle Watson (key of E)
Way Down Town has the same chord progression as 'This Land Is Your Land', 'Gold Watch And Chain', 'Back Up And Push', 'Rubber Dolly', the B-Parts of Red 'Red Wing', 'Randy Lynn Rag', and 'Home Sweet Home' and the choruses of 'How Mountain Girls Can Love', 'Think Of What You've Done', 'Snow Deer', 'Montana Cowboy', 'Cash On The Barrelhead', and 'Shall We Gather At The River' and many other common bluegrass and old-time songs.
It is the same 8 measure cycle repeated over and over again:
Twice through this 8 measure cycle is the length of one part of the song, whether that be a verse, a chorus, or a full-length break.
(Prog. W10 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout.)
...which in the key of E is:
The notes that make up the E chord are: EG#B
The notes that make up the A chord are: AC#E
The notes that make up the B chord are: BD#F#
Together, these 7 notes make up the E major scale: (four sharps:) EF#G#ABC#D#.
Relation of E to A
The key of E is a closely related key to the key of A. For they share 6 of the 7 notes in common that make up their Major scales. (The A Major Scale has a D instead of a D#) The A Major Scale has 3 sharps instead of 4: ABC#DEF#G#. For their 1,4, and 5 chords, the keys of E and A have two chords in common, namely E and A. In the key of A, 1=A, 4=D, and 5=E. In the key of E: 1=E, 4=A, and 5=B.
Way Down Town has a fairly narrow melodic range. In the key of E, the lowest note is 'e', and the highest note is 'c#'. The melody therefore does not contain a d# note, which is the note that distinguishes the E Major Scale from the A Major Scale. In ascending order of pitch, the melody notes are: E, F#, G#, A, B, C#. This is the very same range of notes that the melodies of All The Good Times Are Past And Gone, Little Birdie, Gold Watch And Chain, Goodnight Irene, Leaning On The Everlasting Arms, This Little Light Of Mine, and Worried Man Blues consist of when played in the key of A.
Although, in the attachments, I have included melody sheets for this song, I suggest that this would be a good song to try to learn the melody by ear for those who do not have much experience yet with picking up melodies by ear.
Fiddle & Mandolin: Easy Double Stops
Notice that, in first position, the melody is carried on only the 2nd and 3rd strings. It is convenient that the 1st string on the fiddle and on the mandolin is tuned to an E note, for both the E and the A chords contain that note. Therefore, the open first string can be played along with the melody notes that occur on the 2nd string during E and A chord measures to create double stops.
Banjo: Capo 2, Spike 9
I recommend that banjo players try to play this song with the capo on the 2nd fret and with the fifth string capoed, or spiked to a 'b' note, i.e., 9th fret, playing as if in the key of D. This way the melody can be located on the 3rd and 4th strings at the very same locations as is most common for melody notes for songs played in the key of G (or with a capo, A, Bb, etc.) See the attached melody sheet.
Guitar: Capo 2 or 4
Guitar players will probably want to capo either to the second fret to play as if in D (1=D; 4=G; 5=A) or to the fourth fret to play as if in C (1=C; 4=F; 5=G). The latter option will work better for those who wish to play a Carter-style break for Way Down Town, but the first option lends itself more easily to the use of 'blue notes' which can also sound good when used in appropriate spots in breaks for this song. Therefore, I have included two melody sheets in the attachments in guitar tab.
The song of the week is 'Wreck Of The Old '97' in the key of D.
The chord progression is:
(Prog. V7 on the Basic Chord Progressions chart; this is the same progression that is used for Bury Me Beneath The Willow and A Memory Of You.)
In the key of D: 1=D, 4=G, 5=A.
The D chord consists of the notes: D, F#, and A
The G chord consists of the notes: G, B, and D
The A chord consists of the notes: A, C#, and E.
Together, these notes make up the D major scale: D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, and the melody of Wreck Of The Old '97 uses all the notes of the scale.
Wreck Of The Old '97 has no chorus. There are 6 verses for the song, but it is common for only 5 verses to be used for the song.
While Wreck Of The Old '97 uses a very common chord progression - the most common of all progressions in bluegrass, there are some things about its melody that are uncommon in bluegrass. For instance, in the second line, at the point where the change to the '5' chord occurs ('A' in the key of D), the melody hangs on the 7th note of the scale ('C#' in the key of D), whereas it is far more common in songs for the melody to go the 2nd note of the scale ('E' in the key of D) at this point instead when the second line of the progression for a song is 1155.
Here are some good bluegrass versions of 'Wreck Of The Old '97' to listen to:
Flatt And Scruggs: key of Bb
The Osborne Brothers: mandolin intro break and verses in the key of E; fiddle break in the key of A; banjo break in the key of B
Mac Wiseman: key of D
In the attachments, I have included 2 guitar tabs of the melody: one written in the key of D, and one written in the key of C. The locations of the melody notes on the fretboard in the 'C' tab make the 'C' tab more conducive than the 'D' tab to working out a Carter-style break for the song. If for this reason, or some other reason, you choose to work with the C tab instead of the D tab, you will need to capo the 2nd fret in order to be playing the song in D. I have also included 2 banjo tabs of the melody, one in D and one in C. Since the lowest note of the melody is the 1st note of the scale (a 'C' note in the key of C, a 'D' note in the key of D), you will need to tune the 4th string of the banjo down to a 'C' note if you choose to work with the key of C banjo tab of the melody given here. Capoing to the 2nd fret will then raise the pitch of the 4th string back up to a D note.
Additional Points of Interest
If you are interested in learning about the history of the song, here is a good article on Wikipedia to check out that deals with both the historical event that the song is about, and with the history of the song itself:
For those who are interested, here are a couple of non-bluegrass versions of 'Wreck Of The Old '97' that I was familiar with before I got into bluegrass music. The second one is the second-oldest recording of the song, dating from 1924, and was the first million-seller 'Country' record. It has been many years since I have seen a copy of the old '78 record, but I recall that the B-side of the record was 'The Prisoner's Song', another old 'pre-bluegrass' classic that has been adopted into the standard bluegrass repertoire.
Johnny Cash: key of Bb
Vernon Dalhart: key of D
Just before I was about to send this email, I was notified by the management at the Pioneer Building that next Wednesday (April 25th), our jam space at Jenny's Lunchline will not be available for us to use. So, the next beginner jam will be two weeks from now: Wednesday, May 2nd.
The song of the week will be 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken' in the key of G.
Until last night, at the beginner jam, we have used the following chord progression for playing 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken':
This is the same chord progression that is used to play 'I'll Fly Away' and 'Mountain Dew' (Prog. V3 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout).
However, when leading the song last night, I modified the progression for Will The Circle Be Unbroken to:
In the key of G: 6m = Em
This how I will lead the song for the next two beginner jams. If you print off one or more of the attached melody sheets, you may wish to pencil in 'Em' in parentheses above the 12th measure (i.e., the last measure of the third line).
While I prefer to play Will The Circle Be Unbroken as a three chord song, it often gets played at jams with the 6m chord substituted in place of the 1 in the last measure of the 3rd line. Because of this, I have chosen to introduce this variant progression as an option for playing Will The Circle Be Unbroken at the beginner jam in recycling the song as a song of the week for jam.
From now on, when someone calls Will The Circle Be Unbroken at the jam, be prepared for either progression to be used in playing it. I may sometimes ask the person calling or leading the song to specify whether they want to play it with or without the 6m chord. Others times, the person may volunteer this information without being asked.
Yet at other times, we will not know whether the 6m chord will be used in the song until we get to the end of line 3 of the intro break. So be sure to keep your ears and eyes open for this, so that we don't end up with a situation in which, throughout the whole song, some people are playing one progression for the song while others are playing another progression for the song. It is especially important for players of the lower-pitched instruments (guitar & bass) to catch on as quickly as possible whether or not the 6m is being used in the progression, since they, much more so than the players of the higher-pitched instruments, are responsible for making it clear what the chord progression is for a song by way of playing a low-pitched root note of the chord when a chord change occurs.
In cases where it is not clear which progression is intended by the person leading the song (e.g., when the person leading of the song is also the person who plays the intro break, or when the person leading the song is playing backup during the intro break on their instrument in a manner in which the distinction between the 1 and the 6m is not readily visible or audible), it is best for everyone, including the person leading the song, to copy the chord progression used by the strongest/loudest/most confident rhythm guitar player.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - on their classic 3-record 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken' album: with Earl Scruggs on banjo, Vassar Clements on fiddle, Doc Watson on guitar, and Mother Maybelle Carter, Jimmy Martin, and Roy Acuff taking turns singing the verses
key of A (no 6m chord in the progression)
Here's a version of the song that uses the 6m chord in place of the 1 in the last measure of the 3rd line:
Key of G: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQxTop7XtoA
6m in place of 1
The 6m chord is called the 'relative minor' of the 1 chord. The 6m chord shares two of its three notes in common with the 1 chord, and the note that the 6m does not have in common with the 1 chord (an E note when Em is the 6m) does not severely clash with the note that the 1 chord has that the 6m does not have (a D note when G is the 1).
So, while one's backup playing is affected by whether a 6m or a 1 chord is being used, especially on the instruments that make use of a lot of complete chords for backup playing, or zero in a lot on the root note of the chord, one need not change what one plays for a break for Will The Circle Be Unbroken when the 6m is put in place of the 1 chord. Sung harmony parts also need not be affected by the presence or absence of the 6m in the progression.
Another common variant on the V3 Progression that involves the use of the 6m chord is:
This progression is commonly used at jams for playing 'Sitting On Top Of The World'. I have also seen it used occasionally for Will The Circle Be Unbroken.
A few other progressions on the basic chord progressions chart that lend themselves well to the substitution of the 6m chord in place of a measure of the 1 chord are:
Prog. V4 Prog. V4 variant:
'You Are My Sunshine' may be played with either of these progressions.
Prog. W4 Prog. W4 variant:
I have heard 'Lonesome Road Blues' played occasionally with this variant on W4.
Prog. V6 Prog. V6 variant
Either of these progressions will work well for 'Amazing Grace'.
Relative Majors & Minors
For each of the 8 Major keys we play in at the jam, here is a chart comparing the notes that make up the 1 and 6m chords with each other:
Key of G: G (=GBD) Em (=EGB)
Key of A: A (=AC#E) F#m (=F#AC#)
Key of Bb: Bb (=BbDF) Gm (=GBbD)
Key of B: B (=BD#F#) G#m (=G#,B,D#)
Key of C: C (=CEG) Am (=ACE)
Key of D: D (=DF#A) Bm (=BDF#)
Key of E: E (=EG#B) C#m (=C#EG#)
Key of F: F (=FAC) Dm (=DFA)
Liza Jane - A
Note: The old-time tune 'Liza Jane' that was played at last night's jam is a different tune than the '(Little) Liza Jane' that is sometimes played at the intermediate jam.
The chord progression used for last night's Liza Jane was:
A-Part: 1116m B-Part: 1114
The song of the week is 'Will You Be Loving Another Man' in the key of A.
This classic bluegrass song was written by Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt during WWII, and then recorded after the war in 1946 by the original bluegrass band, Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys, which consisted at the time of Bill Monroe on mandolin, Lester Flatt on guitar, Earl Scruggs on banjo, Chubby Wise on fiddle, and Howard Watts on bass.
Here is the original 1946 recording of Will You Be Loving Another Man, with Lester Flatt on lead vocal and Bill Monroe on harmony vocal during the choruses:
key of A:
The chord progression for Will You Be Loving Another Man is:
(Prog. V2 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout.)
This is the same progression that is used to play Mama Don't Allow, She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain, The Crawdad Song, and When The Saints Go Marching In.
Notice on the recording how each of the breaks differ from each other. The short mandolin intro break (half the length of a full intro break: it uses the last half of the progression) states the melody of the song in a simple manner, making use of drony-sounding double stops in connection with the main melody notes.
In the first fiddle break, there is a lot more going on than what there was in the mandolin intro break, yet the melody is never lost sight of at any point in the break: its influence on the break is there from beginning to end.
The banjo break zeros in on only the most essential notes of the melody and fills up the space between them with 8th notes that, for the most part, are notes that are part of the chord being played at the time.
Finally, the second fiddle break, after its first four measures, contains almost no trace of the melody at all. The last 3/4 of this break is made up entirely of non-melody-based licks (which have gone on to become standard - one might say 'cliche' - bluegrass fiddle licks), fitted to the chord progression of the song.
The song of the week will be 'Buffalo Gals' in the key of A.
Buffalo Gals is the many old-time string band tunes that have made their way into bluegrass.
Although there are lyrics for this tune, Buffalo Gals more often than not is played as an instrumental in bluegrass circles. When played as a bluegrass banjo or fiddle tune, the keys of G and A tend to be the keys of choice for this tune. For its song of the week cycle, we will play Buffalo Gals in the key of A, but it is a good idea to also be prepared to play it in G.
There are many other titles for this tune, including: 'Alabama Gals' and 'Round Town Gals'.
Flatt and Scruggs (key of G)
Mike Scott (key of G)
For the sake of comparison and contrast, here is an old-time version of Buffalo Gals:
2nd South Carolina String Band - key of D
Finally, here is a good version that I would describe as Old-Time with Bluegrass leanings or tendencies:
Idyl Time - key of E (Idyl Time is a local Boise band that plays a mix of Bluegrass and old-time music)
See the attachments for the Idyl Time rendition of Buffalo Gals.
Form & Progression
Buffalo Gals is a 2-part fiddle tune that I have seen played two different ways at jams: some play each part only once through before going to the other part (AB form). Others play each part through twice before going to the other part (AABB form), which is how we'll play it when I call the tune,
The chord progression is about as simple and repetitive as it gets. For each part, the progression is:
This is Prog. Z5 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout. (Note: in some versions the B-Part is played using Prog. Z10 instead.)
The melody is also quite repetitive. If you take a glance at the melody sheets attached here, one of the first things you might notice is that measures 2,4, and 6 of each part are identical with each other.
Other points worthwhile observing to aid in learning and memorizing the tune include:
Measures 5 and 6 of each part are the same as measures 1 and 2 of the same part.
The B-Part differs from the A-Part only in measures 1 and 5.
The notes of the 3rd measure of each part are one scale degree lower than the notes of the 2nd (4th, and 6th) measure of each part.
Starting the Tune
Buffalo Gals is one of the relatively few AABB-type fiddle tunes that I prefer not to start with an 8 potato intro at a jam, because the first melody note of the first measure is identical with the main note I would be droning in an 8 Potato intro (in the key of A, an A note that is in the same octave as the A note that the melody begins with), thus making it sound unclear where the intro ends and the tune begins. So, I start with three quarter note pickups instead that ascend into the A note (E, F#, G#: the 5th, 6th, and 7th notes of the A Major Scale: these notes are written on the fifth attachment provided here, but not on the melody sheets.)
Buffalo Gals has a fast enough moving melody that one can play a satisfactory beginning-level bluegrass break for it without adding much around the melody. But, because the tune is so repetitive, I can't help but want to vary it up as I go through the phrases that constantly recur in the tune.
I have included in the attachments an example of a pattern I make use of on the instruments I play for adding notes around the melody. I call this the checkmark pattern, because if one were to represent the pattern on a graph, the dots would connect to form checkmarks. (See also the additional attachment labeled as 'Buffalo Gals - graph for the first one-and-a-half measures'.) This pattern is made use of sparingly in various spots in some of the breaks played on the two Bluegrass versions of the tune given in the links above.
I use this pattern very often on guitar and mandolin, and to a somewhat lesser extent when playing clawhammer (old-time) style banjo, but to an even lesser extent when playing 3 finger style banjo. Scruggs-style banjo lends itself well to other types of note choices that are determined by a repertoire of various right hand picking patterns (rolls), and clawhammer banjo has its own set of patterns that are characteristic of the clawhammer style, but for banjo players who are curious about how the notes given for the other instruments might fall on the banjo when played in 3 finger style and in clawhammer style, I have included banjo examples of the checkmark pattern applied to the first four measures of Buffalo Gals on the attachment. On banjo, this involves some pretty advanced-level playing relative to the much lower level of difficulty in getting the same combinations of notes on fiddle, mandolin and guitar.
To grasp the system whereby notes are added around the melody using the checkmark pattern, compare the first four measures of the A Part melody for Buffalo Gals with the 'Buffalo Gals - checkmark patterns example' attachment, breaking both of them down into half-measure chunks. (Note: there are more examples of the pattern on this sheet than what would tend to occur in my playing within any four consecutive measures: I use all these moves in my playing, but I don't usually string them all together back to back.) Within each half-measure unit, observe whether the melody is ascending from a lower to a higher note, descending from a higher to a lower note, or remaining on the same note, and observe whether or not the same thing is happening between the note that ends one of the half-measure units and the note that begins the next half-measure unit.
In the first half of measure 1, the melody remains on the same note, but then ascends to a higher note at the beginning of the second half of that measure. In this case, I start with the first melody note, then dip down to a slightly lower note, then return to the note I started with, and then ascend to a note that connects smoothly into the even higher melody note that the second half of the measure starts with.
The same idea applies to the second half of measure 1, though, in that case the melody ascends within that unit, rather than just when moving into the next unit: so the fourth/final note of the checkmark pattern that connects into the first note of measure 2 ends up being the same note as the second/final melody note in the second half of measure 1; the melody note in question is displaced in the process, coming an 8th of a measure later in the checkmark pattern example than where it occurs within the unembellished melody.
In the first half of measure 2, going into the second half of that measure, the melody moves in the opposite direction: descending instead of ascending. In that case, after the starting melody note, I first ascend to a higher note, then return to the starting note, then descend to a note that connects to the even lower next melody note that starts the second half of measure 2: thus, we end up with an upside down checkmark in this case.
Have a happy Easter.
Conversion Chart for Buffalo Gals in A
The song of the week is 'Worried Man Blues' in the key of Bb.
The Carter Family - key of Bb
Flatt and Scruggs - key of G
The Stanley Brothers - key of A
On the Carter Family and Flatt and Scruggs recordings, the chord progression is:
On the Stanley Brothers recording, the chord progression is:
If one is paying attention only to the lyrics when comparing the different versions of the song with each other, it would seem that to arrive at the 12 measure version (Carter Family/Flatt & Scruggs), you just omit the third line of the 16 measure version (Stanley Brothers). However, if one pays attention to the melody and the chord progression, then it becomes clear that the 12 measure version omits the second half of the second line and the first half of the third line of the 16 measure version rather than the whole third line of the 16 measure version. In this regard, notice the differing number of measures of the '4' chord in the 16 measure and 12 measure versions.
When I lead the song at the jam, I almost always use the 12 measure version, but be prepared for the 16 measure version to show up occasionally when other people lead the song at the jam. On the attached melody sheets I have shown the relation between the longer and shorter versions.
The Key of Bb
In the key of Bb: 1=Bb, 4=Eb, 5=F
The notes that make up the Bb chord are Bb, D, and F.
The notes that make up the Eb chord are Eb, G, and Bb
The notes that make up the F chord are F, A, and C.
Together, these notes form the Bb Major Scale: Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, and A.
The melody of Worried Man Blues uses only 6 of these notes: Bb, C, D, F, G, and A, which so happen to be the 6 notes that the Bb Major Scale shares in common with the F major scale (F, G, A, Bb, C, D, E).
If you are fiddler or a mandolin player, and you already play songs or licks in F, then, provided that these songs or licks do not require using the 4th string, you can take your same fingerings for F and move them all one string lower in pitch, and you will be thereby be playing in Bb.
For playing chop chords on the mandolin that use no open strings, if you move the chords shapes you use for playing in the key of A up by one fret, this will put you in the key of Bb.
For playing in the key of Bb, bluegrass banjo and guitar players almost always capo to the 3rd fret, so that they can use the same fingerings that they would use for playing in the key of G. (In the key of G: 1=G; 4= C; 5=D.)
Banjo players will need to raise the pitch of the fifth string to a Bb note (registers as A# on most tuners). This is done by capoing (with a 5th string capo, or 8th fret spike) the 5th string at the 8th fret. For banjo players who do not have a fifth string capo or an 8th fret spike (that includes myself), spike the 5th string at the 7th fret, and then tune it up a half step to a Bb (A#) note. This is best done by ear by playing the 5th string with the thumb while playing the 3rd string with the index finger, turning the 5th string tuning peg slowly until the 5th string sounds harmonious with the 3rd string.
The song of the week is 'Foggy Mountain Top' in the key of G.
Here is a live version of Foggy Mountain Top to listen to, played in the key of G:
Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, Ricky Skaggs ('The Three Pickers'):
Notice Doc's choice of pickup notes to lead into the first complete measure of his intro break on guitar: G, B, C, which ascend to a D note. This is the same series of notes that the melody of 'When The Saints Go Marching In' begins with, and is much more effective for starting a break than if one were to use the D half-note as a pickup that is written on the attached 'Foggy Mountain Top' melody sheets.
This is a good case in point illustrating how it is often not desirable to slavishly follow the sung melody when playing a melody-based break. An alternative choice of pickup notes to use to ascend into the D note that the first complete measure begins with is: B, C, C#, and this is the choice of notes that you will often hear played on banjo and fiddle on good bluegrass records as pickups to lead into a melody line that starts with a D note on a G chord.
The chord progression for 'Foggy Mountain Top' is one of the most common progressions in bluegrass:
(Prog. V6 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout. In the key of G: 1=G, 4=C, 5=D.)
Other bluegrass standards that use this same progression include:
Live And Let Live
I'll Never Shed Another Tear
All The Good Times Are Past And Gone
On And On
Light At The River
Little Cabin Home On The Hill - verse prog. only
Before I Met You - verse prog. only
Cabin In Caroline - verse prog. only
Gonna Settle Down - verse prog. only
Little Girl Of Mine In Tennessee - verse prog. only
Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane - verse prog. only
Hallelujah, I'm Ready To Go - verse prog. only
Lovesick And Sorrow - verse prog. only
Greenville Trestle - verse prog. only
Keep On The Sunny Side - chorus prog. only
For people who are much less familiar with bluegrass than with other genres of music, some good points of reference for this progression might include:
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Jesse James - verse prog. only
Cotton Fields - verse prog. only
My Old Kentucky Home (some versions) - verse prog. only
Note: With the exceptions of 'Hallelujah, I'm Ready To Go' and 'My Old Kentucky Home', all the songs listed here in which only the verses of the song use the V6 progression, the progression for the chorus is prog. X6 on the basic chord progressions handout:
Progressions V6 and X6 tend to show up together with each other in the same song much more frequently than any other pair of progressions on the basic progressions handout.
Compare the progression for 'Foggy Mountain Top' (V6) with the progression for another one of the songs on the main list, 'Bury Me Beneath The Willow':
Notice how similar these two progressions are. They differ from each other only in 2 of their measures, namely the last measure of line 1 and last measure of line 3.
Part of the practical value of observing how certain commonly recurring progressions are similar and different from each other is that by taking note of this, one can help oneself to avoid certain common mistakes.
In my many years of jamming experience, I have noticed that a lot of people tend to be more familiar with prog. V7 than with prog. V6. At large jams, whenever a song that uses prog. V6, I have found that it is typical to find at least one person playing prog. V7 for at least the first round or two through the progression. I count this as being one of the top half dozen or so errors involving wrong chord changes that occur at jams. Yet, the opposite case - namely, someone playing prog. V6 during a song that uses prog. V7 - rarely ever occurs at jams.
Another way to put this is that when the first three measures are 114, there is a much greater tendency to assume that the fourth measure will stay on the 4 instead of going back to the 1.
This assumption should be avoided, because songs with the 'Foggy Mountain Top' (V6) progression are very common in bluegrass, even if not quite as common as songs with the 'Bury Me Beneath The Willow' (V7) progression.
The Carter Family
A good number of songs that are now in the standard bluegrass repertoire were recorded by the Carter Family in the 20's, 30's, and early 40's before Bluegrass music, in the generally accepted sense of the term, came into being, and their recordings of these songs directly influenced the first and second generation bluegrass artists who brought these songs into Bluegrass. (Both Flatt & Scruggs and Ralph Stanley, for instance, have recorded entire albums consisting of nothing but Carter Family songs, and there are many, many more of these songs scattered here and there on their other albums.)
The 'pre-Bluegrass' music of the Carter Family bears a similar relation to Bluegrass as what the music of Woody Guthrie has to the 'Pop-Folk' music genre of the 60s. So, for historical reasons, and because I believe that familiarity with the music of the Carter Family is an important part of a well-rounded Bluegrass education, here is a link to the old Carter Family recording of 'Foggy Mountain Top':
Other Carter Family songs that are on the current main list and additional songs list include:
Bury Me Beneath The Willow (the very first song that the Carters recorded)
Gathering Flowers From The Hillside
Will The Circle Be Unbroken (there were earlier recorded versions, but they did not have much influence on how this song is played as a Bluegrass song compared to the Carter Family's version)
Worried Man Blues
Cryin' Holy (a.k.a., On The Rock Where Moses Stood)
East Virginia Blues
Gold Watch And Chain
Little Darling Pal Of Mine
The song of the week is Columbus Stockade Blues in the key of G.
Tony Trischka - key of D
Bill Monroe - key of G
Della Mae - key of A
The progression for the verses is:
(Prog. W5 on the basic chord progressions handout)
Notice that the two halves of the progression are identical.
The progression for the chorus is:
Notice that the second half of the chorus progression is identical to the second half of the verse progression.
In the key of G: 1 = G; 4 = C; 5 = D
As played at most bluegrass jams, there is a stop in the middle of the chorus progression. And that is how we usually play Columbus Stockade at the beginner jam.
For measure 8 of the chorus progression, everyone who is playing backup plays a D chord or a D note at the beginning of the measure, then silences their strings immediately afterwards, and then plays nothing until the beginning of the next (9th) measure. Hence, during the last 3/4 of measure 8 of the chorus progression, the only thing that should be heard is either the vocal (if a chorus is being sung) singing the words: "In your", or the instruments whose break it is (if a break is being played over the chorus progression).
When playing a break over the chorus progression, there should be no stop made by the instrument(s) playing the break (only the instruments playing backup should do the stop), for there needs to be something keeping time during the measure in which the stop occurs so as to help guide everyone to come back in at the same time as each other at the beginning of the 9th measure of the progression. Besides, part of the reason for doing a stop during a break is so that more attention can be drawn to the instrument(s) playing the break. So if the instrument(s) playing the break stop when the backup players stop, then part of the reason for doing the stop has not been taken advantage of.
I start the song off by playing an intro break over the verse progression only. All subsequent breaks (except possibly for the very last one) will be played over both the verse and the chorus progression, and will be split between two different types of instruments.
Sometimes I will 'tag' the last sung chorus. That means that after singing the final chorus, I might choose to repeat either the last line (last 4 measures: starts with: "(yes) / leave me little darlin'...) of the chorus, or, more commonly for this song, I might choose to repeat the last two lines (last 8 measures: starts with: "In your / heart...") of the chorus before ending the song. But, how I choose to end the song is a decision that I tend to make in the moment, rather than planning it out in advance.
The song of the week is 'Cripple Creek' in the key of A.
Here is the write up and tab sheets:
8 Potato Intros and Double Endings
Like most AABB form fiddle tunes, Cripple Creek is most effectively started at a jam with an 8 potato intro, and it is customary to end it with a double ending tacked on to the tune after the final B Part has been completed. For examples of 8 potato intros and double endings in the key of A for fiddle, mandolin, banjo, and guitar, refer back to the attachments in the song of the week write up for Old Joe Clark:
It is important to remember that any pickup notes that you play for your intro break for Cripple Creek (that is, notes that occur before the first full measure of the A Part) must be included within the last measure of the four measures that the 8 potato intro consists of. It does not work to play 4 full measures of 8 potato intro and then the pickup notes. For instance, if you are using two 8th notes as pickups into the A Part for your intro break for Cripple Creek, you must substitute those two 8th notes in place of the last quarter of the measure of the 8 potato intro, so that your first full measure of the A Part starts exactly four complete measures after the start of the 8 potato intro.
Nobody's Darling On Earth
The chord progression for Nobody's Darling On Earth was:
Ralph Stanley - key of E
The song of the week is 'In The Pines' in the key of E.
'In The Pines' is in 3/4 time (a.k.a. 'waltz time': 3 beats per measure: guitar rhythm: boom-chuck-chuck), and is usually played at a slow tempo.
The chord progression is:
In the key of E: 1=E, 4=A, 5=B
Bill Monroe - key of F
Boone Creek (Ricky Skaggs on lead vocal) - key of B: this is my favourite recorded version of 'In The Pines': notice that the chorus is shorter than on the previous version: this is the way (i.e., with the 'woo-woo-woos' mimicking the sound of the wind omitted) that I sing the song.
Peter Rowan - key of E
Melody & Breaks
The melody of In The Pines uses only the first 5 notes of the major scale. In the key of E, these notes are, from lowest to highest: E, F#, G#, A, B. However, In The Pines lends itself well to being played with more of a lonesome or bluesy feel to it than what would seem to be implied by the notes that the melody consists of. So, in both my backup playing and in my breaks, I tend to make a lot of use of b3 and b7 notes. In the key of E, those notes are G and D respectively.
For instance, when playing a melody-based break for the song, I will tend to substitute G notes in place of some of the G# notes, and in my fillin licks - both in my breaks and in my backup playing - I will tend to use D notes in spots where I would much more often use C# notes instead. Many of my fillin licks, and other licks that I might use in a break when I am not attempting to stick close to the melody, will consist solely of the notes that make up the minor pentatonic scale. The E minor pentatonic scale consists of the notes: E, G, A, B, and D
To get a feel for how one might get started in doing this for a melody-based break for 'In The Pines', I have included in the attachments, in addition to the melody as I tend to sing it (which consists of just E, F#, G#, A, and B notes), a modified 'melody' that adds 3 additional notes into the mix: G, A#, and D. When I am really going for a 'bluesy' feel in a break or in a fillin lick for 'In The Pines', I will make frequent use of the A#/Bb note as a passing note between A and B notes, whether ascending: A, A#, B, or descending: B, Bb, A. If you choose to make use of this note, be careful about how long you linger on it, for it clashes severely with all three of the chords in the song.
The 'modified melody' in the attachments is only a basic example of how one might go about making use of the three extra notes to give a lonesome or bluesy sound to one's breaks. There are many more ways in which one might make use of these notes in one's breaks (and also in one's backup playing), so I suggest experimenting with these notes a bit. You might, for instance, take some licks you already know, and try modifying them in various ways to include one or more of these notes in them. In doing this, you might find it helpful to listen closely to the Boone Creek version of 'In The Pines' - see the link below - to use as a point of reference for the kind of 'sound' or 'feel' to aim for.
Due to its slow tempo, you might find that playing 'In The Pines' at the jam affords you with a good opportunity to try to get more 8th notes - and even 8th note triplets (see the explanation below if you are not sure what 8th note triplets are) - into your breaks than what you otherwise tend to play. You might also like to use the song as an opportunity to work on improvising (i.e., making up a break on the fly), since the slow tempo allows one a bit more time to think about which note or combination of notes one might like to play next.
Swung 8ths and 8th Note Triplets
There are a couple of symbols on the melody sheets attached here that you will not see often on the melody sheets for the song of the week.
The first one, at the top of the pages, consists of a pair of 8th notes followed by an equals sign followed by three 8th notes of which the first two are tied together and the numeral '3' occurs above the three 8th notes. This means that whenever you see a pair of 8th notes in the written music, the first of the two notes is held twice as long as the second one, but together, they take up the same amount of time in the measure as what two 'ordinary' (evenly spaced) 8th notes take up. To get the feel for this, sing (or play) the melody along with the sung choruses on the youtube link provided below, making sure that your 8th notes line up with the vocal phrasing.
The numeral '3' which is placed below the staff under the group of three 8th notes in the second to last measure of the 'modified melody' indicates a triplet. Each note of an 8th note triplet lasts one-third the length of a quarter note; so, together, these three notes last the same amount of time as a single quarter note.
Guitar Tab Melody Sheets
For playing in the key of E, Bluegrass guitar players most often capo either to the 2nd fret and then play as if in D or capo to the 4th fret and then play as if in C. But, for In The Pines, as well as for many other songs in which it is desirable to make use of a lot of 'blue notes' (i.e., b3 and b7 notes) in one's playing, the 'capo 4 play as if in C' option can make doing this more awkward than what it needs to be, so I have not included a key of C melody sheet in the guitar tab attachments. (In the key of D, the b3 and b7 notes are F and C, whereas in the key of C, the b3 and b7 notes are Eb and Bb.)
However, in addition to the key of D guitar tab melody sheet, I have included a key of E melody sheet in the guitar tab attachments, since playing in the key of E without a capo lends itself at least just as well to the use of blue notes as what the 'capo 2 play as if in D' option does. If you have never tried playing a guitar break in the key of E without a capo, but would like to, I suggest that In the Pines is a good song to start with.
Note: When playing in the key of E without a capo, Bluegrass guitar players tend to play a B7 rather than a B for the '5' chord.
Banjo Tab Melody Sheet
Both the range of the melody for In The Pines and the desirability of using many 'blue notes' in one's breaks and backup playing for the song make the 'capo 2, play as if in D' option more practical than the 'capo 4, play as if in C' option. Therefore, I have included a key of D banjo tab melody sheet in the attachments, but not a key of C tab.
For banjo players using the melody sheet as a guide for creating a break: for successive 8th notes in the melody, or in fillin licks, there is no need to avoid picking the same string two or more times in a row with the same finger: the song is played slowly enough to allow one to be able to play smoothly even while temporarily breaking away from typical banjo picking patterns in cases where doing so ends up being a more straightforward and simpler option.