The song of the week is 'We'll Meet Again Sweetheart' in the key of Bb.
Flatt & Scruggs - key of B (instruments tuned up a half step higher than standard)
This was the first song that Flatt and Scruggs recorded together after leaving Bill Monroe's band. (Lester Flatt on guitar and lead vocal, Earl Scruggs on banjo, Jim Shumate on fiddle, Howard Watts, a.k.a. Cedric Rainwater on upright bass, and Mac Wiseman on guitar and tenor harmony vocal.) It is one of 28 songs that Flatt & Scruggs recorded together on Mercury Records between 1948 and 1950. To listen to the complete collection of 'the Mercury Sessions' refer back to the intermediate jam song of the week write up for 'Why Don't You Tell Me So': https://www.idahobluegrassassociation.org/intermediate-jam/category/why-dont-you-tell-me-so
Parmley & McCoury - key of B
This is the first version of 'We'll Meet Again Sweetheart' I heard when I was just beginning to get into Bluegrass. This record (in the form of a cassette tape I bought at a Bluegrass Cardinals concert) has been in my collection since 1992, and was a big influence on my playing. From the same album, check out the following songs. This is really high quality Bluegrass well worth taking the time to listen to (over and over) and absorb.
Roll On Buddy - key of B
I'm Going Back To Old Kentucky - key of A
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot - key of B
Down The Road - key of B
I'll Drink No More Wine - key of G
Smoke Along The Track - key of A
I Hear A Sweet Voice Calling - key of E
We'll Meet Again Sweetheart uses the same progression that is used to play 'Blue Ridge Cabin Home' and 'Sweetheart You Done Me Wrong':
(Prog. W8 on the Basic Chord Progressions chart.)
Key of Bb Review
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.
If you are fiddler or a mandolin player, and you already play songs or licks in the key of 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 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.)
Here are the corresponding notes of the G and Bb Major Scales:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
G, A, B, C, D, E, F#
Bb,C,D,Eb,F, G, A
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.
When playing up the neck on banjo in the key of Bb (capo 3, playing as if in G), you may find it helpful to use your 10th and 15th fret markers as your primary points of reference.
The melody of We'll Meet Again Sweetheart uses all 7 notes of the Major Scale, with the lowest note being, in Nashville Numbers, the '5' below the '1' (F note in the key of Bb; D note in the key of G). and the highest note being the '4' above the '1' (Eb note in the key of Bb; C note in the key of G).
One characteristic feature of the melody of this song is how often and how long the melody lingers on the 3rd of each chord (i.e., in the key of Bb: D notes during Bb chord measures, G notes during Eb chord measures, and A notes during F chord measures. In the key of G, the corresponding notes and chords are: B notes for G chord measures, E notes for C chord measures, and F# notes for D chord measures).
Another feature of the melody (at least the way I sing it, as reflected in the attached melody sheets) is the unusually wide intervals between some of these 3rds of each chord and the note that immediately precedes them. This occurs, for instance, at the end of measure 2 going into measure 3, where the melody abruptly descends from the 3rd of the 1 chord to the 3rd of the 4 chord, and in measure 6, where the melody abruptly ascends from the root of the 5 chord to 3rd of the 1 chord in anticipation of the upcoming chord change from the 5 back to the 1. This feature of the melody severely limits the range of keys in which I can feel comfortable singing the song in.
The song of the week is the 'Long Journey Home' (a.k.a. 'Two Dollar Bill' and 'Lost All My Money') in the key of A.
Flatt & Scruggs - key of A (song starts at 2:07)
Rhonda Vincent - key of B
Bill Monroe & Doc Watson - key of G
For reasons of historical interest, I include the following version of Long Journey Home by the Monroe Brothers (Bill Monroe and his older brother Charlie). From 1936, this was one of the first songs that Bill Monroe recorded, and it is played wickedly fast:
The chord progression is:
While this is a fairly basic chord progression, there are relatively few bluegrass standards that use this progression. I like to think of this progression as being closely related to the more common progression:
(Will The Circle Be Unbroken, I'll Fly Away, Mountain Dew, Cryin' Holy, etc.)
The first, third, and fourth lines are identical in both progressions. The second line of both progressions is made up of 1 and 4 chords, but they differ from each other as to where the 4 chord occurs within the line and how long one stays on the 4 chord before changing back to the 1.
The main challenge that the Long Journey Home progression presents is that with so many 1s in the in the progression, it can sometimes be all too easy to lose one's place within the progression. But, if one thinks/feels the song in terms of distinct lines consisting of 4 measures each, then this is less likely to happen. However, if you do lose track of the progression, then the safest chord to play is the 1. Just keep on playing the 1 while you are trying to figure out where in the progression the song is at. Use the vocal as a guide to help you to feel where each line of the progression begins.
When I lead the song at the beginner jam for the next two jams, we will play it in the key of A. However, it is also a good idea to be prepared for the future to play it in G and in C, since these are the keys that others have chosen to sing it in at the jam in the recent past.
(In the key of A: 1=A; 4=D; 5=E. In the key of G: 1=G; 4=C; 5=D. In the key of C: 1=C; 4=F; 5=G.)
Long Journey Home is quite often played at a fast tempo. While this song would not work very well at a slow tempo, it is not necessary to play it as fast as it has often been played on recordings in order for it to sound right. So, at the beginner jam, I do not intend on playing it as fast as it is played on some of the recordings provided here, but it will still be one of the faster songs, relative to the speeds that we tend to play songs at at the jam.
One of the things that makes Long Journey Home a jam friendly song is the repetitive nature of the lyrics. There is not much that needs to be memorized in order to be able to sing harmony on the choruses, and the last line of the chorus is identical to the last line of each verse:
Lost all my money but a two dollar bill,
Two dollar bill, boys, two dollar bill.
Lost all my money but a two dollar bill:
I'm on my long journey home.
The repetitive nature of the lyrics also makes Long Journey Home a good song choice for those who wish to lead a song at the jam, but do not have much experience yet singing at a jam, or who have difficulty memorizing lyrics.
The song of the week is 'Reuben' in the key of D.
Reuben is known also by many other names. Some of the most common of these (in Bluegrass circles) are: 'Reuben's Train', 'Old Reuben', 'Lonesome Reuben' and 'Train 45'. This was the first tune that Earl Scruggs, when he was about 10 years old, played with 3 fingers (up to that time he had been a 2 finger style picker) Over the years, Earl recorded Reuben many times, and each time he always managed to find some new and interesting way to play it.
There are numerous different versions of Reuben, - and even whole other songs that are based on Reuben (e.g., 'Ruby' by the Osborne Brothers) - but they are all based on what is essentially the same simple repetitive melody (8 measures. Only 4 melody notes in many interpretations of the melody. See the attached melody sheets.)
Key & Banjo Tuning
In Bluegrass circles, Reuben is almost always played in the key of D, with the banjo tuned to an open D major chord ('D tuning': F#DF#AD, or ADF#AD).
Flatt and Scruggs (banjo, fiddle, and dobro breaks)
Earl Scruggs, Marty Stuart, Mark O'Connor (banjo, fiddle, dobro, and guitar breaks: very improv. oriented)
The Dillards (Vocal, banjo breaks, and a simple mandolin break)
The chord progression is:
which is the second half of Progressions V1, V3, V5, and X1 on the basic chord progressions handout.
In the key of D: 1=D and 5=A.
Note: Most interpretations of the melody do not imply any chord change at all: so it can be difficult at first trying to hear where the A chord fits into the progression. If you are uncertain about when to change to the A, then just stay on the D. It is better to play a D over the measure of A, instead of playing an A in the wrong spot.
To capo or not to capo
The tune has a strong drony character to it. To help contribute to this feel of the song, I recommend that guitar and banjo players avoid using a capo for this tune. Some guitar players like to lower their low E string to a D, so as to further enhance the drony feel of the song.
Lyrics or no lyrics
Although Reuben is often played as an instrumental - which is how I intend it to be played as it goes through its song of the week cycle at the jam - it does have lyrics. (Actually, there are several different sets of lyrics for Reuben.) But even when lyrics are used, the tune often still remains mostly instrumental. The singing can be thought of as a kind of 'vocal break'.
Because the melody is simple and repetitive, and mostly stays on one chord, jamming Reuben makes for a good opportunity to develop one's improvisational skills. (When improvising over Reuben, one can often get away with ignoring the A chord altogether.) Reuben is the kind of tune that, when played without variation, can become monotonous quite quickly. Yet, when one adds just enough variation into the mix, Reuben is the kind of tune that can be jammed on for 10 minutes or more without it getting monotonous.
One can take one's first steps towards improvisation (making up a break on the fly) by creating variations on the melody. There are many ways to do this. Examples include adding in extra notes between melody notes, taking out notes, altering the rhythm of the melody, and taking a measure or two of the melody and simply repeating it over and over again. If you wish to get a little bit more adventurous, you can try creating variations that drift in and out of the melody. For getting started with doing this, I would like to point out that one can get a lot of mileage out of including C notes in your variations. Lingering on C notes works quite well for improvisation on this tune if you find yourself out on a limb while your hands are trying to find where to go to next on the fretboard. And, if you are new to improvising, there will be many, many times when you will suddenly find yourself 'out on a limb'. In order to become a good improv player (or even to do any kind of improv at all), one must be willing to take risks.
The song of the week is 'Blue Ridge Cabin Home' in the key of A.
The chord progression for Blue Ridge Cabin Home is:
(Progression W8 on the Basic Chord Progressions chart. In the key of A: 1=A, 4=D, 5=E. In the key of Bb: 1=Bb, 4=Eb, 5=F. In the key of G: 1=G, 4=C, 5=D.)
Notice that both halves of the progression are identical with each other.
Two other old Bluegrass classics on the current main song list for the beginner jam that use the same progression are Flatt & Scruggs' 'We'll Meet Again Sweetheart', and Bill Monroe's 'Sweetheart You Done Me Wrong'. Other songs that make use of the same chord progression include: 'We Can't Be Darlings Anymore', 'Is It Too Late Now', 'The Prisoner's Song', 'I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes', 'A Few More Seasons', 'Nobody's Business', the verses (but not the choruses) of 'I Wonder Where You Are Tonight', 'Are You Tired Of Me My Darling', 'Sunny Tennessee', 'I'm Using My Bible For A Roadmap', 'I'd Rather Be Alone', and 'Thinking About You', the A-Parts of 'Randy Lynn Rag', 'Orange Blossom Special', and 'Durham's Reel', and the B-Part of 'Mastertone March'.
Flatt and Scruggs - key of Bb. This is the original recording of 'Blue Ridge Cabin Home'. It is in the key of Bb instead of A only because all the instruments were tuned a half-step higher than standard.
Here is a link to the same recording, but which the person who posted it on youtube has taken it upon himself to slow it down a bit so that it is lowered to the key of A. You may wish to try playing along with this:
For a more recent recording of Blue Ridge Cabin Home, here is one of my favorites:
The Bluegrass Album Band - key of Bb
In many Bluegrass circles, the Bluegrass Album Band (Tony Rice - guitar, vocals; J.D. Crowe - banjo, vocals; Doyle Lawson - mandolin, vocals; Bobby Hicks - fiddle; Todd Phillips - bass) version of Blue Ridge Cabin Home, released in 1981, has replaced the 1950s Flatt & Scruggs version as the primary point of reference for the song.
Listening over and over again to the set of records recorded by Tony Rice, J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson, etc., under the name 'The Bluegrass Album Band' was a big help to me when I was first learning to play bluegrass about 25 years ago.
Here are my other favorites, besides Blue Ridge Cabin Home, on the first of the Bluegrass Album Band records:
Molly & Tenbrooks
We Can't Be Darlings Anymore
On My Way Back To The Old Home
Gonna Settle Down
..and my favorites from the second record:
Your Love Is Like A Flower
Take Me In The Lifeboat
Back To The Cross
Just When I Needed You
Is It Too Late Now
I'll Never Shed Another Tear
Other Bluegrass artists and bands besides Flatt & Scruggs and the Bluegrass Album Band that I especially recommend listening to in high doses for those who are new to Bluegrass include Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers, and Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder. But, beyond these, there are many other great bluegrass artists and bands that are well-worthwhile checking out. The following is only a very short list of such artists:
The Osborne Brothers
Jim & Jesse
J.D. Crowe & The New South
Reno & Smiley
Alison Krauss & Union Station
The Lynn Morris Band
The Seldom Scene
The song of the week is 'I Can't Feel At Home In This World Anymore' (a.k.a. 'This World Is Not My Home') in the key of G. This song was recorded by the Carter Family in 1931, and since that time has been recorded by numerous old-time, bluegrass, and country artists: some of the bigger names including Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Jim Reeves, Merle Haggard, and Ricky Skaggs.
Progression & Recordings
The chord progression I use for I Can't Feel At Home In This World Anymore is:
In the key of G: 1=G, 2=A, 4=C, and 5=D.
Jim & Jesse - key of F
(In the key of F: 1=F, 2=G, 4=Bb, and 5=C.)
Martina McBride (with Ricky Skaggs) - key of D: not exactly a bluegrass version of the song, but it has good mandolin breaks in it, and is played at a tempo that I prefer.
(In the key of D: 1=D, 2=E, 4=G, 5=A.)
...but, alternatives for the 2nd line of the progression that I have heard on records and at jams include
Blue Highway - key of G
And, in some versions, line 2 is played one of these ways for the verses of the song, and in a different way for the choruses, with breaks in some versions following the verse progression and in other versions following the chorus progression.
Compare these progressions with Prog. V6 on the Basic Chord Progressions Chart:
...and with the 3 most common chord progressions used for playing 'Leaning On The Everlasting Arms':
1144 1144 1144
1115 11155 1115
1144 1144 1144
11511 11511 1151
The 2 Chord
Notice in the versions of 'I Can't Feel At Home...' provided here how the harmony parts are affected by the presence or absence of the '2' chord in line 2 of the progression. For, unlike the 1,4, and 5 chords, the 2 chord has one note in it that is not part of the major scale. In the key of G, this note is a C#. (The notes of the G major scale are: G, A, B, C, D, E, and F#.) Relative to the G major scale, the number name for the C# note is #4.
If you find it doesn't come naturally to you to go to the C# note on the 2 chord measure when singing a tenor harmony part for this song in the key of G, try playing the following scale on your instrument: G, A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G until your ear becomes accustomed to hearing the 4th note of this scale in the context of the whole scale. (This is known as the 'G Lydian Scale': in place of the '4' in the major scale, it has a '#4'. The G Lydian Scale has the same notes as the D Major Scale, i.e., it has one more sharp in it than what the G Major Scale has.) The notes of the G Lydian Scale are the safest notes to play on your instrument during '2' chord measures that come up in a song that is in the key of G.
An informal name for chords other than the 1,4,and 5 that you will sometimes hear in bluegrass circles is 'off-chords'. The '2' chord is one of the two most commonly used major 'off-chords' in traditional bluegrass. The other one is the 'b7' (flat-seven) chord. I suggest making it a point to memorize the '2' and 'b7' chords for each of the keys that come up at the jam. Observe that '2' is a whole-step higher than '1', and that 'b7' is a whole-step lower than '1':
b7 1 2
Key of G: F G A (A = A,C#,E.)
Key of A G A B (B = B,D#,F#.)
Key of Bb Ab Bb C (C = C,E,G.)
Key of B A B C# (C# = C#,E#,G#)
Key of C Bb C D (D = D,F#,A)
Key of D C D E (E = E,G#,B)
Key of E D E F# (F# = F#,A#,C#)
Key of F Eb F G (G = G,B,D)
In each case, the middle note of the three notes that make up the '2' chord is the #4 note, which when substituted in place of the 4th note of the Major Scale results in the Lydian Scale.
'2' & 'b7' Contrasted
Just as through experience with playing songs that have 1,4,and 5 chords in them, one learns to readily distinguish the sound of the progression 1-4-1 from the sound of the progression 1-5-1, and to detect when a chord is being played that is other than the 1, the 4, or the 5, so also, through experience with playing songs that have various 'off-chords' in them, one learns to be able to just as readily distinguish which 'off-chord' is being played. For starters, I suggest observing that songs that have only the '2' as an 'off-chord' in them tend to have a very different sounding type of melody than songs that have only the 'b7' as an off-chord in them.
In the New Year, when the current beginner jam is relabeled as intermediate, I intend on introducing two more songs into the jam that use a '2' chord:
Homestead On The Farm' (a.k.a. 'I Wonder How The Old Folks Are At Home')
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82_0ui4taWI (Mac Wiseman - key of A),
Cry Cry Darlin'
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5ss64M_Z_E (Bill Monroe - key of A).
I will lower this one down to the key of G to make it easier for me to sing it.)
Compare and contrast the overall sound of the three songs provided here that have '2' chords in them with the overall sound of the following songs that have 'b7' chords in them instead:
Old Joe Clark
Love, Please Come Home
Old Joe Clark has been played regularly at the jam since the beginning of the year. I intend on introducing the two other songs into the jam shortly after graduating the jam to intermediate.
A final point worthwhile taking notice of is that while the 'b7' chord is more often than not sandwiched between '1' chords, just like the '4' and '5' chords most often are, the '2' chord is almost always followed immediately by the '5' chord.
The song of the week is 'Mama Don't Allow' in the key of A.
Be prepared also to play Mama Don't Allow in the key of G, since that is the key the song has most often been played in at the jam when others have sang it.
In the attachments, I have included melody sheets for the song in both A and G.
The two recorded versions of Mama Don't Allow given below are very different from each other. The first, from Flatt and Scruggs (in the key of G), is a straightforward Bluegrass studio recording arrangement of the song, featuring only three lead instruments (banjo, fiddle, and dobro), while the second, from Doc Watson (in the key of A), has more of a jam feel to it, and, in addition to featuring traditional Bluegrass instruments (mandolin, banjo, guitar, etc.) it also includes and features some instruments that are not among the first instruments that usually come to mind when one thinks of Bluegrass (drums, piano).
Flatt and Scruggs (in the key of G),
Doc Watson (in the key of A)
Use of Fill-ins in Backup Playing
While listening to the youtube links provided here, observe that the instruments not only take turns doing breaks, as determined by the lyrics, but also take turns being featured as the dominant backup instrument behind the vocals. As soon as the name of the instrument is mentioned in the first line of the verse, this is an opportunity for that instrument to play a fill-in lick during the two measures of 'dead space' that occur in the vocal between the last syllable of the first line of the verse and the first syllable of the second line of the verse. Two measure length 'dead' spaces' occur also after the last syllable of the second line and after the last syllable of the fourth line; so, in each verse there are three different spots where the appropriate instrument can announce its presence by playing a fill-in lick in anticipation of its upcoming break.
In the recorded versions, most of the fill-in licks used are not among the simpler ones to learn to play. In addition to the melody sheets for Mama Don't Allow, I have included in the attachments some easier fill-in licks for fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and banjo to help you get started with using fill-in licks in your playing if you do not already do so. The licks are intended to start at the beginning of the 3rd measure of lines 1, 2, and 4 of the verse: the A licks for lines 1 and 4 when playing in the key of A (G licks when playing in the key of G), and the E licks for line 2 when playing in the key of A (D licks when playing in the key of G).
Each lick ends at the beginning of measure 4 of the line, at which point you can simply go back to doing whatever kind of thing you were doing before you started the fillin, whether that be simple rhythm playing on the guitar or mandolin, roll backup on the banjo, or something else. On the attached chart of fill-in licks, notes in parentheses are not really part of the fill-in lick proper and may be omitted if they are inconvenient to get into from what you were doing immediately before the fill-in measure begins. For instance, if you are playing chop chords on the fiddle or mandolin right up to the point where the fill-in measure starts, you may wish to substitute a quarter note rest in place of the quarter note in parentheses that occurs at the beginning of the fill-in lick measure.
Bluegrass songs typically contain at least 2 'dead spaces' in each 16-measure-length verse and in each 16-measure-length chorus that are long enough for a fill-in lick to be used during them. Depending on whether there are pickup notes leading into the next line of the song, these 'dead spaces' will last anywhere from one measure to two measures. These are always opportunities for fill-in licks to be played by a lead instrument. On bluegrass recordings, you may notice that the lead instruments usually take turns being featured as the dominant backup instrument. This same thing occurs also at jams. Mama Don't Allow is a good song to use to start to get the hang of doing this, for the lyrics of song draw attention directly to the fact that that is what is going in the backup, and so there need never be any doubt in this song as to which lead instrument should be featured at any given time.
Singing and leading the song at the jam
The lyrics of Mama Don't Allow are among the easiest to learn of all the songs on the two songs lists provided for the Beginner Jam, and once learned, the lyrics are not easily forgotten.
However, the one thing that can sometimes be challenging about remembering the lyrics to this song is that one needs to keep track of which instruments one has mentioned in each verse so far, so as to not leave any instrument out that is represented at the jam, and so as to not over-feature any of the instruments.
It helps to keep track though if one makes it a point to call each instrument type in the order in which one first encounters each type of instrument, going clockwise around the circle starting from the person who played the intro break for the song until one runs out of other instruments to call and one finally calls the name of the instrument on which the intro break was played. This is the system that I use for calling breaks on most songs at the jam.
As traditionally played at jams, the bass player is given a break on Mama Don't Allow,whereas for most other songs this is not done. (Bass breaks for this song are not usually melody-based, so I have not included a melody sheet for bass in the attachments.)
For this song, I don't usually call the breaks as each verse is ending. The person singing the verses is calling the breaks simply by virtue of singing the name of an instrument in any given verse. The only times when I have felt a real need to call a break on this song when someone else was singing it, is when either: a) I had failed to mention before the song started that the verse 'Mama don't 'low no bluegrass music round here' (or something similar to this) is - at least in the context of how our jam operates - a way of calling a collective 'everybody' break, and it seemed doubtful to me that enough people had caught on to this in time before the collective break was about to begin; or b) it was obvious that people were not catching on to which instrument was named by the person singing.
This latter scenario occurs almost any time, for instance, when a singer abbreviates mandolin as 'mando': many people mistake this for 'banjo'. So, even though it is not as easy to squeeze a three-syllable instrument name into the verses as it is to sing a two-syllable instrument name, it is best to always sing 'mandolin' instead of 'mando' for the mandolin verse.
The chord progression for Mama Don't Allow is:
In the key of A: 1=A; 4=D; 5=E
In the key of G: 1=G; 4=C; 5=D.
This is a very useful progression to know by heart, for it is very common. (It is the one that is labelled as V2 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout.) It is the same progression that is used to play the well-known folk songs 'When The Saints Go Marching In', 'She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain', 'Froggy Went A Courting', and some versions of 'Red River Valley'. Three other songs that I believe are especially well worth familiarizing oneself with that also use the same progression are: 'The Crawdad Song' (a folk song adapted to Bluegrass that has tended to be popular at previous incarnations of Beginner jam in some of their phases), 'Will You Be Loving Another Man' (a classic Bluegrass song from Bill Monroe, very well-known in Bluegrass circles), the verses and breaks, but not the choruses, of 'Why Don't You Tell Me So' (a classic Bluegrass song from Flatt & Scruggs, also very well-known in Bluegrass circles).
I highly recommend making it a point to associate a particular song (or a small group of songs) with each progression on the basic chord progressions handout, that you are really familiar with whenever this is possible. Songs that you have known and, better yet, sung since childhood, and/or songs that were the first song example(s) of a particular progression that you learned to play on your instrument(s) tend to work best for this purpose.
For a progression on the chart that you do not yet have a direct useful point of reference for, you might find it helpful to think of the progression in terms of its relation to a progression that is similar to it that you are able to easily associate with a particular song or group of songs.
I hope that you have had a good Summer.
I will resume leading the Beginner Bluegrass Jam at the Pioneer Building next Wednesday (Sept. 5).
The song of the week is 'I'll Still Write Your Name In The Sand' in the key of A. This song is from Mac Wiseman, a first-generation bluegrass singer who recorded with Bill Monroe, and sang harmony on a few of Flatt and Scruggs' earliest records.
Mac Wiseman - key of Db
The Osborne Brothers & Mac Wiseman - key of C
Lyrics & Phrasing
Notice that the lyrics are not exactly the same in both versions, and that the phrasing of the lyrics also differs between the two versions. The way I sing the song comes closer to the first version offered here. Please keep this in mind when singing harmony with me on the choruses.
The set of lyrics I use for the chorus is:
Oh! I love you my darling, how I love you.
If I talk, will you try to understand?
It's no matter how you treat me, I love you,
And I'll still write your name in the sand.
The melody for 'I'll Still Write Your Name In The Sand' shares much in common with the melodies for several other bluegrass standards. For instance, the melody for the first and third lines of I'll Still Write Your Name In The Sand is essentially the same as the melody for the first and third lines of 'Your Love Is Like A Flower'. Also, the melody for the 4th line of I'll Still Write Your Name In The Sand is the same, or almost the same, as the melody for the 4th line of 'Little Cabin Home On The Hill.' If you are not familiar with these old bluegrass classics, look on youtube for either the Flatt and Scruggs or the Bluegrass Album Band version of 'Your Love Is Like A Flower', and for the Bill Monroe version of 'Little Cabin Home On The Hill'.
Del McCoury - key of B
Tim O'Brien - key of A
The chord progression for 'I'll Still Write Your Name In The Sand' is:
This is Prog. V7 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout.
(In the key of A: 1 = A, 4 = D, 5 = E. The A chord consists of the notes A, C#, and E, The D chord consists of the notes: D, F#, and A. The E chord consists of the notes: E, G#, and B.
In the key of G: 1 = G, 4 = C, 5 = D. The G chord consists of the notes G, B, and D. The C chord consists of the notes C, E, and G.)
The chord progression for 'I'll Still Write Your Name In The Sand' is the most common chord progression in bluegrass. Three songs that have been played frequently at the beginner jam within the last year that use this same progression are:
Bury Me Beneath The Willow
A Memory Of You
Wreck Of The Old '97
Once the current beginner jam is relabeled as an intermediate jam, and I start a new beginner jam - this will happen at the beginning of the new year - I will be encouraging those who participate in the new intermediate jam to expand their repertoire of jam-friendly bluegrass songs more rapidly. A good place to start for this is by choosing songs to listen to that use a familiar chord progression. The melodies and phrasings of these songs will often have many points in common with songs that one has already learned to play that use the same chord progression, thereby often making these easier and quicker to learn than songs witha less familiar chord progression.
Here is a short list of songs that use the 'Bury Me Beneath The Willow/I'll Still Write Your Name In The Sand' progression that I believe could be good song choices for people looking to introduce new songs into the jam:
Your Love Is Like A Flower (Flatt & Scruggs; Bluegrass Album Band)
I'm On My Way Back To The Old Home (Bill Monroe; Bluegrass Album Band)
Lost And I'll Never Find A Way (Stanley Brothers; Ricky Skaggs)
Y'all Come (Bill Monroe)
Come Back Darling (Flatt & Scruggs; Larry Sparks)
Why Did You Wander (Bill Monroe; Flatt & Scruggs; Ricky Skaggs)
True Life Blues (Bill Monroe; Del McCoury)
If I Should Wander Back Tonight (Flatt & Scruggs)
Ain't Nobody Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone (Jimmy Martin; Tony Rice; Boone Creek)
I'm Waiting To Hear You Call Me Darling (Flatt & Scruggs; Bluegrass Album Band)
Down Where The River Bends (Ralph Stanley)
Nobody's Love Is Like Mine (Stanley Brothers)
Back To The Cross (Flatt & Scruggs; Bluegrass Album Band)
Hold Whatcha Got (Jimmy Martin; Tony Rice)
I Have No One To Love Me (a.k.a. Drowned In The Deep Blue Sea) (Carter Family; Flatt & Scruggs)
Rose Of Old Kentucky (verse progression) (Bill Monroe; Doc Watson)
Little Annie (a.k.a. When The Springtime Comes Again) (verse progression) (Lilly Brothers; Tim O'Brien)
Included in the attachments are two new song lists for the jam which are intended to replace the lists that were used for the jam between January and June 2018.
The first list (titled 'Beginner Bluegrass Jam - Sept. - Dec. 2018 - Main List') consists of 22 of the 32 songs that were on the previous main list, and 6 more songs that I intend on making songs of the week between now and the end of December. This list of 28 songs is the list that we will play from for the first half of the evening.
The second list (titled 'Beginner Bluegrass Jam - Sept. - Dec. 2018 - Additional Songs') consists of the 15 songs that were on one or more of the three previous main lists for the jam, but that are not included on the new main list, and 4 other songs that have been played at least twice at the Beginner Jam between January and June of 2018 during the second half of the evening, when people were free to call songs not on the main list, so long as these are beginner-friendly and appropriate for a Bluegrass jam. Many of the songs on this list will likely continue to be called by people at the jam during the second half of the evening.
Also included in the attachments is the Basic Chord Progressions handout that the song lists are keyed to, and Nashville Number System charts for converting the number names of chords to their letter names for the keys that songs are played in at the jam. No changes have been made to these handouts.
We have been given permission to immediately resume the Wednesday and Thursday evenings jams at the Pioneer Building.
Revitalize Juice Bar, which is the new business that has replaced Jenny's Lunchline, is in favor of having the jams there (6:30 - 9pm), even though they do not close until 7pm.
we are on summer schedule and here is how it will work:
If you know you'll come, write your first name and instrument in the required name field in the blog comment below - e.g. Petra (Fiddle). There is no need to fill out anything else (unless you want to tell us, what you are going to call).
And a bonus feature - if you click the box under the comment area, you'll get notified when others comment (rsvp).
This way all can see, if we have enough people for a jam ... or if you are the only one....
The system will work best, if you only comment when you know you will come! (Do not post maybes or no shows).
A new blog post (with the jam date as title) will show up every Thursday
Have fun jamming :)