Excellent jam last night!
The song of the week is Beautiful Brown Eyes in the key of G.
The chord progression I use for the song is:
(Prog. W7 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout.)
(In the key of G: 1=G, 4=C, 5=D)
There are other versions that use 1511 instead of 5511 for the last line of the progression, but 5511 fits better with the version of the melody I sing for the last line.
Beautiful Brown Eyes is one of those songs that some people prefer to play in 3/4 time (boom-chuck-chuck rhythm on guitar) and others prefer to play in cut time (boom-chuck-boom-chuck rhythm on guitar). I think it works equally as well when played and sang either way, and I enjoy playing and singing it both ways.
On the main song list for the beginner jam, Beautiful Brown Eyes is specified as being played in 3/4 time. One reason why I did this is because there is only one other song on the list that is in 3/4 time, namely, All The Good Times Are Past And Gone, but being just as comfortable with 3/4 time as with cut time is an essential bluegrass playing skill. Another reason is that people who are new to bluegrass but who are already familiar with this song are more likely to know a version of it in 3/4 time rather than in cut time.
As the song of the week for the beginner jam, Beautiful Brown Eyes will be played in 3/4 time, but at some point in the future, I intend to play it sometimes in cut time at the jam.
Most of the bluegrass recordings of Beautiful Brown Eyes (or, in some versions: Beautiful Blue Eyes) that I have in my record collection and that I have found on youtube are played in cut time, whereas most of the non-bluegrass recordings of Beautiful Brown Eyes that I am aware of are played in 3/4 time.
This is the closest I could come to finding on youtube a bluegrass version of Beautiful Brown Eyes in 3/4 time:
Bailey Brothers, key of F
Notice that both the intro break and the break after the second chorus are only half the length of a verse or a chorus of the song. When this is done, it is the second half of the progression that is used for the break. This is common on recordings - especially for songs that aren't played at a very fast tempo - but at a jam, less confusion results when one plays breaks that are the same length as a verse or a chorus, rather than shorter breaks. Besides, bluegrass jammers, especially those who don't sing, will tend to appreciate being able to play full length breaks, rather than just half-length breaks.
Here are two good bluegrass versions of the song in cut time. Notice on the Red Allen recording, the intro break is even shorter than the intro break on the Bailey Brothers version just discussed. It is only a quarter of the length of a verse or a chorus. When a break is this short, it is called a 'turnaround', and is played using the last quarter of the progression for the verses or choruses of the song.
Red Allen, key of G
Gibson Brothers, key of Bb
Lyrics and Melody
In comparing the different recordings of the song, you might notice that each version uses a different set of lyrics. You might also notice that while there is much less divergence amongst the versions in the interpretation of the melody than what there is in the choice of lyrics, none of the 3 versions uses exactly the same melody. Both of these things are common in bluegrass, and this seems to be especially the case with songs that were not originally bluegrass songs, but were introduced into the bluegrass repertoire by one or more of the first or second generation bluegrass bands.
The melody sheets attached here show how I sing the melody for the chorus, which is slightly different from all the recordings provided here. The melody for the verses is similar enough to that for the chorus (the difference occurs in the second line of the verses), that it doesn't matter whether one uses the chorus melody or the verse melody as the basis for a melody-based break for the song. In songs where there is a greater degree of divergence between the melody of the chorus and the melody of the verse, it is usually the melody for the verses that is used as the basis for breaks.