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.
The song of the week is 'New River Train' in the key of F.
Here are some youtube links to good versions of 'New River Train' to listen to:
First, here is the classic Bill and Charlie Monroe recording from 1936, with just mandolin and rhythm guitar and two voices - key of D. Notice how fast they play the song. In order to do this well, one needs to avoid all unnecessary motions in one's playing: e.g., keep your picking, strumming, - or on fiddle, bowing - motions short and compact so as to not overexert yourself, and don't allow your left hand fingers to fly away from the strings when taking them off the fretboard, keep them curled in towards the strings and have them anticipate the location on the fretboard where they need to go next.
Tony Rice and Norman Blake - also in the key of D, and quite a bit slower than the Monroe Brothers recording: good guitar breaks on this one:
Here are a couple of full band versions of the song (both in the key of E) in which - of the main bluegrass instruments - more than just guitars and mandolins are represented for the breaks:
The White Brothers - New River Train
Roland White - New River Train - Live at McCabe's
The lyrics of New River Train are quite repetitive and easy to memorize. For this reason, this is one of the songs I recommend learning to sing to those who wish to lead a song at the jam, but do not have much experience doing so. Other songs on the current main list and additional songs list that are fairly easy to memorize include: Mama Don't Allow, My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains, Hand Me Down My Walking Cane, Lonesome Road Blues, Long Journey Home, Take This Hammer, and Worried Man Blues.
For a song that has a chorus, 3 verses (in some cases, even just 2 verses) are plenty to sing for the song at a jam, and singing more than 4 verses is almost always too much, especially when songs are not being played up to speed.
For a song that does not have a chorus, 5 verses is often perfect, more than 6 is usually too many, and just 4 verses will sometimes be enough.
Note: In offering the preceding points about the number of verses for typical jam arrangements of songs, I have in mind songs in which each verse is 16 measures long and, if the song has a chorus, then songs in which each chorus is also 16 measures long. For songs in which parts of the song are shorter or longer than 16 measures each, the numbers given above should be adjusted accordingly.
The progression I use for this song is the same as the progression used on the recordings:
(W2 on the basic chord progressions chart)
Notice that the 4 is followed by the 5 without a 1 intervening between the 4 and the 5. Keep this is mind if it helps you to avoid confusing this progression with the closely related progression given below in which a 1 does intervene between the 4 and the 5:
This latter progression (V2 on the basic chord progressions chart) is the one used for playing 'Mama Don't Allow' and 'Will You Be Loving Another Man'.
Key of F
In the key of F: 1=F, 4=Bb, and 5=C
For mandolin, fiddle, and bass players (and players of any other instrument on which capos are not commonly used): the two major scales that share the most notes and in common with the F major scale (one flat in the scale: Bb) are C (no flats or sharps), and Bb (two flats: Bb and Eb), so if you are more familiar with playing in Bb and C than with playing in F, you might find it helpful for finding your way on the fingerboard in the key of F to think of it as having a lot in common with playing in these other keys. (The F major scale differs by only one note from the C major scale, and differs by only one note from the Bb major scale.) As for the three most frequently used chords in the key of F (F, Bb, and C, the 1,4, and 5 respectively), you might notice that two of these chords are among the three most frequently used chords when playing in the key of C (C, F, G, the 1,4, and 5 respectively), and when playing in the key of Bb (Bb, Eb, F, the 1,4, and 5 respectively).
For New River Train in the key of F, some guitar players will prefer to capo to the 5th fret and play as if in C, while others will prefer to capo the 3rd fret and play as if in D. The C capo 5 option for F works well for doing a Carter-style guitar break for the song (i.e., a break in which the melody is carried on the bass strings of the guitar with strums in between the melody notes when there is time for them), for all the notes of the melody can be found within the first 3 frets on the 5th, 4th, and 3rd strings. Among other things, the D capo 3 option for F allows for lower-pitched fillin licks on the 1 chord that make use of the 6th string (e.g., the D chord equivalent of the famous bluegrass guitar 'G run'). I have included both a key of C and a key of D guitar tab melody sheet in the attachments
For beginner banjo players, I recommend playing this song as if in the key of D: capoing the 3rd fret and spiking the 5th string at the 10th fret to arrive at the key of F. This way you can find all the melody notes on the 4th and 3rd strings. (See the attached banjo tab of the melody.) If you, like myself, do not have a 10th fret spike on your banjo, use your 9th fret spike and then manually tune the 5th string up the extra half step to a C note.
Will You Be Loving Another Man
Here is the original Bill Monroe recording of Will You Be Loving Another Man (with Lester Flatt on lead vocal, and Earl Scruggs on banjo):
key of A
The song of the week is 'Liberty', an old-time fiddle tune that is traditionally played in the key of D.
Flatt & Scruggs with Doc Watson - fiddle, guitar and harmonica breaks
This contains a good example of harmonica being played in a bluegrass context.
Take note of the feel and timing with which the 4 potato intro is played on the fiddle at the very beginning of the recording. Also, notice the 4 measure double ending after the last fiddle break at the end of the recording which is split between the fiddle and the guitar.
Notice that Scruggs does not play a banjo break here, but contents himself with playing backup. And this is what I recommend that banjo players at the beginner jam do who have not yet learned to play in the key of D by way of playing as if in C, but with the capo on the 2nd fret. I advise against attempts by beginner-level players to try to come up with a banjo break for Liberty in D without a capo.
Now, to make up for the lack of banjo breaks in the recording, check out this live performance involving so many great banjo players:
Bill Keith, Tony Trischka, Greg Cahill etc.
For the next two weeks, I intend on kicking off Liberty at the extremely slow tempo of 72 beats per minute (2 clicks of the metronome per measure). That is 48 beats per minute slower than the standard square dance tempo (120). But after the tune has run through its song of the week cycle, attempts should be made to kick it off at increasingly faster tempos by those who call it at future jams.
The reason for such a slow tempo is to encourage fiddle, mandolin and guitar players to learn to make use of more consecutive 8th notes in their breaks than what the general tendency has been up to this point at the beginner jam, and at the same time to make it easier for them in doing this to focus on their technique, feel, and timing for playing passages that contain many 8th notes back to back.
Despite how they look when written on paper, and what their name implies, a string of consecutive 8th notes should not all be given equal time value when playing most Bluegrass breaks. Rather, they should usually be swung, so that the first 8th note in each pair of 8th notes lasts a bit longer than one-eighth of a measure, stealing time value from the second 8th note in the pair, which in turn takes up a bit less than one-eighth of the measure. The slower that consecutive 8th notes are played, the easier it is to detect whether they are being played in this manner (long-short-long-short, etc., often called 'lilt' or 'bounce'). To hear more clearly what this sounds like, slow down the youtube links provided here to half speed. To do this, click on settings, then click on speed, then click on 0.5.
As is the case with most traditional fiddle tunes, there are many versions and interpretations of the melody of Liberty, but most versions one will come across online (whether written or recorded) are compatible with the interpretation of the melody I have offered in the attachments. But, for fiddle, guitar and mandolin players to get the most out of playing Liberty for the next two weeks at the jam (very slow: 72 beats per minute), it is best for them to avoid playing a version of the melody that contains significantly fewer cases of consecutive 8th notes than the version I have offered here.
Guitar & Banjo Tabs
With ease of left hand fingering in mind, I have written the guitar and banjo tabs for Liberty in C instead of D. So, guitar and banjo players playing breaks based upon these will need to capo the 2nd fret to raise their playing up from the key of C to the key of D, and will need to make it a point to remember that Liberty is a 'D' tune, not a 'C' tune. (No guitar or banjo player should call Liberty at a jam in the key of C when there are fiddlers or mandolin players present.)
Banjo Melody Tab
The banjo melody tab in the attachments is not intended to be played as written for a banjo break, but is intended to serve as a guide for creating a Scruggs-style break. For tunes with fast-moving melodies like Liberty, Scruggs-style players tend to incorporate only as much of the melody into their breaks that is needed in order for the tune to be recognizable, and replace the rest of the melody with strategically selected filler-notes.that are compatible with the chord that is called for at the time, and that allow the player to make use of the right hand picking patterns that are typical of the style. In the attachments, I have provided examples of how a Scruggs-style player, using the melody sheet as a guide and following the basic principles of Scruggs-style, might choose to play the first two measures of the A Part and the first two measures of the B Part.
Note to Clawhammer Banjo Players
Clawhammer banjo players usually tune their banjos to double C tuning (GCGCD) for playing Liberty, and then capo the 2nd fret to raise their playing up to D. When tuned this way, in order to make use of the banjo melody tab provided here, one will need to add 2 to the numbers shown on the tab for the 4th string, and subtract 1 from the numbers shown on the tab for the 2nd string. (In the case of the open 2nd string notes shown on the tab, the 4th fret of the 3rd string will need to be used in their place.)
By transferring some of the melody notes shown on the first string in the tab to the 2nd string (and by transferring also the open 2nd string note to the 4th fret of the 3rd string), it is feasible, with the help of drop-thumb, hammer-ons, and pull-offs, for a clawhammer player to grab almost every melody note. However, most clawhammer players take a similar approach to Scruggs-style players in being selective about which melody notes to include in their playing of the tune, substituting filler notes in place of some of the melody notes in ways that allow them to make more use of the picking patterns typical of clawhammer style than what would be the case if they were to try to grab as much of the melody as possible.
8 Potato Intros
Since there is nothing more effective for kicking off most fiddle tunes at a bluegrass jam than 8 Potato Intros, I have included examples of these in the attachments for each of the 4 primary lead instruments played at the beginner jam: fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and 3-finger style banjo. Players of other instruments/styles can get ideas from these examples, and/or by listening to the 4 Potato intro on the Flatt & Scruggs recording of Liberty, for what to do on their instruments for an 8 Potato intro.
Notice that the last (4th) measure of the 8 Potato Intro includes the two pickup notes (or in the case of the banjo tab, just one pickup note) that lead into the first complete measure of the A Part of Liberty. If there were no pickup notes into the A Part of Liberty, then all 4 measures of the 8 Potato Intro would be identical with each other. This is important to keep in mind when kicking off fiddle tunes with an 8 Potato Intro. For, if one does not start into the melody at exactly the right time, then the 8 Potato Intro fails to serve its purpose.
I have also included in the attachments examples of double endings suitable for Liberty for the four primary lead instruments played at the jam, since it is customary at bluegrass jams to end fiddle tunes (and certain other types of instrumentals) with these kinds of endings.
When playing these endings, it is important to make sure that they start at exactly the right time relative to the end of the final B Part. The incomplete last measure on the melody sheets (2nd ending of the B Part) needs to be completed either by a quarter note rest, or by changing the last note from a quarter note to a half note before the first note of the double ending starts.
Since the last break played for Liberty at the jam will usually be an 'everybody' break, it makes sense for everyone who played that break to also play the double ending together. But, even if the last break were not an 'everybody' break, I would still encourage everyone at the beginner jam who knows how to play a double ending to do so, so as to let them get more practice and experience with doing this.
Those not playing the double ending should stop playing after the last note of the final B Part has been played, and then prepare themselves to do one final note, double stop, or strum that will coincide with the last note of the double ending. In order for them to be able to do this, and to do this confidently, it is important that those playing the double ending play it clearly and with the correct timing.
The song of the week is 'All The Good Times Are Past And Gone' in the key of A. This song is played in 3/4 (a.k.a., 'Waltz') time.
Flatt and Scruggs, key of A
The chord progression for 'All The Good Times Are Past and Gone' is:
[Progression V6 on the 'Basic Chord Progressions' handout. Probably the most well-known song in 3/4 time that uses this same progression is 'Amazing Grace'.]
In the key of A: 1 = A; 4 = D; 5 = E.
With a capo on the 2nd fret, the chord shapes become: 1 = G; 4 = C; 5 = D.
Notice that on the Flatt and Scruggs recording of 'All The Good Times', an extra measure of the '1' chord is played at the end of each of the breaks before the vocal comes in. When playing this song at the jam, this may or may not happen, so be prepared for either scenario. Also be prepared for the possibility that more than one measure of the '1' chord may be added to the end of some of the breaks before the vocal comes in. The safest thing to do here is to just keep on hitting the root note of the chord (on bass and guitar) at the beginning of each of these additional measures of the '1' chord so as to guarantee that you will be playing the root note of the chord at the time when the progression starts over from the beginning.
To say that a song is played in 3/4 time means that there are 3 beats per measure in the song. On guitar, when playing rhythm, one measure will consist of 'boom-chuck-chuck', i.e., 'bassnote-strum-strum', rather than the more common rhythm for bluegrass songs of 'boom-chuck-boom-chuck'. Notice that this means that in 3/4 time it takes two measures, instead of one, to get through a cycle of root-5 (alternating bass) on guitar (and on bass, if you are playing only one note per measure). For this reason, it can be useful to think of the chord progression in groups of two measures.
The root note of each chord is simply the note that has the same letter name as the chord. The '5' of the chord is the 5th scale degree of the major scale that has the same letter name as the chord. The first five scale degrees of the A major scale are A, B, C#, D, and E, so when playing 'root-5' over an A chord, this means that you are alternating between an A and an E note.
There are six major (and six minor) chords for which identifying the '5' involves nothing more than counting up the musical alphabet, without having to worry about sharps or flats. The six are: A, C, D, E, F, and G. So, the 5 of 'C' (counting C as '1') is G (1,2,3,4,5: C,D,E,F,G), the 5 of D is 'A', the 5 of E is 'B', the 5 of F is 'C', and the 5 of G is 'D'.
3/4 Time Root-5
Taking the progression two measures at a time, the first two measures allow one to play 'root-5' over the 1 chord, but the second group of two measures (i.e., the third and fourth measures) allow one to play only the root note of the chords called for there, because the second of these two measures has a different chord than what the first of these two measures does. So, this scenario is similar to what happens in the non-3/4 time songs we play at the jam in which a single measure is split between two chords (e.g., the 7th measure of each of the parts of Boil The Cabbage Down and Soldier's Joy, or the 4th measure of each of the parts of Shortnin' Bread and the B-Part of Cripple Creek.)
The second line of the progression for All The Good Times allows one to play root-5 over the 1 chord and then over the 5 chord. Notice that this means that two root notes over the 1 chord end up being played back to back, one in the last measure of the first line, and one in the first measure of the second line, since the first line of the progression ended with the 1 chord, and there was only time to play the root note of the chord, but not the 5, because the third measure of the first line called for chord that was not the 1 chord.
When playing a 'vamp' or 'chop' rhythm on mandolin, banjo, fiddle, or dobro, a measure of 3/4 time will consist of 'rest-chuck-chuck', which is the same as the guitar rhythm, just without the bass note at the beginning of the measure.
When playing a roll in 3/4 time on banjo, you will have time for a maximum of 6 plucked notes per measure (counted as '1 & 2 & 3 &'), rather than the usual maximum of 8 notes per measure ('1 e & a 2 e & a'), Considered in relation to a roll pattern consisting of 8 notes, this usually involves omitting either the last two notes of the roll, or in some cases, the 5th and 6th notes of the roll, or the 3rd and 4th notes of the roll. If approaching playing in 3/4 time from his angle, make sure that the 3/4 time rolls you create by dropping notes from the standard 8 note rolls don't result in the need to play two 8th notes back to back with the same finger of your picking hand.
There are many standard (common time: 4/4, or cut common time 2/2) licks on banjo, as well as on the other bluegrass instruments, that have 3/4 time equivalents. The 3/4 time versions of these licks in many cases can be derived from the common time or cut common time lick by omitting a quarter of a measure's worth of the least essential notes of the lick.
Little Cabin Home On The Hill
Here is the original recording of 'Little Cabin Home On The Hill':
Bill Monroe - key of A (Lester Flatt on lead vocal)