The song of the week is 'Bury Me Beneath The Willow' in the key of G. Originally recorded by the Carter Family in 1927 (it was the first song they recorded), and then by the Monroe Brothers (Bill Monroe and his older brother Charlie) in 1937 (under the title: 'Weeping Willow Tree'), 'Bury Me Beneath The Willow' has gone on to become one of the most common of bluegrass standards.
Alison Krauss - key of E
The Stanley Brothers - sharper than F#, but flatter than G
Firebox Bluegrass Band - key of G
Roseanne Cash - key of A
for historical purposes, here are the Carter Family and Monroe Brothers recordings of the song:
The Carter Family- Bury me under the Weeping Willow Tree
The Monroe Brothers-Weeping Willow Tree
Changing the Pronouns?
Notice that both the Monroe Brothers and the Stanley Brothers sing the song in the person of a woman, just like on the original recording of the song by the Carter Family, whereas the lead singer in the Firefox Bluegrass Band changed the pronouns 'he' and 'him' to 'she' and 'her' so that he would not be singing from the first person perspective of a woman.
The practice of changing the lyrics to a song sung from a first person perspective to make them correspond to the singer's gender has been called by at least one Bluegrass writer 'the dreaded gender-switch'. It works okay for some songs, but not so well for others. But, either way, changing the lyrics in this manner is entirely unnecessary in Bluegrass. There are many good recorded examples of Bluegrass songs sung by men in the person of a woman, and many examples of Bluegrass songs sung by women in the person of a man. Just as one does not need to be a parent to sing 'Bring Back To Me My Wandering Boy' (a song that has often been recorded by male Bluegrass singers that is sung in the person of a mother: no one I have ever heard sing the song changes 'mother' to 'father' in the lyrics), or to be a murderer to sing 'Banks Of The Ohio', or to be a dying little child to sing 'Little Joe', so, for precisely the same reasons, one does not need to be a woman to sing Bury Me Beneath The Willow in the person of a bride-to-be whose fiance has abandoned her, nor does one need to be a man to sing a song like 'Will You Be Loving Another Man?'
The chord progression for Bury Me Beneath The Willow (on all the recordings given here except for the Monroe Brothers' version) is the most common of all progressions in bluegrass (Prog. V7 on the Basic Progressions handout):
Here's a short list of standard bluegrass songs that use this same progression:
Wreck Of The Old '97
I Still Write Your Name In The Sand
I'm On My Way Back To The Old Home
Your Love Is Like A Flower
Down Where The River Bends
Lost And I'll Never Find A Way
Come Back Darlin
Why Did You Wander
If I Should Wander Back Tonight
I'm Waiting To Hear You Call Me Darling
Ain't Nobody Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone
Road To Columbus
Hold Watcha Got
Blue Moon Of Kentucky (verse)
Black Mountain Rag (C-Part)
Flint Hill Special
Rose Of Old Kentucky (verse)
Tiny Broken Heart (verse)
Little Annie (verse)
White Dove (verse)
Memory Of You
In the key of G: 1=G, 4=C, and 5=D
The G chord is made up of the notes: G, B, and D.
The C chord is made up of the notes: C, E, and G.
The D chord is made up of the notes: D, F#, and A.
Together, these 7 notes make up the G major scale, and the melody of Bury Me Beneath The Willow makes use of all of them. (See the melody sheets attached here.)
Pickups into Breaks
When played in the key of G, the first melody note of the first full measure of the verses (and choruses) is the D note above the G note that the melody resolves on. When this is the case, the most effective pick up notes to use to kick off the song are the B, C, and C# notes immediately below that D note. Use of this series of notes is equally effective on all the bluegrass lead instruments. Give it a try. Start by finding the B note on your instrument, and then ascend in half steps (on a fretted instrument, this means you will not skip over any frets) until you reach the D note, playing the B, C, and C# notes as quarter notes, and be sure to place a heavy accent on that D note, since it is the first note of the first full measure of the song.
Transposed to each of the 7 other keys that we play in at the jam,
the notes become:
Key Pickup Notes Leading to:
A C# D D# E note
Bb D Eb E F note
B D# E E# F# note
C E F F# G note
D F# G G# A note
E G# A A# B note
F A Bb B C note
[The note named as E# in the context of the key of B pickups is the same note as the note that is in most other contexts is named as F.]
Other songs played at the jam for which this same 3-note pick-up measure will work effectively, for the same reasons that it works so well for Bury Me Beneath The Willow include: 'Foggy Mountain Top', 'Gathering Flowers From The Hillside', 'Lonesome Road Blues' and 'Wreck Of The Old '97'. In all these songs, the first melody note in the first full measure of the song is a perfect 5th higher than the root note. (The D above G when in the key of G, the E above A when in the key of A, the F above Bb when in the key of Bb, etc.)
Little Cabin Home On The Hill
Here is the original recording of 'Little Cabin Home On The Hill':
Here's Flatt & Scruggs with Doc Watson playing 'Liberty':
The song of the week is 'Lonesome Road Blues' (a.k.a. 'I'm Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad) in the key of G.
Here is one of the first sung bluegrass versions of Lonesome Road Blues I remember hearing. It is a live recording of the Stanley Brothers, and it is played at quite a fast tempo:
The Stanley Brothers - key of G
Here is what is probably the most well-known instrumental bluegrass version of Lonesome Road Blues, played as a banjo-feature tune on the Flatt and Scruggs' album 'Foggy Mountain Banjo', and at a slower tempo than the Stanley Brothers' live version:
Flatt and Scruggs - key of G
Here is a sung version by Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music
Bill Monroe - key of C
Finally, another sung version in a live performance, by a young Japanese band. Since there are breaks in this version played on four different instruments - banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and guitar, and they are all really good, I was happy to come across this version on youtube.
Bluegrass Police - key of G
The chord progression used in the versions of Lonesome Road Blues on the recordings given here is the same one that I use when leading the song:
(Prog. W4 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout)
...though, I have heard it played at some jams with the last line played as 1511 (Prog. V4 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout), and/or with the third line played as 4416m.
Notice the Bb note in measure 2 of lines 2, 3, and 4 on the melody sheets attached here. Relative to the key of G, the Bb note is the b3 (flatted third scale degree). Together with the b7 (for the key of G, an F note), making good use of this note will often add a 'bluesy' characteristic to your playing.
onesome Road Blues is one of those small handful of songs that at a typical bluegrass jam it would not be out of the ordinary for it to be played either with or without singing: I have no idea which way I have played it more often at bluegrass jams.
Lonesome Road Blues is also one of those songs that may be sung either with or without a chorus. Other songs on the lists we use at the jam that are also like this include: Down The Road, Handsome Molly, Amazing Grace, and Little Birdie. When sung without a chorus, the set of lyrics that make up the chorus in the versions of Lonesome Road Blues that use a chorus will usually be sung as one of the verses in the song - usually as the first or as the last verse, or as both.
For most of the songs that may be sung either with or without a chorus, I tend to choose to sing them without a chorus when I lead them at a jam, and this is how I sing Lonesome Road Blues. This arrangement allows more time for a greater number of breaks to be played without making the song unusually long.
The song of the week is 'Gathering Flowers From The Hillside' in the key of G.
'Gathering Flowers' is just one of thousands of simple and straightforward bluegrass songs that, for that very reason, tend to work well at almost any bluegrass jam, irrespective of how many people at the jam have ever played or even heard the song before. Keep your ears open for these types of songs if you are looking for ways to more rapidly increase your repertoire of songs to introduce into the jams you play at.
The chord progression for 'Gathering Flowers' is:
(Prog. V1 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout)
In the key of G: 1 = G; 5 = D. The G chord consists of the notes G, B, and D. The D chord consists of the notes D, F#, and A.
Notice the relation between the progression for 'Gathering Flowers' (V1) and the progressions used to play 'Mama Don't Allow' (V2), 'Foggy Mountain Top (V6), and 'Bury Me Beneath The Willow' (V7). V1 simply stays on the '1' chord in all the spots where these other progressions have a '4' chord. In all four of these progressions, the locations of the '5' chords are the same (measures 3 and 4 of line 2, and measure 2 of line 4), and in all these progressions, measures 1 and 2 of lines 1, 2, and 3, and measures 1, 3, and 4 of line 4 have the '1' chord.
Here are a few versions of 'Gathering Flowers From The Hillside' to take a listen to. The first one is just good old straightforward traditional bluegrass. The second one is from an old-school country artist I have always enjoyed listening to whose music could be described (albeit somewhat anachronistically) as somewhere between country and bluegrass. And the third one is the version that I learned the song from.
Earl Taylor & Jim McCall - key of G
Wilma Lee Cooper - key of C
Hylo Brown - key of F
Melody & Breaks
Remember, the melody sheets provided here in the attachments are just that and nothing more. They do not show you how to play bluegrass-style breaks on your instrument. So, why do I include the melody sheets in the song of the week emails? Because, to a significant extent, creating a break that sounds like it belongs in the song (and this is especially true of intro breaks, i.e., the break that is played before the singing starts and which identifies what song is being played even before the singing starts, or in the case of an instrumental, just simply the first break) involves surrounding the melody notes in the song with appropriate choices of other notes: and, in order to do this, one needs to have a fairly clear idea of what the melody of the song is.
There are countless ways to play a break for any given song, and how one plays a break for a song depends upon several factors, including stylistic preference, level of technical ability on one's instrument, and even things of the nature of what tempo the song is being played at. But, once one is past the very beginner stages of learning to play 'lead' parts, attempts should be made - with the help of a teacher if need be - to play in a way that involves more than just copying on one's instrument the melody of the song as sung.
Concerning Pickup Notes into a break for Gathering Flowers. Instead of playing only the 2 pickup notes (B and C) that are sung in the vocal melody (see the attached melody sheets) to lead into the first complete measure of your break, it is often more effective at jams to add a 3rd quarter note, a C#, after these two notes, especially if you the one kicking off the song with an intro break. The chromatically ascending sequence of pickup notes: B, C, C# to lead to a D note on a G chord is commonplace on good Bluegrass records (good examples of this are at the beginning of the banjo intro break and at the beginning of the fiddle break on the first youtube link given here for Gathering Flowers). Three-quarters of a measure, rather than just half a measure, worth of pickup notes gives everyone at the jam a better sense of what the tempo of the song will be, so that they can all start playing backup confidently behind the person playing the intro break at the beginning of the first complete measure of the break. This is a good case in point illustrating how it is sometimes better to make modifications to the melody as sung, rather than to follow the melody slavishly, when creating melody-based breaks.
Note: Many melodies do not have any built-in pickup notes leading into their first complete measure; in these cases one needs to create a pick-up measure to have an effective intro break for the song. This can be done by borrowing pickup phrases from other songs in which the first full measure of the song starts with the same note and same chord as the song in question, or one can learn common generic pickup phrases used on Bluegrass records for each specific situation: e.g., a generic pickup phrase leading to a B note on a G chord, a generic pickup phrase leading to a C note on a C chord, etc.
The song of the week is 'Old Joe Clark' in the key of A.
Here are some youtube links of good bluegrass live performances of Old Joe Clark that I hope you will enjoy:
Carolina Bluegrass Express
UK98 Bluegrass Band
Gravel Road Bluegrass Band
Form & Arrangement
'Old Joe Clark' is a two-part fiddle tune traditionally played in the key of A. The form of the tune is AABB. This means that each part of the tune (called the A-Part and the B-Part respectively) is played through twice before going on to the next part.
Like most of the fiddle tunes played at the beginner jam, Old Joe Clark does have lyrics, but, more often than not, Old Joe Clark is played as an instrumental at Bluegrass jams. It is more common at Old-Time jams for lyrics to be sung for fiddle tunes.
The chord progression for the A-Part is:
1 1 1 5
1 1 1/5 1
The chord progression for the B-Part is:
1 1 1 b7
1 1 1/5 1
In the key of A:
1 = A
5 = E
b7 = G
With the capo in the second fret, the chord shapes become:
1 = G
5 = D
b7 = F
Note: the way that many people, myself included, play the F chord on the guitar looks very similar to the fingerings used for the C chord. So, if you are following a guitar player for the chord changes for Old Joe Clark while at the jam, it can be helpful to keep in mind that there is no '4' chord in the progression.
Note: The B-Part progression given for Cluck Old Hen on the new main song list for the beginner jam also has the b7 chord in it.
The b7 Chord
A quick way to determine what the b7 (flat-seven) chord is for any given key is to think of it relative to the 1 chord. The b7 will always be one letter lower and one whole-step lower than the 1. Make it a point to remember this.
For each of the 8 Major keys we play in at the jam, the b7 chord is:
Key (1) b7
It is called the b7 (flat-seven) chord because the root note of the chord is a half-step lower than the 7th note of the Major scale (flat means a half-step lower). E.g., The G Major Scale consists, in order, of the notes: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#. The 7th note of the G Major Scale is therefore F#. The note that is a half-step lower than F#, and uses the same letter in its name as F#, is F. Therefore, in the key of G, the b7 chord is F.
Intros & Endings
The most effective way to kick-off most AABB-form fiddle tunes, including Old Joe Clark, at a jam is not by playing a pickup measure consisting of three quarter notes to lead into your intro break, but is by droning in a straight but rhythmic manner the root note of the key that the tune is in (often together with another one of the notes that also belong to the 1 chord) for four measures to lead into your intro break.This is called in bluegrass and old-time circles the '8 Potato Intro'.
It is also customary in Bluegrass circles to end most AABB-form fiddle tunes (as well as most fast instrumentals) with a tack-on 'double ending' that is played, not in place of the last 4 measures of the tune, but rather immediately after the last measure of the tune has been played. 'Double' refers to the ending being 4 measures long rather than only 2 measures long. Most of these types of endings consist of two 2-measure length ending licks played back to back.
See the attachments for some beginner-level examples of 8 Potato Intros and Double Endings for the key of A.
The melody of the tune is based upon the mixolydian scale. This scale, which shows up frequently in the traditional music of the American South and the British Isles, and in Gregorian Chant, is in all respects like the major scale that we are all familiar with (do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do), except that the seventh scale degree ('ti') is lowered by a half step.
The result is that a mixolydian scale always has one less sharp (or one more flat) in it than the major scale that shares its same letter name. Since the A major scale has 3 sharps (F#,C#,G#), the notes of the A major scale being, in ascending order of pitch: A B C# D E F# G# A, the A mixolydian scale (like the D major scale) has 2 sharps (F#,C#), the notes of the A mixolydian scale being: A B C# D E F# G A. Since the G major scale has 1 sharp (F#), the G mixolydian scale (like the C major scale) has no sharps. The G major scale is: G A B C D E F# G. The G mixolydian scale is: G A B C D E F G.
The melody sheets attached here give only a very basic version of the melody. Put some filler notes around it (e.g., rolls on banjo, shuffle rhythm on the other instruments, etc.), make use of double stops (especially on fiddle and mandolin), slide into some notes, etc., and this will suffice for beginner-level break for Old Joe Clark. However, quite a few more notes can be added to the basic melody, many of which may be considered as melody notes instead of as mere filler notes. If you already know how to add these into your breaks for Old Joe Clark, don't hold back in doing this at the beginner jam. In the Fall, we will revisit Old Joe Clark as a song of the week for the beginner jam. At that time, I will provide attachments showing some of the extra melody notes. In the meantime, if you are curious to see what more developed breaks for Old Joe Clark might look like (like many of the breaks on the recordings), check out the song of the week write up on intermediate jam blog on the IBA website that was given when Old Joe Clark was recently revisited as a song of the week for the intermediate jam:
Have a happy New Year!
New Song Lists
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 September and December 2017.
The first list (titled 'Beginner Bluegrass Jam - Jan. - June 2018 - Main List') consists of 22 of the 27 songs that were on the previous main list, plus 10 more songs that I intend on making songs of the week between now and the beginning of June. This list of 32 songs is the list that we will play from for the first half of the evening.
Notice that the progression given for 'Cluck Old Hen' on the new main list has more chord changes in it than the progression that was given for the song on the previous main list.
Also notice the inclusion of a common alternate progression for Will The Circle Be Unbroken that was not on the lists used for the beginner jam in 2017.
The second list (titled 'Beginner Bluegrass Jam - Jan. - June 2018 - Additional Songs') consists of the 5 songs that have removed from the main list (Beautiful Brown Eyes, Boil The Cabbage Down, Little Birdie, My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains, and Shortnin' Bread), and songs that have been played at least once at the Beginner Jam between September and December of 2017 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, and some of the songs will eventually become songs of the week for the jam.
Notice that on the new additional songs list, no key is specified for Shortnin' Bread. If you wish, you may take this as an invitation to call the tune in any one of the keys that are commonly associated with playing traditional old-time fiddle tunes (i.e., A, D, G, and sometimes C).
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.
Good jam last night!
The song of the week is Nine Pound Hammer in the key of A.
Here are a couple of good youtube links of Nine Pound Hammer to listen to:
Tony Rice - key of A
Lonesome River Band - key of B
Guitar and banjo players who wish to play along with this second link can capo to the 4th fret and play as if playing in G. For fiddle, mandolin, and bass players who wish to give playing in B a try, the 1, 4, and 5 chords in the key of B are: 1=B, 4=E. 5=F#. The B chord consists of the notes: B,D#, and F#; the E chord: E, G#, and B; the F# chord: F#, A#, and C#.
Remember, on youtube you can adjust the tempo by clicking on settings, and then clicking on 'speed'.
The chord progression for the verses (the second half of which can be thought of as a chorus) and for the breaks for 'Nine Pound Hammer' is:
Notice that this progression is simply the second half - played through twice - of other more commonly occurring progressions. E.g., the progression for 'Bury Me Beneath The Willow', 'A Memory Of You', and 'Wreck Of The Old '97'. (Prog. V7 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout)
or, the progression for 'Mama Don't Allow', 'Red River Valley', and 'She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain'. (Prog. V2):
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: D, F#, and A; and the E chord consists of: E, G#, and B.
Banjo players and most guitar players will wish to capo to the 2nd fret to play in A; so the key that they will be thinking in will be G.
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: C, E, and G; the D chord: D, F#, and A
While the intro break for the song should follow the melody closely enough to make it clear what song is being played before the first verse is sung, Nine Pound Hammer lends itself quite well to lick-oriented improvised breaks that may deviate considerably from the melody. (See especially the first youtube link below for examples of this.) This is a good song to use as a means for practicing any licks that you may have in your repertoire that fit over a line of 1144 or a line of 1511 for the key that you are playing the song in.
In the melody sheets attached here, notice that the first three notes of the melody of 'Nine Pound Hammer' are quarter notes, and that they occur before the first complete measure of the tune. (In cut common time, i.e., 2/2 time, as well as in common time, i.e., 4/4 time, 3 quarter notes make up only three-quarters of a complete measure.) Make it a point to remember these notes, because they will be useful for starting your intro breaks for many other songs that, like 'Nine Pound Hammer', also have as their first melody note in their first complete measure the note that has the same name as both the key that the song is being played in, and the first chord played in the song.
In the key of A, these three quarter notes are: E, E, F#, and the first note of the first complete measure is an A note.
In the key of G, these three quarter notes are: D, D, E, and the first note of the first complete measure is a G note.
In the key of B, these three quarter notes are: F#, F#, G#, and the first note of the first complete measure is a B note.
The melody of 'Nine Pound Hammer' contains 3 more notes in it that are higher in pitch than the notes that it starts with. In the key of A, these notes are, in ascending order of pitch: B, C#, and the E above the C#.
So, in ascending order of pitch, the melody notes for Nine Pound Hammer in the key of A are: E, F#, A, B, C#, E. These are the same notes used to play 'Foggy Mountain Top', 'Handsome Molly', 'Long Journey Home', 'My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains', 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken', 'Amazing Grace', and 'Mountain Dew' in the key of A.
In the key of G, the notes would be: D, E, G, A, B, D.
In the key of B, the notes would be: F#, G#, B, C#, D#, F#.
Nashville Number System
Having a basic understanding of the Number System for naming the notes that belong to the Major Scale (the series of notes that gives us that familiar 'do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do' sound) together with an understanding of the relation of the Major Scale to the Chromatic Scale (which, for our purposes here, may be conveniently thought of as the set of 12 notes needed in order to be able to play all the Major Scales), can make it much easier to memorize the relationships involved here and to see how the information presented here all neatly fits together.
G Major Scale: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, (G)
A Major Scale: A, B, C#,D, E, F#,G#, (A)
B Major Scale: B, C#,D#,E,F#,G#,A#, (B)
Number Names: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, (1)
So, no matter what key one plays Nine Pound Hammer, Foggy Mountain Top, Handsome Molly, etc. in: the melody notes are, from lowest to highest: 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 5.
The three quarter notes that make up the pickup measure that precedes the first complete measure in Nine Pound Hammer are: 5, 5, 6, and this leads to the first note of the first complete measure, and the number name for that note is 1.
Have a merry Christmas!
The song of the week is 'Silent Night' in the key of C.
Silent Night is played in 3/4 (waltz) time: 3 beats per measure; guitar rhythm = boom-chuck-chuck, i.e., bass note, strum, strum.
Here are a few youtube links for Silent Night.
The first is to help with finding the melody of the song on your instrument. I suggest attempting to work with this (i.e., finding the melody by ear, either with or without the additional help provided by being able to see where the notes are being played on the keyboard: left = lower in pitch; right = higher in pitch) before taking a look at any of the melody sheets.
Silent Night in C - How to Play Melody on Keyboard
The remaining two links are examples of the song being played on bluegrass instruments.
Blue Mountain Boys - Silent Night/JingleBells
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDiJCb5vJZc (key of A)
Luke Lenhart Family and Friends "Silent Night"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7oUEpZHcaQ (key of G)
The chord progression is:
In the key of C:
Banjo: to capo or not to capo
For banjo players, I recommend playing the song without a capo. This way all your melody notes can be found within the first five frets of the instrument. The highest note of the melody is the F note on the 3rd fret of the 1st string. The lowest melody note is the C note that results from tuning your 4th string down to a C. But, since this note occurs in the melody only once (at the very end of the form), and since it would make it inconvenient to get other parts of the melody if one were to tune the 4th string down to a C (C tuning), I recommend staying in G tuning and simply playing the last 2 notes of the melody (D note followed by a C note) an octave higher (i.e., open 1st string followed by 1st fret of 2nd string). The reason why I suggest playing the last 2 notes an octave higher, instead of just the very last note, is for no other reason than that it makes it less noticeable that one has jumped up an octave higher than where one would ordinarily expect the melody to be. If a banjo player were to capo on the 5th fret and play as if in G, then the highest melody note would be on the 15th fret of the 1st string! And there would be no melody notes on the 4th string. For banjo players who are unaccustomed to playing in the key of C without a capo, or are not quite sure what rolls, filler notes, or other Scruggs-style frills to put around the melody for playing a break for this song, I suggest just playing the melody as is for a break. (See the banjo tab melody sheet attached to this email.)
Guitar: to capo or not to capo
In contrast to what I recommend for banjo players, for guitar players who wish to work out a Carter-style break (i.e., strums added between some of the melody notes) for Silent Night, I suggest capoing to the 5th fret and playing as if in G. This way one can get all the melody notes on the 6th through 2nd strings - which tends to work better for most Carter-style breaks - instead of the 5th through 1st strings. But some may find it easier to play this type of break in the key of C without a capo, since all the melody notes can then be found within the first 3 frets instead of the first 4 frets. For this reason, in the attachments, I have included two guitar tabs of the melody, one in C and one in G.
In the mandolin tab of the melody attached here, the 3 lines written above certain (longer) melody notes indicate where one may wish to use tremolo as a way to embellish the melody.
The chord progression for Canaan's Land is the same as that for Gathering Flowers From The Hillside (V1 on the basic progressions chart). Here are a couple of good versions of the song to listen to. Note: The lead part is the part that has fewer words sung in it:
Ricky Skaggs and Tony Rice (key of E)
The Oak Ridge Boys (key of F, final choruses modulate to the key of Bb) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4UhKHvb7XY
Here is how the two set of lyrics line up with each other for the chorus.
Lead: No / sad / fare / wells / no /
Harmony: Dear / friends there'll / be no / sad fare / wells, there'll /
Lead: tear / dimmed / eyes / where /
Harmony: be no / tear-dimmed / eyes / where /
Lead: all / is / love / and the /
Harmony: all is / peace and / joy and / love, and the /
Lead: soul / never / dies. / /
Harmony: soul of / man never / dies. / /
The repetitive parts of the verses (lines 2 and 4 of each verse) line up in the same way as line 4 of the chorus.
Away In A Manger
The chord progression used for Away In A Manger was:
(Another way to play the last line is: 51511)
Good King Wenceslas
The chord progression for Good King Wenceslas was:
1 1 4/5 1
1 1 4/5 1
1/5 1 4/5 1
5 1/5 1/5 1/4 1
The song of the week is 'Down The Road' in the key of A.
Flatt and Scruggs - key of B (studio recording): all breaks are on banjo:
Flatt and Scruggs - key of A (live recording): banjo, fiddle and dobro breaks
The Bluegrass Album Band - key of B
The form of this song is unusual. Except for the last verse of the song (which has a common 8 measure form: 2 lines consisting of 4 measures each: this does not include the 2 measure tack-on 'shave-and-a-haircut' ending that follows the last verse), the form for Down The Road consists of 2 lines of unequal length. The first line is the standard 4 measures that lines in most bluegrass songs consist of, but the second line is 5 and a half measures long. This brings us to a total of 9 and a half measures.
Add to this the bluegrass tendency to allow 1 or more extra measures of the '1' chord to go by at the end of a break that occurs right before a verse is sung, and you can end up with 10 and a half, or 11 and a half, or 12 and a half measures or more for the length of a break that occurs before a verse.
Notice that on the first Flatt & Scruggs recording given here, the breaks are consistently 10 and a half measures long, while on the second recording, even more measures are added to the end of the breaks, but not always the same number of extra measures. However, and this is important to observe, on all the recordings, all the sung verses that are followed by a break are exactly the same length: 9 and a half measures. One way to think about this is that the number of beats that go by between the last sung syllable and the first full measure of the break that follows is always the same.
Not counting extra measures of the '1' that might occur at the end of some of the breaks, the chord progression for Down The Road is:
1 1/6m 1 5/1
1 1/6m 1 5 1 1
The 'half' measure in the form occurs in the spot where the 5 chord is played in the second line.
If one is counting the beats in the second line in cut common time (2/2), one would count it as: 1,2,1,2,1,2,1,1,2.1,2. Notice the spot where there are two 1s back to back without a 2 intervening between them. On the sheet music attached here, I have written the 'half' measure (measure 8) with a time signature of 1/2. And then to indicate that the remaining two measures in the form return to 2/2, I have placed the time signature symbol that represents 2/2 at the beginning of the measure that follows the 1/2 time measure.)
In the key of A: 1=A; 6m=F#m; 5=E
The A (major) chord consists of the notes: AC#E
The F#m chord consists of the notes: F#AC# (it has two notes in common with the A major chord)
The E (major) chord consists of the notes: EG#B
For mandolin players especially: If you find yourself struggling too much with making the quick change from the 1 chord to the 6m chord and back, you may play the 1 in place of the 6m, since there are no notes in the 1 chord that will clash with the 6m.
Banjo and guitar players should capo to the 2nd fret, and then play as if in G.
In the key of G: 1=G; 6m=Em; 5=D
When you look at the sheet music attached here for Down The Road, observe that the first measure of the break begins two measures from the time that the last syllable of the verse is sung. Another way of looking at this is that there are two measures of the 1 chord that are played at the end of the verse before the break begins. If enough of us make it a point to observe and practice this, this will go along ways towards minimizing the confusion that can easily result (due to the unusual form of the song) when Down The Road is played at a jam.
There are two things that one can do to help prevent confusion about when the break begins (i.e., when the form starts over again):
1) Use three quarter-note pickup notes for leading into your break. For a good choice of pickup notes, see the attachment: 'Down The Road - melody in A': the notes are E, F#, G#: which are located at frets 2, 4, and 6 on the 3rd string of the mandolin, and would usually be represented in guitar, banjo, and dobro tab as 0, 2, and 4 on the 4th string for the key of G, capo 2 for the key of A.)
Dig into your three pickup notes really hard so as to draw attention to yourself, and then dig into the note that comes next (namely, the first note of the first measure of your break) even harder so that there can be no room for doubt as to where the first measure of the form begins. These three pickup notes should be played during the last three-quarters of the last measure of the form, and they should be spaced apart from each other evenly.
Breaks & Backup
2) Play a fill-in lick in the measure that contains the last syllable of the verse, and end that fill-in lick on the first downbeat of the next measure. Bring your volume up as soon as after the last syllable is sung, and hit the last note of your fill-in lick really hard (make it 'pop', especially if you are playing a G run on the guitar: the G chord fill-in lick that is given in the attachments represents one version of what is commonly called 'the G-run'). This makes it clear as to where the last measure of the form begins - which is helpful to make clear on account of the half measure that the form contains in its second line, after which some people may find the beat 'flipped around' in their head and/or in their playing. The first of the three pickup notes into the break begin right after the last note of the fill-in lick is played. If you don't already play fill-in licks on your instrument yet, or are new to playing them, refer to the A-chord fill-ins for fiddle and mandolin, or the G-chord (capo 2 for A) fill-ins for guitar and banjo given in the attachments.
For the last verse, which is 8 measures long, rather than 9 and a half, it works best if everyone plays their last note at the same time as the last syllable is sung (as on the standard recordings given here). Then the banjo players can add a two measure tack-on ending appropriate for the '1' chord of the song (doesn't have to be the same ones that are on the recordings: see the attachments for examples) that everyone else remains silent on except for the on the very last note of the ending.
Don't This Road Look Rough And Rocky
The chord progression used for 'Don't This Road Look Rough And Rocky' was:
Verses & Breaks:
1 1/4 1 1
1 1 5 5
1 1/4 1 1
5 5 1 1
(compare this with Prog. W1 on the basic chord progressions handout)
4 4 1 1
1 1 5 5
1 1 1 1
5 5 1 1
(compare this with Prog. X1 on the basic chord progressions handout)
Here is a good recording of the song to take a listen to:
The song of the week is 'Leaning On The Everlasting Arms' in the key of A.
The Grascals - key of G
Solid Blue - key of B
I suggest first listening to, and playing and singing along with, the slower and simpler arrangement by the Grascals to get the basics of the song down pat, before moving onto Solid Blue's faster and more complex version. But, be sure to listen to Solid Blue's version, since their arrangement of the song comes much closer to how it has been played and sung at the jam.
The chord progression that is used on the Grascals' version of Leaning On The Everlasting Arms is:
(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 B: 1=B, 4=E, 5=F#.)
The progression is a bit unusual when compared with the progressions for most of the other 1-4-5 type songs that are regularly played at the jam. The 5 chords all occur a measure later than what one would ordinarily expect to be the case.
For this reason, both lines 2 and 4 are often played as 5 measure lines in bluegrass versions of the song. This is how it is played on Solid Blue's version of the song, so as to allow for 2 measures of the 5 chord in line 2 (11155) and 2 measures of the 1 chord at the end of line 4 (11511), since this allows for fillin licks to be played by the instruments since a pause is thereby created in the vocal before the next line starts.
The pauses in the vocal that result from adding the extra measures also allow the singers a moment to catch their breath in preparation for the next line. The faster the song is played and sung, the more desirable it becomes to put in these extra measures.
The way that I like to play the song is to keep line 2 as a 4- measure line, while extending line 4 to being a 5-measure line. The resulting progression is:
This is how we played the song last night, and is how we'll play it when I lead it this coming Wednesday. So, when two or more breaks occur back to back, keep in mind that we are using a 17 measure form for the song instead of a 16 measure form; otherwise, the beginning of your break (especially if you play pickup notes into your break) will overlap with the fillin licks that others may be playing at the very end of their break (or at the end of the chorus that occurs before your break).
Notice that in Solid Blue's version, harmony is sung not only on the choruses, but also on the repetitive parts of the verses: i.e., lines 2 and 4 ('leaning on the everlasting arms').
Also ,notice that in the same version, on lines 1 and 3 of the chorus, the lyrics for the harmony parts are not the same as the lyrics for the lead part. While the lead singer sings: 'Leaning, leaning', the harmony singers sing: 'Leaning on Jesus, leaning on Jesus'. Rhythmically, the way this lines up is as follows:
Lean - / ing / lean - / ing
Lean - ing on / Je - sus / lean - ing on / Je - sus
This is the way I like to hear the song sung when I lead it, and everyone at last night's jam who participated in singing harmony on the song at the end of the night did a great job on this, so I am especially looking forward to leading the song next week as the song of the week.
In case you have difficulty catching this from the recordings, the lyrics for line 2 of the chorus are: 'safe and secure from all alarms'.
Leaning On The Everlasting Arms has a particularly strong melody line. For songs like this, one should be careful about when and how one deviates from the melody when playing a break for the song. You might notice in the breaks on the recordings that deviations from melody-based playing are less frequent than what has often the case in breaks on the recordings for other previous beginner jam songs of the week.
For beginner level players, I advise them to base their breaks squarely upon the melody. (For help with finding the melody on your instrument, see the attached melody sheets.) This does not mean playing nothing but the melody: by all means one should put the usual frills around the melody notes that are typical in Bluegrass breaks to the extent that one knows how to use them: stuff like (depending on which instrument you are playing): double stops, slides, shuffle rhythms, fillin licks, rolls, hammer-ons, and pull-offs.
Notice on the recordings, that in the few spots where the players deviate from melody-based playing in their breaks in favor of lick-based playing, they do not linger on any one note for any length of time. Rather, in those spots, they play a rapid flurry of notes. The second half of the guitar break on the Solid Blue recording, for instance, consists mostly of eighth notes. The same is true of the last line (last quarter) of the fiddle break on the Grascals recording. In a song with a strong melody, dwelling on a non-melody note will sometimes work in a break, but more often it will sound out of place in the song.
The song of the week is 'I'll Fly Away' in the key of G.
Other keys besides G that the song has been played in at the jam within the past few months are Bb and C.
Of all the versions of I'll Fly Away that I have been able to locate on youtube, the following Del McCoury live performance is the one that comes the closest to how the song is usually played and sung at the jam when I lead the song, in terms of interpretation of the melody and the overall arrangement of the song. This is about as straightforward as it gets for a good solid Bluegrass arrangement of 'I'll Fly Away':
Del McCoury - key of Bb
The chord progression for I'll Fly Away is:
(In the key of G: 1 = G, 4 = C, 5 = D. In the key of Bb: 1 = Bb, 4 = Eb, 5 = F. In the key of C: 1 = C, 4 = F, 5 = G.)
This is Progression V3 on the 'Basic Chord Progressions' handout, and is the same progression that is used for 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken', 'Mountain Dew', 'Cryin' Holy', 'Ridin' The Midnight Train', the chorus of 'It's Mighty Dark To Travel', some versions of 'Sitting On Top Of The World', and many other bluegrass jam standards.
While the chord progression is the same for both the verse and the chorus of I'll Fly Away, the melody of the chorus differs from the melody of the verse. The spots that differ are the whole first line and the first two measures of the 3rd line. (in some versions, however, the melody for the 3rd line of the chorus is the same as the melody for the 3rd line of the verse: e.g., the Gillian Welch/Alison Krauss version on the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack).
In the attachments, I have provided the melody for the verse as a guide for creating melody-based breaks for each of the instruments; but since the progression is the same for both the verse and the chorus, if you know the chorus melody and would like to play a break that is based upon the chorus melody instead of the verse melody, feel free to do so, just not at the beginning of the song for the intro break. This can make the song a bit more interesting, especially when two breaks are played back to back, or after several breaks have already been played in the song that have been based upon the verse melody, and it will work in the context of the collective breaks that we play at the beginner jam, since the chorus melody does not conflict with the verse melody.
I welcome harmony singers to sing not only on the choruses, but also on the second and fourth lines of the verses (the 'I'll Fly Aways'): refer to the youtube link given earlier to hear how this works. Please remember though that when singing harmony, it is important to be focused on the lead singer as much as possible for the sake of timing, tuning, and phrasing.
In the attachments, I have included a simple three part harmony arrangement for the choruses (the notes for the 'I'll Fly Aways' in the verses are identical with the notes for the 'I'll Fly Aways' in the choruses, so I have not included a harmony arrangement for those parts of the verses in the attachments.) There are much more interesting note choices that one could use for the harmony parts than what I have written here, but I thought that, for the sake of those who are just beginning to learn to sing harmony, I should keep the parts as simple and straightforward as possible.
On the harmony sheet attached here, the notes for the tenor harmony are the highest of the groups of three notes on the staff, the notes for the baritone harmony are the lowest, and the melody is the middle set of notes. If it suits your vocal range better, you may drop the tenor harmony part an octave to create the harmony part that is known in bluegrass as the 'low tenor' (this is what I would need to do to sing this part, if the song were to be sung in a key a third or more higher than G), or you may raise the baritone harmony an octave higher to create the harmony part that is known in bluegrass as the 'high baritone'. (Most women will need to do this in order to sing this part, unless the melody is being sung in an unusually high range for bluegrass.)
At the end of last night's teaching segment on 3-note pickup phrases used to start breaks (especially for intro breaks), I said that I would collect together in one place all the information I have provided on pickup phrases since the beginning of this year in song of the week emails for the beginner jam. For, within the past year's worth of song of the week emails for the beginner jam, all the most commonly recurring scenarios have been covered, and most of what I could say about pickup phrases for I'll Fly Away and other upcoming songs of the week would be little more than a repeat of things I have already said in connection with other past songs of the week.
To see the collection go to X- Pick-Up Notes .