The song of the week is 'Wildwood Flower' in the key of D.
Flatt & Scruggs - key of D instrumental
The Carter Family - key of Bb: original recorded version with vocals
Mother Maybelle Carter - key of F# with vocals
key of F: instrumental
The chord progression for Wildwood Flower is:
Notice that the 1st, 2nd, and 4th lines of the progression are each 5 measures long.
Vocal or Instrumental?
Before moving to Boise, I was much more accustomed to playing Wildwood Flower at Bluegrass jams as an instrumental rather than as a song with vocals. But, despite the difficulties involved in singing Wildwood Flower, due to the wide range of the melody and the nature of the lyrics, there have been enough people at the beginner and intermediate jams over the past few years who like to sing Wildwood Flower that it has rarely been played as an instrumental when called at the jams. So, in making Wildwood Flower a song of the week for the intermediate jam, I have chosen to sing it rather than leading it as an instrumental.
When played as an instrumental at a bluegrass jam, Wildwood Flower is most often played either in the key of C or the key of G, with guitar players tending to prefer C and banjo players tending to prefer G.
When Wildwood Flower is sung at a jam, one can expect it to be played in any of the 8 standard bluegrass keys: G, A, Bb, B, C, D, E, or F. Because the melody of the song has an unusually wide range (it spans an interval of a major 10th: that is, one whole octave plus a third of an octave), one may find it difficult to find a key that one can comfortably sing the song in, and once one has identified a comfortable key to sing it in, one may discover that that is the only key that one feels comfortable singing the song in.
Since my early childhood, I have been familiar with set of lyrics for Wildwood Flower on the classic 1928 Carter Family recording (a recording that has greatly influenced most subsequent versions of the song), but have found the lyrics difficult to memorize, as some of the lines make little sense. As far as I can tell from listening to the old record, the lyrics on it are as follows:
Oh, I'll twine with my mingles and waving black hair
With the roses so red and the lilies so fair
And the myrtle so bright with the emerald dew
The pale and the leader and eyes look like blue.
I will dance, I will sing and my laugh shall be gay
I will charm ev'ry heart, in his crown I will sway
When I woke from my dreaming, my idols was clay
All portion of love had all flown away.
Oh, he taught me to love him and promised to love
And to cherish me over all others above
How my heart is now wond'ring no misery can tell
He's left me no warning, no words of farewell.
Oh, he taught me to love him and called me his flow'r
That's blooming to cheer him through life's dreary hour
Oh, I long to see him and regret the dark hour
He's won and neglected this pale wildwood flower.
If one compares these lyrics with the original set of lyrics published in 1860, one can see the full extent to which some of the lines got butchered in the transmission process that eventually resulted in the Carter Family version. The original lyrics are:
I'll twine 'mid the ringlets of my raven black hair
The lilies so pale and the roses so fair
The myrtle so bright with an emerald hue
And the pale aronatus with eyes of bright blue.
I'll sing and I'll dance, my laugh shall be gay
I'll cease this wild weeping, drive sorrow away.
Tho' my heart is now breaking, he never shall know
That his name made me tremble and my pale cheeks to glow.
I'll think of him never, I'll be wildly gay
I'll charm ev'ry heart, and the crowd I will sway.
I'll live yet to see him regret the dark hour
When he won, then neglected, the frail wildwood flower.
He told me he loved me, and promised to love
Through ill and misfortune, all others above
Another has won him, ah! mis'ry to tell
He left me in silence, no word of farewell.
He taught me to love him, he call'd me his flower
That blossom'd for him all the brighter each hour
But I woke from my dreaming, my idol was clay
My visions of love have all faded away.
The way I sing the song is based on the original set of lyrics, but is influenced by my familiarity with the Carter Family version. For instance, I sing only 4 verses, by combining verses 2 and 3 together into a single verse. I omit the last three lines of verse 2 and the first line of verse 3.
Guitar & Banjo Melody Tabs
Without a capo, the key of C works much better than the key of D for working up either a Carter-style or a crosspicking guitar break for Wildwood Flower, which are the two main traditional approaches to playing guitar breaks for the song. For this reason I have not included a guitar tab melody sheet written in D in the attachments. To play a break in D based upon the key of C guitar melody sheet provided here, you will need to capo the 2nd fret of the guitar.
Two banjo tabs of the melody are given in the attachments, one written in the key of C with the banjo tuned to C tuning (GCGBD): capo 2 for D, and one written in the key of D with the banjo tuned to D tuning (F#DF#AD). These are the two options that I believe work best for working up basic Scruggs-style breaks for Wildwood Flower in D. (For clawhammer players, I advise tuning to double C tuning: GCGCD, capo 2 for D. To convert the C tuning melody sheet to double C tuning, all you need to do is to change the 1s to zeros on the line that represents the 2nd string.)
Here's the original recording of Earl's Breakdown:
Flatt & Scruggs
The song of the week is Steel Rails in the key of G.
Alison Krauss - key of E
1 1 2m 2m
4 5 4 1 1
1 1 2m 2m
4 5 4 1 1
On the recording, the progression for the verses is slightly different: line 2 is played as 45111. For the past 25 years, I have failed to notice this on the recording. I have jammed this song many times over the years with many different people, and not once do I ever recall a different progression being used for the verses than for the choruses and the breaks. So, to keep it simple, when I lead the song at the jam, I will use the same progression for the verses as for the choruses and the breaks, with line 2 consistently being played as 45411.
Even if the progression were 16 or 17 measures long instead of 18 measures long, and even if it did not contain 2m chords, it would still be an unusual progression for a bluegrass song, in that a 5 chord measure is sandwiched between two 4 chord measures. Of the 6 possible chord change sequences involving the 1, 4, and 5 (14, 41, 15, 51, 45, 54) 54 (a 5 followed by a 4) is the least common, and when this order does occasionally show up, the 5 is usually preceded by a 1 rather than by a 4.
The 2m Chord
When 1=G, 2m=Am; when 1=A, 2m=Bm; when 1=Bb, 2m=Cm, when 1=B, 2m=C#m, etc. Just as the root note of the 2 (major) chord is always a whole step higher than the root note of the 1 chord, so by the same token, the root note of the 2m chord is always a whole step higher than root note of the 1 chord.
Minor Chords in Major Key Songs
The 2m (two minor) chord is the second most frequently used minor chord in songs played in a major key. The most common minor chord used in major key songs is the 6m, and the third most common (which only very rarely shows up in bluegrass songs) is the 3m.
The 6m is the relative minor of the 1.
The 2m is the relative minor of the 4.
The 3m is the relative minor of the 5.
6m, 2m, and 3m are the only three minor chords that contain no notes in them other than the notes that make up the major scale that has the same letter name as the 1.
For example, the C major scale has no sharps or flats in it, but consists of the 7 natural notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, B.
Just as the 1,4, and 5, when 1=C, are the only major chords that contain no sharps or flats in them: C = CEG; F = FAC; G = GBD, so also their relative minors: 6m, 2m, and 3m respectively, when 1=C, are the only minor chords that contain no sharps or flats in them: Am = ACE; Dm = DFA; Em = EGB.
History of Minor Chords in Bluegrass
The use of minor chords in major key songs shows up less frequently on bluegrass recordings from the 40s and the 50s than on recordings from the 60s onward. In the spots in where a minor chord would have been suitable to play, the older recordings more often than not have the major chord that is either the relative major or the parallel major of that minor chord.
For instance, in the spots where it is now standard practice to play a 6m in Down The Road, the original Flatt & Scruggs recording used a 1 instead (1 is the relative major of 6m), and in the spots where it is now standard practice to play a 6m chord in Foggy Mountain Breakdown, a 6 chord was played on the guitar by Lester Flatt on the original recording, even though the 6m chord is so clearly outlined in the banjo breaks (6 is the parallel major of 6m).
2m & 6m vs. 2 & 6
In contrast to the 2 (major) chord, which is almost always immediately followed by a 5 chord, the 2m chord may often be followed just as easily and naturally by a 1, a 4, a 6m, etc., as by a 5 chord. A similar observation may also be made about the 6m chord relative to the 6 (major) chord. The 6 (major) is almost always followed by a 2 (the most notable exception to this being the obsolete practice of sandwiching 6's between 1's in playing Foggy Mountain Breakdown and certain other songs) but the 6m is often followed by a 1, a 4 or a 5.
The chord progression for the verses and breaks of Nellie Kane was:
(x2 for a full length break)
The chorus uses the same progression as Gold Watch And Chain, Way Down Town, Back Up And Push, and the chorus of How Mountain Girls Can Love.
Hot Rize - key of E
John Hardy was played as an instrumental. The progression was:
Flatt & Scruggs with Doc Watson - key of G
The song of the week is 'Cryin' Holy (Unto The Lord)', a.k.a. 'On The Rock Where Moses Stood', in the key of G.
I closely associate 'Cryin' Holy' with 'I'll Fly Away' and 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken', but really for no other reasons than that all three use the same chord progression (at least in most versions of the songs): V3 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout), and they are all Gospel-themed songs. However, unlike 'I'll Fly Away' and 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken', 'Cryin' Holy' tends not be all that well-known outside Bluegrass circles. When I feel the need at a jam to call a song that I think everyone will find fairly easy to follow along with, and songs like 'I'll Fly Away' and 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken' come to mind, I will sometimes choose 'Cryin' Holy' instead, because, although it is a less obvious song choice, its progression can be readily explained in terms of the other two songs, parts of its melody are closely related to 'I'll Fly Away' and other songs that use the same or a similar progression, and people tend to catch on quickly to the lyrics for the chorus, so as be able to sing harmony on the choruses. And, I am one of those people who likes to collect jam-friendly songs that are not among those that tend to get played to death at many jams.
Ever since I can remember, I have known the Carter Family version of 'Cryin' Holy':
My grandmother had this version on an LP called 'The Original and Great Carter Family', that I recall listening to quite often when I was a child, and this record is now in my collection.
In Bluegrass circles, the music of the Carter Family is often categorized as 'pre-Bluegrass'. Outside Bluegrass circles, people variously label their music as 'Hillbilly', 'Old-Time', 'Country', 'Folk', and even sometimes as 'Bluegrass'.
Shortly after I discovered Bluegrass, I came across a Bill Monroe live Bluegrass Gospel cassette tape in a friend's tape collection, and borrowed it. This was the first time I had heard Bill Monroe, and Cryin' Holy was one of the first songs on the tape. (Being new to Bluegrass at the time, I was happily surprised at how many of the songs on the tape I already knew from non-bluegrass recordings of the same songs.) I recall liking that it was played much faster than on the old Carter Family record, and with my three favorite instruments taking turns playing breaks on it: fiddle, banjo, and mandolin. I also remember finding it interesting that the lyrics were noticeably different than what I used to from the Carter Family record.
Here is a Bill Monroe live version that is similar to the one that was on the tape:
'Cryin' Holy' starts at 8:50 (key of B)
For comparison, here is a much older and more well-known Bill Monroe recording of the song (key of A) that has a different feel to it than the one given above. The following recording is from the early 40's, which is part of the short time period that I think of as being the transitional phase in Bill Monroe's music from his unique brand of 'Old-Time' music to Bluegrass proper. Although it is anachronistic to say this, one could retrospectively describe this version as Old-Time with strong leanings towards Bluegrass.
Cryin' Holy Unto My Lord - Bil Monroe
(Notice that on this recording the ending line of the progression is, at least on the breaks, 5511 instead of the 1511 that is on the live version and on the Carter Family record, and in the version coming up below.)
Most songs that use Prog. V3 (or the closely related Prog. W3) have melodies for their second line that are similar enough to be interchanged with each other. Thus, one could play line 2 of a melody based break for I'll Fly Away or Will The Circle Be Unbroken (or Mountain Dew, Sitting On Top Of The World, When My Time Comes To Go, Long Gone, Won't You Let Me Be Your Friend, Riding On The Midnight Train, etc.) for line 2 of Cryin' Holy and it would not sound out of place in the song. The melody for the 4th line of Cryin' Holy is identical to the melody for the 4th line of I'll Fly Away.
Notice that the 2 pickup notes built into the melody, descend, rather than ascend, to the first melody note of the first measure proper. (Same scenario as for 'Columbus Stockade Blues' and 'Little Maggie'.) For this reason, it is better to use a descending pickup phrase for leading into one's breaks, rather than the more typical ascending pickup phrases that lead up to the root note of the 1 chord. (Other good options, but that are sometimes instrument specific, can be found on the breaks on the recorded versions provided here.) To make an appropriate 3-note pickup phrase out of the 2 melody pickup notes, all one needs to do is to play a Bb note after the B note and before the A note, thus resulting in the chromatically descending note sequence: B, Bb, A.
The melody for the third line of 'Cryin' Holy' is the only really distinctive part of the melody of the song. Some Bluegrass players like to have fun with this line by syncopating in various different ways the timing of melody, which as usually sung is very straight (consecutive half-notes for its first three measures, in the choruses). For good examples of this, check out the banjo breaks on the version recorded by J.D. Crowe & The New South (key of B):
For contrast, here are Earl Scruggs' breaks on Cryin' Holy - key of A (from 'Songs Of The Famous Carter Family': the Flatt & Scruggs record mentioned earlier in this email), which are similar to J.D.'s breaks, but without the syncopation in the third line:
How Mountain Girls Can Love
Here's the original recording of How Mountain Girls Can Love:
The Stanley Brothers - key of A
Notice the beginning of the arrangement: 2 breaks using the verse progression and melody are played before the first verse is sung.
Break (based upon the melody for the verses; progression starts with the 1 chord)
Chorus (progression and melody differs from the verses; progression starts with the 4 chord)
Break (based upon the melody for the verses; progression starts with the 1 chord)
Here's 'Cumberland Gap' on the Foggy Mountain Banjo album:
Flatt & Scruggs - key of G
At the jam last night we used the form AABBAA for all breaks, but there is no consistent form on the recording:
She's More To Be Pitied
The verses and breaks for 'She's More To Be Pitied' use the familiar 'Canaan's Land/Gathering Flowers From The Hillside/Fireball Mail' progression:
But, the chorus progression is very unusual. As it was played at last night's jam, the progression for the chorus was:
It helps to keep track of where you are at in the last 2 lines of the chorus if you play a fillin lick in the second to last measure of line 3 and in the second to last measure of line 4, which then allows for either one or two (but not three) quarter note pickups to be played in the last measure of the chorus to lead into your break.
The Stanley Brothers - key of A
The song of the week is 'Roving Gambler' in the key of A.
Here is my favorite version of Roving Gambler:
Peter Rowan - key of Bb
The progression I use for Roving Gambler is:
If it helps, you may wish to think of this progression as consisting of the first half of the progression for Long Journey Home (or Gotta Travel On) followed by the last line of the progression for Wildwood Flower (or Leaning On The Everlasting Arms. or Molly And Tenbrooks).
Other songs that have been played at the jam in which a three-line (as opposed to the much more common four-line) progression is used include Rocky Road Blues, Shuckin' The Corn, Molly And Tenbrooks, and the short form (12 measure) version of Worried Man Blues.
The progression given here is the same as that used for the breaks on the recording (minus extra measures of the 1 that go by between the ending of a break and the beginning of the next verse), but not for the verses. On the recording, there are extra measures of the 1 chord at the ends of both lines 2 and 3 in the verses. I keep the progression the same for both the verses and the breaks (once again, not counting any extra measures of the 1 that I might allow to go by between the ending of a break and the beginning of the next verse).
Form & Arrangement
The arrangement I use for Roving Gambler when leading it at the jam is based upon the recording: seven verses, no chorus, with two verses being sung back to back between breaks, with one verse left over to end the song.
Both the form and the arrangement I use for Roving Gambler are nearly identical with the form and arrangement used on the original Bill Monroe recording of Molly And Tenbrooks, a song that has occasionally been played at the jam, except that Molly And Tenbrooks is sung with 9 verses instead of 7, and makes use of a tack-on ending. See to what extent you can detect the similarities in form and arrangement between the two songs.
Molly And Tenbrooks - Bill Monroe
A third song with a similar form and arrangement to Roving Gambler and Molly And Tenbrooks is the version of McKinley's Gone (a.k.a., White House Blues) found on Flatt & Scruggs' Folk Songs Of Our Land album:
The practical advantage of learning to group songs together based upon similarity of form and/or arrangement is the same as the practical advantage of associating songs with each other that have similar progressions or the same progression as each other. It reduces the number of distinct pieces of information to keep track of when learning new songs, or when trying to follow along on new songs that come up at a jam, and this enables one to more quickly and easily expand one's repertoire.
The melody of Roving Gambler consists of the notes of the Major Pentatonic scale which are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th notes of the Major Scale (A, B, C#, E, and F# in the key of A; G, A, B, D, and E in the key of G, etc.) The first two lines (first 8 measures) of the melody of Roving Gambler are similar to the first two lines of the melody of Long Journey Home, except that the melody goes higher in Roving Gambler in measures 3 and 4 of line 1 than what it does in measures 3 and 4 of line 1 of Long Journey Home. The second lines of the two songs are
similar enough that I often use exactly the same notes/licks in a melody-based intro break for the second line of Roving Gambler as the ones that I typically use for the second line of an intro break for Long Journey Home. Keep in mind that good melody-based breaks often do not follow the melody slavishly, but take some liberties with it.
Although Roving Gambler does not have a chorus, it does have repetitions in its lyrics. In these spots, namely, the third (last) line of each verse, it is common for harmony to be sung. The third line of any given verse repeats twice the lyrics that make up the second half of the second line of that verse. (Note: Molly And Tenbrooks has a similar type of repetition at the ends of its verses, but in that song it is not customary for harmony to be sung on the last line of the verses.)
The song of the week is 'Clinch Mountain Backstep' in the key of A.
My intention in revisiting Clinch Mountain Backstep as a song of the week for the intermediate jam is to continue where we left off at when Old Joe Clark was recently recycled as a song of the week for working on increasing the tempos at which the jam group is able to successfully play standard bluegrass jam instrumentals. The tempos that I intend to kick off Clinch Mtn. Backstep at the jam for the next 3 weeks are:
Jan. 25th: 136
Feb. 1st: 140
Feb. 8th: 144
(On the Ralph Stanley studio recording provided below, Clinch Mountain Backstep is played at about 150 beats per minute.)
Here is my favorite of Ralph's studio recordings of Clinch Mountain Backstep:
Ralph Stanley - key of A
The chord progression for the A-Part is
The chord progression for the B-Part is the same, except that there is an extra 'half-measure' of the '1' before the first '5'. If one is counting the beats in the first line of the B-Part in cut common time (2/2), one would count it as: 1,2,1,2,1,2,1,1,2.
(On the sheet music attached here, I have written the first line of the B-Part as 3 measures in 2/2, followed by a measure in which the time signature changes to 1/2, followed by a measure that returns to 2/2.)
Melody & Key
Although the melody of Clinch Mountain Backstep consists only of the notes of the Am pentatonic scale, it is called at jams in A (Major) rather than Am because the '1' chord that is used in the chord progression for the song is an A Major Chord rather than an Am Chord ('1m'). To call Clinch Mountain Backstep in A Minor instead of in A (Major) at a jam would imply that 1m Chords are to be played in place of 1 Chords.
In the attached melody sheet for Clinch Mountain Backstep, I have used the key signature for Am (no sharps or flats, same as the key signature for C Major, the Relative Major of Am) instead of the key signature for A Major (3 sharps) to avoid the need to write natural signs in nearly every measure. I hope that my doing this makes the sheet music easier to read than if I had used the key signature for A Major.
The notes that make up the Minor Pentatonic Scale, or as I like to call it sometimes 'The Clinch Mountain Scale', are: 1, b3, 4, 5, and b7. Remember these notes, for these will be useful to know not only for playing 'Mountain Minor' tunes like 'Clinch Mountain Backstep' and 'Cluck Old Hen'. Any time when you wish to add a 'bluesy' element into a break or backup part for a Major key song, just remember to play your 'Clinch Mountain notes'.
To see what these notes are for A (or for any other key for that matter: G is an especially practical place to start for this if you are a banjo or guitar player who usually plays in A by way of capoing the 2nd fret of your instrument), refer to the Nashville Number System Chart in the attachments.
Relative Majors & Minors
If you have ever played the melody for Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Amazing Grace, My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains, Shortnin' Bread, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, or Camptown Races, or any other melody that uses only 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 notes (Major Pentatonic Scale), then you are already familiar to a certain extent with the combination of notes that make up the 'Clinch Mountain Scale', although those melodies sound very different than the melodies for Clinch Mountain Backstep and Cluck Old Hen.
Notice, for instance, that 1, b3, 4, 5, b7 for E are the very same notes as 6, 1, 2, 3, 5 for G. G is the Relative Major of Em.
Every Minor has a Relative Major. To find the Relative Major of a Minor, treat the b3 of the Minor as the 1 for the Major. (Thus, C is the relative Major of Am - one uses the same notes for playing the melody of Will The Circle Be Unbroken in C as one does for playing the melody of Clinch Mountain Backstep in A; Bb is the relative Major of Gm, etc.)
Going in the opposite direction, that is, to find the Relative Minor of a Major, treat the 6 of the Major as the 1 for the Minor. (So, Am is the Relative Minor of C, Em is the Relative Minor of G.)
That 'Cheyenne' was played at the jam last night (A-Part in the key of Gm, B-Part in the key of Bb), also helps to illustrate the usefulness of knowing a bit about the relationships involved between Relative Majors and Minors. More tunes of the same nature as this one are more likely than not to come up at the jam as it continues to progress.
Sheet music for Clinch Mountain Backstep:
Clinch Mountain Backstep - Banjo tab
Clinch Mountain Backstep - Guitar tab
Clinch Mountain Backstep - Mandolin tab
Clinch Mountain Backstep - Melody in A
Eight More Miles To Louisville
The chord progression for Eight More Miles To Louisville was:
Verses & Breaks Chorus
1/5 1/4 1/5 1 1 1 4 1
1/5 1/4 1 5 1 1 2 5
4 1 1 5 4 1 1 5
1/5 1/4 1/5 1 1/5 1/4 1/5 1
Eric Weissberg (banjo instrumental version: verse breaks only)
Ballad Of Jed Clampett
The chord progression for Ballad Of Jed Clampett was:
1 1 2m 5
5 5 1 1
1 1 4 4#
5 5 5 1 1 1 1 1...
Flatt & Scruggs
Big Spike Hammer
The differences between how Big Spike Hammer was played at last night's jam versus how it appears on the 'Songs with uncommon or hard to predict chord progressions' handout were as follows:
116m6m for the first line of the verses.
The last break ended the same way as all the other breaks: i.e., with 5511.
The progression for Farewell Blues was:
1 5 1 1
1 5 1 1
6 6 2 b3
1 5 1 1
Flatt & Scruggs
The progression for Blue Night was:
The song of the week is 'Love Of The Mountains' in the key of A.
Larry Sparks - key of A
The chord progression for Love Of The Mountains is simple and repetitive, but a bit unusual for a Bluegrass song in that a '4' follows a '5' without a '1' intervening between the 5 and the 4.
On the recording, an extra measure of the 1 is added to the end of the progression for the verses, resulting in a 54111 line for the last line of each verse, much like one or more extra measures of the 1 are often added to the ends of breaks before the next verse starts. When leading the song at a jam, however, it is safer to avoid adding an extra measure of the 1 to the end of the verses. In all my years of jamming experience, I don't recall ever playing the song with anyone who did add the extra measure to the end of the verses.
The order of frequency, from most frequent to least frequent, in which chord changes involving the 1, 4, and 5 tend to show up in Bluegrass is as follows:
change from 5 to the 1 (most common)
change from the 1 to the 5
change from the 1 to the 4
change from the 4 to the 1
change from the 4 to the 5
change from the 5 to the 4 (least common)
The use of a '5411' line (sometimes modified to '5415') at the end of a progression is much more common in Blues and early Rock & Roll than what it is in Bluegrass.
The most common progression with a 5411( or 5415) ending line is the progression that is often referred to as the '12 bar blues':
Compare this with the progression that is used to play the 12 measure version of Worried Man Blues, and many other Bluegrass songs (Shuckin' The Corn, Blue Grass Stomp, the breaks for Rocky Road Blues, etc.):
Each line in the progression for Love Of The Mountains ends with two measures of the 1 chord, and within these two measures at the end of each line there is a long enough 'dead space' within the melody for a fill-in lick to be played.
Playing Love Of The Mountains at a jam provides one with a better opportunity than what most other songs do to practice varying one's choice of fill-in licks. For, on the one hand, if one simply uses the same one or two fill-in licks to plug up every dead space, it won't take long for this to start sounding monotonous, but, on the other hand, if not enough dead spaces are filled in, the song will sound empty.
Notice how every dead space is filled in on the recording (primarily by the banjo on the verses, and primarily by the fiddle on the choruses). Also notice the variety of fill-in licks being used to fill the dead spaces.
As I sing the song, and as it is sung on the recording, there is a bit more to the melody than what I have shown on the attached melody sheets. To give just one example, the careful listener should notice that the note sung in measure 3 of line 2 of verses 2 and 3 is a higher note than the note sung in measure 3 of line 2 of verse 1.
The melody sheets in the song of the week emails are provided first and foremost to give people a good starting point of reference for creating melody based breaks. When it comes to learning to sing a song, it is much better to learn the melody of the song by listening to and singing along with the recordings rather than by trying to learn it from the melody sheets. The melody sheets, both in terms of the note choices and the timing of the notes, more often than not show the melody in a simpler form than how it would usually be sung.
There are no harmony vocals on the recording. Not every song needs harmony on the choruses: especially if enough tasteful things are being done on the instruments to keep the song full and interesting. But, if you would like to, feel free to add a harmony part on the choruses when I lead the song at the jam.
She's More To Be Pitied
Here is the Stanley Brothers record of She's More To Be Pitied:
Notice especially the unusual length of line 3 of the chorus, which makes it difficult to predict how long line 4 should be before starting a break following the chorus.
Here is the Flatt & Scruggs record of I'm Gonna Sleep With One Eye Open
The song of the week is 'Beautiful Brown Eyes' in the key of G, played in cut common time (2/2) rather than in waltz time (3/4).
Red Allen (under the title: Beautiful Blue Eyes) - key of A
The Gibson Brothers - key of B
When I introduce Beautiful Brown Eyes into the Beginner Jam repertoire, I play it in 3/4 time because I think it is one of the easiest songs to use for acquainting new jammers with playing in 3/4 time. Also, people from non-bluegrass backgrounds who are already familiar with the song are more likely to have heard it played in 3/4 time rather than in cut common time.
However, while most non-bluegrass recordings of Beautiful Brown Eyes are in 3/4 time rather than in cut common time, the opposite is true of bluegrass recordings of the song.
The first bluegrass version of Beautiful Brown Eyes, or rather Beautiful Blue Eyes (a common alteration of the title and the chorus lyrics in bluegrass versions of the song), that I ever heard was the Red Allen recording provided here. Apart from retaining 'brown' in place of 'blue', my cut time version of the song follows this recording closely.
My reasons for recycling Beautiful Brown Eyes as a song of the week for the Intermediate Jam are: 1) to draw attention to a much more standard way of playing the song as a bluegrass song than how it has usually been played at the jam up to this point, and 2) to help demonstrate how to convert a song from one time signature to another.
Time Signature Conversion
Beautiful Brown Eyes is just one of many songs for which there are both 3/4 time and non-3/4 time recorded versions.
I believe the best way to get started with learning how to convert a song from one time signature to another is by listening to examples of the same song played in more than one time signature. For this reason, I have included youtube links for some of the examples given below.
Another thing that could be helpful would be to compare the timing of the melody notes on the melody sheets attached here with the timing of the melody notes on the melody sheets for Beautiful Brown Eyes in 3/4 time provided for the beginner jam, for which, go to: https://www.idahobluegrassassociation.org/beginner-jam/category/beautiful-brown-eyes
The classic example of a bluegrass song played in both 3/4 time and in cut common time is Bill Monroe's 'Blue Moon Of Kentucky'. Bill originally recorded the song in 3/4 time. But after Elvis Presley recorded his non-3/4 time version of the song (which the Stanley Brothers later copied), Bill recorded it again, playing the first half of it in 3/4 time and the second half of it in cut common time.
Bill Monroe: 3/4
The Stanley Brothers
Bill Monroe: 3/4 & 2/2
Besides Beautiful Brown Eyes, there are two other songs on the current intermediate jam list for which I am familiar with both 3/4 and 2/2 versions: Down In A Willow Garden, which is most often played in 3/4 time and How Mountain Girls Can Love, which is almost always played in 2/2. I have only ever heard one 3/4 time version of the latter song: I was surprised at how well the song worked in 3/4 time, but I would strongly advise against trying to introduce a 3/4 time version of How Mountain Girls Can Love into a bluegrass jam, since all the standard well-known versions of the song are in 2/2.
How Mountain Girls Can Love: 2/2 (standard)
How Mountain Girls Can Love: 3/4 (non-standard)
Other songs (not all of these are bluegrass examples) that I have heard both 3/4 and non-3/4 versions of include:
Streamline Cannonball (Hank Snow 3/4;
Doc Watson 2/2:
The Girl In The Blue Velvet Band (Bill Monroe 3/4:
Hylo Brown 2/2:
Mary Of The Wild Moor (Doc Williams 4/4;
The Louvin Brothers 3/4:
Before I Met You
I'm Thinking Tonight Of The Old Folks (a.k.a. Dixie Home)
I Never Will Marry
Dark As A Dungeon
We Three Kings
Just a quick note that Beautiful Brown Eyes as I play it, and as played on the recordings provided here, does not use the Bury Me Beneath The Willow/Wreck Of The Old '97 progression, the most common chord progression in bluegrass, but uses the closely related, but far less common, progression:
The song of the week is 'Old Home Place' in the key of Bb.
J.D. Crowe & The New South - Key of Bb. This is likely the most well-known recording of Old Home Place in Bluegrass circles.
The Dillards - Key of A (somewhat sharp relative to A=440) This is the original recording of Old Home Place.
The chord progression for the verses and for the breaks is:
The progression for the chorus is:
In the key of Bb: 1=Bb, 2=C, 3=D, 4=Eb, 5=F.
There is one other song on the new playlist for the Intermediate Jam that uses the 3 chord: the fiddle tune Cheyenne. The B-Part is played in the key of Bb, and its progression consists of the last half of the verse progression for Old Home Place played twice through:
The melody for the first and third lines of the B Part of Cheyenne is very similar to the melody for the first and third lines of the verse of Old Home Place. It will work well to use the second half of your break for Old Home Place for both halves of the B Part of Cheyenne, especially if your break for Old Home Place uses a generic 'break-ending' lick for the 1511 line instead of following the melody closely.
Also, notice that the first half of the chorus of Old Home Place uses the same progression (55112255) as the first half of the chorus/B-Part of a 'Cry Cry Darlin', a previous intermediate jam song of the week.
The 3 Chord
A quick way to determine what the 3 chord is for any given key is to think of it relative to the 4 chord. The 3 will always be one letter lower and one half-step lower than the 4.
For each of the 8 Major keys we play in at the jam, the 3 & 4 chords are:
Key 3 4
G B C
A C# D
Bb D Eb
B D# E
C E F
D F# G
E G# A
F A Bb
The 3 chord is almost always followed by a 4, or a 6, or a 6m chord.
(Dominant) 7th Chords
The main melody note during the measures that use the 3 chord (see the attached melody sheets) is not a note that is part of the 3 chord. The melody note, when added to the chord, makes the chord a dominant 7th chord: D7 when in the key of Bb, B7 when in the key of G, etc. It is common practice for guitar players capoed to the 3rd fret for playing in Bb to use a B7 chord shape in their rhythm playing during the 3 chord measures rather than the more awkward to fret B major chord shape.
This leads to the question as to when it is and is not appropriate, or safe, to use a (dominant) 7th chord in place of major chord.
Recall to mind the order of letters in the circle of 5ths: F, C, G, D, A, E, B.
Expanded to include sharps and flats, the sequence becomes:
Fb, Cb, Gb, Db, Ab, Eb, Bb, F, C, G, D, A, E, B, F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#.
For the four major chords that are to the right of the 1 chord in the sequence, which, in order, are the 5, the 2, the 6, and the 3 (F, C, G, and D in the key of Bb; or D, A, E, and B in the key of G, etc.), adding the note to the chord that makes it a 7th chord will almost never sound out of place. One reason for this is that the note that is added to these chords to make them 7ths is part of the major scale of the 1 chord. The further to the right of the '1', the more common it becomes to use a 7th in place of a regular major chord. For example, for a song in the key of G that has both an A and a D chord in it, A7 tends to be used in place of A more often than what D7 is used in place of D.
For the '1' chord itself, and the chords to the left of the 1 chord, the note added to make these chords 7ths is not part of the major scale of the 1 chord. The further to the left of the '1' that the chord is, the less occasion there will be to use the 7th in place of the regular major chord. For example, in the key of G, G7 will usually only be used as a transitional chord to lead the ear from a G chord to a C chord; C7, is used less often than G7, and will lend a 'bluesy' sound to the music, which may or may not be desirable depending upon the feel and mood of the song. And, by the time we get to F7, the resulting sound of using this chord when playing in the key of G will be, shall we say, 'too jazzy' to fit well into most traditional bluegrass.
Not only is the progression of Old Home Place uncommon, but the arrangement also is. Two verses are sung back to back before a chorus, rather than the usual alternating pattern of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, etc. A typical arrangement for a recorded version of this song is:
When playing this song at a jam, it is best to stick to this form, with the exception that after the first and second choruses, several breaks (instead of just one break) may be placed back to back to accommodate as many lead instruments as necessary. The intro break is usually played on banjo; so, if you call this song at a jam, and there is a banjo player there who feels comfortable playing the intro break, it is advisable to invite him to kick off the song.
Since the chorus starts on a different chord than the rest of the parts of the song, it is a good idea to signal when one is leading into the chorus (especially when leading into the final chorus, and even more so, if several breaks are played back to back right before the final chorus). This is done by playing a run that leads from the 1 chord to the 5 chord: for this purpose, a 3 note run is more effective than a 2 note run. In the key of Bb, and ascending 3-note run to the F chord might consist of the notes: D, Eb, E; a descending 3-note run to the F chord might consist of the notes A, Ab, G.
Guitar players (capoed to the 3rd fret, so thinking as if in the key of G, rather than in the key of Bb, although playing in Bb) are best off using the ascending run 'B, C, and C#' (on the A string) to lead from the 'G' to the 'D' chord. Banjo players may use the descending run 'F#, F, E' (on the low D string) to lead from the 'G' chord to the 'D' chord.
One may also wish to signal the change from the 1 chord to the 2 chord in the chorus by playing a 3 note run. Good notes to use for this are the ascending sequence: A, Bb, B when in the key of Bb. The corresponding notes for the key of G are: F#, G, G#.
Have a happy New Year!
New Song Lists
In the attachments I have included the new list of songs that we will play from for the first half of the evening at the Intermediate Jam for the next 3 months (Jan to March 2018) .This list replaces the list that we used for the jams held from September to December of 2017. In the attachments, there is also an updated 4-page handout for 'Songs with uncommon or hard to predict chord progressions'. Hold on to the previous version of this handout though, for not all the songs on the previous version are included on the new handout.
The song of the week is 'Reuben' in the key of D.
Reuben is known also by many other names. Some of the most common of these (in Bluegrass circles) are: 'Reuben's Train', 'Old Reuben', 'Lonesome Reuben' and 'Train 45'. This was the first tune that Earl Scruggs, when he was about 10 years old, played with 3 fingers (up to that time he had been a 2 finger style picker) Over the years, Earl recorded Reuben many times, and each time he always managed to find some new and interesting way to play it.
There are numerous different versions of Reuben, - and even whole other songs that are based on Reuben (e.g., 'Ruby' by the Osborne Brothers) - but they are all based on what is essentially the same simple repetitive melody (8 measures. Only 4 melody notes in many interpretations of the melody. See the attached melody sheets.)
Key & Banjo Tuning
In Bluegrass circles, Reuben is almost always played in the key of D, with the banjo tuned to an open D major chord ('D tuning': F#DF#AD, or ADF#AD).
Flatt and Scruggs (banjo, fiddle, and dobro breaks)
Earl Scruggs, Marty Stuart, Mark O'Connor (banjo, fiddle, dobro, and guitar breaks: very improv. oriented)
The Dillards (Vocal, banjo breaks, and a simple mandolin break)
The chord progression is:
which is the second half of Progressions V1, V3, V5, and X1 on the basic chord progressions handout.
In the key of D: 1=D and 5=A.
Note: Most interpretations of the melody do not imply any chord change at all: so it can be difficult at first trying to hear where the 'A' chord fits into the progression. If you are uncertain about when to change to the 'A', then just stay on the 'D'. It is better to play a 'D' over the measure of 'A', instead of playing an 'A' in the wrong spot.
To capo or not to capo
The tune has a strong 'drony' character to it. To help contribute to this feel of the song, I recommend that guitar and banjo players avoid using a capo for this tune. Some guitar players like to lower their low E string to a D, so as to further enhance the drony feel of the song.
Lyrics or no lyrics
Although Reuben is often played as an instrumental - which is how I intend it to be played as it goes through its song of the week cycle at the jam - it does have lyrics. (Actually, there are several different sets of lyrics for Reuben.) But even when lyrics are used, the tune often still remains mostly instrumental. The singing can be thought of as a kind of 'vocal break'.
Because the melody is simple and repetitive, and mostly stays on one chord, jamming Reuben makes for a good opportunity to develop one's improvisational skills. (When improvising over Reuben, one can often get away with ignoring the 'A' chord altogether.) Indeed, Reuben is the kind of tune that, when played without variation, gets monotonous quite quickly. Yet, when one adds just enough variation into the mix, Reuben is the kind of tune that can be jammed on for 10 minutes or more without it getting monotonous.
One can take one's first steps towards improvisation (making up a break on the fly) by creating variations on the melody. There are many ways to do this. Examples include adding in extra notes between melody notes, taking out notes, altering the rhythm of the melody, and taking a measure or two of the melody and simply repeating it over and over again. If you wish to get a little bit more adventurous, you can try creating variations that drift in and out of the melody. For getting started with doing this, I would like to point out that one can get a lot of mileage out of including 'C' notes in your variations. Lingering on 'C' notes works quite well for improvisation on this tune if you find yourself out on a limb while your hands are trying to find where to go to next on the fretboard. And, if you are new to improvising, there will be many, many times when you will suddenly find yourself 'out on a limb'. In order to become a good improv player (or even to do any kind of improv at all), one must be willing to take risks.
I Am The Man, Thomas
The chord progression used for the breaks for 'I Am The Man, Thomas' was:
For the verses and choruses, the first and third lines were lengthened by one or more measures of the '1' chord.
Here are two good recordings of the song to listen to:
Ralph Stanley - key of Bb
Larry Sparks - key of G
Have a merry Christmas!