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!
The song of the week is 'Beautiful Star Of Bethlehem' in the key of G. This song has been performed and/or recorded by many Bluegrass and Country artists, including Ralph Stanley, Larry Sparks, John Starling, Jerry Douglas, Rhonda Vincent, The Lewis Family, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Patty Loveless, The Judds, and The Oak Ridge Boys.
I recommend listening to the 3 following versions of Beautiful Star of Bethlehem in the order presented here.
Dailey & Vincent - key of F
The Stanley Brothers - key of E
Rhonda Vincent - key of D
The melody sheets in the attachments are written in 3/4 time, although 6/8 or 12/8 would make more musical sense. For instance, when written in 3/4, one ends up with more than one measure's worth of pickup notes, which is awkward. But I chose to write the melody sheets in 3/4 time so that people unfamiliar with reading music written in the less common time signatures of 6/8 and 12/8 would not need to first learn to do that before they could make full use of the melody sheets.
For Beautiful Star Of Bethlehem, I use the chord progression on the Dailey & Vincent version:
When presented in 3/4 time, the progression for the verse is 32 measures long:
The progression for the chorus differs from the verse progression only in its first two lines:
In some versions of the song, line 3 of each part is played as 1111 instead of as 1122, for while the 2 chord fits well in those lines, there is nothing in the melody that implies a change to the 2 chord.
In other versions, line 4 of each part is played as 5255 instead of as 5555.
Finally, in some versions, line 1 and/or line 2 of the chorus is played as 1111.
When presented in 6/8 time, each part is 16 measures long. Since some may find the progression easier to read this way, here it is:
1 1 4 1
1 2 5 5
1 1 4 1
1 2/5 1/4 1
1/5 1 1/4 1
1 2 5 5
1 1 4 1
1 2/5 1/4 1
Like many other songs played at the jam, the melody of Beautiful Star Of Bethlehem consists of only the notes of the Major Pentatonic Scale. In the key of G, those notes are: G, A, B, D, and E. (1,2,3,5,6).
When trying to find on your instrument the melody notes that occur during the '2-chord' measures, it may be helpful to keep in mind that not all versions of the song make use of the 2 chord in the middle of the progression. Both of the melody notes in question are notes belonging to the 1 chord. (G and B notes when in the key of G.) Neither of them are part of the 2 chord. [When played in combination with the 2 chord, they form, in order, a dominant 7th, and an add 9 chord. (A7 and Aadd9 when playing in the key of G.)] As pointed out earlier, there is nothing in the melody that implies a change the '2' chord. The same is also true of the one 2-chord measure near the end of the progression.
I have no preference when it comes to the harmony arrangement for the song. If you can remember the set of lyrics that I use for the song (see below), feel free to sing harmony all the way through the song, like on the Dailey and Vincent version. If you wish to only sing on the chorus, that is perfectly fine by me also. Feel free to pick and choose, based upon the versions given here, or other versions of the song you may already be familiar with, which lines, if any, to make use of 'call and response' on.
If no one chooses to make use of 'call and response' in singing the 4th line of the verses and/or choruses (the line that has four consecutive measures of the '5' chord), then the second measure of this line will sound empty if a fill-in lick is not played in the second measure of that line. So, be prepared to play a fill-in lick on your instruments here. If I play a fill-in lick here, do not mistake this for a chord change. The left hand fingering for the lick I would usually use here on guitar forces me to abandon the D-chord shape for one measure. When played with the Dailey & Vincent chord progression, there are no other good spots in the song for the typical kinds of fill-ins that fit into most other Bluegrass songs.
In addition to the four melody sheets included here for the verse melody (which has the lyrics for the first verse on it), I have also included a melody sheet for the chorus with lyrics.
The set of lyrics I use for the second and third verses are:
O beautiful Star the hope of light
Guiding the pilgrims through the night
Over the mountains till the break of dawn
Into the light of perfect day
It will give out a lovely ray
O beautiful Star of Bethlehem shine on
O beautiful Star the hope of rest
For the redeemed the good and blessed
Yonder in glory when the crown is won
For Jesus is now that Star divine
Brighter and brighter He will shine
O beautiful Star of Bethlehem shine on
Intro & Breaks
For the intro break, I will play only the last quarter of the progression: 11251411, perhaps with an extra measure or two of the 1 tacked on to the end before I start singing the first verse. All other breaks will be played over the entirety of the verse progression. Even though the verse progression is a whopping 32 measures long (when presented in 3/4 time), it goes by quickly enough: so, unlike what I would usually do at the jam with a 32 measure progression for the breaks in a song with vocals (e.g., Homestead On The Farm), breaks will not be split between two instruments.
On the final chorus, the last note I play on my instrument will coincide with the first beat of the third measure of the last line: 141. (Last night, I extended this by one measure, since I didn't give a heads-up on this before the song began, and it didn't seem to me that everyone would end the song with me at the same time if I ended it the way I usually do.) Thus, the song will end at the beginning of the measure that contains the first of the 4 pickup notes into a break that would be played if the song were to continue on.
Teaching Segment - Minor keys:
Note: In minor key progressions, b3, b6 (number names that rarely ever show up in major key progressions), and b7 are the same chords that would be called 1, 4, and 5 if one were playing the major key that is the relative major of a given minor key. Thus, since G is the relative major of Em (the two keys share the same key signature: one sharp), and 1, 4, and 5 are G, C, and D when playing in the key of G, And b3, b6, and b7 are G, C, and D when playing in the key of Em: Here are three more examples:
Key b3 b6 b7
Am C F G (C is the relative major of Am. In C: 1=C, 4=F, 5=G)
Dm F Bb C (F is the relative major of Dm. In F, 1 = F, etc.)
Gm Bb Eb F (Bb is the relative major of Gm, etc.)
O Come All Ye Faithful
The progression we used for O Come All Ye Faithful was:
1 1 5 5
1 1 1 5
6m 5/2 5/1 5/1
5 2 5 5
1 1 5 1
5/1 6m/2 5 5
1 1 1 1
1 1 1 5/1
4 5/2 5 1/4
1 5 1 1
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
The progression for God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen was:
1m 1m b6 5
1m 1m b6 5
4m b3 1m b7
b3 5 1m b7
b3 5 1m 1m
What Child Is This
The progression for What Child Is This was:
1m b3 b7 5m
1m b6 5 5
1m b3 b7 5m
b6 5 1m 1m
b3 b3 b7 5m
1m b6 5 5
b3 b3 b7 5m
b6 5 1m 1m
In previous years, we have used a simpler progression for What Child Is This:
1m 1m b7 b7
b6 b6 5 5
1m 1m b7 b7
b6 5 1m 1m
b3 b3 b7 b7
b6 b6 5 5
b3 b3 b7 b7
b6 5 1m 1m
For a larger jam group than what we had last night, I would be inclined to return to using the simpler progression, though I prefer the sound of the progression we used last night.
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
Excellent jam last night!
The next intermediate jam in the Pioneer Building will be held on Thursday Dec. 14th. The song of the week will be 'Auld Lang Syne' in the key of G. We will play this mostly as an instrumental, but perhaps sing a verse and chorus near the end of it.
The chord progression I use for Auld Lang Syne is:
Each break will run through the progression twice (32 measures in total) so that each instrument gets to play a break based upon the melody for both the verse and the chorus.
Here are two good bluegrass versions of 'Auld Lang Syne' to take a listen to and play along with:
Bill Keith: key of G
David Grisman: key of G:
These arrangements of Auld Lang Syne (once you get past the intro in the first version) make for good examples of what can be done with any number of non-bluegrass songs in 4/4 time to convert them to a bluegrass rhythm and feel. I suggest listening to these back to back with any non-bluegrass versions of the song that you might have in your music collection or that you might bring up on youtube and study closely how they differ in rhythm and feel from the bluegrass versions. In this connection, you might find it interesting to compare the melody sheets attached here for 'Auld Lang Syne' with the melody sheets you will find on the internet if you google "Auld Lang Syne sheet music".
During the month of December (and the beginning of January) I welcome you to call Christmas songs at the jam that you would like to play that you believe would be a good 'fit' for the intermediate jam group. And you need not wait until the second half of the evening to call these.
If you have tried adapting Christmas carols to bluegrass, then you may have noticed that some carols adapt more easily and naturally than others. Like 'Away In A Manger', most of the ones in 3/4 time are good candidates for attempts to play them with a bluegrass feel; but of these, the ones that tend to adapt best have fewer melody notes (on average) per measure and fewer quick chord changes relative to the ones that don't adapt quite as easily. For example, Silent Night and It Came Upon The Midnight Clear are more 'bluegrass-friendly' than The First Noel and We Wish You A Merry Christmas.
The carols that are either in cut time (2/2) or in 2/4 (e.g., Jingle Bells, Good King Wenceslas) are natural candidates for being given a bluegrass treatment; while, on the other hand, most of the 4/4 carols (e.g., O Come All Ye Faithful, O Little Town Of Bethlehem) need to be converted to a cut time feel in order to be played as bluegrass songs; but this can be challenging to do if one is not yet very familiar with how this kind of conversion works. Being able to do this conversion is useful not only for creating bluegrass arrangements of Christmas carols, but also for many other songs from various different genres.
Christmas/Seasonal songs that were played at the jam last December:
Good King Wenceslas
Auld Lang Syne
What Child Is This
Lasst uns froh und munter sein
Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann
In previous years, we have also played at the jam:
Away In A Manger
Beautiful Star Of Bethlehem
Deck The Halls (I recall this one being a bit challenging for the group to play)
Shepherds In The Field (a Jason Homey original that sounds a lot like 'This Little Light Of Mine' and 'Somebody Touched Me' and 'Paul And Silas', etc.)
The chord progression used for Big Eyed Rabbit was:
Ashes Of Love
The chord progression used for Ashes Of Love was:
1 1 4/1 5
5 5 5 1
1 1 4/1 5
5 5 5 1 1
The next intermediate jam will be held on Nov. 30th.
The song of the week will be '(Someday) We'll Meet Again Sweetheart' in the key of Bb.
Flatt & Scruggs - key of B (instruments tuned up a half step higher than standard)
This was the first song that Flatt and Scruggs recorded together after leaving Bill Monroe's band. (Lester Flatt on guitar and lead vocal, Earl Scruggs on banjo, Jim Shumate on fiddle, Howard Watts, a.k.a. Cedric Rainwater on upright bass, and Mac Wiseman on guitar and tenor harmony vocal.) It is one of 28 songs that Flatt & Scruggs recorded together on Mercury Records between 1948 and 1950. To listen to the complete collection of 'the Mercury Sessions' refer back to the song of the week write up for 'Why Don't You Tell Me So':
Parmley & McCoury - key of B
This is the first version of 'We'll Meet Again Sweetheart' I heard when I was just beginning to get into Bluegrass. This record (in the form of a cassette tape I bought at a Bluegrass Cardinals concert) has been in my collection since 1992, and was a big influence on my playing. From the same album, check out the following songs. This is really high quality Bluegrass well worth taking the time to listen to (over and over) and absorb.
Roll On Buddy - key of B
I'm Going Back To Old Kentucky - key of A
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot - key of B
Down The Road - key of B
I'll Drink No More Wine - key of G
Smoke Along The Track - key of A
I Hear A Sweet Voice Calling - key of E
We'll Meet Again Sweetheart uses the same progression that is used to play 'Blue Ridge Cabin Home':
The melody of We'll Meet Again Sweetheart uses all 7 notes of the Major Scale, with the lowest note being, in Nashville Numbers, the '5' below the '1' (F note in the key of Bb; D note in the key of G). and the highest note being the '4' above the '1' (Eb note in the key of Bb; C note in the key of G).
One characteristic feature of the melody of this song is how often and how long the melody lingers on the 3rd of each chord (i.e., in the key of Bb: D notes during Bb chord measures, G notes during Eb chord measures, and A notes during F chord measures. In the key of G, the corresponding notes and chords are: B notes for G chord measures, E notes for C chord measures, and F# notes for D chord measures).
Another feature of the melody - and one which severely limits the range of keys in which I can feel comfortable singing the song in - is the unusually wide intervals between some of these 3rds of each chord and the note that immediately precedes them. This occurs, for instance, at the end of measure 2 going into measure 3, where the melody abruptly descends from the 3rd of the 1 chord to the 3rd of the 4 chord, and in measure 6, where the melody abruptly ascends from the root of the 5 chord to 3rd of the 1 chord in anticipation of the upcoming chord change from the 5 back to the 1.
Playing in Bb: A Quick Review
The Bb Major Scale consists of the notes: Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, and A.
If you wish to get really familiar with using this scale on fiddle and mandolin, I recommend as a fun exercise, transposing the melody of Turkey In The Straw
https://www.idahobluegrassassociation.org/intermediate-jam/category/turkey-in-the-straw up 3 half steps from G to Bb.
Here are the corresponding notes of the G and Bb Major Scales:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
G, A, B, C, D, E, F#
Bb,C, D, Eb ,F, G, A
The 1, 4, and 5 chords for the key of Bb are Bb, Eb, and F.
The Bb chord consists of the notes: Bb, D, and F.
The Eb chord consists of the notes: Eb, G, and Bb.
The F chord consists of the notes: F, A, and C.
The b3 and b7 ('blue') notes for the key of Bb are D and Ab.
When playing up the neck on banjo in the key of Bb (capo 3, playing as if in G), you may find it helpful to use your 10th and 15th fret markers as your primary points of reference.
Summary Of Last Night's Teaching Segment
The E Major Pentatonic Scale consists of the notes: E, F#, G#, B, and C#.
The E Minor Pentatonic Scale consists of the notes: E, G, A, B, and D.
Put these two scales together, and you end up with a good combination of notes for playing songs in the key of E, (like 'In The Pines', last night's song of the week) when a bluesy or lonesome sound is highly desirable in breaks and in licks used in your backup playing: E, F#, G, G#, A, B, C#, D.
In Nashville Numbers, and then transposed for each of the other 7 Major keys used at the jam, the notes become:
1 2 b3 3 4 5 6 b7
G A Bb B C D E F
A B C C# D E F# G
Bb C Db D Eb F G Ab
B C# D D# E F# G# A
C D Eb E F G A Bb
D E F F# G A B C
F G Ab A Bb C D Eb
Have a happy Thanksgiving!