The song of the week is 'I Can't Feel At Home In This World Anymore' (a.k.a. 'This World Is Not My Home') in the key of G. This song was recorded by the Carter Family in 1931, and since that time has been recorded by numerous old-time, bluegrass, and country artists: some of the bigger names including Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Jim Reeves, Merle Haggard, and Ricky Skaggs.
Progression & Recordings
The chord progression I use for 'I Can't Feel At Home In This World Anymore' is:
Jim & Jesse - key of F
Martina McBride (with Ricky Skaggs) - key of D: not exactly a bluegrass version of the song, but it has good mandolin breaks in it, and is played at a tempo that I prefer.
...but, alternatives for the 2nd line of the progression that I have heard on records and at jams include
Blue Highway - key of G
And, in some versions, line 2 is played one of these ways for the verses of the song, and in a different way for the choruses, with breaks in some versions following the verse progression and in other versions following the chorus progression.
Compare these progressions with Prog. V6 on the Basic Chord Progressions Chart:
...and with the 3 most common chord progressions used for playing 'Leaning On The Everlasting Arms':
1144 1144 1144
1115 11155 1115
1144 1144 1144
11511 11511 1151
The 2 Chord
Notice in the versions of 'I Can't Feel At Home...' provided here how the harmony part or parts are affected by the presence or absence of the '2' chord in line 2 of the progression. For, unlike the 1,4, and 5 chords, the 2 chord has one note in it that is not part of the major scale. In the key of G, this note is a C#. (The notes of the G major scale are: G, A, B, C, D, E, and F#.) Relative to the G major scale, the number name for the C# note is #4, which is the same note as what would be called b5 (in the key of G: Db) in certain other contexts.
If you find it doesn't come naturally to you to go to the C# note on the 2 chord measure when singing a tenor harmony part for this song in the key of G, try playing the following scale on your instrument: G, A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G until your ear becomes accustomed to hearing the 4th note of this scale in the context of the whole scale. (This is known as the 'G Lydian Scale': in place of the '4' in the major scale, it has a '#4'. The G Lydian Scale has the same notes as the D Major Scale, i.e., it has one more sharp in it than what the G Major Scale has.) The notes of the G Lydian Scale are the safest notes to play on your instrument during '2' chord measures that come up in a song that is in the key of G.
An informal name for chords other than the 1,4,and 5 that you will sometimes hear in bluegrass circles is 'off-chords'. The '2' chord is one of the two most commonly used major 'off-chords' in traditional bluegrass. The other one is the 'b7' chord. If you have not already done so, I suggest immediately making it a point to memorize the '2' and 'b7' chords for each of the keys that come up at the jam. Remember that '2' is a whole-step higher than '1', and that 'b7' is a whole-step lower than '1':
b7 1 2
Key of G: F G A (A = A,C#,E.)
Key of A G A B (B = B,D#,F#.)
Key of Bb Ab Bb C (C = C,E,G.)
Key of B A B C# (C# = C#,E#,G#)
Key of C Bb C D (D = D,F#,A)
Key of D C D E (E = E,G#,B)
Key of E D E F# (F# = F#,A#,C#)
Key of F Eb F G (G = G,B,D)
In each case, the middle note of the three notes that make up the '2' chord is the #4 note, which when substituted in place of the 4th note of the Major Scale creates the Lydian Scale.
'2' & 'b7' Contrasted
Just as through experience with playing songs that have 1,4,and 5 chords in them, one learns to readily distinguish the sound of the progression 1-4-1 from the sound of the progression 1-5-1, and to detect when a chord is being played that is other than the 1, the 4, or the 5, so also, through experience with playing songs that have various 'off-chords' in them, one learns to be able to just as readily distinguish which 'off-chord' is being played. For starters, I suggest observing that songs that have only the '2' as an 'off-chord' in them tend to have a very different sounding type of melody than songs that have only the 'b7' as an off-chord in them.
Other songs with '2' chords that have been played at the jam include 'Homestead On The Farm' (a.k.a. 'I Wonder How The Old Folks Are At Home'), 'Cry Cry Darlin', 'Coleen Malone', 'Left Over Biscuits', Old Home Place' (also has a '3' chord in it), 'Earl's Breakdown', 'Beautiful Star Of Bethlehem', 'Eight More Miles To Louisville', Life Is Like A Mountain Railroad' (a.k.a. 'Life's Railway To Heaven'), 'Red Wing', and 'Salty Dog Blues' (also has a '6' chord in it.) Be sure not to confuse these with songs that have a 2m chord in them (e.g., 'Lonesome Feeling', 'Steel Rails', 'You Ain't Goin' Nowhere', 'Whiskey Before Breakfast', and 'Devil's Dream').
Compare a few of the songs that have '2' chords in them with some of the songs that have been played at the jam that have 'b7' chords in them (they are all easy to find on youtube):
Songs with b7 chords that have been played at the jam include 'Little Willie', 'Little Maggie', 'Red Haired Boy', 'Salt Creek', 'Old Joe Clark', 'Love Please Come Home', 'I Know You Rider' (also has a 'b3' chord in it), 'Cluck Old Hen', 'Over The Waterfall', 'Shady Grove' (minor key version: also has a b3 chord in it), and 'What Child Is This' (minor key: also has a b3 in it, and in many versions, also a b6 chord).
Another thing you might notice is that while the 'b7' chord is more often than not sandwiched between '1' chords, just like the '4' and '5' chord most often are, the '2' chord is almost always followed immediately by the '5' chord.
[Those of you who have studied music theory might point out that the '2' chord is functioning here as a 'secondary dominant', and some might not like it that I call it the '2' chord, but that it should rather be called 'the 5 of the 5'. (Rough translation: the chord in question has the same relation to the 5 chord that the 5 chord - a.k.a. the 'dominant' - has to the 1 chord: the '2' pushes to the 5 in the progression, which in turn pushes and resolves to the 1.) But, for our purposes here, and for the sake of simplicity, I call 'the 5 of the 5' the '2 chord'.]
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. This list replaces the list that we used for the jams held from January through March of this year. There are two versions of the list included here: a one page larger print version that simply lists the titles of the songs, and a two page smaller print version that gives the chord progressions for the songs in addition to the titles.
The song of the week will be 'Little Darling Pal Of Mine' in the key of G.
Ralph Stanley II - key of G
Flatt & Scruggs - key of G, instrumental (Foggy Mountain Banjo album)
Bobby & Sonny Osborne (together with many other well established bluegrass artists of the older generations: how many can you recognize?) - key of G, instrumental, live performance/jam
Flatt & Scruggs - key of G, instrumental (live TV performance: banjo and bass breaks only)
The Carter Family - key of E (the original recording of the song: 1928)
The Stanley Brothers - key of G
The chord progression for Little Darling Pal Of Mine is:
This is Prog. V10 on the basic progressions chart. Be careful not to confuse this progression with the similar and much more common W10 progression that is used to play Gold Watch & Chain, Back Up And Push, Way Down Town, This Land Is Your Land, Rubber Dolly, the B-Part of Red Wing, and the choruses of Nellie Kane and How Mountain Girls Can Love. The two progressions differ from each other only in the first measure of line 4. The last line of W10 is 5511 (same as the second line of both V10 and W10), whereas the last line of V10 is 1511.
The melody for Little Darling Pal Of Mine is similar to the melody for This Land Is Your Land. It was from Little Darling Pal Of Mine that Woody Guthrie drew his inspiration for writing the melody for This Land Is Your Land. The similarity of the melody of Little Darling Pal Of Mine to that of a more well known song that uses the W10 progression may make it difficult at first for some to consistently remember to play the V10 progression instead of the W10 progression for Little Darling Pal Of Mine until they have played the song a number of times.
Little Darling Pal Of Mine has been recorded and performed many times by bluegrass artists as an instrumental. When played as an instrumental, it is often used as a banjo-feature tune. However, the original recorded version of the song (by the Carter Family) that many of the first and second generation bluegrass artists learned the tune from, was a sung version, and some bluegrass artists have recorded sung versions of the song. At jams, I prefer to sing the song, rather than to lead it as an instrumental.
The most well known banjo breaks for Little Darling Pal Of Mine are the two breaks that Earl Scruggs plays on the Foggy Mountain Banjo album. Both of these breaks stick very close to the melody, as does the first fiddle break that Scruggs plays a harmony backup to that is prominent in the mix.
Both Flatt & Scruggs versions provided here include bass breaks. In sung versions of the song, it is uncommon for a bass break to be played, but I like to offer the bass a break when I sing the song at jams.
Have a happy Easter.
The song of the week is 'Down In A Willow Garden' (a.k.a. 'Rose Connelly') in the key of G.
Down In A Willow Garden was recorded by most of the first and second generation big names in bluegrass, and has been recorded many times since then both by bluegrass and non-bluegrass artists. Well-known non-bluegrass singers who have recorded the song include The Everly Brothers, Art Garfunkel, and more recently, Billie Joe Armstrong (lead singer of the pop-punk band 'Green Day') with Norah Jones.
For those interested in the history of the song, check out
The following recordings are representative of the range of ways that first and second generation bluegrass artists played and sang Down In A Willow Garden.
Flatt & Scruggs - key of F
Reno & Harrell - key of G
Charlie Monroe - key of Ab (very sharp, almost A)
The Osborne Brothers with Red Allen - key of G
Ralph Stanley - key of G
The chord progression I use for Down In A Willow Garden is the same as the one on the Flatt & Scruggs and Osborne Brothers recordings:
1 1 1 6m
1 1 6m 6m
1 1 1 6m
1 5 1 1
6m 6m 1 6m
1 1 6m 6m
1 1 1 6m
1 5 1 1
On the Reno & Harrell recording, as well as on the Ralph Stanley recording, the 6 (Major) chord is used in place of the 6m, and on the Charlie Monroe recording, there are some spots where a chord change away from the 1 chord is implied by the melody, yet no clear chord change occurs on the guitar.
Sandwiching 6 Major chords between 1 chords was common in the early days of bluegrass (the original 1949 Flatt & Scruggs recording of Foggy Mountain Breakdown is likely the most well-known example of this), but is hardly ever done in bluegrass nowadays. The nearly universal current practice is to use 6m chords (or in some cases where it will work, 4 chords) in such spots.
Nearly all chord progressions one is likely to encounter for 'Down In A Willow Garden' at bluegrass jams that differ from the one I have written out here involve the use of the 4 chord in place of one or more of the 6m measures. The most common spots for the 4 to be used are in the last measure of the 3rd line of the verse and the chorus, and in the first two measures of the chorus.
Here is an example of the 4 being used in all of these spots, and also in the 4th measure of the 1st line of the chorus:
The Lonesome River Band - key of B
Here is a version with even more 4 chord measures in it (and one that begins in 3/4 time, switches to cut common time for most of the song. but then ends in 3/4 time):
Monroe Crossing - key of B
The reason why the 6m, 6(M), and 4 chords all work for the measures that I use the 6m in is because the main melody note (in most cases, the only melody note) in those measures is the 6th note of the Major Scale, and all three of those chords contain that note. In the key of G, that note is an E note, and the E note is part of the Em, E, and C chords. Furthermore, the E note forms a dissonance with only one of the notes of the G chord (the D note), and only a mild dissonance at that. This helps to account for the fewer number of changes away from the 1 chord in the Charlie Monroe version.
6m or 4?
If one sticks mostly to playing E and G notes in one's breaks (or backup on instruments that allow for this) on the 'Em' measures, and makes it a point to avoid B notes, then one need not be too concerned whether a C chord is being played in place of an Em in some of those measures.
Down In A Willow Garden is most often sung solo, but some of the recorded versions included or mentioned here are sung with harmony either on all the vocal parts of the song (e.g., Osborne Brothers), or only on the choruses (e.g., Reno & Harrell).
Although on most of the recordings provided here, breaks are played only over the verse progression and melody, I find it tends to work better when I lead the song at a jam to have the breaks alternate between the verse and chorus progressions when two or more breaks are played back to back. In this respect, the arrangement we will use for the song as it goes through its song of the week cycle is similar to how we almost always play Columbus Stockade Blues at the jam, except that I will usually end the song, not with a vocal chorus, but with two 'everybody' breaks played back to back: the first over the verse progression, and the second over the chorus progression.
The only essential differences between the melodies for the two parts occur in the first two measures of the parts, and once one gets past the first two measures of the chorus, the progression for the chorus is identical with the progression for the verse. So, for a chorus break, all one needs to do is to alter the first two measures of one's verse break to make it fit the chorus progression and melody.
By dropping the melody an octave lower than written in the melody sheets, guitar players can confine the melody to the 4 lowest strings of the guitar, which is ideal for creating Carter-style breaks for the song like the ones played by Charlie Monroe on the recording. The very lowest note of the melody as written (a D note: open 4th string on the guitar) cannot be dropped an octave lower when the guitar is in standard tuning. In place of the low D note in the pickup measure for the verse, and in the 8th measure of the chorus, substituting an E note (open 6th string) will work, and in place of the low D note in the 2nd measure of the last line of the verse and of the chorus, playing an A note (open 5th string) is one easy option.
The melody of the Down In A Willow Garden is Major Pentatonic, which means that it uses only the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th notes of the Major Scale. In the key of G, those notes are G, A, B, D, and E. The melody has an unusually wide range for bluegrass: wider even than (though only by a half-step) the range for the melody of Wildwood Flower. The melody for Down In A Willow Garden spans the same range as the melody for Fireball Mail. In order, from lowest to highest, the notes for both tunes when played in the key of G are: D, E, G, A, B, D, E, G.
The song of the week is 'Little Willie' in the key of A.
Ralph Stanley - key of B
John Reischman & The Jaybirds (vocal: Trisha Gagnon) - key of C - here -
The melody sheets attached here are based upon how Ralph Stanley sang the song on an earlier recording by the Stanley Brothers. On this recording, which was available on youtube for a brief while in the recent past, but is not currently available there, Ralph sang it in the key of A (a whole step lower than B), and this is the recording that I learned to sing the song from. (I have it only on an old grainy cassette tape.)
The chord progression for Little Willie is:
1 1 b7 b7
1 5 1 1
1 1 b7 b7
1 5 1 1
The b7 Chord
The b7 (flat-seven) chord is always one whole step (= two half steps) lower than the 1 chord.
If you know the 7 letter circular musical alphabet, and know that there is a note between every natural note except between B and C and between E and F, and know what is meant by a whole step (or by two half steps) and what is meant by flat (b) and sharp (#) and natural, then you have all the information you need to know in order to very quickly calculate what the b7 chord is for every key (albeit perhaps not the all the information you need in order to ensure that you are always naming it correctly: e.g., G# - incorrectly named - in place of Ab - correctly named - for the key of Bb, even though G# and Ab are one and the same note/chord).
Although we only use 8 of the 12 Major keys at our jam, here is the b7 chord for all 12 Major keys:
G: b7 = F
Ab: b7 = Gb
A: b7 = G
Bb: b7 = Ab
B: b7 = A
C: b7 = Bb
C#: b7 = B (or Db: b7 = Cb)
D: b7 = C
Eb: b7 = Db
E: b7 = D
F: b7 = Eb
F#: b7 = E (or Gb: b7 = Fb)
Banjo and guitar players who regularly make use of a capo should at the very least memorize the letter name of the b7 chord for the keys of G, C, and D.
Guitar players whose guitars are set up to be capable of the level of volume needed in order to stand a chance of cutting through at a large Bluegrass jam
(medium or heavy gauge strings and high action) will find it helpful to remember that the b7 chord in the key of C is Bb, so that when they know that the song about to be played at the jam has a b7 chord in it, and is going to be played in the key of C, or D, or E, or F, they can choose a option that will not require them to play a Bb chord-shape: for this chord-shape is physically difficult to form and to make sound right on a guitar with high action and medium to heavy gauge strings.
4 vs. b7
When I am playing guitar, my F shape chords look so similar to my C shape chords that, in order to distinguish them from each other, you may find it easier to rely on your ear to hear the difference between when I am playing a b7 chord instead of a 4 chord for the keys of G, A, Bb, B, and C, than to rely on what you (may think you) are seeing on my guitar.
The b7 chord sounds distinctively different than the 4 chord (even if not as different as what the b7 sounds like relative to the 1 and the 5). To help familiarize yourself with the specific sound of the b7 chord, you may find it helpful to listen on youtube (or on any records, tapes, CDs, etc.) in your collection, songs that feature this chord in one or more of their parts back to back with songs that have only the 1,4 and 5 chords in them.
You may also find it helpful to play through the progression for Little Willie back to back with the progression for Nine Pound Hammer, for the only difference between the two progressions is that Nine Pound Hammer uses the 4 chord in the spots where Little Willie uses the b7 chord.
Besides 'Little Willie', songs that have been played at our jams that use the b7 chord include: Old Joe Clark (B-Part only, and has no 4 chord in either of its parts), Red Haired Boy (in both parts; both parts also have the 4 chord), Salt Creek (in both parts; the A-Part also has the 4 chord) Over The Waterfall (second to last measure of the A-Part; the last measure of the A-Part uses the 4 chord), Little Maggie (has no 4 chord), and Love Please Come Home (the b7 is followed by the 4).
Relation to 'Little Maggie'
Lyrical content aside, Little Willie is essentially a slower-tempo Little Maggie. (Little Maggie is a popular Bluegrass jam standard.) So, we can use it at the jam to work towards one of the goals appropriate for the present state of our jam, namely: to be able to play faster as a group. Each time that 'Little Willie' is played at the jam, we can kick it off a bit faster, until we get to the point where the speed is no longer appropriate for Little Willie. At that point, we can switch to playing 'Little Maggie', and then keep on trying to gradually push Little Maggie faster and faster each time it gets played at the jam
Little Willie shares either the same, or a very similar, chord progression with Little Maggie, depending on which version of Little Maggie one has in mind. The two melodies are close enough to each other that any melody-based break that one plays for Little Maggie would not be out of place to play as a break for Little Willie. Though, one might consider altering the first measure (together with any pickups leading into it) of one's Little Maggie break when using it for Little Willie (and perhaps also one's 9th measure), especially for one's intro break, in order for it to be clear which song your break is intended for. (The first long-held melody note in the first and third lines of the verses of Little Willie is a perfect 5th higher than the corresponding melody note in Little Maggie.)
For the sake of comparison and contrast with 'Little Willie', take a listen to the following:
Little Maggie: Ralph Stanley:
and yet faster:
Little Maggie: Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder
Instrumentals written by Earl Scruggs
'Shuckin' The Corn' is one of about ten or so instrumentals written by Earl Scruggs that I regard as essential listening for all Bluegrass players:
Flint Hill Special
Foggy Mountain Special
Randy Lynn Rag
Foggy Mountain Breakdown
The song of the week is 'Sally Goodin', an old-time fiddle tune that is traditionally played in the key of A.
J.D. Crowe & The New South - key of A (fiddle is featured, with short banjo and guitar breaks in the middle)
Flatt & Scruggs - key of G (banjo is featured, with 2 short fiddle breaks)
Flatt & Scruggs - key of A (fiddle is featured, with banjo and dobro breaks)
Byron Berline, John Hickman & John Moore - key of A (fiddle is featured, with extended banjo and guitar breaks in the middle)
Bill Monroe & Doc Watson - key of A (mandolin is featured, with guitar breaks and a bit of vocal)
Boone Creek - key of A (fiddle is featured, with banjo, dobro and mandolin breaks)
In the attached melody sheets, I have presented Sally Goodin as a straightforward AABB fiddle tune with short 4 measure parts like Cripple Creek, Cluck Old Hen, and Shortnin' Bread. However, most good recorded versions of Sally Goodin deviate from this form, often doubling up one or both of the parts at certain points within the arrangement; and more often than not, the tune will end with the A Part, rather than with the B Part. Furthermore, many of the variations that are commonly played for this tune do not have enough in common with the melody of either part for it to be clear which part the variation is being played for.
At last night's jam, each break, except the last, was played as AABBAABB. The last break was played as AABBAAAA. This is how I intend to structure our playing of Sally Goodin at the jam until I see that enough people at the jam are ready to start making use of some of the types of variations that do not fit easily into this form. At that point, we can try using some freer, less rigid, forms for the tune.
As there is nothing in most versions of the melody (or in many of even the most wild variations on the parts) that implies a chord change away from the 1 chord, Sally Goodin could easily be played as a one-chord song. It can also be played as a six-chord song with chord changes (including some diminished chords) occurring nearly every half measure. (The Boone Creek recording provides a good example of this in some of its sections.) But, for the purposes of our jams, the chord progression for Sally Goodin is (for both of its parts): 1 1 1 5/1.
In the attachments I have given just one of many possible versions of the basic melody of Sally Goodin (plus a typical down-the-neck Scruggs-style break for banjo players). Whether or not one chooses to make use of this version of the melody (or, in the case of Scruggs-style banjo players, the banjo break given here) I highly recommend getting solid on some version of the basic melody (or, once again for Scruggs-style banjo players, some typical Scruggs-style break) before attempting to do anything like the kinds of variations one commonly hears on recordings of the tune.
Notice that the version of the melody given here for the A Part is entirely major pentatonic, with the lowest note being the 5th note of the major scale, and the highest note being the 3rd note of the major scale. This contrasts with the melody given here for the first three measures of the B Part, which, for the most part, simply runs up and down the first six notes of the major scale. Guitar players may find that the A Part (so long as the notes are confined to the 3rd and 4th strings, as written in the guitar melody tab attached here) makes for a good economy of motion exercise for the index and ring fingers of the fretting hand.
A good next step is to work on developing one's version of the basic melody into a melody-based bluegrass break, before jumping ahead to learning variations. On fiddle, for instance, one might among other things (under the influence of good bluegrass recordings of the tune) work on droning an A note (pinky finger on the D string) along with the melody notes in the A Part that are played on the A string. Another good thing to do, on fiddle and mandolin, is to work on playing the melody for the A-Part an octave higher than written in the attachments, by going up to 3rd position: A, B, and C# notes on the E string; E and F# notes on the A string. The high-octave A Part melody forms the basis for some of the common variations on the A Part.
And, of course, don't neglect to make sure that you can smoothly get into your break from an 8 Potato Intro and that you can go into a double ending after your break when you are ready to end the tune. On fiddle, an excellent choice of notes for an 8 Potato intro for Sally Goodin are the A note on the D string (pinky finger) played together as a double stop with the C# note on the A string (middle finger). This sets one up perfectly for playing the A Part with an A note drone on the D string as described previously.
While Scruggs-style banjo players who already have a certain amount of experience playing up the neck breaks will probably want to have an up the neck break worked up for Sally Goodin along the lines of the more common ones heard on the recordings, I advise banjo players to give a lower priority to this, and a higher priority to working on getting their backup playing for Sally Goodin as solid as possible. The drony character of Scruggs-style rolls and licks make the banjo ideally suited to being a primary backup instrument for fiddle on tunes that have no (or only occasional) explicit chord changes. The recordings provided here demonstrate this quite well. Notice that both the J.D. Crowe & The New South and the Boone Creek recordings start with fiddle breaks in which the banjo is the sole backup instrument, and even after the rest of the band comes in, the banjo remains prominent in the mix.
The first recorded version of Sally Goodin (Eck Robertson, 1922) was an old-time solo fiddle arrangement that included many variations, and some of these variations deviated quite significantly from the version of the basic melody established at the beginning of the arrangement. The influence of these variations is evident in the fiddle breaks played by Ricky Skaggs on the J.D. Crowe & The New South and the Boone Creek recordings of Sally Goodin, and in the fiddle breaks played by Byron Berline on the live performance provided in the recordings section.
Eck Robertson - key of A
Here's the original Flatt & Scruggs recording of Flint Hill Special:
The song of the week is 'In The Sweet By And By' in the key of G.
Sacred songs, in many cases taken directly from old Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian hymnals, occupy a prominent place in the Bluegrass music tradition. They make up one of the largest single categories of songs in the genre.
It is common for Bluegrass bands at all levels (ranging all the way from hobby bands to top-notch professional touring bands) to record entire albums consisting of nothing but sacred songs, and many of the biggest names in Bluegrass have recorded several of these. There are even some Bluegrass bands that specialize in 'Bluegrass Gospel' to the total, or almost total, exclusion of other categories of songs. (The very first hobby Bluegrass band that I was part of when I was in my early teens was one of those types of bands.) Most of the bands that I played with during my teen years, in doing the Summer Bluegrass festival circuit in BC, needed to have at least 45 minutes worth of this type of material in their repertoire, so that they would be able to play a Bluegrass Gospel set when scheduled to perform on a Sunday morning at a festival.
Many of the first-generation Bluegrass pioneers learned the fundamentals of music, including how to sing, in church. It was therefore quite natural that they would adapt some of the songs they knew from church to the new genre of music they were creating.
I associate 'In The Sweet By And By' with weekend afternoon jams with friends, late night jams around campfires at Bluegrass festivals, and impromptu live performances much more so than with any particular studio recording of the song by a well-known Bluegrass artist. For that reason, the first youtube link I present below is that of such an impromptu live performance of the song.
Slope Valley and Palmetto Blue: Key of G:
Notice that on the last 2 choruses the lead singer drops down to the baritone harmony part. This part is quite audible and straightforward (no unusual note choices) and therefore a good place to learn the baritone harmony from.
I have also included in the attachments ('03 Track 3') a recording (from 2006) of 'In The Sweet By And By' (key of D) that I played banjo on, in which the band consisted of people that I used to jam with at Bluegrass festivals. In accord with the wishes of the leader of the band 'String Lizzy' (who kicks off the song on the mandolin at a somewhat faster tempo than what the song is customarily played at - but the tempo choice is well-suited to her straightforward playing and singing style - and sings lead on the song, and mostly in German), we recorded the album by standing in a circle around a few mics in the middle of the circle, to make it feel as much like a jam as what is possible in a recording studio session. Many of the songs that ended up on the album were done in just one take.
Notice the similarities in the vocal arrangement on the first youtube link with the following non-bluegrass arrangement ('call and response' arrangement for the chorus, for instance) that is along the lines of the type of church singing that most of the first-generation Bluegrass artists were familiar with from their childhood:
Primitive Baptist accapella arrangement:
In addition to my own handwritten melody sheets for the song in the attachments, here is a link to sheet music from a hymnal that shows three harmony parts together with the melody. The melody is the higher of the pairs of notes that are on the top staff (written with the treble clef); what we call the baritone harmony in Bluegrass is the lower of the pairs of notes on that staff. (If you have a really high voice for Bluegrass, you may raise each of these lower notes an octave higher to create what is called the 'high baritone' part.) The higher part on the bottom staff (written with the bass clef) is what we call the tenor, or the low tenor in Bluegrass depending on whether one sings it in the octave that makes it higher or lower than the melody; and the lower part on that same staff is the bass harmony part. If you are not familiar with reading music written with the bass clef, move each note the equivalent of one line/space higher on the staff so that it can be read as if written with the treble clef, and then, if desired, drop each note an octave lower.
Right click on the sheet music at the top left corner of the page to enlarge and to be able to scroll down:
Although we will only play breaks over the verse progression, I have written out both the verse and the chorus melodies in the attachments. The song has such a strong melody and I find it quite satisfying to play as an instrumental banjo, mandolin, or guitar tune in which my playing stays very close to the melody, embellished by little more than slides and hammer-ons into the most important melody notes, rolls ( on banjo) or crosspicking (on guitar) around the melody, or double stops (on mandolin and guitar) to harmonize certain parts of the melody. I thought that perhaps some of you would like to have the chorus melody included on the melody sheets for the same reason.
Finally, here is a good professional bluegrass studio recording of 'In The Sweet By And By':
Bluegrass Martins: key of C
The song of the week is 'Are You Missing Me' in the key of G.
Jim & Jesse - key of G
The progression for the verses and breaks is:
The progression for the chorus is the same as that for My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains, and the verses of How Mountain Girls Can Love and Columbus Stockade Blues:
Notice that the verse and chorus progressions differ from each other only by two measures. For helping to get the song off to a strong start at the jam, the main thing to remember about the verse progression is that there is a change to the 4 chord in the second measure of lines 1 and 3.
Melody & Harmony
The melody for the chorus has little in common with the melody for the verse, and is not nearly as straightforward as the melody for the verse. Each line of the chorus starts with a different melody note (disregarding the nonessential grace notes that the first and third line begin with). The melody for lines 1 and 3, which one might expect to be similar, are significantly different from each other, and line 4 begins with a uncommon starting note for a line, the 7th note of the major scale (F# note when in the key of G).
On the recording, the harmony part is prominent in the mix, and in certain spots, most notably the beginnings of lines 2 and 4, the harmony notes form wide intervals with the melody notes (a major 6th for the beginning of line 2 on the word 'with': the notes are separated from each other by 9 half steps: A is the melody note, and the F# above it is the harmony note; a minor 6th for the beginning of line 4 on the word 'are': the notes are separated from each other by 8 half steps: F# is the melody note, and the D above it is the harmony note).
For all these reasons and more, it is very easy to misidentify many of the melody notes for the chorus. So, in addition to the melody sheets for the verse which are intended to give people a good starting point for coming up with melody-based breaks on their instruments, I have also included in the attachments a chorus melody and harmony sheet for the benefit of singers which is based upon the first chorus on the recording. The lower of the two parts shown on the sheet is the melody, and the higher of the two parts is the harmony. Special thanks to Kathy Allyn and to my wife Renee for their time and assistance in helping me to produce a much more accurate transcription than what I could have done on my own.
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