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: