The song of the week is 'Nine Pound Hammer' in the key of A.
Lonesome River Band - key of B
Tony Rice - key of A
Guitar and banjo players who wish to play along with the Lonesome River Band performance of the song can capo to the 4th fret and play as if playing in G. For fiddle, mandolin, and bass players who wish to give playing in B a try, the 1, 4, and 5 chords in the key of B are: 1=B, 4=E. 5=F#. The B chord consists of the notes: B,D#, and F#; the E chord: E, G#, and B; the F# chord: F#, A#, and C#.
Remember, on youtube you can adjust the tempo by clicking on settings, and then clicking on 'speed'.
The verses of Nine Pound Hammer consist of two 4-measure lines (8 measures in total). Each verse is completed by an equally short chorus, also consisting of two 4-measure lines (8 measures in total).
A single full-length break for Nine Pound Hammer consists of four 4-measure lines (16 measures in total, which is the same length as a verse and chorus together), to which one or more additional measures may be added to the end of the last line when the break is to be followed by a verse instead of by another break.
In most other songs played at the jam, verses and choruses are twice the length of the verses and choruses of Nine Pound Hammer, and a single full-length break consists of the same number of musical lines as a single verse or a single chorus, rather than that of a verse and a chorus together.
The chord progression for Nine Pound Hammer is:
This progression is merely the second half of other more commonly occurring progressions. E.g., the progression for 'Bury Me Beneath The Willow', 'Come Back Darling', 'I'll Still Write Your Name In The Sand', 'A Memory Of You', and 'Your Love Is Like A Flower' (Prog. V7 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout):
or for the progression for 'Mama Don't Allow', 'She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain', 'When The Saints Go Marching In', and 'Will You Be Loving Another Man' (Prog. V2):
In the key of A: 1=A; 4=D; 5=E
The A chord consists of the notes: A, C#, and E; the D chord consists of: D, F#, and A; and the E chord consists of: E, G#, and B.
Banjo players and most guitar players will wish to capo to the 2nd fret to play in A; so the key that they will be thinking in will be G.
In the key of G: 1=G; 4=C; 5=D.
The G chord consists of the notes: G, B, and D; the C chord: C, E, and G; the D chord: D, F#, and A.
All the breaks on the Lonesome River Band recording are full-length breaks, but in the last two break sections of the arrangement two breaks are played back to back without a verse and chorus intervening between them. Except for the fiddle intro break, all the breaks on the Tony Rice recording are double-length breaks (8 musical lines). The long break section after the first chorus consists of two double-length breaks played back to back.
In the Lonesome River Band's arrangement of the song, each verse is sung solo, and then call and response harmony is used on the choruses. On the Tony Rice recording, the verses, instead of the choruses, are sung with call and response harmony.
On these points, the Lonesome River Band arrangement of the song is quite similar to how Nine Pound Hammer has usually been played and sung at the weekly jams in the Pioneer Building.
In order from lowest to highest, the notes that make up the melody of Nine Pound Hammer are:
5 6 1 2 3 5
sol la do re mi sol
key of G: D E G A B D
key of A: E F# A B C# E
key of Bb: F G Bb C D F
key of B: F# G# B C# D# F#
key of C: G A C D E G
key of D: A B D E F# A
key of E; B C# E F# G# B
key of F: C D F G A C
These are the same notes used to play the melodies for 'Foggy Mountain Top', 'My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains', 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken', 'Amazing Grace', 'Long Journey Home', and 'Mountain Dew'.
The melody of the chorus of Nine Pound Hammer starts higher than the melody for the verses, but then ends the same way as the melody for the verses.
When leading the song at the jams, I usually sing all five of the verses that are included in the Tony Rice performance, but with slightly different wording. To these I often add the 'John Henry' verse that is sung in the Lonesome River Band arrangement, using it as the second to last verse. To lengthen the song even more, I sometimes repeat the first verse at the end of the song.
On the other hand, when I wish to reduce the number of verses, so as to allow for a greater number of breaks to be played without making the song last so long, I may sing only three or four verses, usually leaving out the 'ain't one hammer in this tunnel' verse, the 'this nine pound hammer killed John Henry' verse, and sometimes also the 'when I'm long gone, you can make my tombstone' verse.
The lyrics for the chorus that follows the verse that begins with '(there) ain't one hammer in this tunnel' are different from the lyrics for the other choruses in the song. Instead of 'Roll on buddy, don't you roll so slow', etc.,' the lyrics I sing for this chorus are: 'Rings like silver, shines like gold, rings like silver and shines like gold.' I sometimes also alter the first half of the chorus that follows the 'when I'm long gone' verse to: 'Roll on buddy, pull your load of coal'.
While the intro break for the song should follow the melody closely enough to make it clear what song is being played before the first verse is sung, it is not necessary, or even desirable, for all subsequent breaks to do this. Nine Pound Hammer lends itself quite well to lick-oriented improvised breaks that may deviate considerably from the melody. (Listen especially to the Tony Rice recording for examples of this.) This is a good song to use as a means for practicing any licks that you may have in your repertoire that fit over a line of 1144 or a line of 1511 for the key that you are playing the song in.
In the melody sheets attached here, notice that the first three notes of the melody of 'Nine Pound Hammer' are quarter notes, and that they occur before the first complete measure of the tune. (In cut common time, i.e., 2/2 time, as well as in common time, i.e., 4/4 time, 3 quarter notes make up only three-quarters of a complete measure.) Make it a point to remember these notes, because they will be useful for starting your intro breaks for many other songs that, like 'Nine Pound Hammer', also have as their first melody note in their first complete measure the note that has the same name as both the key that the song is being played in, and the first chord played in the song. (E.g., 'Little Birdie', 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken', 'She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain'.)
These notes are:
5 5 6 leading to 1
sol sol la do
key of G: D D E G
key of A: E E F# A
key of Bb: F F G Bb
key of B: F# F# G# B
key of C: G G A C
key of D: A A B D
key of E; B B C# E
key of F: C C D F
Fill-in Licks in Backup & Breaks
The 7th measure of each verse and chorus has only one syllable in it, which is sung at the beginning of the measure. And, the measure that follows begins with a rest. During these kinds of 'dead spaces' within the melody of a song, it is very common for a fill-in lick to be played on one or more of the instruments. In the attachments I have included a chart of simple fill-in licks for guitar, banjo, fiddle, and mandolin that will fit well into measure 7 through to the first quarter of measure 8 of the progression for Nine Pound Hammer when the song is played in the key of A. These same licks are also good to use in measures 7 to 8, and in measures 15 to 16 of your breaks.
On the attached chart of fill-in licks, notes in parentheses are not really part of the fill-in lick proper and may be omitted if they are inconvenient to get into from what you were doing immediately before the fill-in measures begin. For instance, if you are playing chop chords on the fiddle or mandolin right up to the point where the fill-in measure starts, you may wish to substitute a quarter note rest in place of the quarter note in parentheses that occurs at the beginning of the fill-in lick measure. Likewise, the notes you play in a guitar break in measures 6 and 14 may lead you more naturally to play the open 3rd string at the beginning of measures 7 and 15 than to play the note at the 3rd fret of the 6th string. When this happens, just substitute the open 3rd string note in place of the lower note shown in parentheses on the chart.
15 songs were played at the jam on Thursday: 10 from the main list, 4 from the additional songs list, and 1 that is on neither list:
All The Good Times Are Past And Gone - A
Blue Ridge Cabin Home - G
Boil The Cabbage Down - A
Buffalo Gals - A
Cripple Creek - A
Foggy Mountain Top - G
I'll Fly Away - G
My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains - G
Nine Pound Hammer - A
Will The Circle Be Unbroken - G
Canaan's Land (a.k.a. Where The Soul Never Dies) - A
Liberty - D
Long Journey Home - A
She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain - G
Mountain Dew - A
Nine Pound Hammer - banjo tab
Nine Pound Hammer - guitar tab
Nine Pound Hammer - mandolin tab
Nine Pound Hammer - standard notation
The song of the week is 'My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains' in the key of G.
Flatt & Scruggs - key of G
The Mashville Brigade - key of A
The chord progression for My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains is:
This is Prog. W5 on the 'Basic Chord Progressions' handout.
In the key of G: 1=G; 5=D. The G chord consists of the notes G, B, and D. The D chord consists of the notes D, F#, and A.
Notice that the second half of the progression is identical to the first half of the progression. Therefore, there are really only two lines (8 measures) to memorize. You should not need to look at a written copy of the progression while playing the song at the jam. Take a glance at the progression before the song starts, and just remember that every second line starts with two measures of the 5 chord. All other measures in the progression are 1's.
Be prepared, however, to add an extra measure or two of the 1 chord to the last line of the progression for a break that occurs right before the singing starts up again, and the progression starts again from the beginning. This is common in bluegrass arrangements of songs. On the Flatt and Scruggs recording of the song, all three of the breaks are played as:
On the Mashville Brigade recording; the first three breaks, the last (fifth) break, and the first chorus are played as:
In listening to the Flatt & Scruggs recording and/or from looking at the attached melody sheets, notice that the melody of the song has only 5 notes in it. In ascending order of pitch, these are: E, G, A, B, and D. To make the melody slightly more interesting, the banjo, in its intro break lowers the G note in measures 3 and 11 to the D below the E note that is the lowest note in the vocal melody; the dobro break which occurs in the song after the second chorus does this same thing in measure 3, but not in measure 11. On this point, the sung melody on the Mashville Brigade recording coincides with the version of the melody played in the banjo intro break on the Flatt & Scruggs recording.
Make it a point to remember this sequence of notes, and be sure that you can locate them on your instrument: D E G A B D. There are many songs that, when played in the key of G, have this same range of notes (lowest note D, highest note the D an octave higher) and have no other notes than G's, A's, B's, D's, and E's. Songs like this on the current main list and additional songs list for the beginner jam include 'Foggy Mountain Top', 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken', 'Amazing Grace', and 'Long Journey Home'.
When transposed to each of the 7 other keys that these songs may be played in at the jam, these notes become:
key of A: E F# A B C# E
key of Bb: F G Bb C D F
key of B: F# G# B C# D# F#
key of C: G A C D E G
key of D: A B D E F# A
key of E; B C# E F# G# B
key of F: C D F G A C
On the Nashville Number Charts included in the handouts for the beginner jam, these notes correspond with the numbers 5 6 1 2 3 5.
Notice that in the melody for My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains, the only notes that are dwelt on for half a measure or more are notes that belong to the chord being played at the time: G, B, or D notes during G chord measures, and A notes during D chord measures. It is because of those A notes at the beginning of lines 2 and 4, that a chord change occurs at the beginning of those lines, for the A note is not part of the G chord. It is typical, in the key of G, for a D chord to be played when the melody of a song dwells on an A note, for of the 1, 4, and 5 chords for the key of G, namely, G, C, and D, the D chord is the only one that contains an A note.
In the breaks on the recordings, the measures that have only one or two melody notes in them sometimes have what sound like extra 'melody' notes added to them in addition to the many filler notes that are placed around the melody, whereas the measures that have 4 melody notes in them often have one or two of these notes deleted from them, and when not deleted, they sometimes get displaced within the measure.
For a slow-moving melody, as this song has, it will not work well to play for your break only what you see written on the attached melody sheets. In order to maintain good control of the rhythm, tempo, and feel of the song during your break, so that everyone who is playing backup during your break can be following you rather than the other way around, your break needs to consist mostly of eighth notes and quarter notes, not half notes and whole notes.
Simple Guitar, Mandolin, and Fiddle Breaks
If you don't know what other notes would work to put around the melody, then for lack of anything else to do, keep to the melody notes, but - on guitar, mandolin, and fiddle - change half notes to a quarter note followed by two eighth notes, and for whole notes, do this twice: i.e., quarter, eighth, eighth, quarter, eighth, eighth. To see what this rhythm looks like when written out, refer to the 'guitar break' in the attachment. I have not included a fiddle break sheet or a mandolin break sheet in the attachments, because the guitar break tab suffices to show for the sake of all three of these instruments what the rhythm is that is being applied here to the melody.
Simple Banjo Breaks
The banjo is a different story than guitar, mandolin, and fiddle (repeating the same note several times in a row in the manner described above doesn't work so well when playing with finger picks), so I have also included a 'banjo break' sheet in the attachments. This is a very basic break (a lot more is going on in the banjo breaks on the recordings than in the banjo break given in the attachments) which is given here to demonstrate how one can take one roll pattern (in this case, the alternating thumb roll) and place it around the melody, turning quarter notes into a pair of eighth notes, half notes into a series of four eighth notes, etc. To avoid the monotony that results from playing nothing but eighth notes in one's break, I have substituted for the roll in a few places a single quarter note followed by a quarter note double stop (called a 'pinch' on the banjo).
On the break sheets, I have also included a pickup measure for each of the 4 instruments. You will need to use these, or something like them, in order to kick off the song effectively on your instrument without having to count into the song. Remember these three notes: D, G, A. These will work well as pickups for nearly any song in the key of G in which the first complete measure of the melody starts with a B note while a G chord is being played.
The corresponding notes for the 7 other keys used at the jam are:
key of A: E, A, B leading to a C# note on an A chord.
key of Bb: F, Bb, C leading to a D note on a Bb chord.
key of B: F#, B, C# leading to a D# note on a B chord.
key of C: G, C, D leading to an E note on a C chord.
key of D: A, D, E leading to an F# note on a D chord.
key of E: B, E, F# leading to a G# note on an E chord.
key of F: C, F, G leading to an A note on an F chord.
The lyrics of 'My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains' are quite repetitive and easy to memorize. For this reason, this is one of the songs I recommend learning to sing to those who wish to lead a song at the jam, but do not have much experience yet in doing so. Other songs on the current beginner jam song lists that are fairly easy to memorize include: Mama Don't Allow, New River Train, Lonesome Road Blues, Long Journey Home, She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain, This Little Light Of Mine, When The Saints Go Marching In, and Worried Man Blues.
For most of these songs, you need not know any more than three verses (in addition to the chorus for the songs that do have a chorus) in order to be ready to sing and play a complete arrangement of them at the jam. Notice that on the recordings of My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains given here there are only three verses sung (plus the chorus), yet, if you were to look online for lyric sheets for the song, or listen to other recorded versions of the song, you would come across some other verses for the song in addition to these three.
Singing from Memory
It is important to sing from memory when leading the singing at a jam, because, whenever the lead singer is singing, he is the one who is primarily in control of the timing and rhythm of the song. So, he should be singing toward the group as a whole, and his lips should be clearly visible to the group, since the group is supposed to be following him. One cannot lead a song very effectively at a jam when reading the lyrics off a page. If the page is at eye level (for instance, on a music stand), then the page (and the stand) will form a barrier between the lead singer and his fellow jammers. If the page is below eye level (on the ground, or on one's lap), then the lead singer will be looking down, singing towards the ground, instead of towards the group.
This does not mean that one should not bring lyric sheets to a jam. For, even when a song is memorized, it is very easy to forget - in the moment how the 2nd verse (and subsequent verses) of a song starts. So, near the end of the break that comes right before another verse will be sung, it can be useful to be able to quickly glance at the lyrics to remind oneself, if one forgets. Observe, though, that this does not involve looking at the lyrics while singing.
However, instead of referring to a page on which the lyrics are written out in full, it is better to just write out the first line of the 2nd verse, and the first line of each subsequent verse in large print, and then place the page on the floor in front of you. Many guitar players - myself included - will tape smaller versions of these kind of 'cheat sheets' to their guitars for songs that they fear they might forget the lyrics to, so that - if needed - they can take a quick glance at them before starting to sing the next verse. (This will also work for stand-up bass players.)
If one needs to see more than just the beginnings of the 2nd and subsequent verses of a song in order to jog one's memory enough to be able to get through singing the whole song without serious errors, then this is usually a good sign that one does not yet know the song well enough to lead it effectively at a jam, and that one should give it some more practice at home before leading it at a jam.
The song of the week is 'Boil The Cabbage Down' in the key of A.
Like a lot of other traditional fiddle tunes and folk songs that have been absorbed into bluegrass, there are many noticeably different versions of Boil The Cabbage Down. At bluegrass jams, one of the more common ways of playing it is as an instrumental in the key of A with the typical fiddle-tune form AABB, and that is how we will play it at the beginner jam when it is played during the first half of the evening. Alternate versions of the song are welcome to be introduced during the second half of the evening.
AABB means that the tune has two parts (A-Part = first part; B-Part = second part), each of which is played through twice before going on to the next part.
Like many other fiddle tunes, each A-Part and each B-Part is 8 measures long. Therefore, it takes 32 measures (8x4) to get through a complete break for Boil The Cabbage Down.
On the Tommy Jackson fiddle instrumental recording, Boil The Cabbage Down is played as a three-part tune: the tune is played through twice using the form AABBCC, and then deviates from there, being played as AABBAACCAA.
In contrast to this, The Grascals' vocal version uses only the A-Part of the tune.
The chord progression for the A-Part (and also for Tommy Jackson's C-Part) is:
1 4 1 5
1 4 1/5 1
This is Progression Y7 on the 'Basic Chord Progressions' handout.
The chord progression for the B-Part is:
1 1 1 5
1 4 1/5 1
This is Progression Y2 on the 'Basic Chord Progressions' handout.
'1/5' means that the measure is split between the 1 chord and the 5 chord.
In the key of A: 1=A. 4=D, 5=E.
Banjo players and most bluegrass guitar players habitually capo to the 2nd fret for playing in the key of A, so their chord shapes will be the same as those for the 1,4, and 5 chords in the key of G, which are: 1=G, 4=C, 5=D.
Boil The Cabbage Down mandolin lesson:
I recommend this not only for mandolin players, but for anyone who wishes to get a better handle on the melody of the tune and the difference between the A-Part and the B-Part of the tune. You might notice that my version of the melody for the B-Part (see the attached melody sheets) differs a bit from the version of the melody used here, but this kind of variance in interpretation of the melody from one person to the next is quite common within bluegrass and old-time music, especially on fiddle tunes.
Fiddle players should be aware that the mandolin is tuned the same way as the fiddle, so the fingering positions are identical on both instruments. The mandolin breaks in the youtube link - including the one that uses double stops (i.e., two strings being played simultaneously) can be played note for note on the fiddle just as easily as on the mandolin.
John Hartford & The Dillards (starts at 1:05)
The opening fiddle break follows the form AABB, but the banjo break that comes after it plays AAAA. The remainder of the arrangement consists mostly of variations on the A-Part and improvisational playing over the chord progression for the A-Part.
The form for the breaks is ABB and the form for the vocal sections is AB, but with the high part being used as the A-Part (i.e., the first part), and the low part being used as the B-Part (i.e., the second part), which is the opposite of what we will be using as the A and B Parts at the jam.
Melody & Breaks: Fiddle, Mandolin, and Guitar
In the attachments, I have included the basic melody for Boil The Cabbage Down in standard notation, mandolin tab, banjo tab, and guitar tab.
For fiddle, mandolin, and guitar players who wish to create simple break based upon the basic melody, I recommend applying a constant shuffle rhythm to the melody. That simply means playing a constant pattern of one quarter note followed by two 8th notes. Two cycles through this pattern is the length of one measure of music in cut time (2/2), and is counted as: 1 &a2 &a. In the attachments, I show what this rhythm looks like when applied to the first 4 measures of the melody for the B-Part of Boil The Cabbage Down (see the attachment titled 'Shuffle Rhythm Example'.)
Melody & Breaks: Banjo
For banjo players who wish to create a simple melody-based break for Boil The Cabbage Down, I recommend applying one type of roll pattern across the board to the whole tune. For this purpose, the two roll patterns that work best to apply to the whole tune are the alt. thumb roll and the forward roll. (See the attachment: 'Fitting Rolls Around the Melody' for examples of this.)
Remember, on banjo, there is more than one convenient location within the first few frets for some of the notes; in particular, banjo players will often get the B note on the 4th fret of the 3rd string instead of using the open 2nd string, so that they can slide into the B note, and so that they can put an alternating thumb or reverse roll around it. Likewise, they will often get the D note on the 3rd fret of the 2nd string instead of using the open 1st string, so that they can hammer into the D note, and so that they can avoid starting a roll on the 1st string.
For those who wish to create a more complex melody-based break for Boil The Cabbage, I recommend making use of several different roll patterns: experiment with them to discover for yourself at which points in the break you find that one roll works better than another to carry the melody.
Have a happy New Year!
On Jan. 3rd, I'll be starting a new weekly beginner bluegrass jam at Revitalize Juice Bar in the Pioneer Building (6th and Main downtown Boise) on Thursday evenings from 6:30pm to 9pm.
How The Beginner Jam Works: Song and Key Selection
For the first phase of the new beginner jam, we shall, for the first half of the night, play only songs on the 'Main List' and only in the keys specified for each song on that list (see the attachments). In this phase of the new beginner jam, I'll lead the singing on all songs called during the first half of the evening.
For the second half of the night, people are welcome to call and lead the singing on any beginner-friendly bluegrass or quasi-bluegrass songs that they would like to play at the jam, and with most of the key restrictions removed, including for songs that are on the main list. For the person leading the singing on a song ought to choose a key for that song that suits his or her voice for bluegrass-style singing.
The Beginner Jam Handouts
To help give a clearer idea of what kinds of songs will tend to work well at the beginner jam in its initial phase, I have attached here, in addition to the Main List, another list of songs titled 'Additional Songs'.
On this list, there are a number of songs that are more associated with genres of music other than bluegrass, but which lend themselves well to being played as bluegrass songs, and most of these are well-known both inside and outside of bluegrass circles. I have also included some songs on the additional songs list that are virtually unknown outside bluegrass circles for those who might prefer to take the approach of finding specifically bluegrass songs appropriate to introduce into the new beginner jam rather than songs already familiar from other genres. But most of the songs on the list fall somewhere between these two ends of the spectrum.
Also included in the attachments are two other handouts for the new beginner jam: a chart of 'Basic Chord Progressions' that the song lists are keyed to, and a handout titled 'Nashville Number System Charts' in which the number names of the chords are translated into letter names for each of the keys that songs will be played in at the jam. Additionally, I have also included an explanation of the handouts in the attachments.
Have a happy New Year!