Foggy Mountain Top
The song of the week is 'Foggy Mountain Top' in the key of G.
Here is a live version of Foggy Mountain Top to listen to, played in the key of G:
Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, Ricky Skaggs ('The Three Pickers'):
Notice Doc's choice of pickup notes to lead into the first complete measure of his intro break on guitar: G, B, C, which ascend to a D note. This is the same series of notes that the melody of 'When The Saints Go Marching In' begins with, and is much more effective for starting a break than if one were to use the D half-note as a pickup that is written on the attached 'Foggy Mountain Top' melody sheets.
This is a good case in point illustrating how it is often not desirable to slavishly follow the sung melody when playing a melody-based break. An alternative choice of pickup notes to use to ascend into the D note that the first complete measure begins with is: B, C, C#, and this is the choice of notes that you will often hear played on banjo and fiddle on good bluegrass records as pickups to lead into a melody line that starts with a D note on a G chord.
The chord progression for 'Foggy Mountain Top' is one of the most common progressions in bluegrass:
(Prog. V6 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout. In the key of G: 1=G, 4=C, 5=D.)
Other bluegrass standards that use this same progression include:
Live And Let Live
I'll Never Shed Another Tear
All The Good Times Are Past And Gone
On And On
Light At The River
Little Cabin Home On The Hill - verse prog. only
Before I Met You - verse prog. only
Cabin In Caroline - verse prog. only
Gonna Settle Down - verse prog. only
Little Girl Of Mine In Tennessee - verse prog. only
Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane - verse prog. only
Hallelujah, I'm Ready To Go - verse prog. only
Lovesick And Sorrow - verse prog. only
Greenville Trestle - verse prog. only
Keep On The Sunny Side - chorus prog. only
For people who are much less familiar with bluegrass than with other genres of music, some good points of reference for this progression might include:
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Jesse James - verse prog. only
Cotton Fields - verse prog. only
My Old Kentucky Home (some versions) - verse prog. only
Note: With the exceptions of 'Hallelujah, I'm Ready To Go' and 'My Old Kentucky Home', all the songs listed here in which only the verses of the song use the V6 progression, the progression for the chorus is prog. X6 on the basic chord progressions handout:
Progressions V6 and X6 tend to show up together with each other in the same song much more frequently than any other pair of progressions on the basic progressions handout.
Compare the progression for 'Foggy Mountain Top' (V6) with the progression for another one of the songs on the main list, 'Bury Me Beneath The Willow':
Notice how similar these two progressions are. They differ from each other only in 2 of their measures, namely the last measure of line 1 and last measure of line 3.
Part of the practical value of observing how certain commonly recurring progressions are similar and different from each other is that by taking note of this, one can help oneself to avoid certain common mistakes.
In my many years of jamming experience, I have noticed that a lot of people tend to be more familiar with prog. V7 than with prog. V6. At large jams, whenever a song that uses prog. V6, I have found that it is typical to find at least one person playing prog. V7 for at least the first round or two through the progression. I count this as being one of the top half dozen or so errors involving wrong chord changes that occur at jams. Yet, the opposite case - namely, someone playing prog. V6 during a song that uses prog. V7 - rarely ever occurs at jams.
Another way to put this is that when the first three measures are 114, there is a much greater tendency to assume that the fourth measure will stay on the 4 instead of going back to the 1.
This assumption should be avoided, because songs with the 'Foggy Mountain Top' (V6) progression are very common in bluegrass, even if not quite as common as songs with the 'Bury Me Beneath The Willow' (V7) progression.
The Carter Family
A good number of songs that are now in the standard bluegrass repertoire were recorded by the Carter Family in the 20's, 30's, and early 40's before Bluegrass music, in the generally accepted sense of the term, came into being, and their recordings of these songs directly influenced the first and second generation bluegrass artists who brought these songs into Bluegrass. (Both Flatt & Scruggs and Ralph Stanley, for instance, have recorded entire albums consisting of nothing but Carter Family songs, and there are many, many more of these songs scattered here and there on their other albums.)
The 'pre-Bluegrass' music of the Carter Family bears a similar relation to Bluegrass as what the music of Woody Guthrie has to the 'Pop-Folk' music genre of the 60s. So, for historical reasons, and because I believe that familiarity with the music of the Carter Family is an important part of a well-rounded Bluegrass education, here is a link to the old Carter Family recording of 'Foggy Mountain Top':
Other Carter Family songs that are on the current main list and additional songs list include:
Bury Me Beneath The Willow (the very first song that the Carters recorded)
Gathering Flowers From The Hillside
Will The Circle Be Unbroken (there were earlier recorded versions, but they did not have much influence on how this song is played as a Bluegrass song compared to the Carter Family's version)
Worried Man Blues
Cryin' Holy (a.k.a., On The Rock Where Moses Stood)
East Virginia Blues
Gold Watch And Chain
Little Darling Pal Of Mine
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Jason's Beginner Jam Blog 2017 - 2018
Songs regularly called at the Beginner Bluegrass Jam and links from Jason's "Song of the Week" emails. (from Renee)
in alphabetical order