Good King Wenceslas
The song of the week is 'Good King Wenceslas' in the key of G.
Here is a good bluegrass-style instrumental version of Good King Wenceslas:
Peter Schwimmer - key of G
I have not been able to find any good quality bluegrass versions of Good King Wenceslas with vocals, so, for a version with vocals to listen to, the following non-bluegrass version from the Irish Rovers will have to suffice as being close enough:
The chord progression I use for 'Good King Wenceslas' is:
1 1 4/5 1
1 1 4/5 1
1/5 1 4/5 1
5 1/5 1/5 1/4 1
(In the key of G: 1=G, 4=C, 5=D.)
Notice that the second line is the same as the first line, not only in terms of the chord progression, but also in terms of the melody (see the attached melody sheets). The chord progression for the third line is almost the same as the progression for the first and second lines. The fourth line can be a bit challenging to remember. It is a five measure line (like the last line of Leaning On The Everlasting Arms, and most of the lines of Wildwood Flower) that starts on the 5 chord, and in which the three middle measures of the line are split between two chords: 1 and 5 for the second and third measures of the line, and 1 and 4 for the fourth measure of the line.
The song has five verses and no chorus. At last night's jam, we played it as follows:
Except for the intro break, which I played on guitar, all the breaks were played as 'everybody' breaks, old-time style, instead of having each of the different types of instruments taking turns being featured. This worked quite well, and this is how I intend to arrange the song again at the jam next week.
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, or if one has not heard enough examples of songs being played both ways.
Good King Wenceslas - banjo tab
Good King Wenceslas - guitar tab
Good King Wenceslas - mandolin tab
Good King Wenceslas - melody in G
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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