On the break sheets for 'My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains' 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."
In the melody sheets attached for "Nine Pound Hammer" 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.
In the key of A, these three quarter notes are: E, E, F#, and the first note of the first complete measure is an A note.
In the key of G, these three quarter notes are: D, D, E, and the first note of the first complete measure is a G note.
In the key of B, these three quarter notes are: F#, F#, G#, and the first note of the first complete measure is a B note.
The three quarter notes that make up the pickup measure that precedes the first complete measure in Nine Pound Hammer are [in Nashville Numbers]: 5, 5, 6, and this leads to the first note of the first complete measure, and the number name for that note is 1.
"Notice Doc's choice of pickup notes to lead into the first complete measure of his intro break for Foggy Mountain Top: 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.
Concerning Pickup Notes into a break for Gathering Flowers. Instead of playing only the 2 pickup notes (B and C) that are sung in the vocal melody (see the attached melody sheets [https://www.idahobluegrassassociation.org/beginner-jam/category/gathering-flowers-from-the-hillside]) to lead into the first complete measure of your break, it is often more effective at jams to add a 3rd quarter note, a C#, after these two notes, especially if you the one kicking off the song with an intro break. The chromatically ascending sequence of pickup notes: B, C, C# to lead to a D note on a G chord is commonplace on good Bluegrass records (good examples of this are at the beginning of the banjo intro break and at the beginning of the fiddle break on the first youtube link given here for Gathering Flowers). Three-quarters of a measure, rather than just half a measure, worth of pickup notes gives everyone at the jam a better sense of what the tempo of the song will be, so that they can all start playing backup confidently behind the person playing the intro break at the beginning of the first complete measure of the break. This is a good case in point illustrating how it is sometimes better to make modifications to the melody as sung, rather than to follow the melody slavishly, when creating melody-based breaks.
Note: Many melodies do not have any built-in pickup notes leading into their first complete measure; in these cases one needs to create a pick-up measure to have an effective intro break for the song. This can be done by borrowing pickup phrases from other songs in which the first full measure of the song starts with the same note and same chord as the song in question, or one can learn common generic pickup phrases used on Bluegrass records for each specific situation: e.g., a generic pickup phrase leading to a B note on a G chord, a generic pickup phrase leading to a C note on a C chord, etc.
Buffalo Gals is one of the relatively few AABB-type fiddle tunes that I prefer not to start with an 8 potato intro at a jam, because the first melody note of the first measure is identical with the main note I would be droning in an 8 Potato intro (in the key of A, an A note that is in the same octave as the A note that the melody begins with), thus making it sound unclear where the intro ends and the tune begins. So, I start with three quarter note pickups instead that ascend into the A note (E, F#, G#: the 5th, 6th, and 7th notes of the A Major Scale: these notes are written on the fifth attachment provided here, but not on the melody sheets.)
When you look at the sheet music attached here for Down The Road, observe that the first measure of the break begins two measures from the time that the last syllable of the verse is sung. Another way of looking at this is that there are two measures of the 1 chord that are played at the end of the verse before the break begins. If enough of us make it a point to observe and practice this, this will go along ways towards minimizing the confusion that can easily result (due to the unusual form of the song) when Down The Road is played at a jam.
There are two things that one can do to help prevent confusion about when the break begins (i.e., when the form starts over again):
1) Use three quarter-note pickup notes for leading into your break. For a good choice of pickup notes, see the attachment: 'Down The Road - melody in A': the notes are E, F#, G#: which are located at frets 2, 4, and 6 on the 3rd string of the mandolin, and would usually be represented in guitar, banjo, and dobro tab as 0, 2, and 4 on the 4th string for the key of G, capo 2 for the key of A.)
Dig into your three pickup notes really hard so as to draw attention to yourself, and then dig into the note that comes next (namely, the first note of the first measure of your break) even harder so that there can be no room for doubt as to where the first measure of the form begins. These three pickup notes should be played during the last three-quarters of the last measure of the form, and they should be spaced apart from each other evenly.
When played in the key of G, the first melody note of the first full measure of the verses (and choruses) [of Bury Me Beneath The Willow] is the D note above the G note that the melody resolves on. When this is the case, the most effective pick up notes to use to kick off the song are the B, C, and C# notes immediately below that D note. Use of this series of notes is equally effective on all the bluegrass lead instruments. Give it a try. Start by finding the B note on your instrument, and then ascend in half steps (on a fretted instrument, this means you will not skip over any frets) until you reach the D note, playing the B, C, and C# notes as quarter notes, and be sure to place a heavy accent on that D note, since it is the first note of the first full measure of the song.
Bury Me Beneath The Willow has been played at the jam almost just as frequently in A as in G. For the key of A, raise all the notes a whole step, so the pickup series becomes C#, D, D# leading to an E note.
Two songs that so far have always been played in the key of G at the jam for which this same 3-note pick-up measure will work effectively, for the same reasons that it works so well for Bury Me Beneath The Willow are: 'Foggy Mountain Top', and 'Gathering Flowers From The Hillside'. The same set of pickups are also good for 'Lonesome Road Blues' and 'Wreck Of The Old '97' (both on the additional 30 list) when played in G. 'Wreck Of The Old '97' has always been played in D so far at the jam. For the key of D, the pickup series becomes F#, G, G# leading to an A note. In the key of C, it would be E, F, F# leading to a G note.
Key Pickup Notes Leading to:
G B C C# D note
A C# D D# E note
Bb D Eb E F note
B D# E E# F# note
C E F F# G note
D F# G G# A note
E G# A A# B note
F A Bb B C note
[The note named as E# in the context of the key of B pickups is the same note as the note that is in most other contexts is named as F.]
Since the last line of the chorus (or verse occurring right before a break) of Handsome Molly is played in some versions as a 5 measure line (55511), and in other versions as a 4 measure line (5551), it is necessary at a jam to play your break in a manner that makes it clear as to where exactly your break has started, so as to help your fellow jammers avoid confusion as to when to change to the 5 chord during the first line of your break.
When playing Handsome Molly in accord with the form that I use when leading the song at the jam, in which the last line of the chorus before a break is 5551, this can be accomplished by confidently playing three quarter-note pickup notes immediately after the last syllable of the chorus has been sung, and then following this by hitting the first melody note of the first complete measure of the break with extra force. (For the key of A, the pickup series I tend to use is: F#, F#, F, which leads down to an E note. For the key of G, the equivalent notes are E, E, Eb, which leads down to a D note.)
In the event that 2 breaks are played back to back, be careful not to start into the second break a measure too early: allow the first break to end with a complete 5 measure line: 55511.
When playing Handsome Molly in a version that uses a 55511 line for the last line of a chorus or verse occurring before a break, just simply insert a 1 measure fillin lick between the last syllable of the chorus and your three pickup notes, and this will make it clear where your break has started within this form.
When played in the key of A, the first (full) measure of the melody [of A Memory Of You] begins with a C# note. On the Jim & Jesse recording [https://www.idahobluegrassassociation.org/beginner-jam/category/a-memory-of-you ], Jesse uses the following three pickup notes to lead into the C# note to start his intro break on the mandolin: E, F#, A, played as quarter notes. (Compare this with the similar - key of B equivalent - but more elaborate pickup measure, used at the beginning of the banjo intro break on the Bobby Hicks and Friends live performance of A Memory Of You.)
Other songs that, when played in the key of A, have a C# as the first melody note in their first (full) measure, and for which this same pickup phrase will work well, include:
All The Good Times Are Passed And Gone
Beautiful Brown Eyes
Blue Ridge Cabin Home
I'll Fly Away
Leaning On The Everlasting Arms
My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains
Hand Me Down My Walking Cane
I Still Write Your Name In The Sand
Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms
Ashes Of Love
Transposed to each of the 7 other Major keys that songs may be played in at the jam, the pickup phrase and the note it leads to become:
key of G:
D, E, G, leading to a B note
key of Bb:
F, G, Bb, leading to a D note
key of B:
F#, G#, B, leading to a D# note
key of C:
G, A. C, leading to an E note
key of D
A. B. D, leading to an F# note
key of E:
B, C#, E, leading to a G# note
key of F:
C, D, F, leading to an A note
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