The song of the week (for the beginner jam on Jan. 2) is 'I'll Fly Away' in the key of G.
Del McCoury Band - key of Bb
Alison Krauss & Gillian Welch - key of D
Bill Evans, Jason Homey, Janet Beasley, & Gary Eller - key of A (starts at 0:51)
The first and third recordings come closer than what the second does to how I'll Fly Away has usually been played and sung at the jam, both in terms of where the breaks occur in the song, and the vocal harmony arrangement.
The chord progression for I'll Fly Away is:
This is Progression V3 on the 'Basic Chord Progressions' handout, and is the same progression that is used for 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken', 'Mountain Dew', 'Cryin' Holy' 'When My Time Comes To Go', the chorus of 'It's Mighty Dark To Travel', some versions of 'Sitting On Top Of The World', and many other songs.
Since 13 out of the 16 measures of this progression consist of 1's, memorizing the progression need not involve anything more than just remembering the location of the 4's and the location of the 5 within the progression.
In the key of G: 1 = G, 4 = C, 5=D. For the 1, 4, and 5 chords for each of the other 7 keys that the song may be played in at the jam, refer to the beginner jam Nashville Number Charts handout included in the attachments.
While the chord progression is the same for both the verse and the chorus of I'll Fly Away, the melody of the chorus differs from the melody of the verse. The spots that differ are the whole first line, and on the Del McCoury Band recording, and in the way that I have sung the chorus at the jams, also in the first two measures of the 3rd line. ('When I die': the ascending sequence of D, E, and G notes when in the key of G, instead of the descending sequence of B, G, and D notes that the 3rd line of the verse melody begins with.)
In ascending order of pitch, when played and sung in G, the notes that make up the melody for the verses are: D, E, G, A, B, C, and the notes that make up the melody for the chorus are: D, E, G, A, B, C, D, with the high D note being the note that the chorus starts on. To see what these notes would be for the 7 other keys that I'll Fly Away may be played in at the jam, refer to the Nashville Number System Charts handout in the attachments, notes 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 4 on the larger of the two charts.
In the attachments, I have provided the verse melody as a guide for creating melody-based breaks for each of the instruments; but since the progression is the same for both the verse and the chorus, if you know the chorus melody and would like to play a break that is based upon the chorus melody instead of the verse melody, feel free to do so, just not at the beginning of the song for the intro break. This can make the song a bit more interesting, especially when two breaks are played back to back, or after several breaks have been already been played in the song that have been based upon the verse melody, and it will work in the context of the collective breaks that we play at the beginner jam, since the chorus melody is for the most part harmonious with the verse melody.
Here is an instrumental recording of I'll Fly Away that contains both verse and chorus breaks on each instrument: banjo (key of G), guitar (key of C), fiddle (key of F), mandolin (key of Bb), dobro (key of Eb), banjo (key of G):
Bluegrass '96 - Scott Vestal, Aubrey Haynie, Wayne Benson, Jeff Autry, Rob Ickes, & Mark Schatz
I welcome harmony singers to sing not only on the choruses, but also on the second and fourth lines of the verses (the 'I'll Fly Aways'), like on the first and third recordings given here. Please remember though that when singing harmony, it is important to be focused on the lead singer as much as possible for the sake of timing, tuning, and phrasing.
In the attachments, I have included a simple three part harmony arrangement for the choruses (the notes for the 'I'll Fly Aways' in the verses are identical with the notes for the 'I'll Fly Aways' in the choruses, so I have not included a harmony arrangement for those parts of the verses in the attachments.) There are much more interesting note choices that one could use for the harmony parts than what I have written here, but for the sake of those who are just beginning to learn to sing harmony, I have tried to keep the parts as simple and straightforward as possible.
On the harmony sheet attached here, the notes for the tenor harmony are the highest of the groups of three notes on the staff, the notes for the baritone harmony are the lowest, and the melody is the middle set of notes. If it suits your vocal range better, you may drop the tenor harmony part an octave to create the harmony part that is known in bluegrass as the 'low tenor', or you may raise the baritone harmony an octave higher to create the harmony part that is known in bluegrass as the 'high baritone'.
On the third recording provided here, Bill, Janet, Gary, and I took turns singing the lead on the solo parts (the first and third lines) of the verses, but we each stuck to a given part when singing together on the chorus and on the second and fourth lines of the verses: Bill sang the melody, Janet sang the tenor harmony, I sang the baritone harmony, and Gary sang bass.
On the Del McCoury recording, there are two verses:
1. Some glad morning when this life is over....
2. Just a few more weary days and then....
On the Alison Krauss & Gillian Welch recording, there are four verses:
1. Some bright morning when this life is o'er....
2. When the shadows of this life have gone....
3. Oh how glad and happy when we meet....
4. Just a few more weary days and then....
On the Weiser Banjo Camp 2016 Instructors Concert recording, there are four verses that are essentially the same as the four on the preceding recording, but the order of the middle two verses is inverted:
Bill: Some glad morning when this life is o'er....
Jason: Oh how glad and happy when we meet....
Janet: When the shadows of this life are gone....
Gary: Just a few more weary days and then....
At the jam, I usually sing three verses:
1. Some glad morning when this life is over....
2. When the shadows of this life have grown....
3. Just a few more weary days and then....
On the rare occasion when I have sung all four verses at the jam, I have usually put them in the same order as on the Gillian Welch & Alison Krauss recording
The third measure of lines 2 and 4 of each verse 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 3 through to the first quarter of measure 4 of lines 2 and 4 of the progression for I'll Fly Away when the song is played in the key of G. These same licks are also good to use in measures 3 to 4 of lines 2 and 4 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 break in measure 2 of line 2 may lead you more naturally to play a D note at the beginning of the next measure rather than a G note, for the D note is the melody note. When this happens, just substitute the D note in place of the G note shown in parentheses on the chart.
If a harmony vocalist fills up the 'dead space' in the melody at the end of the second line of the chorus by singing 'in the morning' (like on two of the three recordings given here) in that spot, then it is best to not play a fill-in lick on the instruments there. This is an instance of what one might call, by way of analogy, a 'vocal fill-in lick'.
For songs like I'll Fly Away that use a progression that ends with two measures of the 1 chord, and in which the last syllable is sung at the beginning of the first of these two measures (which includes the overwhelming majority of the non-instrumental songs on the current main list and additional songs list), it is common for a two-measure ending lick to be played on the instruments during the last two measures of the progression when the song is going to end. In most cases, this means the last two measures of the final chorus (or, for songs that don't have a chorus, the final verse) of the song.
In the attachments, I have included a chart of simple two-measure endings in the key of G for fiddle, mandolin, guitar, banjo, and bass that will work for all of the songs that fit into this category, except for the ones played in 3/4 time.
Notice that the last note played in each of the endings coincides with the beginning of the second half of the last measure. (For 3/4 time songs, appropriate ending licks would have their last note coincide with the beginning of the last measure.)
I'll Fly Away - banjo tab
I'll Fly Away - guitar tab
I'll Fly Away - mandolin tab
I'll Fly Away - melody in G
I'll Fly Away - harmony in G
Endings for most songs in G
G Chord Fill-in Licks
Nashville Number System Charts
Jason's Beginner Jam Blog 2019 - 2021
Weekly on Thursdays
Songs regularly called at Bluegrass Jams and links from Jason's "Song of the Week" emails. (from Renee)
in alphabetical order