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
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