New River Train
The song of the week is 'New River Train' in the key of F.
The Monroe Brothers - key of D
Tony Rice and Norman Blake - key of D
The White Brothers - key of E
Roland White - key of E (New River Train ends at 2:28)
The chord progression for New River Train is:
This is Prog. W2 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout.
In the key of F: 1=F, 4=Bb, 5=C.
In the key of E: 1=E, 4=A, 5=B.
In the key of D: 1=D, 4=G, 5=A.
In the key of C: 1=C, 4=F, 5=G.
This chord progression differs by only one measure from the progression that is used to play 'Mama Don't Allow', 'She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain', 'When The Saints Go Marching In', 'Will You Be Loving Another Man', etc.:
(Prog. V2 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout.)
In order to avoid accidentally playing Progression V2 in place of Progression W2 for New River Train at the jam, some may find it helpful to remind themselves before the song starts that in the last half of the progression for New River Train the 4 chord is followed immediately by the 5 chord (instead of returning to the 1 chord first before going to the 5 chord).
Capo Chart for Guitar and Banjo
1 5 Guitar & Banjo Banjo 5th string tuned to
Key of G G D No capo, play in G G
Key of A A E Capo 2, play as if in G A
Key of Bb Bb F Capo 3, play as if in G Bb (=A#)
Key of B B F# Capo 4, play as if in G B
Key of C C G No capo, play in C G
or Capo 5, play as if in G C
Key of D D A Capo 2, play as if in C A
or No capo, play in D A
Key of E E B Capo 4, play as if in C B
or Capo 2, play as if in D B
Key of F F C Capo 5, play as if in C C
or Capo 3, play as if in D C
For beginner level banjo players, I recommend the 'Capo 3, play as if in D' option for playing New River Train in the key of F. This is why the banjo tab melody sheet in the attachments is written in the key of D.
For guitar players who like to play Carter-style breaks (i.e., melody carried on the lower-pitched strings of the guitar, with strums placed between melody notes: e.g., Tony Rice's opening break on the Blake & Rice recording given here), I recommend the 'Capo 5, play as if in C' option for playing New River Train in F. I have included guitar tab melody sheets in the attachments written in both C and D.
(For a clearer recording of Tony's intro break, check out:
Note for Banjo Players: Tuning the fifth string up to A, Bb, B, and C notes is usually done with the help of either a 5th string capo or spikes. For the A note, the 5th string is capoed or spiked at the 7th fret. For the Bb note, the 5th string is capoed or spiked at the 8th fret. For, the B note, the 5th string is capoed or spiked at the 9th fret. For the C note, the 5th string is capoed or spiked at the 10th fret. For banjo players who use spikes but, like me, do not have 8th and 10th fret spikes, for the Bb note, spike the 5th string at the 7th fret and then manually tune it up a half step to a Bb (A#) note, and for the C note, spike the 5th string at the 9th fret and then manually tune it up a half step higher to a C note.
Caution: If you try to tune the 5th string up to B and C notes without the help of spikes or a 5th string capo, don't be surprised if the string breaks. Even tuning the 5th string up to A and Bb notes without the help of a spike or a 5th string capo can be risky, especially if your strings are old. Also, tuning one string up manually a whole step or more will put the other four strings out of tune enough on most banjos that you will likely need to retune all five strings in order to be reasonably in tune.
Key of F: Tips for Fiddle & Mandolin Players
Some may find it helpful to think of a less familiar key in relation to a more familiar key. One way of approaching playing in F is to think of the key of F in relation to the keys of C and Bb. F and C are closely related keys: they share 6 of their 7 Major Scale notes in common:
F Major Scale: F, G, A, Bb, C, D, E (6 naturals, 1 flat)
C Major Scale: C, D, E, F, G, A, B (7 naturals, 0 flats)
F and Bb are also closely related keys: they also share 6 of their 7 Major Scale notes in common:
F Major Scale: F, G, A, Bb, C, D, E (6 naturals, 1 flat)
Bb Major Scale: Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, A (5 naturals, 2 flats)
The same is true of any two keys that are separated from each other by an interval of a perfect 5th or a perfect 4th.
The keys of F and C share two of their 1,4,and 5 chords in common:
1 4 5
Key of F: F Bb C
Key of C: C F G
The key of Bb also shares two of its 1,4, and 5 chords in common with the key of F:
1 4 5
Key of F: F Bb C
Key of Bb: Bb Eb F
(Bb and C, on the other hand, are not closely related keys. They are separated from each other by a whole step, an interval of a major 2nd. They share only 5 of their 7 Major Scale notes, and only one of their 1,4, and 5 chords, in common with each other.)
The melody of New River Train uses the first six notes of the Major Scale. In ascending order of pitch, these notes are:
1 2 3 4 5 6
do re mi fa sol la
Key of A: A B C# D E F#
Key of Bb: Bb C D Eb F G
Key of B: B C# D# E F# G#
Key of C: C D E F G A
Key of D: D E F# G A B
Key of E: E F# G# A B C#
Key of F: F G A Bb C D
Key of G: G A B C D E
Other songs on the main list and additional songs list for the beginner jam that use the same set of notes for their melodies are: 'Beautiful Brown Eyes', 'Way Down Town', 'O Susanna', and 'You Are My Sunshine'.
The same sets of pickup notes that will work to start into a break for My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains, Beautiful Brown Eyes, and I'll Fly Away, will also work to lead into a break for New River Train. Refer back to the 'Pickup Notes' sections in the song of the week write-ups for My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains and I'll Fly Away:
However, on banjo, these sets of pickups would only work for a melody-based break played out of D if one were to raise the melody notes an octave higher than how they are written on the attached melody sheet.
When playing a break in the low register of the banjo out of D (capo 2 for E, capo 3 for F), I usually use one or the other of the following alternative sets of pickups: 1) D, E, F, leading to the F# note that the melody starts with; or 2) F#, G, G#, leading to an A note, treating the first measure of the melody as though it consisted of nothing but A notes.
Very often I use these same pickup note options for New River Train on the other instruments I play. In each of the 8 keys that New River Train may be played in at the jam, the notes for the first option are:
1 2 b3 leading to 3
Key of G: G A Bb B
Key of A: A B C C#
Key of Bb: Bb C Db D
Key of B: B C# D D#
Key of C: C D Eb E
Key of D: D E F F#
Key of E: E F# G G#
Key of F: F G Ab A
For the second option, refer back to the 'Pickups into Breaks' section in the song of the week write-up for Bury Me Beneath The Willow:
Fill-in Licks in Breaks and Backup
There are three 'dead spots' in the melody of New River Train that last long enough for a fill-in lick to be played in them. These spots are in measures 3 to 4 of lines 1, 2, and 4. In lines 1 and 4, the dead spots occur while a 1 chord is called for in the progression, while in line 2, the dead spot occurs while a 5 chord is called for in the progression.
In the attachments, I have included F and C chord fill-in licks for fiddle and mandolin, for F and C are the 1 and 5 chords for the key of F. Notes in parentheses are not part of the fill-in lick proper and may be omitted or replaced with another note.
To show how one might get in and out of these fill-in licks in the context of playing a break, or playing backup, I have included in the attachments a sample mandolin break and a mandolin backup part. I recommend that fiddle, guitar, and banjo players, not just mandolin players, take a look at these mandolin tabs, for even if you do not read mandolin tab, so as to be able to decipher what notes are represented on the tab, you can still see the time values of the notes, and where within the measures and in the lines of the progression the fill-ins occur, so as to draw the application to the instrument that you play.
I have also included in the attachments, C, G, and D chord fill-in licks for guitar. For those who choose the 'Capo 3, play as if in D' option for playing New River Train in F, the D chord fill-in licks, presented in the context of 2 complete measures of backup playing are for measures 3 and 4 of lines 1 and 4. For those who choose the 'Capo 5, play as if in C' option for playing New River Train in F, the C chord fill-in licks, presented in the context of 2 complete measures of backup playing or a Carter-style break are for measures 3 and 4 of lines 1 and 4, and the G chord fill-in licks, presented in the context of 2 measures of backup playing are for measures 3 and 4 of line 2. (If used in this same spot in the context of a Carter-style break, the first note of the 2 measures would be changed to the open 4th string, since that is the melody note in the song at this point.)
For a D chord fill-in lick on banjo that will work well in both breaks and backup for New River Train in lines 1 and 4, refer back to the attachments in the song of the week write-up for Bury Me Beneath The Willow:
The lyrics of 'New River Train' are quite repetitive and easy to memorize. For this reason, this is one of the songs I recommend learning to sing to those who wish to lead a song at the jam, but do not have much experience yet in doing so. Other songs on the current beginner jam song lists that are fairly easy to memorize include: Mama Don't Allow, My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains, Lonesome Road Blues, Long Journey Home, She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain, This Little Light Of Mine, When The Saints Go Marching In, and Worried Man Blues.
For most of these songs, you need not know any more than three verses (in addition to the chorus for the songs that do have a chorus) in order to be ready to sing and play a complete arrangement of them at the jam. Notice the number of verses sung on each of the recordings of New River Train given here: two (The White Brothers), three (Roland White; Blake & Rice studio recording), four (Blake & Rice live recording), and six (The Monroe Brothers).
In general, the slower that a song is played the more desirable it becomes to limit the number of verses sung. Notice that the version with six verses is played at a faster tempo than the other versions given here.
The set of lyrics I use for the chorus of New River Train are the same as those sung for the first, third, fifth, and sixth choruses on the Monroe Brothers recording.
16 songs were played at the jam on Thursday: 12 from the main list, and 4 from the additional songs list:
All The Good Times Are Past And Gone - A
Beautiful Brown Eyes - G
Blue Ridge Cabin Home - A
Buffalo Gals (played twice) - A
Bury Me Beneath The Willow - G
Cripple Creek - A
Foggy Mountain Top - G
I'll Fly Away - G
Little Birdie - Bb
My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains - G
New River Train - F
Soldier's Joy - D
Long Journey Home - B
Old Joe Clark - A
This Land Is Your Land - G
Tom Dooley - D
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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