Foggy Mountain Top
The song of the week is 'Foggy Mountain Top' in the key of G.
Earl Taylor & Jim McCall - key of G
Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, & Ricky Skaggs - key of G
Jason Homey & The Snake River Boys - key of G (starts at 15:36)
Jason Homey and the Snake River Boys, IBA Open Mic, 6_25_19 - YouTube
Here are three youtube jam videos I have made for Foggy Mountain Top. I recommend starting with the one listed first. (Go to the 7:29 mark in the video.) In that one, I am on guitar.
Jason’s YouTube Links – Alphabetical Listing – Parisology (cyberplasm.com)
The chord progression for Foggy Mountain Top is:
This is Prog. V6 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout.
In the key of G: 1=G, 4=C, 5=D.
Other songs that use this same progression include:
All The Good Times Are Past And Gone
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (some versions)
Light At The River
Live And Let Live
I'll Never Shed Another Tear
On And On
Why You Been Gone So Long
Why Should We Try Anymore
Additionally, there are many songs that use this progression for their verses, but use a different progression for their chorus (in most cases, the closely related Prog. X6).
Here are a few examples:
Little Cabin Home On The Hill
Before I Met You
Cabin In Caroline
Gonna Settle Down
Little Girl Of Mine In Tennessee
Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane
Hallelujah, I'm Ready To Go
Lovesick And Sorrow
Memories Of You (also known as 'The Old Swinging Bridge')
Compare the progression for Foggy Mountain Top (V6) with the progression for another one of the songs on the main list, 'Bury Me Beneath The Willow':
Notice how similar these two progressions are. They differ from each other only in two of their measures, namely the last measure of line 1 and last measure of line 3.
Part of the practical value of observing how certain commonly recurring progressions are similar and different from each other is that by taking note of this, one can help oneself to avoid certain common mistakes.
In my years of jamming experience, I have noticed that a lot of people seem to be more familiar with prog. V7 than with prog. V6. At large jams, when a song that uses prog. V6 is played, I have found that it is typical to find at least one person playing prog. V7 for the first round or two through the progression. I count this as being one of the top half dozen or so errors involving wrong chord changes that occur at jams. Yet, the opposite case - namely, someone playing Prog. V6 during a song that uses Prog. V7 - rarely ever occurs at jams.
Another way to put this is that when the first three measures are 114, there is a tendency to assume that the fourth measure will stay on the 4 instead of going back to the 1.
This assumption should be avoided, because songs with the 'Foggy Mountain Top' (V6) progression are very common in bluegrass, even if not quite as common as songs with the 'Bury Me Beneath The Willow' (V7) progression.
On the Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, and Ricky Skaggs recording of Foggy Mountain Top, notice Doc's choice of pickup notes to lead into the first complete measure of his intro break 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 Foggy Mountain Top melody sheets at the bottom of this write-up.
1 3 4 leading to 5
do mi fa leading to sol
Key of G: G B C D
Key of A: A C# D E
Key of Bb: Bb D Eb F
Key of B: B D# E F#
Key of C: C E F G
Key of D: D F# G A
Key of E: E G# A B
Key of F: F A Bb C
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 bluegrass records as pickups to lead into a melody line that starts with a D note on a G chord. These are the very first notes played on the banjo on the other two recordings provided here for Foggy Mountain Top (a D note is played along with each of the chromatically ascending pickup notes, which is typical on banjo). These are the same pickup notes I recommended for starting breaks for Bury Me Beneath The Willow in the song of the week write up for that song. Refer back to the section on 'Pickups into Breaks' in that write up:
Beginner Bluegrass Jam Songs - Idaho Bluegrass Association
The places in the Foggy Mountain Top progression where it works well to play a fill-in lick in breaks and in backup playing are exactly the same as the places in the Bury Me Beneath The Willow progression where it works well to play a fill-in lick. Refer back to the attachments and the section on 'Fill-in Licks' in the song of the week write up for Bury Me Beneath The Willow:
Beginner Bluegrass Jam Songs - Idaho Bluegrass Association
On the melody sheets for Foggy Mountain Top provided at the bottom of this write-up, notice that during the 5 chord measures in line 2 of the progression, the main melody note that is dwelt on is the second note of the Major Scale.
2nd note of the Major Scale (re)
5 Chord (the fifth of the 5 chord)
Key of G: D A
Key of A: E B
Key of Bb: F C
Key of B: F# C#
Key of C: G D
Key of D: A E
Key of E: B F#
Key of F: C G
This is extremely common in songs that have 1155 as the second line of their progression. Other songs on the current main list and additional songs list in which this happens are All The Good Times Are Past And Gone (Prog. V6), Beautiful Brown Eyes (Prog. W7), Bury Me Beneath The Willow (Prog. V7), Gathering Flowers From The Hillside (Prog. V1), Mama Don't Allow (Prog. V2), New River Train (Prog. W2), The Crawdad Song (Prog. V2), I'll Still Write Your Name In The Sand (Prog. V7), Little Cabin Home On The Hill (Prog. V6 + X6), A Memory Of You (Prog. V7), Red River Valley (Prog. V2 or W2), She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain (Prog. V2), When The Saints Go Marching In (Prog. V2), and Will You Be Loving Another Man (Prog. V2). The two exceptions to this are Amazing Grace (Prog. V6) and Wreck Of The Old '97 (Prog. V7)
Lyrics & Arrangement
There are two verses sung for Foggy Mountain Top on the Earl Taylor and Jim McCall recording. There are four verses sung for the song on the Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, and Ricky Skaggs recording. In the four verse version of the song, the verses in the two verse version occur as verses 1 and 3.
Most times when I have sung Foggy Mountain Top at the jams, I have used only the first 3 verses of the four verse version. But, no matter how few or how many verses I end up singing, I almost always have had the song start as: break, chorus, break, verse 1, chorus, etc. (like on the Earl Taylor and Jim McCall recording, and on the Snake River Boys recording), rather than as: break, verse 1, chorus, break, verse 2, etc.
The melody sheets provided at the bottom of this write-up show the standard set of lyrics for the chorus.
Since the starting note for the melody of the chorus is the fifth of the 1 chord (a D note when in the key of G), the starting note for the tenor harmony is the root note of the 1 chord (a G note when in the key of G), and the starting note for the baritone harmony is the third of the 1 chord (a B note when in the key of G).
The last note for the tenor harmony is the third of the 1 chord (sung a minor sixth lower than the starting note of the tenor harmony), and the last note for the baritone harmony is the fifth of the 1 chord (sung a major sixth lower than the starting note of the baritone harmony), for, as in the vast majority of songs, the melody ends with the root note of the 1 chord.
The Carter Family
A good number of songs that are now in the standard bluegrass repertoire were recorded by the Carter Family in the 1920's, 30's, and early 40's before Bluegrass music, in the generally accepted sense of the term, came into being, and their recordings of these songs directly influenced the first and second generation bluegrass artists who brought these songs into Bluegrass. (Both Flatt & Scruggs and Ralph Stanley, for instance, have recorded entire albums consisting of nothing but Carter Family songs, and there are many, many more of these songs scattered here and there on their other albums.)
The 'pre-Bluegrass' music of the Carter Family bears a similar relation to Bluegrass as what the music of Woody Guthrie has to the 'Pop-Folk' music genre of the 60s. So, for historical reasons, and because I believe that familiarity with the music of the Carter Family is an important part of a well-rounded Bluegrass education, here is a link to the old Carter Family recording of Foggy Mountain Top:
Other Carter Family songs that are on the current main list and additional songs list include:
Bury Me Beneath The Willow (the very first song that the Carters recorded)
Gathering Flowers From The Hillside
My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains
Will The Circle Be Unbroken (there were earlier recorded versions, but they did not have much influence on how this song is played as a Bluegrass song compared to the Carter Family's version)
Gold Watch And Chain
Worried Man Blues
16 songs were played at last night's jam: 9 from the main list, 2 from the additional songs list, and 5 that are on neither list:
Boil The Cabbage Down - A
Bury Me Beneath The Willow - A
Cripple Creek - A
Down The Road - A
Foggy Mountain Top - G
I'll Fly Away - G
New River Train - F
Soldier's Joy - D
Will The Circle Be Unbroken - G
Lonesome Road Blues - G
Old Joe Clark - A
Away In A Manger - G
Good King Wenceslas - A
Silent Night - C
Little Elf Joe - A
Hand Me Down My Walking Cane - A
Foggy Mountain Top - Banjo tab
Foggy Mountain Top - Guitar tab
Foggy Mountain Top - Mandolin tab
Foggy Mountain Top - Melody in G
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