The song of the week is 'Little Birdie' in the key of Bb.
Red Smiley - key of A
Little Birdie - YouTube
Jason Homey & The Snake River Boys - key of Bb (song starts at 15:55)
The Stanley Brothers - key of Eb
Lonesome River Band - key of B
Here are four youtube jam videos I have made for Little Birdie. I recommend starting with the one listed first. In that one, I am on guitar, and am playing the song in the key of Bb.
Jason’s YouTube Links – Alphabetical Listing – Parisology (cyberplasm.com)
The chord progression I use for Little Birdie is;
On the Basic Chord Progressions handout, this is the first half of Progression V9 (or Progression W9) played through twice.
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 Eb Eb Bb Capo 3, play as if in C Bb (=A#)
or Capo 1, play as if in D Bb (=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
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.
On the Red Smiley recording, half a measure of the 5 chord is deleted from the last line of the progression during the banjo break.
On the Stanley Brothers recording, lines 1 and 3 of the verses are lengthened sometimes to six and half measures, and at other times to seven measures, with the last three of the measures being where the 5 chord is played. Line 2 of each verse is six measures long: 551111. The first and fourth verses are twenty-three measures long, the second verse is twenty-four measures long, and the third verse is twenty-three-and-a-half measures long.
On the Lonesome River Band recording, lines 1 and 3 of the progression are five measures long: 11155 (instead of 1155).
Key of Bb: 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 Bb is to think of the key of Bb in relation to the key of A. Bb is a half-step higher than A. Therefore, if one raises by a half-step all the notes of the A major scale, or all of the notes of a melody played in A, this will result in playing in the key of Bb:
The corresponding notes of the A and Bb Major Scales are as follows:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
A Major Scale: A B C# D E F# G#
Bb Major Scale: Bb C D Eb F G A
For mandolin players who play closed position chords (no open strings being played), this way of approaching playing in less familiar keys can be especially useful. For instance, to find the 1, 4, and 5 chords for the key of Bb (Bb. Eb, and F), one can just simply take the chord shapes that one uses for the 1, 4, and 5 chords for the key of A (A, D, E) and move them up one fret higher, knowing that this will result in the corresponding 1, 4, and 5 chords for the key of Bb. The same principle applies also to closed-position (no open strings) double stops on mandolin and fiddle.
Fill-in Licks in Backup & Breaks
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 files at the bottom of this write-up, 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 Little Birdie when the song is played in the key of Bb. These same licks are also good to use in measures 3 to 4 of lines 2 and 4 of your breaks.
On the 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 measure 2 of lines 2 and 4 may lead you more naturally to play the open 3rd string at the beginning of measure 3 of those lines 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.
20 songs were played at last night's jam: 16 from the main list, 3 from the additional songs list, and 1 that is on neither list:
All The Good Times Are Past And Gone - C
Beautiful Brown Eyes - G
Blue Ridge Cabin Home - A
Boil The Cabbage Down - A
Buffalo Gals - A
Bury Me Beneath The Willow - G
Cripple Creek - A
Foggy Mountain Top - G
Gathering Flowers From The Hillside - G
I'll Fly Away - G
Little Birdie - Bb
Mama Don't Allow - A
A Memory Of You - A
New River Train - D
Shortnin' Bread - G
Soldier's Joy - D
Angeline The Baker - D
Hand Me Down My Walking Cane - A
Old Joe Clark - A
John Henry - D
Little Birdie - Melody in Bb
Little Birdie - Mandolin tab in Bb
Little Birdie - Banjo tab G (Capo 3)
Little Birdie - Guitar tab G (Capo 3)
Bb chord fill-in licks