Starting next week, the current beginner bluegrass jam will enter into a new phase, in which it is likely that certain songs played during the first half of the evening at the jam will be called in a wider variety of keys than what was the case during the initial phase of the jam (Sept. - Dec. 2021).
New Song Lists
Included in the attachments are two new song lists for the jam which are intended to replace the main list and additional songs list that we have used for the jam during the past four months.
The first list (titled 'Beginner Bluegrass Jam - Jan. - Mar. 15, 2022 - Main List') consists of 14 songs that were on the previous main song list, plus 6 songs that were on the previous additional songs list. This list of 20 songs is the list that we will play from for the first half of the evening.
Notice that, unlike on the previous main list, keys for songs that are sung at the jam (as distinguished from instrumentals) are placed in parentheses, just like on the additional songs lists. This is because, from now on, I will be welcoming others to lead the singing on songs played during the first half of the evening, and I will be expecting those who choose to do so to select the key that best suits their voice of the 8 keys that we make use of at the beginner jam: A, Bb, B, C, D, E, F, and G. The keys in parentheses simply refer to the keys that the songs will be played in when I am leading the singing on the songs. They are not intended to function as suggested keys for another person to lead the singing on the songs in, unless, of course, that person happens to have the same vocal range as me.
The second list (titled 'Beginner Bluegrass Jam - Jan. - Mar. 15 - Additional Songs') serves the same purpose as the previous Additional Songs list, namely, that when taken together with the Main List, this list is there to help to give a clearer idea of what kinds of songs are most appropriate to introduce into the beginner jam in its current phase.
Also included in the attachments is the Basic Chord Progressions handout that the song lists are keyed to, and Nashville Number System charts for converting the number names of chords to their letter names for the keys that songs are played in at the jam. No changes have been made to these handouts.
Song of the Week
The song of the week is 'Soldier's Joy' in the key of D.
Soldier's Joy is one of the more popular traditional fiddle tunes in Bluegrass circles, but one will hear it played not only at Bluegrass jams, but also at Old-Time jams, at square dances, contradances, and even sometimes at Irish sessions.
Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys (guitar & fiddle breaks) (starts at 3:50) - key of D
Larry Rice and the Bottom Dollar Boys (mandolin, fiddle, Scruggs-style banjo: tuned GCGBD, capo 2, & guitar breaks) - key of D
Earl Scruggs & John McEuen: a good example of Scruggs-style banjo and Clawhammer banjo being played together. Scruggs' banjo is tuned GCGBD; John McEuen's banjo is tuned GCGCE. Note: since there is no fiddle or mandolin here, they get away with playing Soldier's Joy in C (no capo) instead of D (capo 2).
Jason Homey & The Snake River Boys (fiddle, mostly Scruggs-style banjo, with a bit of single-string and melodic styles: tuned ADGBD, and guitar breaks) (starts at 7:53) - key of D
Jason Homey and the Snake River boys, IBA Open Mic, 10_22_19 - YouTube
Here are three youtube jam videos I have made for Soldier's Joy. I recommend starting with the one listed first. In that one, I am on guitar.
Jason’s YouTube Links – Alphabetical Listing – Parisology (cyberplasm.com)
Form & Key
Soldier's Joy follows the most typical form for traditional fiddle tunes: AABB (can be thought of as: verse, verse, chorus, chorus, if this helps), with each A-Part and each B-Part being 8 measures long. (Total: 32 measures). Like most traditional fiddle tunes, there is only one key that it is usually played in: in this case 'D'.
The chord progression that we use at the beginner jam for Soldier's Joy is the one that I have heard most frequently at Bluegrass Jams and on Bluegrass recordings of the tune. It is:
1 1 1 5
1 1 1/5 1
(Prog. Y1 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout. This is the same progression that is used to play the A-Parts of Old Joe Clark and O Susanna.)
1 4 1 5
1 4 1/5 1
(Prog. Y7 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout. This is the same progression that is used to play the A-Part of Boil The Cabbage Down.)
In the key of D: 1 = D; 4 = G; 5 = A.
'To capo or not to capo'
Many banjo players and some guitar players prefer to play Soldier's Joy in D by capoing to the 2nd fret and then playing it as if in 'C'. For this reason, I have included both key of D and key of C melody tabs for banjo and guitar in the pdf files at the bottom of this write-up.
If you have the capo on the 2nd fret for playing Soldier's Joy in D, then your chord shapes need to be the same as those for playing in the key of C without a capo: 1=C; 4=F; 5=G.
Note: On banjo, no matter which of these two options you choose: capo 2 or no capo, you will need to raise your 5th string up to an A note (i.e., spike/capo your 5th string to the 7th fret) in order to be able to play an effective Scruggs-style or Clawhammer-style break.
Most Scruggs-style banjo players who prefer the capo 2 option tune their 4th string down a whole step so as to retain access to the lowest melody note in the tune when playing within the first 5 frets. (This is called 'C tuning': without the capo the 4th string will be tuned down to a C note. With the capo on the 2nd fret, the 4th string will then register as a D note when not fretted. See the pdf file at the bottom of this write-up: 'BBJ - Soldier's Joy - banjo tab C tuning'.)
Most clawhammer banjo players play Soldier's Joy either by tuning to Double C tuning: GCGCD or Open C tuning: GCGCE, and then capo to the 2nd fret in order to be playing in D. I have included a Double C tuning banjo melody tab in the pdf files.
8 Potato Intros
Since the most effective way to start most fiddle tunes at a jam is by playing an 8 potato intro before starting into the first A-Part of your intro break, I have included a file at the end of this write-up that gives 8 potato intros suitable for Soldier's Joy and most other key of D fiddle tunes, for fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and banjo.
An 8 potato intro, reduced to its most basic form, essentially consists of droning the note that has the same name as the key of the tune in a highly rhythmic fashion for 4 measures. Accenting the first pickstroke (or, on fiddle, bowstroke) of each measure of the intro is crucial to an effective 8 potato intro, so as to make it unmistakably clear where each of the measures that make up the intro begin and end; it also helps to accent the first pickstroke/bowstroke of the second half of each measure, but this accent should not be quite as heavy as the accent on the beginning of the measure.
Choose a version of the 8 potato intro that works for you, but don't wait until you are at the jam to 'practice' it. Make it a habit to always start most of your fiddle tunes with 8 potato intros when you are practicing at home so that you will be better prepared to effectively use 8 potato intros when playing with others.
If you have pickup notes leading into the first complete measure of your break, you must cut the 8 potato intro short by playing the pickup notes in place of the corresponding part of the last measure of the 8 potato intro, so that you end up with exactly 4 measures worth of music, no more and no less, before the first full measure of your intro break starts.
For most songs that use a progression that ends with two measures of the 1 chord (e.g., songs that use any of the progressions in row V, W, or X on the basic chord progressions chart), it is common for a two-measure ending lick to be played on one or more of the instruments over the last two measures of the progression to end the song. Most AABB tunes, however, do not use progressions that end with two measures of the 1 chord, and the last melody note in their parts almost always occurs at either the beginning or in the middle of the last measure of the progression, rather than at the beginning of the second to last measure of the progression. For these reasons, ending licks for AABB fiddle tunes almost always are played after the last measure of the final B-Part rather than during the tail-end of the final B-Part.
In the files at the bottom of this write-up, I have included examples of double-endings for fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and banjo suitable for most key of D fiddle tunes. These are called 'double endings', for they consist of two 2-measure length ending licks played back to back.
At the beginner jams, what tends to happen most often, and usually works better than some of the other options, is for everyone who wishes to play a double ending to do so, regardless of which instrument section played the last break, while the rest of the players play nothing during the double ending, except on the last note of the ending.
What is played on the last note of the ending by the backup instruments typically includes things such as a single strum on the 1 chord (good for guitars and mandolins, and sometimes for banjos), the root note of the 1 chord being played by itself (especially good on the bass and in the low register of the fiddle), a double stop consisting of two notes of the 1 chord (especially good for fiddles), and a three-note pinch on banjo consisting of notes of the 1 chord.
Soldier's Joy is one of those tunes which - in one and the same version - is often played both with so many melody notes that there is little room left for additional 'filler' notes (i.e., as many as 8 melody notes per measure), and with the bare minimum of melody notes necessary to retain the identity of the tune (no more than 3 or 4 melody notes per measure).
In my years of experience with listening to hundreds of versions of this tune and playing it in a wide variety of jam situations, I have found that in playing Soldier's Joy, Bluegrass and Irish fiddlers and melodic (Keith) style banjo players tend towards trying to squeeze in as many melody notes as possible, while Scruggs-style and Clawhammer banjo players and Dobro players tend to play as few melody notes as necessary. Old-Time fiddlers, mandolin players, and flatpickers tend to fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
For fiddle, mandolin, and guitar, I have included in the attachments melody tabs with 'few melody notes' and melody tabs with 'more melody notes'.
The interval between the lowest pitched melody note and the highest pitched melody note for Soldier's Joy is wider than for any other song on the current beginner jam song lists. There are only two other songs on the lists that come close to having such a wide melodic range, and both of these are AABB form fiddle tunes: Cripple Creek and Liberty.
In ascending order of pitch, the melody notes for Soldier's Joy are:
do re mi fa sol la ti do re mi fa sol la
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8(1) 9(2) 10(3) 11(4) 12(5) 13(6)
Key of D: D E F# G A B C# D E F# G A B
Key of C: C D E F G A B C D E F G A
The notes in italics are absent from some versions of the melody.
In some versions the highest note of A-Part is 10(3), whereas in other versions the highest note of the A-Part is 12(5). In the B-Part, the lowest melody note is 5, which is in contrast with the A-Part which consists mostly of notes 1,2,3, and 5, thereby making the B-Part the overall higher pitched part of the two parts that make up the tune.
Notice where repetitions occur within the melody. These are all fairly typical for AABB form fiddle tunes in which each part is 8 measures long. There are not only several measures in the tune which are identical with at least one other measure in the tune, there are also, in some versions of the melody, halves of measures that are identical with other halves of measures.
If you are not ready for a 'more melody notes' type version, then, to the extent that you are able to, try to add some filler notes to a 'few melody notes' version.
Even for the 'more melody notes' versions, it is desirable to add filler notes in at least some spots so as to avoid playing half notes. Whenever you play a half note (or a note or even longer duration) in a break, you are decreasing your degree of control over the tempo and feel of the tune at that point.
I have not included 'more melody notes' tabs for banjo, since that would take us well beyond Scruggs-style and traditional Clawhammer banjo into the realm of Melodic and Single-string style playing. If you are a three-finger style player, fill in the blanks with the Scruggs-style picking patterns you know how to play when these are feasible to use around the melody. If you are a clawhammer player, fill in the blanks with 'bum-ditty' figures and - if this is part of your playing - a few rhythmic drop-thumb figures here and there when they fit.
18 songs were played at last night's jam: 13 from the main list, 4 from the additional songs list, and 1 that is on neither list:
Beautiful Brown Eyes - G
Blue Ridge Cabin Home - A
Boil The Cabbage Down - A
Bury Me Beneath The Willow - B
Cripple Creek - A
Foggy Mountain Top - G
Gathering Flowers From The Hillside - G
I'll Fly Away - G
Mama Don't Allow - A
Nine Pound Hammer - B
Soldier's Joy - D
Way Down Town - E
Will The Circle Be Unbroken - G
Angeline The Baker - D
In The Pines - E
Liberty - D
This Land Is Your Land - G
Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms - A
Have a happy New Year!,
Soldier's Joy - banjo tab - C tuning
Soldier's Joy - banjo tab - D
Soldier's Joy - banjo tab - Double C tuning (for Clawhammer)
Soldier's Joy - guitar tab - C - few notes
Soldier's Joy - guitar tab - C - more notes
Soldier's Joy - guitar tab - D - few notes
Soldier's Joy - guitar tab - D - more notes
Soldier's Joy - mandolin tab - few notes
Soldier's Joy - mandolin tab - more notes
Soldier's Joy - melody in D - few notes
Soldier's Joy - melody in D - more notes
8 Potato Intro in D
Double endings in D