Down The Road
The song of the week is 'Down The Road' in the key of B.
Flatt and Scruggs - key of B (studio recording)
The Bluegrass Album Band - key of B
Flatt and Scruggs - key of A (live recording)
Jason Homey & The Snake River Boys - key of B (starts at 0:34)
Jason Homey and the Snake River Boys, IBA Open Mic, 6_25_19 - YouTube
Here are four youtube jam videos I have made for Down The Road.
Jason’s YouTube Links – Alphabetical Listing – Parisology (cyberplasm.com)
The form of this song is unusual. Except for the last verse of the song (which has a common 8-measure form: 2 lines consisting of 4 measures each: this does not include the two-measure tack-on 'shave-and-a-haircut' ending that follows the last verse), the form for Down The Road consists of 2 lines of unequal length. The first line is the standard four measures that lines in most bluegrass songs consist of, but the second line is five-and-a-half measures long. This brings us to a total of nine-and-a-half measures.
Add to this the bluegrass tendency to allow one or more extra measures of the 1 chord to go by at the end of a break that occurs right before a verse is sung, and you can end up with ten-and-a-half, or eleven-and-a-half measures, or more, for the length of a break that occurs before a verse.
Notice that on the first Flatt & Scruggs recording given here, the breaks are consistently ten-and-a-half measures long, while on the second recording, even more measures are added to the end of the breaks, but not always the same number of extra measures. However, and this is important to observe, on all the recordings, all the sung verses that are followed by a break are exactly the same length: nine-and-a-half measures. One way to think about this is that the number of beats that go by between the last sung syllable and the first full measure of the break that follows is always the same.
Not counting extra measures of the '1' that might occur at the end of some of the breaks, the chord progression for Down The Road is:
1 1/6m 1 5/1
1 1/6m 1 5 1 1
The 'half' measure in the form occurs in the spot where the 5 chord is played in the second line.
If one is counting the beats in the second line in cut common time (2/2), one would count it as: 1,2,1,2,1,2,1,1,2.1,2. Notice the spot where there are two 1s back to back without a 2 intervening between them. On the sheet music provided here in the files at the bottom of this song of the week write-up (see the file labeled as 'Down The Road - melody in B'), I have written the 'half' measure (measure 8) with a time signature of 1/2. And then to indicate that the remaining two measures in the form return to 2/2, I have placed the time signature symbol that represents 2/2 at the beginning of the measure that follows the 1/2 time measure.)
The progression for the last verse is:
1 1/6m 1 5/1
1 1/6m 1 5/1
after which a 2-measure ending lick is played on the banjo.
In the key of B: 1=B; 6m=G#m; 5=F#
The B (major) chord consists of the notes: BD#F#
The G#m chord consists of the notes: G#BD# (it has two notes in common with the B major chord)
The F# (major) chord consists of the notes: F#A#C#
Banjo and guitar players should capo to the 4th fret, and then play as if in G. In the key of G: 1=G; 6m=Em; 5=D
For chop chords on the mandolin for the key of B: move the chop chords you use for the key of A two frets higher and you will be playing in B.
In ascending order of pitch, the notes that make up the melody of Down The Road are:
5 6 1 2 3
sol la do re mi
Key of G: D E G A B
Key of A: E F# A B C#
Key of Bb: F G Bb C D
Key of B: F# G# B C# D#
Key of C: G A C D E
Key of D: A B D E F#
Key of E: B C# E F# G#
Key of F: C D F G A
The starting note of the melody is the 1st note of the scale (do): the note that has the same name as the key that the song is being played in.
When you look at the sheet music files for Down The Road at the end of this write-up, observe that the first measure of the break begins two measures from the time that the last syllable of the verse is sung. Another way of looking at this is that there are two measures of the 1 chord that are played at the end of the verse before the break begins. If enough of us make it a point to observe and practice this, this will go a long way towards minimizing the confusion that can easily result (due to the unusual form of the song) when Down The Road is played at a jam.
There are two things that one can do to help prevent confusion about when the break begins (i.e., when the form starts over again):
1) Use three quarter-note pickup notes for leading into your break: F#, G#, A# (leads to a B note) for the key of B. The corresponding notes for the key of G are D, E, F# (leads to a G note).
Dig into your three pickup notes really hard so as to draw attention to yourself, and then dig into the note that comes next (namely, the first note of the first measure of your break) even harder so that there can be no room for doubt as to where the first measure of the form begins. These three pickup notes should be played during the last three-quarters of the last measure of the form, and they should be spaced apart from each other evenly.
Breaks & Backup
2) Play a fill-in lick in the measure that contains the last syllable of the verse, and end that fill-in lick on the first downbeat of the next measure. Bring your volume up as soon as after the last syllable is sung, and hit the last note of your fill-in lick really hard (make it 'pop', especially if you are playing a G run on the guitar: the fill-in licks for guitar that are given in the files at the end of this write-up represent three different versions of what is commonly called 'the G-run'). This makes it clear as to where the last measure of the form begins - which is helpful to make clear on account of the half measure that the form contains in its second line, after which some people may find the beat 'flipped around' in their head and/or in their playing. The first of the three pickup notes into the break begin right after the last note of the fill-in lick is played. But, on banjo, and especially on guitar, it is good to play a fill-in lick at the end of the progression for every break and every verse, except for the last verse, and not just when a banjo or guitar break is going to occur next in the arrangement of the song.
For the last verse, which is eight measures long, rather than nine-and-a-half, it works best if everyone plays their last note at the same time as the last syllable is sung (as on the standard recordings given here). Then the banjo players can add a two measure tack-on ending lick appropriate for the 1 chord of the song (doesn't have to be the same ones that are on the recordings) that everyone else remains silent on except for the on the very last note of the ending.
This kind of ending is a single ending, for it consists of only one ending lick, as contrasted with the double endings consisting of two ending licks played back to back that are commonly used for AABB-form tunes like Boil The Cabbage Down, Cripple Creek, Old Joe Clark, Liberty, Soldier's Joy, etc. For a single ending, you may use either the first or the second ending lick that your double endings consist of. Refer back to the files in the song of the week write up for Shortnin' Bread for an example of a double ending on the banjo, which can be turned into two ways of playing a single ending.
In the files for the current song of the week write-up (scroll to the bottom of this page), I have included a simplified version of the up-the-neck single ending 'shave-and-a-haircut' licks that are played on the banjo on the recordings for Down The Road given here. This ending lick will also work well for the second half (but not for the first half) of a double ending for tunes in G (and with a capo, also for tunes in A, Bb, B, and C.)
20 songs were played at last night's jam: 14 from the main list, 5 from the additional songs list, and 1 that is on neither list:
Cluck Old Hen - A
Down The Road - B
Foggy Mountain Top - G
Leaning On The Everlasting Arms - A
Liberty - D
Lonesome Road Blues - A
Long Journey Home - B
Mama Don't Allow - A
A Memory Of You - A
Mountain Dew - A
New River Train - F
Nine Pound Hammer - E
Old Joe Clark - A
Wreck Of The Old '97 - D
Bury Me Beneath The Willow - Bb
Columbus Stockade Blues - A
Clinch Mountain Backstep - A
Hand Me Down My Walking Cane - A
Soldier's Joy - D
Lonesome Feeling - G
Down The Road - banjo tab
Down The Road - guitar tab
Down The Road - mandolin tab (B)
Down The Road - melody in B
Down The Road - fill-in licks (B)
Shave-And-A-Haircut Single Ending on Banjo
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