Leaning On The Everlasting Arms
The song of the week is 'Leaning On The Everlasting Arms' in the key of A.
The Grascals - key of G
Solid Blue - key of B
Jason Homey & The Snake River Boys - key of A (starts at 16:28)
Jason Homey and The Snake River Boys, IBA Open Mic, 2_24_20 - YouTube
Here are three youtube jam videos I have made for Leaning On The Everlasting Arms. I recommend starting with the one listed first. In that one, I am on guitar.
Jason’s YouTube Links – Alphabetical Listing – Parisology (cyberplasm.com)
The chord progression that is used on the first recording of Leaning On The Everlasting Arms is:
(In the key of A: 1=A, 4=D, 5=E; In the key of G: 1=G, 4=C, 5=D; In the key of B: 1=B, 4=E, 5=F#.)
On the second recording, the progression is:
On the third recording, and in the jam videos, and in how we have played the song at the jams, the progression is:
All three of these progressions are a bit unusual when compared with the progressions for most of the other 1-4-5 type songs that are regularly played at the jam. The change to the 5 chords in lines 2 and 4 all occur a measure later than what one would ordinarily expect to be the case.
It is for this reason that in some versions of the song, line 4 and sometimes line 2 are played as five measure lines in. For, this allows for these lines to end with two measures of the same chord (just as the typical 1511 and 1155 lines in many other songs do), making time for fill-in licks to be played by the instruments at the ends of the lines, and allowing the singers to catch their breath, since a pause is thereby created in the vocal before the next line starts.
In ascending order of pitch, the notes that make up the melody of Leaning On The Everlasting Arms are:
sol la ti do re mi
5 6 7 1 2 3
Key of G: D E F# G A B
Key of A: E F# G# A B C#
Key of Bb: F G A Bb C D
Key of B: F# G# A# B C# D#
Key of C: G A B C D E
Key of D: A B C# D E F#
Key of E: B C# D# E F# G#
Key of F: C D E F G A
Notice that the 4th note of the Major Scale (fa; a C note when in the key of G, a D note when in the key of A, an Eb note when in the key of Bb, etc.) is absent from the melody.
On the first 4 chord measure in lines 1 and 3 (i.e., measure 3 of lines 1 and 3), the 2nd note of the scale (a B note when in the key of A; an A note when in the key of G, etc.) is dwelt on, even though this note does not belong to the 4 chord. (In the key of A, the 4 chord is a D which consists of the notes D, F#, A; in the key of G, the 4 chord is a C which consists of the notes C, E, G). The melody note, when added to the chord, creates a 6th chord. The melody note is the root note of the relative minor chord of the 4 chord. The relative minor chord of the 4 chord is the 2m chord. (Bm in the key of A; Am in the key of G.) This note (the 6th, relative to the root note of the chord; B relative to D on a D chord, A relative to C on a C chord, etc.) is the fourth most common note for a melody to dwell on. Of all the notes that are other than the 3 notes that make up a major chord, adding the 6 creates the least degree of dissonance with the notes, considered collectively, of the major chord.
Notice that on the second and third versions of Leaning On The Everlasting Arms provided in the recordings section, harmony is sung not only on the choruses, but also on the repetitive parts of the verses: i.e., lines 2 and 4 ('leaning on the everlasting arms'). The starting note on these lines for the tenor harmony part is the root note of the 1 chord (an A note when in the key of A). For the baritone harmony part, the starting note is the 3rd of the 1 chord (a C# note when in the key of A).
Also, notice that in these same two versions of the song, on lines 1 and 3 of the chorus, the lyrics for the harmony parts are not the same as the lyrics for the lead part. While the lead singer sings: 'Leaning, leaning', the harmony singers sing: 'Leaning on Jesus, leaning on Jesus'. Rhythmically, the way this lines up is as follows:
Lean - / ing / lean - / ing
Lean - ing on / Je - sus / lean - ing on / Je - sus
The starting note for the tenor harmony on the chorus is the 5th of the 1 chord (an E note when in the key of A), and for the baritone harmony part, it is the root of the 1 chord (an A note when in the key of A).
In case you have difficulty catching this from the recordings, the lyrics for line 2 of the chorus are: 'safe and secure from all alarms'.
Leaning On The Everlasting Arms has a particularly strong melody line. For songs like this, one should be careful about when and how one deviates from the melody when playing a break for the song. You might notice in the breaks on the recordings that deviations from melody-based playing are less frequent than what has often the case in breaks on the recordings for other previous beginner jam songs of the week.
For beginner level players, I advise them to base their breaks squarely upon the melody. (For help with finding the melody on your instrument, see the melody sheet files given at the bottom of this song of the week write-up.) This does not mean playing nothing but the melody: by all means one should put the usual frills around the melody notes that are typical in Bluegrass breaks to the extent that one knows how to use them: stuff like (depending on which instrument you are playing): double stops, slides, shuffle rhythms, fillin licks, rolls, hammer-ons, and pull-offs.
Notice on the recordings, that in the spots where the players deviate from melody-based playing in their breaks in favor of lick-based playing, they do not linger on any one note for any length of time. Rather, in those spots, they play a rapid flurry of notes. The second half of the guitar break on the Solid Blue recording, for instance, consists mostly of eighth notes. The same is true of the last line (last quarter) of the fiddle break on the Grascals recording. In a song with a strong melody, dwelling on a non-melody note will sometimes work in a break, but more often it will sound out of place in the song.
18 songs were played at last night's jam: 12 from the main list, 4 from the additional songs list, and 2 that are on neither list:
All The Good Times Are Past And Gone - C
Angeline The Baker - D
Blue Ridge Cabin Home - A
Down The Road - A
Leaning On The Everlasting Arms - A
Long Journey Home - A
Mama Don't Allow - A
My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains - G
Old Joe Clark - A
Shortnin' Bread - A
Soldier's Joy - D
Will The Circle Be Unbroken - G
Buffalo Gals - A
Cluck Old Hen - A
Mountain Dew - C
Wreck Of The Old '97 - D
I Saw The Light - B
Wildwood Flower - G
Leaning - banjo tab
Leaning - guitar tab
Leaning - mandolin tab
Leaning - melody in A
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