The song of the week is 'Roving Gambler' in the key of A.
Here is my favorite version of Roving Gambler:
Peter Rowan - key of Bb
The progression I use for Roving Gambler is:
If it helps, you may wish to think of this progression as consisting of the first half of the progression for Long Journey Home (or Gotta Travel On) followed by the last line of the progression for Wildwood Flower (or Leaning On The Everlasting Arms. or Molly And Tenbrooks).
Other songs that have been played at the jam in which a three-line (as opposed to the much more common four-line) progression is used include Rocky Road Blues, Shuckin' The Corn, Molly And Tenbrooks, and the short form (12 measure) version of Worried Man Blues.
The progression given here is the same as that used for the breaks on the recording (minus extra measures of the 1 that go by between the ending of a break and the beginning of the next verse), but not for the verses. On the recording, there are extra measures of the 1 chord at the ends of both lines 2 and 3 in the verses. I keep the progression the same for both the verses and the breaks (once again, not counting any extra measures of the 1 that I might allow to go by between the ending of a break and the beginning of the next verse).
Form & Arrangement
The arrangement I use for Roving Gambler when leading it at the jam is based upon the recording: seven verses, no chorus, with two verses being sung back to back between breaks, with one verse left over to end the song.
Both the form and the arrangement I use for Roving Gambler are nearly identical with the form and arrangement used on the original Bill Monroe recording of Molly And Tenbrooks, a song that has occasionally been played at the jam, except that Molly And Tenbrooks is sung with 9 verses instead of 7, and makes use of a tack-on ending. See to what extent you can detect the similarities in form and arrangement between the two songs.
Molly And Tenbrooks - Bill Monroe
A third song with a similar form and arrangement to Roving Gambler and Molly And Tenbrooks is the version of McKinley's Gone (a.k.a., White House Blues) found on Flatt & Scruggs' Folk Songs Of Our Land album:
The practical advantage of learning to group songs together based upon similarity of form and/or arrangement is the same as the practical advantage of associating songs with each other that have similar progressions or the same progression as each other. It reduces the number of distinct pieces of information to keep track of when learning new songs, or when trying to follow along on new songs that come up at a jam, and this enables one to more quickly and easily expand one's repertoire.
The melody of Roving Gambler consists of the notes of the Major Pentatonic scale which are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th notes of the Major Scale (A, B, C#, E, and F# in the key of A; G, A, B, D, and E in the key of G, etc.) The first two lines (first 8 measures) of the melody of Roving Gambler are similar to the first two lines of the melody of Long Journey Home, except that the melody goes higher in Roving Gambler in measures 3 and 4 of line 1 than what it does in measures 3 and 4 of line 1 of Long Journey Home. The second lines of the two songs are
similar enough that I often use exactly the same notes/licks in a melody-based intro break for the second line of Roving Gambler as the ones that I typically use for the second line of an intro break for Long Journey Home. Keep in mind that good melody-based breaks often do not follow the melody slavishly, but take some liberties with it.
Although Roving Gambler does not have a chorus, it does have repetitions in its lyrics. In these spots, namely, the third (last) line of each verse, it is common for harmony to be sung. The third line of any given verse repeats twice the lyrics that make up the second half of the second line of that verse. (Note: Molly And Tenbrooks has a similar type of repetition at the ends of its verses, but in that song it is not customary for harmony to be sung on the last line of the verses.)
The song of the week is 'Clinch Mountain Backstep' in the key of A.
My intention in revisiting Clinch Mountain Backstep as a song of the week for the intermediate jam is to continue where we left off at when Old Joe Clark was recently recycled as a song of the week for working on increasing the tempos at which the jam group is able to successfully play standard bluegrass jam instrumentals. The tempos that I intend to kick off Clinch Mtn. Backstep at the jam for the next 3 weeks are:
Jan. 25th: 136
Feb. 1st: 140
Feb. 8th: 144
(On the Ralph Stanley studio recording provided below, Clinch Mountain Backstep is played at about 150 beats per minute.)
Here is my favorite of Ralph's studio recordings of Clinch Mountain Backstep:
Ralph Stanley - key of A
The chord progression for the A-Part is
The chord progression for the B-Part is the same, except that there is an extra 'half-measure' of the '1' before the first '5'. If one is counting the beats in the first line of the B-Part in cut common time (2/2), one would count it as: 1,2,1,2,1,2,1,1,2.
(On the sheet music attached here, I have written the first line of the B-Part as 3 measures in 2/2, followed by a measure in which the time signature changes to 1/2, followed by a measure that returns to 2/2.)
Melody & Key
Although the melody of Clinch Mountain Backstep consists only of the notes of the Am pentatonic scale, it is called at jams in A (Major) rather than Am because the '1' chord that is used in the chord progression for the song is an A Major Chord rather than an Am Chord ('1m'). To call Clinch Mountain Backstep in A Minor instead of in A (Major) at a jam would imply that 1m Chords are to be played in place of 1 Chords.
In the attached melody sheet for Clinch Mountain Backstep, I have used the key signature for Am (no sharps or flats, same as the key signature for C Major, the Relative Major of Am) instead of the key signature for A Major (3 sharps) to avoid the need to write natural signs in nearly every measure. I hope that my doing this makes the sheet music easier to read than if I had used the key signature for A Major.
The notes that make up the Minor Pentatonic Scale, or as I like to call it sometimes 'The Clinch Mountain Scale', are: 1, b3, 4, 5, and b7. Remember these notes, for these will be useful to know not only for playing 'Mountain Minor' tunes like 'Clinch Mountain Backstep' and 'Cluck Old Hen'. Any time when you wish to add a 'bluesy' element into a break or backup part for a Major key song, just remember to play your 'Clinch Mountain notes'.
To see what these notes are for A (or for any other key for that matter: G is an especially practical place to start for this if you are a banjo or guitar player who usually plays in A by way of capoing the 2nd fret of your instrument), refer to the Nashville Number System Chart in the attachments.
Relative Majors & Minors
If you have ever played the melody for Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Amazing Grace, My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains, Shortnin' Bread, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, or Camptown Races, or any other melody that uses only 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 notes (Major Pentatonic Scale), then you are already familiar to a certain extent with the combination of notes that make up the 'Clinch Mountain Scale', although those melodies sound very different than the melodies for Clinch Mountain Backstep and Cluck Old Hen.
Notice, for instance, that 1, b3, 4, 5, b7 for E are the very same notes as 6, 1, 2, 3, 5 for G. G is the Relative Major of Em.
Every Minor has a Relative Major. To find the Relative Major of a Minor, treat the b3 of the Minor as the 1 for the Major. (Thus, C is the relative Major of Am - one uses the same notes for playing the melody of Will The Circle Be Unbroken in C as one does for playing the melody of Clinch Mountain Backstep in A; Bb is the relative Major of Gm, etc.)
Going in the opposite direction, that is, to find the Relative Minor of a Major, treat the 6 of the Major as the 1 for the Minor. (So, Am is the Relative Minor of C, Em is the Relative Minor of G.)
That 'Cheyenne' was played at the jam last night (A-Part in the key of Gm, B-Part in the key of Bb), also helps to illustrate the usefulness of knowing a bit about the relationships involved between Relative Majors and Minors. More tunes of the same nature as this one are more likely than not to come up at the jam as it continues to progress.
Sheet music for Clinch Mountain Backstep:
Clinch Mountain Backstep - Banjo tab
Clinch Mountain Backstep - Guitar tab
Clinch Mountain Backstep - Mandolin tab
Clinch Mountain Backstep - Melody in A
Eight More Miles To Louisville
The chord progression for Eight More Miles To Louisville was:
Verses & Breaks Chorus
1/5 1/4 1/5 1 1 1 4 1
1/5 1/4 1 5 1 1 2 5
4 1 1 5 4 1 1 5
1/5 1/4 1/5 1 1/5 1/4 1/5 1
Eric Weissberg (banjo instrumental version: verse breaks only)
Ballad Of Jed Clampett
The chord progression for Ballad Of Jed Clampett was:
1 1 2m 5
5 5 1 1
1 1 4 4#
5 5 5 1 1 1 1 1...
Flatt & Scruggs
Big Spike Hammer
The differences between how Big Spike Hammer was played at last night's jam versus how it appears on the 'Songs with uncommon or hard to predict chord progressions' handout were as follows:
116m6m for the first line of the verses.
The last break ended the same way as all the other breaks: i.e., with 5511.
The progression for Farewell Blues was:
1 5 1 1
1 5 1 1
6 6 2 b3
1 5 1 1
Flatt & Scruggs
The progression for Blue Night was:
The song of the week is 'Love Of The Mountains' in the key of A.
Larry Sparks - key of A
The chord progression for Love Of The Mountains is simple and repetitive, but a bit unusual for a Bluegrass song in that a '4' follows a '5' without a '1' intervening between the 5 and the 4.
On the recording, an extra measure of the 1 is added to the end of the progression for the verses, resulting in a 54111 line for the last line of each verse, much like one or more extra measures of the 1 are often added to the ends of breaks before the next verse starts. When leading the song at a jam, however, it is safer to avoid adding an extra measure of the 1 to the end of the verses. In all my years of jamming experience, I don't recall ever playing the song with anyone who did add the extra measure to the end of the verses.
The order of frequency, from most frequent to least frequent, in which chord changes involving the 1, 4, and 5 tend to show up in Bluegrass is as follows:
change from 5 to the 1 (most common)
change from the 1 to the 5
change from the 1 to the 4
change from the 4 to the 1
change from the 4 to the 5
change from the 5 to the 4 (least common)
The use of a '5411' line (sometimes modified to '5415') at the end of a progression is much more common in Blues and early Rock & Roll than what it is in Bluegrass.
The most common progression with a 5411( or 5415) ending line is the progression that is often referred to as the '12 bar blues':
Compare this with the progression that is used to play the 12 measure version of Worried Man Blues, and many other Bluegrass songs (Shuckin' The Corn, Blue Grass Stomp, the breaks for Rocky Road Blues, etc.):
Each line in the progression for Love Of The Mountains ends with two measures of the 1 chord, and within these two measures at the end of each line there is a long enough 'dead space' within the melody for a fill-in lick to be played.
Playing Love Of The Mountains at a jam provides one with a better opportunity than what most other songs do to practice varying one's choice of fill-in licks. For, on the one hand, if one simply uses the same one or two fill-in licks to plug up every dead space, it won't take long for this to start sounding monotonous, but, on the other hand, if not enough dead spaces are filled in, the song will sound empty.
Notice how every dead space is filled in on the recording (primarily by the banjo on the verses, and primarily by the fiddle on the choruses). Also notice the variety of fill-in licks being used to fill the dead spaces.
As I sing the song, and as it is sung on the recording, there is a bit more to the melody than what I have shown on the attached melody sheets. To give just one example, the careful listener should notice that the note sung in measure 3 of line 2 of verses 2 and 3 is a higher note than the note sung in measure 3 of line 2 of verse 1.
The melody sheets in the song of the week emails are provided first and foremost to give people a good starting point of reference for creating melody based breaks. When it comes to learning to sing a song, it is much better to learn the melody of the song by listening to and singing along with the recordings rather than by trying to learn it from the melody sheets. The melody sheets, both in terms of the note choices and the timing of the notes, more often than not show the melody in a simpler form than how it would usually be sung.
There are no harmony vocals on the recording. Not every song needs harmony on the choruses: especially if enough tasteful things are being done on the instruments to keep the song full and interesting. But, if you would like to, feel free to add a harmony part on the choruses when I lead the song at the jam.
She's More To Be Pitied
Here is the Stanley Brothers record of She's More To Be Pitied:
Notice especially the unusual length of line 3 of the chorus, which makes it difficult to predict how long line 4 should be before starting a break following the chorus.
Here is the Flatt & Scruggs record of I'm Gonna Sleep With One Eye Open
The song of the week is 'Beautiful Brown Eyes' in the key of G, played in cut common time (2/2) rather than in waltz time (3/4).
Red Allen (under the title: Beautiful Blue Eyes) - key of A
The Gibson Brothers - key of B
When I introduce Beautiful Brown Eyes into the Beginner Jam repertoire, I play it in 3/4 time because I think it is one of the easiest songs to use for acquainting new jammers with playing in 3/4 time. Also, people from non-bluegrass backgrounds who are already familiar with the song are more likely to have heard it played in 3/4 time rather than in cut common time.
However, while most non-bluegrass recordings of Beautiful Brown Eyes are in 3/4 time rather than in cut common time, the opposite is true of bluegrass recordings of the song.
The first bluegrass version of Beautiful Brown Eyes, or rather Beautiful Blue Eyes (a common alteration of the title and the chorus lyrics in bluegrass versions of the song), that I ever heard was the Red Allen recording provided here. Apart from retaining 'brown' in place of 'blue', my cut time version of the song follows this recording closely.
My reasons for recycling Beautiful Brown Eyes as a song of the week for the Intermediate Jam are: 1) to draw attention to a much more standard way of playing the song as a bluegrass song than how it has usually been played at the jam up to this point, and 2) to help demonstrate how to convert a song from one time signature to another.
Time Signature Conversion
Beautiful Brown Eyes is just one of many songs for which there are both 3/4 time and non-3/4 time recorded versions.
I believe the best way to get started with learning how to convert a song from one time signature to another is by listening to examples of the same song played in more than one time signature. For this reason, I have included youtube links for some of the examples given below.
Another thing that could be helpful would be to compare the timing of the melody notes on the melody sheets attached here with the timing of the melody notes on the melody sheets for Beautiful Brown Eyes in 3/4 time provided for the beginner jam, for which, go to: https://www.idahobluegrassassociation.org/beginner-jam/category/beautiful-brown-eyes
The classic example of a bluegrass song played in both 3/4 time and in cut common time is Bill Monroe's 'Blue Moon Of Kentucky'. Bill originally recorded the song in 3/4 time. But after Elvis Presley recorded his non-3/4 time version of the song (which the Stanley Brothers later copied), Bill recorded it again, playing the first half of it in 3/4 time and the second half of it in cut common time.
Bill Monroe: 3/4
The Stanley Brothers
Bill Monroe: 3/4 & 2/2
Besides Beautiful Brown Eyes, there are two other songs on the current intermediate jam list for which I am familiar with both 3/4 and 2/2 versions: Down In A Willow Garden, which is most often played in 3/4 time and How Mountain Girls Can Love, which is almost always played in 2/2. I have only ever heard one 3/4 time version of the latter song: I was surprised at how well the song worked in 3/4 time, but I would strongly advise against trying to introduce a 3/4 time version of How Mountain Girls Can Love into a bluegrass jam, since all the standard well-known versions of the song are in 2/2.
How Mountain Girls Can Love: 2/2 (standard)
How Mountain Girls Can Love: 3/4 (non-standard)
Other songs (not all of these are bluegrass examples) that I have heard both 3/4 and non-3/4 versions of include:
Streamline Cannonball (Hank Snow 3/4;
Doc Watson 2/2:
The Girl In The Blue Velvet Band (Bill Monroe 3/4:
Hylo Brown 2/2:
Mary Of The Wild Moor (Doc Williams 4/4;
The Louvin Brothers 3/4:
Before I Met You
I'm Thinking Tonight Of The Old Folks (a.k.a. Dixie Home)
I Never Will Marry
Dark As A Dungeon
We Three Kings
Just a quick note that Beautiful Brown Eyes as I play it, and as played on the recordings provided here, does not use the Bury Me Beneath The Willow/Wreck Of The Old '97 progression, the most common chord progression in bluegrass, but uses the closely related, but far less common, progression:
Jason's Intermediate Jam Blog 2017 - 2018
started as Beginner Jam in Jan 2015
Songs regularly called at Bluegrass Jams and links from Jason's "Song of the Week" emails. (from Renee)
in alphabetical order