I will not be at the next intermediate jam. The song of the week cycle will be suspended for the week. I will resume leading the jam on Nov. 2nd, two weeks from now.
The song of the week will be 'Old Joe Clark' in the key of A.
Breaks & Tempos
My intentions in revisiting 'Old Joe Clark' as a song of the week for the intermediate jam are: 1) to provide an occasion for people to review the breaks they have been playing for the most frequently played fiddle tunes at the jam to see if there is anything in their breaks that could use some 'updating' in accordance with the level of playing ability that they have now attained; and 2) to continue where we left off at when Turkey In The Straw went through its song of the week cycle in terms of working on increasing the tempos at which the jam group is able to successfully play standard fiddle tunes.
In the attachments, I have given not only a version of the basic melody, but also two breaks each for fiddle, mandolin and guitar in which notes are added around the basic melody. If the breaks you play for Old Joe Clark consist of little more than just the basic melody, or if you are looking for ideas for other ways to play a break for Old Joe Clark than how you usually play your break, I hope you will find these useful. I have not included any banjo breaks in the attachments because most banjo players who learn to play Old Joe Clark learn to play it with many notes added around the basic melody from the get go.
Better yet, in listening to the breaks on the recordings given below, if there is anything in them that strikes you as something that you would like to add into your breaks for Old Joe Clark, try to learn it directly from the recording. Remember, if you go to settings in youtube, you can slow down the recording to half speed.
The breaks given in the attachments are not as busy as most of the breaks on the recordings provided below, but if you combine the two breaks together, using most of the busy spots in each, then the resulting breaks will come close to some of the breaks heard on the recordings. However, in view of the tempos at which Old Joe Clark will be played at the jam, be careful about how many notes you try to your breaks all at once.
The tempos at which I intend to kick off Old Joe Clark at as it goes through its song of the week cycle are:
Nov. 2nd: 124 beats per minute (2 clicks of the metronome per measure)
Nov. 9th: 128 beats per minute
Nov. 16th: 132 beats per minute
Here are some youtube links of good bluegrass live performances of Old Joe Clark that I hope you will enjoy:
Carolina Bluegrass Express: The fiddle breaks are my favorite part of this performance. The basic melody of the tune can be heard very prominently in the banjo break, since the banjo player not only accents the melody notes loud and clear, but also does not put quite as many extra notes around the melody as what a lot of other banjo players tend to do with this tune. In contrast to this, the guitar break is a good example of non-melody-based playing on a fiddle tune. For the final break, the fiddle is playing a harmony part while the melody is carried on the mandolin.
UK98 Bluegrass Band: good mandolin, banjo and guitar breaks; notice how in the guitar breaks, the A Parts of the breaks consists of little more than the basic melody carried on the low strings of the guitar, which is then contrasted with higher pitched non-melody-based playing for the B Parts.
Gravel Road Bluegrass Band: I really like the breaks these kids play: the basic melody always remains discernable in these breaks, even in the spots where there is a lot more going on than just sticking to the basic melody:
1 1 1 5
1 1 1/5 1
1 1 1 b7
1 1 1/5 1
In the key of A: b7 = G. (In the key of G: b7 = F.)
The song of the week is the Flatt & Scruggs classic 'Why Don't You Tell Me So' in the key of G.
Here is the original Flatt & Scruggs recording of Why Don't You Tell Me So - key of F#
Here is a good cover version of the song from Tony Rice - key of F
The Flatt & Scruggs recording is in the very rarely used key of F# (or Gb, if you prefer) instead of the much more common key of F only because the instruments were all tuned a half step higher in pitch than standard. To play along with the recording, I advise banjo, mandolin and fiddle players to either tune their instruments a half step higher and then play as if in F, or to tune their instruments a half step lower and then play as if in G. (Guitar players need not retune their instruments, for there is little advantage in doing so: either capo 4, and then play as if in D, or capo 2 and then play as if in E will work just fine for playing along with the recording.)
Note to Banjo Players
If the band had been tuned to standard pitch, Scruggs' playing on Why Don't You Tell Me So would be an example of playing in F without a capo (banjo tuned in G tuning with the 5th string capoed at the 7th fret so that the 5th string registers as an A note, a note that is part of the F chord).
For banjo players who wish to learn Earl's backup parts and break from the record, I point out that there is little difference in how it feels to play Scruggs' parts out of G (tuned down a half step from G tuning to be in tune with the recording: F#,C#,F#,A#,C#), or out of F (tuned up a half step from G tuning, with the 5th string capoed at the 7th fret: A#,D#,G#,B#,D#. B#=C) since only in a couple of spots in his backup playing does Scruggs use an open string, and in his break, the only open string he makes use of is the 5th string. There are however, a couple of spots during the backup parts in which one will run out of frets if tuned down instead of tuned up, but an easy fix for this is to simply drop those spots a whole octave: i.e., play the notes 12 frets lower.
For banjo players who have little or no experience playing up the neck (besides vamping), I recommend working up down-the-neck breaks and backup parts out of G with the help of banjo tab melody sheet in the attachments.
Finally, it should be observed that Scruggs' up the neck break that occurs after the second chorus of the song does not follow the melody closely enough to be used as an effective intro break for the song.
The chord progression for the verses and breaks is the very familiar progression:
(Prog. V2 on the basic chord progressions chart)
The chord progression for the choruses is the most common progression for choruses in songs in which the verses use Prog. V2 while the choruses use a different progression. Only the first line differs from V2:
The Mercury Sessions
Why Don't You Tell Me So was the 8th song that Flatt & Scruggs recorded together after leaving Bill Monroe's band. It is one of 28 songs that Flatt & Scruggs recorded together on Mercury Records between 1948 and 1950 (before they went to a different record label: Columbia). This collection of 28 songs is commonly referred to as 'the Mercury Sessions', and I consider it to be essential listening for students of Bluegrass music.
Most of these 28 songs have become Bluegrass standards and have been covered by numerous Bluegrass artists.
In the order in which they were recorded, here are youtube links to the 28 songs of the Mercury Sessions. Songs that I especially recommend listening to several times over are marked with an asterisk
*1. We'll Meet Again Sweetheart
2. God Loves His Children
*3. My Cabin In Caroline
4. I'm Going To Make Heaven My Home
5. Baby Blue Eyes
*6. Down The Road
7. Bouquet In Heaven
*8. Why Don't You Tell Me So
*9. I'll Never Shed Another Tear
*10. Foggy Mountain Breakdown
*11. No Mother Or Dad
*12. Is It Too Late Now
*13. My Little Girl In Tennessee
14. I'll Be Going To Heaven Sometime
15. I'll Never Love Another
16. So Happy I'll Be
*17. Doin' My Time
*18. Pike County Breakdown
19. Preachin' Prayin' Singin'
*20. Cora Is Gone
*21. Pain In My Heart
*22. Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms
23. Back To The Cross
*24. Old Salty Dog Blues
25. Will The Roses Bloom (Where She Lies Sleeping)
*26. Take Me In A LIfeboat
*27. Farewell Blues
28. I'll Just Pretend
Here are two good versions of Big Spike Hammer to listen to, both in the key of B:
The Bluegrass Album Band
The Osborne Brothers
At last night's jam, the way we played Big Spike Hammer was as follows:
Breaks (exept for the last break)
Verses and last break:
(with a stop on the last '5')
The song of the week is 'Down The Road' in the key of B.
Flatt and Scruggs - key of B (studio recording): all breaks are on banjo:
The Bluegrass Album Band - key of B
Flatt and Scruggs - key of A (live recording): banjo, fiddle and dobro breaks
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 2 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 4 measures that lines in most bluegrass songs consist of, but the second line is 5 and a half measures long. This brings us to a total of 9 and a half measures.
Add to this the bluegrass tendency to allow 1 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 10 and a half, or 11 and a half, or 12 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 10 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: 9 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 attached here, 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.)
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
When you look at the sheet music attached here for Down The Road, 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 along ways 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 G chord fill-in licks that are given in the attachments are three versions of what is commonly called 'the G-run'. Fill-ins for banjo, mandolin, and fiddle are also included in the attachments.). 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.
It is especially helpful if the guitar players make it a point to play the G-run at the end of every break, and at the end of every verse (except for the last verse), regardless of which instrument is going to play the upcoming break.
For the last verse, which is 8 measures long, rather than 9 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 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.
The song of the week is 'Keep On The Sunny Side' in the key of G.
The chord progression that I use for the song is as follows:
for the verses and breaks:
for the chorus:
Note: Some play the first line of the chorus as: 1 1 4 4/1 and/or the last line of the chorus as: 1/4 1/5 1 1, or 1/4 5 1 1. But, as always, regardless of how you are most used to playing or hearing the song, follow the leader for the progression.
Here are some youtube links to listen to.
The Carter Family - key of B
This is the original recording of 'Keep On The Sunny Side'. Though it is pre-bluegrass (1928), it is likely still the most well-known recording of the song amongst dyed-in-the-wool bluegrassers, and has directly influenced many bluegrass versions of the song. As on most Carter Family records, all the breaks are played on guitar, and are played 'Carter-style', which means that the melody is carried on the bass strings, with chords being strummed on the treble strings between melody notes when there is time for them between the melody notes.
Although recorded in the key of B, the guitar is played here as if in the key of C. This means that each of the strings of the guitar were tuned down a half step when the song was recorded. It is common on old recordings for the instruments to be tuned either lower or higher than how we are used to tuning them. You might notice the odd timing between the end of the verses and the beginning of the choruses on this recording. The chorus starts a half measure earlier than what one would ordinarily expect. I don't recommend this way of playing the song (most of your fellow jammers will not appreciate it): most bluegrass versions of the song have the usual 2 measures of the '1' chord at the end of the verses that is so common in bluegrass songs.
Flatt and Scruggs - key of F
All the breaks are played on guitar, and in 'Carter-style'. Here the influence of the Carter Family recording is obvious.
With those in mind who wish to play a Carter-style break for this song similar to the ones on the recordings, I have included a guitar tab melody sheet written in the key of C: capo 7 to play in G. (Try also capo 2 to play in D, since Keep On The Sunny Side is also often played at the jam in D.)
Mac Wiseman - key of A
Here are some good examples of breaks being split between two instruments. This is good for recordings and band performances, but not something that is usually desirable to do at a jam, except on the occasional slow song, especially when both halves of the break have the same chord progression (which is not the case with Keep On The Sunny Side). Also notice how short the intro break is: it is based upon the last 4 measures of the chorus. When a break is this short, it is called a 'turnaround'. Once again, at a jam, it is usually best to play a complete break to intro a song. (A complete break means the length of the verse - in this case, as in most cases - 16 measures, not the length of a verse and chorus together.) However, since it is fairly common on recordings for Keep On The Sunny Side to begin with a turnaround, it would not be an odd thing to do to intro it this way at a jam. Having said that, I still don't recommend starting the song with a turnaround at the jam while it is the song of the month, for the turnaround intro tends to occur mostly in versions which use 1/4 1/5 1 1 or
1/4 5 1 1 as the last line of the chorus (and as the progression for the turnaround), and not so much in versions which use 1 5 1 1 as the last line of the chorus.
Instrumental Version: banjo, fiddle, dobro, guitar breaks: key of G
Here is a good source for ideas for breaks on banjo, fiddle, dobro, and guitar. Because this is an instrumental version, each break is the length of a verse and chorus put together. Keep in mind that in versions with vocals, it is far more common for breaks to be played only over the verse progression: at the jam, once you have played through the verse progression once for your break, your break is over: it is time either for more singing, or for the next person to start their break.
As is the case for most songs played at the jam, if you are working up an intro break for the song, it is best to stick close to the melody. Subsequent breaks need not follow the melody all that closely. For instance, one approach that I like to take for playing a (non-intro) break for 'Keep On The Sunny Side' is follow the melody closely for the first half of the break, and then to disregard the melody for the last half of the break, playing 'stock' licks I know that fit well over the 5511 progression that the last two lines of the verse progression consist of. Give it a try and see if you come up with something you like.
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