Banks Of The Ohio
The song of the week is 'Banks Of The Ohio' in the key of F.
Tony Rice (key of F)
I like to play this song with the same very pronounced 'swing' or 'bouncy' feel that is on the recording. This 'feel' is created by delaying playing the second of two consecutive eighth notes, whenever the first of the two eighth notes occurs in one of the 4 strongest spots in a measure (but not delaying the note that comes after it that is in a strong spot in the measure). On the recording, this is particularly noticeable on the banjo, since quite often the banjo is playing a steady stream of eighth notes. In cut common time, a measure consisting of 8 eighth notes is counted as: 1e&a2e&a. The 4 strongest spots are the '1', the '2' and the 'ands'. (boom-chuck-boom-chuck) To create this 'bounce', the notes occurring in these spots are held about twice as long as the notes occurring in the 4 weaker spots. The resulting pattern of note durations is thus: long-short-long-short-long-short-long-short. On rhythm guitar, this means that any upstrokes that are played (between the 'boom' and the 'chuck' or vice versa) will be delayed.
On most bluegrass recordings, this 'bounce' is ever-present to one degree or another; but on some songs, and as played by certain players, it is more pronounced, (or is just simply more readily noticeable,) than usual. Because playing with 'bounce' is so universal in bluegrass music, one can learn to play with bounce without even realizing that one is doing this.
The chord progression for 'Banks Of The Ohio' is V9 on the basic chord progressions handout, which is also used to play 'Love Me Darling Just Tonight', 'Ninety-Nine Years And One Dark Day', 'Take This Hammer', 'Wild Mountain Flowers For Mary', 'Give Me My Flowers While I'm Living', and the chorus of 'In The Sweet By And By':
Key of F Review
The 1, 4, and 5 chords in the key of F are F, Bb, and C respectively.
The F Major Scale consists of the notes: F, G, A, Bb, C, D, and E.
For playing in the key of F, bluegrass guitarists usually either capo the 5th fret and play as if in C, or capo the 3rd fret and play as if in D, but occasionally capo the 1st fret and play as if in E. For Banks Of The Ohio, I favor the first option, as I find it works better for me for the kinds of breaks I tend to want to play for the song (Carter-style, crosspicking, or a combination of both).
For playing in the key of F, 3-finger-style banjo players are faced with many options, some of which are: 1) play in G tuning without a capo; 2) keep the four long strings in G tuning without a capo, but raise the 5th string to an A note; 3) in G tuning, capo the 5th fret, and raise the 5th string to a C note, and play as if in C; 4) in G tuning, capo the 3rd fret and raise the 5th string to a C note, and play as if D; and 5) in D tuning (F#DF#AD or ADF#AD), capo the 3rd fret, and raise the 5th string either to an A note or to a C note, and play as if in D. For Banks Of The Ohio, I recommend the first two options for those who already have a bit of experience playing in F without a capo. (The second option is the one used on the banjo on the recording.) For those who do not have such experience yet, I suggest trying the third option; but some may prefer the results they get from the fifth option instead.
Melody & Breaks
There are only 8 important melody notes in Banks Of The Ohio: the first note of each odd numbered measure. See how many of these you can catch by ear by listening to the song before looking at the attached melody sheets. All the other melody notes in the song are connector notes: they function to create smooth transitions from one of the 8 main melody notes to the next main melody note. It makes little difference whether one uses transitional notes that ascend into the next main melody note or transitional notes that descend into the next main melody note. Even singers differ among themselves on which set of transitional notes to use to get from one main melody note to the next in this song, so even more so for the instruments, there is a lot of leeway for choosing transitional notes without this resulting in making the song unrecognizable. For instance, in place of the A G F notes in measure 2 that lead to the G note in measure 3, you could use F E F instead. And, in place of the F G A notes in measure 10 that lead to the Bb note in measure 11, you could use C D C instead.
Notice that the intro break on the mandolin grabs notes 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8 of the 8 main melody notes, but overshoots main melody note 5 (measure 9) going temporarily into the tenor harmony, and also overshoots main melody note 7 (measure 13) in the process of using a non-melody based 1511 break ending lick that would work for any number of songs played in the key of F (and, for any other key, if one transposes the notes) that have a progression that ends with 1511 Are you able to tell which of the main melody notes are preserved and not preserved in the other 3 breaks on the recording?
The Old Spinning Wheel
Here's a good version of The Old Spinning Wheel to take listen to:
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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