The song of the week is 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown' in the key of G.
Flatt & Scruggs (1949 - the original recording) - key of Ab (instruments tuned up a half step higher than standard.)
Flatt & Scruggs (1968 - used for the soundtrack of the movie 'Bonnie And Clyde') - key of G
Earl Scruggs & Friends (2001 - won a grammy for Best Country Instrumental Performance of the Year) - key of G
The chord progression on the original recording is:
(In the key of G, 6=E).
(For the sake of simplicity, in the following discussion, the original recording will be treated as if it were in the key of G, instead of in the key of Ab.)
In the first two measures of lines 2 and 3 of the opening banjo break, (and in most of the rest of the banjo breaks on the recording), an Em chord, rather than an E (Major) chord, is outlined, and the G# note in the E (Major) chord forms a very dissonant interval with the G natural notes that the banjo plays during the E chord measures. Most subsequent recordings of Foggy Mountain Breakdown, including the 1968 Flatt & Scruggs recording, and the 2001 Earl Scruggs recording avoid using the E (Major) chord altogether. On the 1968 recording, the progression is:
1 1 1 1
6m 6m 1 1
6m 6m 1 1
5 5 1 1
On the 2001 recording, the progression is:
1 1 1 1
6m 6m 6m 1
6m 6m 6m 1
5 5 1 1
This last progression is the one that I intend for us to use for Foggy Mountain Breakdown at the jam as it goes through its song of the week cycle. Before kicking off the tune, I will likely specify this by saying something along the lines of: 'remember to hold the Em chord for 3 measures, rather than only for 2 measures, each time before changing back to the G'.
Melody & Breaks
Foggy Mountain Breakdown is a banjo-feature instrumental that is more readily identifiable by virtue of the set of banjo licks that make up its opening break rather than by way of a clearly defined melody line; and subsequent breaks, both on the banjo and on the other instruments, tend to be lick/improv. oriented, rather than melody-based.
Nevertheless, the banjo licks that the opening break consists of do have some melodic content. In the attachments, the first thing I have included is a note-for-note transcription of the opening banjo break on the original recording, written in banjo tab. The melody sheets that follow this represent just one feasible interpretation of the melodic content of the opening banjo break. Others listening to or analyzing the opening banjo break are likely to arrive at other identifications of the melodic content of the banjo break, with some hearing fewer or more notes in the break, or certain parts of the break, as being part of 'the melody'.
If I had chosen the opening break from one of the other recordings as the basis for the melody sheets, some of the notes on the melody sheets would be different.
On the original recording, banjo and fiddle are the only two lead instruments. The fiddle breaks provide a good example of simple playing at fast speeds: mostly long drawn out double stops that grab only the most important melody notes.
One thing that is common in fiddle, mandolin, and guitar breaks for Foggy Mountain breakdown is to shuffle through some of the Em measures with a double stop that consists of the open E string together with the unison E note on the 2nd string: often with the fretted note being slid into one or more times while the double stop is being played. One example of this is found in the fiddle break on the 1968 recording during its second pass through the form. Another example occurs in Marty Stuart's mandolin break on the 2001 recording.
On the 2001 recording, there is a wide variety of instruments playing breaks. To differing extents, many of these breaks make use of the melodic content of the opening banjo break, and sometimes this is done by way of approximating some of the banjo licks heard in the opening banjo break. But there are other breaks on the recording that consist mostly of a bunch of licks strung together that fit over the chord progression, but which result in breaks that, taken in isolation by themselves, would hardly be recognizable as the tune Foggy Mountain Breakdown.
'Blue Grass Breakdown'
Foggy Mountain Breakdown has a lot in common with Bill Monroe's 'Blue Grass Breakdown'. This is especially noticeable on the banjo breaks played by Scruggs on the original 1946 recording of Blue Grass Breakdown. The main thing that distinguishes the two tunes from each other, apart from one being a banjo-feature tune and the other being a mandolin-feature tune, is that Foggy Mountain Breakdown uses a 6 or 6m chord in the spots where Blue Grass Breakdown uses a b7 (or a 4 on the final pass through the form during the mandolin breaks).
Bill Monroe - key of G
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