The song of the week is 'Gathering Flowers From The Hillside' in the key of G.
'Gathering Flowers' is just one of thousands of simple and straightforward bluegrass songs that, for that very reason, tend to work well at almost any bluegrass jam, irrespective of how many people at the jam have ever played or even heard the song before. (If you opened the attachments in last week's Beginner Bluegrass Jam song of the week email, you may have noticed that I have included 'Gathering Flowers On The Hillside' on the new version of the Beginner Bluegrass Jam 'Top 20' list.) Keep your ears open for these types of songs if you are looking for ways to more rapidly increase your repertoire of songs to introduce into the jams you play at.
See if you can identify the chord progression for 'Gathering Flowers' by listening to the versions given in the links below, before you take a look at the attached melody sheets. What other songs do you know, or recall playing at the jam, that use either the same chord progression or a closely related chord progression? How much of the melody can you figure out by ear before looking at the attached melody sheets? Do you recognize certain parts of the melody as being the same, or almost the same, as parts of the melodies to other songs that you are more familiar with than this one?
Here are a few versions of 'Gathering Flowers From The Hillside' to take a listen to. The first one is just good old straightforward traditional bluegrass. The second one is from an old-school country artist I have always enjoyed listening to whose music could be described (albeit somewhat anachronistically) as somewhere between country and bluegrass. And the third one is the version that I learned the song from.
Earl Taylor & Jim McCall - key of G
Wilma Lee Cooper - key of C
Hylo Brown - key of F
As one gains experience, and advances beyond the beginning stages of being a bluegrass musician and jammer, this need not always entail looking for more and more complex songs to learn; it can also involve working on getting faster at expanding one's repertoire (and what better to start with for this than simple songs that already have a somewhat familiar sound to them?), and 'updating' your way of playing songs that you learned when you were first getting into jamming and playing bluegrass: adding more 'frills' to your breaks and backup parts when and if appropriate for the song. Even the classic so-called 'beginner' fiddle tune 'Boil The Cabbage Down', which you won't hear played at many non-beginner jams (and at many jams would be somewhat out of place to play) can be played (and has been recorded) in ways that have nothing 'beginnerish' about them.
Remember, the melody sheets provided here are just that and nothing more. They do not show you how to play bluegrass-style breaks on your instrument. So, why do I include the melody sheets in the song of the week emails? Because, to a significant extent, creating a break that sounds like it belongs in the song (and this is especially true of intro breaks, i.e., the break that is played before the singing starts and which identifies what song is being played even before the singing starts, or in the case of an instrumental, just simply the first break) involves surrounding the melody notes in the song with appropriate choices of other notes: and, in order to do this, one needs to have a fairly clear idea of what the melody of the song is.
There are countless ways to play a break for any given song, and how one plays a break for a song depends upon several factors, including stylistic preference, level of technical ability on one's instrument, and even things of the nature of what tempo the song is being played at. But, once one is past the very beginner stages of learning to play 'lead' parts, attempts should be made - with the help of a teacher if need be - to play in a way that involves more than just copying on one's instrument the melody of the song as sung. And, at the 'intermediate' level of bluegrass lead playing, one is well beyond these initial, not-always- successful, attempts to add 'stuff' around the melody: at this level, one has at least a few generally reliable, even if musically simple, ways to do this in one's musical 'bag of tricks'.
Disclaimer: Even at the most advanced levels, being a bluegrass musician or jammer does not always involve being able to play breaks. There are many top-notch bluegrass guitar players, for instance, who only play rhythm (backup). Becoming a great bluegrass rhythm guitar player can be just as challenging as - or possibly even more challenging than - becoming a great flatpicker.
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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