Since it may be awhile until we can all get together again at the Pioneer Building to play together, and also to try to offer something in the meantime to all of you who have been very mindful and supportive of me and my family during this time, I got the idea to record a few songs each week from the beginner and intermediate jam lists and put them up on youtube with me leading them much like I would at the jams, for those of you who might like to play and jam along at home.
When calling the breaks, instead of calling out 'everybody', 'banjo', 'fiddle', etc., I have substituted 'together' and 'your turn'.
This is my first attempt at 'leading' a jam while playing alone, so I sometimes found it hard to remember in the moment to call out the next break or to signal the end of the song, so I apologize about many of the cues coming later than what they ordinarily would at the jam. I hope my future attempts at this will be better than this first one.
Also, I may have started some of these songs off a bit on the fast side of things, so if need be, you may find it desirable to slow some of the songs down to 75% of the recorded speed. You can do this on youtube on a laptop, but not on a phone, by going to settings, and the clicking on 'playback speed'.
Angel Band - Bb
Are You Missing Me - G
Bill Cheatham - A
I hope that this email finds you well, and I hope that you will enjoy playing some of the songs here along with me.
Also, for all you banjo players out there, Bill Evans (who was going to be one of the instructors at Weiser Banjo Camp this year until it was cancelled - but he'll be there for the 2021 camp) is teaching a free Facebook Live online workshop this coming Saturday (tomorrow) at noon Mountain Time on “Working Up Scruggs-Style Solos.” This page is set to “Public,” so anyone with a Facebook account can view. Here’s the Facebook link: www.facebook.com/BillEvansBanjo
Keep safe and well.
After having given it much thought over the weekend, I have come to the decision to go with the 'better safe than sorry' approach with regard to hosting public jams, in view of the corona virus.
I regret to inform you that I am cancelling the Wednesday and Thursday evening jams in the Pioneer Building until further notice.
I will miss seeing and playing with you at the jams. But, I look forward to resuming leading the jams when the time seems right to do so.
Keep safe and well.
...and, as always,
The song of the week is the Bill Monroe classic from the 50s 'On And On' in the key of G.
Bill Monroe - key of G
Tony Rice - key of G
Tempo and Feel
The Tony Rice version is noticeably faster than the original Bill Monroe recording. (I like to play On And On somewhere between the two tempos), but notice what the two versions have in common: the playing and singing is crisp, clear, and punchy. In Bluegrass, all these elements are important in the delivery of a song. Listening frequently to good quality Bluegrass recordings, and playing and singing along with them can go a long ways to help develop the right feel for playing and singing Bluegrass.
Sing and play your breaks on top of the beat, keep a driving and percussive rhythm going when playing backup, don't allow your notes, strums, syllables, etc., to blur together. In traditional Bluegrass, there are no drums: to keep a steady pulse and well-defined beat going during a song requires that all the instruments and the vocals do their part to fill this percussive 'void'.
Attack the strings sharply and swiftly, and play close enough to the bridge to avoid a mushy tone. Finding just the right distance from the bridge to play on your instrument to get the desired amount of percussive element in your playing can do a lot for eliminating mushiness from the sound of your playing. (The closer to the bridge you play, the more percussive your playing will tend to sound, but if you get right up to the bridge, you will lose tone and volume.) Aim to get from your instrument the same quality of sound and feel that you are familiar with from listening to good Bluegrass records.
Progression, Melody, and Breaks
'On And On' uses one of the most common chord progressions in Bluegrass:
...and its melody has a fair bit in common with many other songs that use the same progression. Of songs that have been played regularly at the jam, Foggy Mountain Top has the most similarities to On And On. For recordings and melody tabs of Foggy Mountain Top, go to:
If you already familiar with Foggy Mountain Top, try coming up with a melody-based break for On And On by listening to the recordings of On And On before taking a look at the melody sheets for On And On provided in the attachments.
The challenge here is to come up with a way of recycling a lot of the same moves/licks you use for a melody-based break for Foggy Mountain Top but without your break for 'On And On' sounding like it is a break intended for Foggy Mountain Top.
For melody-based breaks that do not follow the melody slavishly, the first deviation between a melody-based break for 'On And On' and a melody-based break for 'Foggy Mountain Top' need not occur until measures 4. Take advantage of the deviation between the melodies for the two songs that occur in measures 4 and 5 to distinguish what otherwise might be nearly identical breaks.
Harmony and Lyrics
On the standard recordings of 'On And On', harmony is sung on both the verses and the choruses, rather than only on the choruses. At a jam, there is no need to sing harmony on the verses, but if one wishes to do so, it would not be out of place, given the precedents for this on the standard recordings of the song.
But you need to be singing the same set of lyrics as the lead singer, and these need to be sung from memory, so you can watch the lead singer to make sure you are lining up with his phrasing. (Make a cheat sheet consisting of the first line of each verse to help jog your memory in the moment as to what the next verse is: if and when you need to, look at this cheat sheet before the verse in question begins, not while singing the beginning of the verse.)
You might have noticed that there are a few slight differences in the lyrics on the two recordings given here. As I sing them when leading the song, the lyrics are:
Trav'lin' down this long lonesome highway
I'm so lonesome I could cry
With mem'ries of how we once loved each other
And now you are saying goodbye.
On and on I'll follow my darlin'
And I wonder where she can be
On and on I'll follow my darlin'
And I wonder if she ever thinks of me.
I've cried I've cried for you little darlin'
It breaks my heart to hear your name
My friends they all so love you my darlin
And they think that I am to blame
I had to follow you little darlin
I can't sleep when the sun goes down
By your side is my destination
The road is clear and that where I'm bound
18 songs were played at last night's jam:
Angel Band - C
Cry, Cry Darlin' - A
Dooley - B
Homestead On The Farm - A
I Saw The Light - Bb
Love, Please Come Home - A
On And On - G
Roving Gambler - A
Steel Rails - C
Turkey In The Straw - G
Wabash Cannonball - A
Wildwood Flower - D
Dear Old Dixie - G https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MuUeQRLRBc
Lonesome Pine - G
Bury Me Beneath The Willow - A
Sick, Sad And Lonesome - A https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I34C3TV84-Q
Ashes Of Love - B
Foggy Mountain Breakdown - G
Jason's Intermediate Jam Blog 2019 - 2020
Weekly on Thursdays
Songs regularly called at the Beginner Bluegrass Jam and links from Jason's "Song of the Week" emails. (from Renee)
in alphabetical order