The song of the week is 'Blue Ridge Cabin Home' in the key of Bb.
Song of the Week Cycle
Starting this coming week, for the new intermediate jam, songs of the week will be played at 4 successive jams, rather than only 3.
What this means for next week is that Nine Pound Hammer will be played at the beginning of the jam, since it was the song of the week for the jam two Wednesdays ago. Little Liza Jane (yesterday's song of the week) will be played right before the intermission. Blue Ridge Cabin Home (the current song of the week) will be played after the intermission. And, finally the following week's song of the week (which will be Cry, Cry Darlin') will be played at the end of the evening.
This system worked very well for the previous incarnation of the intermediate jam, so I have decided to retain it for the new intermediate jam.
Blue Ridge Cabin Home was originally recorded by Flatt & Scruggs, but in many Bluegrass circles, the Bluegrass Album Band (Tony Rice - guitar, vocals; J.D. Crowe - banjo, vocals; Doyle Lawson - mandolin, vocals; Bobby Hicks - fiddle; Todd Phillips - bass) version of Blue Ridge Cabin Home, released in 1981, has replaced the Flatt & Scruggs version as the primary point of reference for the song.
Blue Ridge Cabin Home - The Bluegrass Album Band - key of Bb
For the phase that the Wednesday evening jam has just recently entered into (low intermediate), it is time for there to be more focus on observing and attempting to copy the nuances found on high quality standard bluegrass recordings of the songs that the jam group is already quite familiar with playing together.
Listen to the recording a few times, listening first for the tempo, feel/groove, and overall rhythmic pulse of the song. Pay attention to where each of the instruments and the vocals are sitting in the mix (i.e., relative loudness) at various times within the song, and where they sit relative to the beat. Also notice the tone of the instruments and vocals.
Play along with the recording (without slowing it down). Crank it up good and loud, so you can clearly hear it above your playing, without having to restrain yourself from digging in to your instrument. Sing along with it also, being careful to copy the phrasing of the lyrics as closely as possible. Make sure to allow your playing to be influenced by the recording as you play along with it. Here I have in mind not so much your choices of notes, but the manner and energy with which you play your notes.
Finally, turn the recording off, and play the song by yourself, seeing if you can still channel the same overall feel in your playing that you were able to achieve when you were under the direct influence of the record in listening to it and playing along with it several times over.
Some specifics worthwhile observing on the recording:
1) The pickup measure, together with the first few notes that come after it, played by the banjo at the very beginning of the song, with attention not so much to the choice of notes being played, but rather to how the notes are being played: timing, tone, attack, degree of sustain, etc.
2) How the band as a whole sounds together with the banjo when the band first starts playing after the pickup measure.
3) The melody-based nature of the banjo intro break.
4) How the banjo and the fiddle take turns being the dominant/featured backup instrument during the vocal parts of the song, and the types of licks that they use when being featured versus when not being featured.
5) Where the instruments overall sit in the mix on the choruses, and how this differs from where they sit in the mix on the verses.
6) What the guitar does during the verses and choruses when there is a pause in the vocals
7) Which parts of the fiddle, guitar, and second banjo breaks are melody-based, and what types of licks are being played in the non-melody based parts of these breaks.
8) What the banjo does at the end of the guitar break right before the last chorus starts.
9) How the band as a whole sounds in ending the song (the last 2 measures).
Other things worthwhile taking the time to do: listen to the recording all the way through with your attention focused on the chop rhythm on the mandolin; listen to the recording all the way through with your attention focused on the bass.
Key of Bb Review
In the key of Bb: 1=Bb, 4=Eb, 5=F
The notes that make up the Bb chord are Bb, D, and F.
The notes that make up the Eb chord are Eb, G, and Bb
The notes that make up the F chord are F, A, and C.
Together, these notes form the Bb Major Scale: Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, and A.
If you are fiddler or a mandolin player, and you already play songs or licks in the key of F, then, provided that these songs or licks do not require using the 4th string, you can take your same fingerings for F and move them all one string lower in pitch, and you will thereby be playing in Bb.
For playing chop chords on the mandolin that use no open strings, if you move the chords shapes you use for playing in the key of A up by one fret, this will put you in the key of Bb.
For playing in the key of Bb, bluegrass banjo and guitar players almost always capo to the 3rd fret, so that they can use the same fingerings that they would use for playing in the key of G. (In the keyof G: 1=G; 4= C; 5=D.)
Here are the corresponding notes of the G and Bb Major Scales:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
G, A, B, C, D, E, F#
Bb,C,D,Eb,F, G, A
Banjo players will need to raise the pitch of the fifth string to a Bb note (registers as A# on most tuners). For banjo players who do not have a fifth string capo or an 8th fret spike (that includes myself), spike the 5th string at the 7th fret, and then tune it up a half step to a Bb (A#) note. This is best done by ear by playing the 5th string with the thumb while playing the 3rd string with the index finger, turning the 5th string tuning peg slowly until the 5th string sounds harmonious with the 3rd string.
When playing up the neck on banjo in the key of Bb (capo 3, playing as if in G), you may find it helpful to use your 10th and 15th fret markers as your primary points of reference.
Progression & Melody
The chord progression for Blue Ridge Cabin Home is:
The notes that make up the melody for Blue Ridge Cabin Home are, from lowest to highest:
5 6 7 1 2 3 5
Key of Bb: F G A Bb C D F
Key of G: D E F# G A B D
17 songs were played at last night's jam:
Blue Ridge Cabin Home - Bb
Down The Road - B
I'll Still Write Your Name In The Sand - A
In The Pines - G
In The Sweet By And By - B
Liberty - D
Little Liza Jane - D
Lonesome Road Blues - G
Nine Pound Hammer - B
Old Joe Clark - A
Reuben - D
Turkey In The Straw - G
Wreck Of The Old '97 - D
Angeline The Baker - D
Soldier's Joy - D
A Memory Of You - Bb
Foggy Mountain Top - G
Blue Ridge Cabin Home - banjo tab
Blue Ridge Cabin Home - guitar tab
Blue Ridge Cabin Home - mandolin tab
Blue Ridge Cabin Home - melody in Bb
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