The song of the week is 'Little Willie' in the key of A.
The Stanley Brothers - key of A
John Reischman & The Jaybirds - key of C
The chord progression for Little Willie is:
1 1 b7 b7
1 5 1 1
1 1 b7 b7
1 5 1 1
The b7 Chord
The b7 (flat-seven) chord is always one whole step (= two half steps) lower than the 1 chord.
If you know the 7 letter circular musical alphabet, and know that there is a note between every natural note except between B and C and between E and F, and know what is meant by a whole step (or by two half steps) and what is meant by flat (b) and sharp (#) and natural, then you have all the information you need to know in order to very quickly calculate what the b7 chord is for every key (albeit perhaps not the all the information you need in order to ensure that you are always naming it correctly: e.g., G# - incorrectly named - in place of Ab - correctly named - for the key of Bb, even though G# and Ab are one and the same note/chord).
Although we only use 8 of the 12 Major keys at our jam, here is the b7 chord for all 12 Major keys:
G: b7 = F
Ab: b7 = Gb
A: b7 = G
Bb: b7 = Ab
B: b7 = A
C: b7 = Bb
C#: b7 = B (or Db: b7 = Cb)
D: b7 = C
Eb: b7 = Db
E: b7 = D
F: b7 = Eb
F#: b7 = E (or Gb: b7 = Fb)
Banjo and guitar players who regularly make use of a capo should at the very least memorize the letter name of the b7 chord for the keys of G, C, and D.
Guitar players whose guitars are set up to be capable of the level of volume needed in order to stand a chance of cutting through at a large Bluegrass jam
(medium or heavy gauge strings and high action) will find it helpful to remember that the b7 chord in the key of C is Bb, so that when they know that the song about to be played at the jam has a b7 chord in it, and is going to be played in the key of C, or D, or E, or F, they can choose a option that will not require them to play a Bb chord-shape: for this chord-shape is physically difficult to form and to make sound right on a guitar with high action and medium to heavy gauge strings.
4 vs. b7
When I am playing guitar, my F shape chords look so similar to my C shape chords that, in order to distinguish them from each other, you may find it easier to rely on your ear to hear the difference between when I am playing a b7 chord instead of a 4 chord for the keys of G, A, Bb, B, and C, than to rely on what you (may think you) are seeing on my guitar.
The b7 chord sounds distinctively different than the 4 chord (even if not as different as what the b7 sounds like relative to the 1 and the 5). To help familiarize yourself with the specific sound of the b7 chord, you may find it helpful to listen to some of the following songs that use this chord back to back with songs that have only the 1,4 and 5 chords in them.
'Rain And Snow' (This song uses only the 1 and b7 chords: every line of the progression is 1 b7 1 1.) Key of G:
'June Apple' (1 and b7 chords in the A-Part, 1, b7, and 4 chords in the B-Part: no 5 chord): Key of A: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b-8fxsjnZY
'Little Maggie' - (1, b7, and 5 chords, like Little Willie) Key of C: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXl5YJrVeII
'High On A Mountain' (2nd measure of the 3rd line of the verses and breaks, 2nd measure of lines 1 and 3 of the choruses) Key of G: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uw82yX4b_vE
'Red Haired Boy' (4th measure of the A-Part, 1st and 4th measures of the B-Part) Key of A: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZJZrOhwEQA
'Old Joe Clark' (The b7 chord occurs in the 4th measure of the B-Part; the corresponding spot in the A-Part uses the 5 chord; the tune does not use the 4 chord) Key of A: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYu_FdJWDs0
You may also find it helpful to play through the progression for Little Willie back to back with the progression for Nine Pound Hammer, for the only difference between the two progressions is that Nine Pound Hammer uses the 4 chord in the spots where Little Willie uses the b7 chord.
In the version of the melody for Little Willie given in the attachments, which is based upon how Ralph Stanley sang the song on the Stanley Brothers recording, the melody consists of the first 5 notes of the Major Scale (A, B, C#, D, and E in the key of A; G, A, B, C, and D in the key of G), plus the two 'blue notes' b3 (C in the key of A; Bb in the key of G) and b7 (G in the key of A; F in the key of G). It is because the b7 note is lingered on in measure 3 of lines 1 and 3 that the progression for the song contains the b7 chord.
20 songs were played at the jam last night:
Are You Missing Me - Bb
Bill Cheatham - A
Cherokee Shuffle - A
Cry, Cry Darlin' - G
Cryin' Holy - G
Dooley - B
I Saw the Light - A
Little Willie - A
Red Wing - G
Steel Rails - C
Wabash Cannonball - G
Why Don't You Tell Me So - C
Love Me Darling Just Tonight - A
Wreck Of The Old '97 - A
Red Rose, White Carnation - G
Foggy Mountain Breakdown - G
Golden Slippers - G
Your Love Is Like A Flower - A
Sun's Gonna Shine In My Back Door Someday - Bb
Temperance Reel - G
Jason's Intermediate Jam Blog 2019 - 2021
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