November Jam on Nov 10 2021
For the intermediate jam in November, the songs of the month shall be:
Banks Of The Ohio - F
I Can't Feel At Home In This World Anymore - G
Reuben - D
I will lead the intermediate jam at the Powderhaus (6:30 - 9pm) on Nov. 10th, the second Wednesday in November. Between now and then, there will be no intermediate jams on Wednesdays at the Powderhaus; intermediate jams will only be held at the Powderhaus on the Wednesdays that I am available to be there to lead them. On the Wednesdays that I am not available for jamming (e.g., Oct. 27th, Nov. 3th, Nov. 17th), there will be private/open invitation intermediate to advanced jams held at Joe Gobel's house. Please email Joe at rjgobel.com for more information and details if you wish to participate in the jams held at his place.
The songs of the month for November are the three songs that I intend on calling at the jam when I lead it on Nov. 10th.
Song of the week write-ups, melody sheets, etc., and jam videos for these songs can be found on the IBA website by clicking on the following links:
Intermediate Bluegrass Jam Songs - Idaho Bluegrass Association
Category: I Can't Feel At Home In This World Anymore - Idaho Bluegrass Association
Beginner Bluegrass Jam Songs - Idaho Bluegrass Association
Jason’s YouTube Links – Alphabetical Listing – Parisology (cyberplasm.com)
A copy of the current handouts for the intermediate jam may be found here (scroll to the bottom of the page in the link for the handouts):
Idaho Bluegrass Association - Jason's Intermediate Jam Blog 2021 - 2022
Here are some things in the song of the week write-ups for the November songs of the month that I would like to especially draw attention to. (In some cases I have here modified/edited the quotations from the write-ups, and also added new material, especially in the way of recording selections and other youtube links.)
Tony Rice (key of F)
I like to play this song with the same very pronounced 'swing' or 'bouncy' feel that is on the recording. This 'feel' is created by delaying playing the second of two consecutive eighth notes, whenever the first of the two eighth notes occurs in one of the 4 strongest spots in a measure (but not delaying the note that comes after it that is in a strong spot in the measure). On the recording, this is particularly noticeable on the banjo, since quite often the banjo is playing a steady stream of eighth notes. In cut common time, a measure consisting of 8 eighth notes is counted as: 1e&a2e&a. The 4 strongest spots are the '1', the '2' and the 'ands'. (boom-chuck-boom-chuck) To create this 'bounce', the notes occurring in these spots are held about twice as long as the notes occurring in the 4 weaker spots. The resulting pattern of note durations is thus: long-short-long-short-long-short-long-short. On rhythm guitar, this means that any upstrokes that are played (between the 'boom' and the 'chuck' or vice versa) will be delayed.
On most bluegrass recordings, this 'bounce' is ever-present to one degree or another; but on some songs, and as played by certain players, it is more pronounced, (or is just simply more readily noticeable,) than usual.
Key of F Review
The 1, 4, and 5 chords in the key of F are F, Bb, and C respectively.
The F Major Scale consists of the notes: F, G, A, Bb, C, D, and E.
For playing in the key of F, bluegrass guitarists usually either capo the 5th fret and play as if in C, or capo the 3rd fret and play as if in D, but occasionally capo the 1st fret and play as if in E. For Banks Of The Ohio, I favor the first option, as I find it works better for me for the kinds of breaks I tend to want to play for the song (Carter-style, crosspicking, or a combination of both).
For playing in the key of F, 3-finger-style banjo players are faced with many options, some of which are: 1) play in G tuning without a capo; 2) keep the four long strings in G tuning without a capo, but raise the 5th string to an A note; 3) in G tuning, capo the 5th fret, and raise the 5th string to a C note, and play as if in C; 4) in G tuning, capo the 3rd fret and raise the 5th string to a C note, and play as if D; and 5) in D tuning (F#DF#AD or ADF#AD), capo the 3rd fret, and raise the 5th string either to an A note or to a C note, and play as if in D. For Banks Of The Ohio, I recommend the first two options for those who already have a bit of experience playing in F without a capo. (The second option is the one used on the banjo on the recording.) For those who do not have such experience yet, I suggest trying the third option; but some may prefer the results they get from the fifth option instead.
Melody & Breaks
There are only 8 important melody notes in Banks Of The Ohio: the first note of each odd numbered measure. See how many of these you can catch by ear by listening to the song before looking at the attached melody sheets. All the other melody notes in the song are connector notes: they function to create smooth transitions from one of the 8 main melody notes to the next main melody note. It makes little difference whether one uses transitional notes that ascend into the next main melody note or transitional notes that descend into the next main melody note. Even singers differ among themselves on which set of transitional notes to use to get from one main melody note to the next in this song, so even more so for the instruments, there is a lot of leeway for choosing transitional notes without this resulting in making the song unrecognizable. For instance, in place of the A G F notes in measure 2 that lead to the G note in measure 3, you could use F E F instead. And, in place of the F G A notes in measure 10 that lead to the Bb note in measure 11, you could use C D C instead.
Notice that the intro break on the mandolin grabs notes 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8 of the 8 main melody notes, but overshoots main melody note 5 (measure 9) going temporarily into the tenor harmony, and also overshoots main melody note 7 (measure 13) in the process of using a non-melody based 1511 break ending lick that would work for any number of songs played in the key of F (and, for any other key, if one transposes the notes) that have a progression that ends with 1511 Are you able to tell which of the main melody notes are preserved and not preserved in the other 3 breaks on the recording?
From the 'I Can't Feel At Home...' write-ups:
The chord progression I use for I Can't Feel At Home In This World Anymore is:
Compare this progression with the 'Foggy Mountain Top' progression:
...and with the chord progression I usually use for 'Leaning On The Everlasting Arms':
An informal name for chords other than the 1,4,and 5 that you will sometimes hear in bluegrass circles is 'off-chords'. The '2' chord is one of the two most commonly used major 'off-chords' in traditional bluegrass. The other one is the 'b7' (flat-seven) chord. I suggest making it a point to memorize the '2' and 'b7' chords for each of the keys that come up at the jam. Observe that '2' is a whole-step higher than '1', and that 'b7' is a whole-step lower than '1':
b7 1 2
Key of G: F G A
Key of A G A B
Key of Bb Ab Bb C
Key of B A B C#
Key of C Bb C D
Key of D C D E
Key of E D E F#
Key of F Eb F G
'2' & 'b7' Contrasted
Just as through experience with playing songs that have 1,4,and 5 chords in them, one learns to readily distinguish the sound of the progression 1-4-1 from the sound of the progression 1-5-1, and to detect when a chord is being played that is other than the 1, the 4, or the 5, so also, through experience with playing songs that have various 'off-chords' in them, one learns to be able to just as readily distinguish which 'off-chord' is being played. For starters, I suggest observing that songs that have only the '2' as an 'off-chord' in them tend to have a very different sounding type of melody than songs that have only the 'b7' as an off-chord in them.
[For song examples, including youtube links, go to the write-up on the website, for which a link is given near the top of this email message. For a longer list of song examples: go to the corresponding section of the following write-up for 'I Can't Feel At Home...' Intermediate Bluegrass Jam Songs - Idaho Bluegrass Association]
A final point worthwhile taking notice of is that while the 'b7' chord is more often than not sandwiched between '1' chords, just like the '4' and '5' chords most often are, the '2' chord is almost always followed immediately by the '5' chord.
From the write-ups for 'Reuben':
Key & Banjo Tuning
In Bluegrass circles, Reuben is almost always played in the key of D, with the banjo tuned to an open D major chord ('D tuning': F#DF#AD, or ADF#AD).
Flatt and Scruggs with Doc Watson (banjo, fiddle, guitar, dobro, and harmonica breaks)
reuben scruggs doc watson - YouTube
Earl Scruggs, Marty Stuart, Mark O'Connor (banjo, fiddle, dobro, and guitar breaks: very improv. oriented)
To capo or not to capo
The tune has a strong drony character to it. To help contribute to this feel of the song, I recommend that guitar and banjo players avoid using a capo for this tune. Some guitar players like to lower their low E string to a D, so as to further enhance the drony feel of the song.
Because the melody is simple and repetitive, and mostly stays on one chord, jamming Reuben makes for a good opportunity to develop one's improvisational skills. (When improvising over Reuben, one can often get away with ignoring the A chord altogether.) Reuben is the kind of tune that, when played without variation, can become monotonous quite quickly. Yet, when one adds just enough variation into the mix, Reuben is the kind of tune that can be jammed on for 10 minutes or more without it getting monotonous.
One can take one's first steps towards improvisation (making up a break on the fly) by creating variations on the melody. There are many ways to do this. Examples include adding in extra notes between melody notes, taking out notes, altering the rhythm of the melody, and taking a measure or two of the melody and simply repeating it over and over again. If you wish to get a little bit more adventurous, you can try creating variations that drift in and out of the melody. For getting started with doing this, I would like to point out that one can get a lot of mileage out of including C notes in your variations. Lingering on C notes works quite well for improvisation on this tune if you find yourself out on a limb while your hands are trying to find where to go next on the fretboard. And, if you are new to improvising, there will be many, many times when you will suddenly find yourself 'out on a limb'. In order to become a good improv player (or even to do any kind of improv at all), one must be willing to take risks.
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