The song of the week is 'Mountain Dew' in the key of A.
Flatt and Scruggs with Merle Travis - live at Carnegie Hall (key of A): banjo and fiddle breaks
Stanley Brothers (key of Bb, tuned a bit sharp): guitar breaks
Stringbean (key of A): clawhammer banjo and dobro breaks
...and, included for historical reasons, Grandpa Jones (key of A, clawhammer banjo): more of an old-time version than a bluegrass version of the song (even more so than the Stringbean recording), but many bluegrass players associate 'Mountain Dew' with Grandpa Jones, and have been influenced by his performance of the song:
Mountain Dew has the same chord progression as I'll Fly Away and Will The Circle Be Unbroken:
(Prog. V3 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout)
Mountain Dew is often played at a fast tempo. The song does not lend itself well to being played as slowly as what we have often played many other songs at the jam. While I do not intend on playing it as fast at the beginner jam as it is played on the recordings provided here, it should still be one of our faster songs within the range of tempos that we play at.
Here are some things to try that might help you to play faster:
For rhythm guitar: focus on the bass notes, think of the strums as though they were a mere afterthought. Keep the strums between the bass notes relatively quiet; between bass notes, the strums should be a single, rapidly executed, and compact downstroke with the pick aiming for no more than just the 1st, 2nd and 3rd strings. The pick should not need to change the angle at which it hits the strings between strums and bass notes, and there should be no more than the bare minimum amount of motion from the hand and arm needed for playing rhythm.
For banjo: don't get locked into doing the same right hand picking pattern over and over again; repetitive motions are difficult to maintain even for a short time at fast tempos. Leave some of the less important notes out of the rolls: various mixtures of quarter notes and 8th notes are not only easier to play at fast tempos that a steady stream of 8th notes, but also tend to sound better.
For bass: when playing along with records, make sure that you are able to play on top of the beat, rather than behind it. Can you push the beat just a little bit without speeding up or falling out of time with the record? Test yourself on this with moderate tempo songs before attempting to play along with fast songs on a record.
For guitar and mandolin breaks: for fast songs, tend to play fewer notes per measure than what you would do for moderate tempo songs; the faster the song is, the less need there is for so many notes in order for your breaks to be satisfying to the ear.
For fiddle: when you wish to include measures consisting mostly of 8th notes in your breaks, you might try to find places where it is convenient to play 3 or 4 notes back to back with a single bow stroke, rather than using a separate bow stroke for each note.
For all instruments: when practicing with a metronome, set the metronome just a couple beats faster than the fastest tempo that you feel comfortable playing at, and make yourself keep up to it. Isolate and loop any spots that you find yourself tending to slow down on or stumble over (starting at a slower tempo than what you had the metronome set to, building back up to that speed), or find ways to simplify what you are playing in those spots. Once the metronome speed feels comfortable to play at, set it yet another couple of beats faster, and repeat the same process.
I know six verses for Mountain Dew, but usually use only four or five of them at a time when singing the song at a jam. Among the four recorded versions given here, all six of these verses are accounted for. Three verses is enough to know for the sake of leading the song at a jam. But, the advantage of knowing more verses for the song than what you would sing at any one time at a jam is that if, in the moment, you forget one of the verses, you are less likely to need to repeat a verse you already sang.
The first words of each of the six verses I know are:
1. There's a big holler tree down the road here from me...
2. Mr. Roosevelt told me just how he felt...
3. My Uncle Mort, he is sawed off and short...
4. My Aunt June bought some new perfume...
5. The preacher rode by with his head heisted high...
6. My Brother Bill's got a still on the hill...
The verses that I tend to almost always use when singing the song are the first, third, and sixth on the list, and the one that I leave out more often than any of the others is the fourth. But, the faster the song is played, the more inclined I am to sing more verses.
weekly on Wednesdays
Songs regularly called at the Beginner Bluegrass Jam and links from Jason's "Song of the Week" emails. (from Renee)
in alphabetical order