The song of the week is 'Gathering Flowers From The Hillside' in the key of G.
'Gathering Flowers' is just one of thousands of simple and straightforward bluegrass songs that, for that very reason, tend to work well at almost any bluegrass jam, irrespective of how many people at the jam have ever played or even heard the song before. Keep your ears open for these types of songs if you are looking for ways to more rapidly increase your repertoire of songs to introduce into the jams you play at.
The chord progression for 'Gathering Flowers' is:
(Prog. V1 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout)
In the key of G: 1 = G; 5 = D. The G chord consists of the notes G, B, and D. The D chord consists of the notes D, F#, and A.
Notice the relation between the progression for 'Gathering Flowers' (V1) and the progressions used to play 'Mama Don't Allow' (V2), 'Foggy Mountain Top (V6), and 'Bury Me Beneath The Willow' (V7). V1 simply stays on the '1' chord in all the spots where these other progressions have a '4' chord. In all four of these progressions, the locations of the '5' chords are the same (measures 3 and 4 of line 2, and measure 2 of line 4), and in all these progressions, measures 1 and 2 of lines 1, 2, and 3, and measures 1, 3, and 4 of line 4 have the '1' chord.
Here are a few versions of 'Gathering Flowers From The Hillside' to take a listen to. The first one is just good old straightforward traditional bluegrass. The second one is from an old-school country artist I have always enjoyed listening to whose music could be described (albeit somewhat anachronistically) as somewhere between country and bluegrass. And the third one is the version that I learned the song from.
Earl Taylor & Jim McCall - key of G
Wilma Lee Cooper - key of C
Hylo Brown - key of F
Melody & Breaks
Remember, the melody sheets provided here in the attachments are just that and nothing more. They do not show you how to play bluegrass-style breaks on your instrument. So, why do I include the melody sheets in the song of the week emails? Because, to a significant extent, creating a break that sounds like it belongs in the song (and this is especially true of intro breaks, i.e., the break that is played before the singing starts and which identifies what song is being played even before the singing starts, or in the case of an instrumental, just simply the first break) involves surrounding the melody notes in the song with appropriate choices of other notes: and, in order to do this, one needs to have a fairly clear idea of what the melody of the song is.
There are countless ways to play a break for any given song, and how one plays a break for a song depends upon several factors, including stylistic preference, level of technical ability on one's instrument, and even things of the nature of what tempo the song is being played at. But, once one is past the very beginner stages of learning to play 'lead' parts, attempts should be made - with the help of a teacher if need be - to play in a way that involves more than just copying on one's instrument the melody of the song as sung.
Concerning Pickup Notes into a break for Gathering Flowers. Instead of playing only the 2 pickup notes (B and C) that are sung in the vocal melody (see the attached melody sheets) to lead into the first complete measure of your break, it is often more effective at jams to add a 3rd quarter note, a C#, after these two notes, especially if you the one kicking off the song with an intro break. The chromatically ascending sequence of pickup notes: B, C, C# to lead to a D note on a G chord is commonplace on good Bluegrass records (good examples of this are at the beginning of the banjo intro break and at the beginning of the fiddle break on the first youtube link given here for Gathering Flowers). Three-quarters of a measure, rather than just half a measure, worth of pickup notes gives everyone at the jam a better sense of what the tempo of the song will be, so that they can all start playing backup confidently behind the person playing the intro break at the beginning of the first complete measure of the break. This is a good case in point illustrating how it is sometimes better to make modifications to the melody as sung, rather than to follow the melody slavishly, when creating melody-based breaks.
Note: Many melodies do not have any built-in pickup notes leading into their first complete measure; in these cases one needs to create a pick-up measure to have an effective intro break for the song. This can be done by borrowing pickup phrases from other songs in which the first full measure of the song starts with the same note and same chord as the song in question, or one can learn common generic pickup phrases used on Bluegrass records for each specific situation: e.g., a generic pickup phrase leading to a B note on a G chord, a generic pickup phrase leading to a C note on a C chord, etc.
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