The song of the week is the Flatt & Scruggs classic 'Why Don't You Tell Me So' in the key of F.
Here is the original Flatt & Scruggs recording of Why Don't You Tell Me So - key of F#
Here is a good cover version of the song from Tony Rice - key of F
The Flatt & Scruggs recording is in the very rarely used key of F# (or Gb, if you prefer) instead of the much more common key of F only because the instruments were all tuned a half step higher in pitch than standard. To play along with the recording, I advise banjo, mandolin and fiddle players to tune their instruments a half step higher and then play as if in F. (Guitar players need not retune their instruments, for there is little advantage in doing so: either capo 4 and then play as if in D, capo 6 and then play as if in C, or capo 2 and then play as if in E will work just fine for playing along with the recording.)
Note to Banjo Players
If the band had been tuned to standard pitch, Scruggs' playing on Why Don't You Tell Me So would be an example of playing in F without a capo (banjo tuned in G tuning with the 5th string capoed at the 7th fret so that the 5th string registers as an A note, a note that is part of the F chord).
For banjo players who wish to learn Earl's backup parts and break from the record, I point out that there is little difference in how it feels to play Scruggs' parts out of G (tuned down a half step from G tuning to be in tune with the recording: F#,C#,F#,A#,C#), or out of F (tuned up a half step from G tuning, with the 5th string capoed at the 7th fret: A#,D#,G#,B#,D#. B#=C) since only in a couple of spots in his backup playing does Scruggs use an open string, and in his break, the only open string he makes use of is the 5th string. Scruggs' playing on Why Don't You Tell Me So consists almost entirely of the same types of licks that he used in his key of G playing on other songs, just moved down two frets lower to put his playing in the key of F. There are however, a couple of spots during the backup parts in which one will run out of frets if tuned down instead of tuned up, but an easy fix for this is to simply drop those spots a whole octave: i.e., play the notes 12 frets lower.
For the sake of banjo players who have little or no experience playing the kinds of movable licks that Scruggs used on the recording, and little or no experience with playing in the key of F without a capo, I suggest going with the capo 5 and then play as if in C option for playing in the key of F on this song.
In the attachments, I have included two banjo tab melody sheets: one in the key of F and one in the key of C.
Finally, it should be observed that Scruggs' up the neck break that occurs after the second chorus of the song does not follow the melody closely enough to be used as an effective intro break for the song.
The chord progression for the verses and breaks is the very familiar progression:
(Prog. V2 on the basic chord progressions chart)
The chord progression for the choruses is the most common progression for choruses in songs in which the verses use Prog. V2 while the choruses use a different progression. Only the first line differs from V2:
The Mercury Sessions
Why Don't You Tell Me So was the 8th song that Flatt & Scruggs recorded together after leaving Bill Monroe's band. It is one of 28 songs that Flatt & Scruggs recorded together on Mercury Records between 1948 and 1950 (before they went to a different record label: Columbia). This collection of 28 songs is commonly referred to as 'the Mercury Sessions', and I consider it to be essential listening for students of Bluegrass music.
Most of these 28 songs have become Bluegrass standards and have been covered by numerous Bluegrass artists.
In the order in which they were recorded, here are youtube links to the 28 songs of the Mercury Sessions. Songs that I especially recommend listening to several times over are marked with an asterisk
*1. We'll Meet Again Sweetheart
2. God Loves His Children
*3. My Cabin In Caroline
4. I'm Going To Make Heaven My Home
5. Baby Blue Eyes
*6. Down The Road
7. Bouquet In Heaven
*8. Why Don't You Tell Me So
*9. I'll Never Shed Another Tear
*10. Foggy Mountain Breakdown
*11. No Mother Or Dad
*12. Is It Too Late Now
*13. My Little Girl In Tennessee
14. I'll Be Going To Heaven Sometime
15. I'll Never Love Another
16. So Happy I'll Be
*17. Doin' My Time
*18. Pike County Breakdown
19. Preachin' Prayin' Singin'
*20. Cora Is Gone
*21. Pain In My Heart
*22. Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms
23. Back To The Cross
*24. Old Salty Dog Blues
25. Will The Roses Bloom (Where She Lies Sleeping)
*26. Take Me In A LIfeboat
*27. Farewell Blues
28. I'll Just Pretend
The third line of the progression for Farewell Blues is: 6 6 2 b3.
In the key of D, that is: BBEF (B7 may be used in place of B). In the key of C, that is: AADEb.
The progression for the chorus of Rocky Top is:
6m 6m 5 5
b7 b7 4 4
4 4 1 1
1 b7 1 1
1 b7 1 1