Away In A Manger
The song of the week is 'Away In A Manger' in the key of G.
'Away In A Manger' is played in 3/4 time, and the chord progression is:
In the key of G: 1=G; 4=C; 5=D.
Like most Christmas carols, Away In A Manger has a very strong and memorable melody. So, when working up a break for this song, it is best to focus more on learning to play the melody cleanly and accurately, than upon figuring out how to make use of your favorite licks. The melody carries itself, and does not really require embellishment. But, once you have the melody down pat, then you might find a select spot here and there in which to add a double stop (i.e., playing a harmony note along with the melody note), a filler note or two between some of the melody notes, or a slide into a melody note.
If you have tried adapting Christmas carols to bluegrass, then you may have noticed that some carols adapt more easily and naturally than others. Like 'Away In A Manger', most of the ones in 3/4 time are good candidates for attempts to play them with a bluegrass feel; but of these, the ones that tend to adapt best have fewer melody notes (on average) per measure and fewer quick chord changes relative to the ones that don't adapt quite as easily. For example, Silent Night and It Came Upon The Midnight Clear are more 'bluegrass-friendly' than The First Noel and We Wish You A Merry Christmas.
The carols that are either in cut time (2/2) or in 2/4 (e.g., Jingle Bells, Good King Wenceslas) are natural candidates for being given a bluegrass treatment; while, on the other hand, most of the 4/4 carols (e.g., O Come All Ye Faithful, O Little Town Of Bethlehem) need to be converted to a cut time feel in order to be played as bluegrass songs; but this can be challenging to do if one is not yet very familiar with how this kind of conversion works, or if one has not heard enough examples of songs being played both ways. As being able to do this conversion is useful not only for creating bluegrass arrangements of Christmas carols, but also for many other songs from various different genres, I intend on explaining more about this, and demonstrating it, during next week's teaching segment at the jam.
In addition to the melody sheet and sheet music to tab conversion chart attached here, here are a couple of youtube links for Away In A Manger:
Ricky Skaggs (key of G for first two verses and break, key of A for third verse)
solo banjo (key of G) - a good source of ideas for how one might go about playing more than just the melody for one's break, though, my own playing tendency is to use these kinds of additions to the melody much more sparingly than how it is played here, so as to enable the melody to stand out more prominently.