Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Good jam last night.
The song of the week is 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot', an old spiritual that lends itself very well to being played as a bluegrass song. Jason Young introduced this song to the jam at the end of the jam last night, and I thought it was excellent song choice.
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot has a familiar melody and chord progression. The progression is the same as for many other songs we play at the jam, including Foggy Mountain Top, the verse of Cotton Fields, the verses of Little Cabin Home On The Hill, All The Good Times, and Amazing Grace. The melody for the verses is quite similar to that of many first generation bluegrass songs and 'pre-bluegrass' songs, especially to the verses of Flatt and Scruggs' 'Little Girl Of Mine In Tennessee', and to the verses of the Carter Family's 'Lulu Walls'.
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot will be sang and played this coming week in the key of G. The progression is:
(In the key of G: 1=G; 4=C; 5=D)
Note: In some versions (examples are in the youtube links below), the second line of the progression is played as 1111 instead of as 1155. The reason why this works is because the melody note that is dragged over the last two measures of the second line is (in the key of G) a D note, and the D note is common to both the G (1) and the D (5) chord. Which chord is played at this point does, however, affect which notes would be sung by harmony singers at this point. The tenor harmony, for instance, would go to a G note if a G chord is played here, whereas it would go to an F# note if a D chord is played here.
The melody for the chorus is a bit different than the melody for the verse, though the progression is the same for both. So, one could just as easily use the chorus melody instead of the verse melody as the basis for one's breaks, but in the melody sheet attached here, I have given only the verse melody, and I recommend basing your breaks off of the verse melody, as this is what would usually be expected for breaks.
Del McCoury - key of B
Bill Monroe - key of B