The song of the week is 'I Saw The Light' in the key of Bb. I will not be at the jam this coming week: Kathy will lead the jam in my absence.
Though not originally a bluegrass song, 'I Saw The Light' has by now become a bluegrass jam standard. Everything about the song - its melody, its chord progression, its subject matter, etc., makes it perfect for bluegrass. 'I Saw The Light' was written and originally recorded by Hank Williams.
Here are two good bluegrass versions of 'I Saw The Light', both in the key of Bb, from first generation bluegrass artists:
The Stanley Brothers
Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys
(For those new to bluegrass: Bill Monroe is the mandolin player singing the high harmony on the song. The membership in Bill's band was subject to constant change during the 60 or so years of its existence. The 1945-1948 lineup, which included Lester Flatt on guitar, and Earl Scruggs on banjo, is regarded by many bluegrass musicians and fans as the original bluegrass band.)
For the sake of comparison and contrast, here is the original Hank Williams recording of 'I Saw The Light' (key of G):
The chord progression for 'I Saw The Light' is:
Notice that the last line of the progression consists of five measures, instead of only four.
In the key of Bb: 1=Bb. 4=Eb, and 5=F.
The Bb chord consists of the notes: Bb,D, and F
The Eb chord consists of the notes: Eb, G, and Bb
The F chord consists of the notes F,A,C.
Together, these notes make up the Bb Major Scale: Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, A, but the melody of 'I Saw The Light', like many other songs, makes use of only 5 of these: the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th notes of the scale (In Bb, these notes are Bb, C, D, F, and G: these 5 notes form what is called the Bb Major Pentatonic Scale.)
For playing in the key of Bb, banjo and guitar players almost always capo the 3rd fret so they can play as if they were playing in the key of G. (Bb is 3 half-steps higher than G.) For this reason the melody sheets attached here for guitar and banjo are written in the key of G.
[In the key of G: 1=G. 4=C, and 5=D. The G chord consists of the notes: G. B, and D. The C chord consists of the notes: C, E, and G, The D chord consists of the notes: D, F#,, and A. Together, these notes make up the G Major Scale: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#. The 5 notes: G, A, B, D, and E form the G Major Pentatonic Scale.]