When The Saints Go Marching In
The song of the week is 'When The Saints Go Marching In' in the key of F.
Here is a youtube link of Flatt and Scruggs playing the song in the key of F:
The chord progression is the same as for two other songs that are played regularly at the jam: 'Mama Don't Allow', and 'The Crawdad Song' (Prog. V2 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout, included in the attachments to this email for those who are new to the jam or new to the beginner jam mailing list)
In the key of F: 1 = F, 4 = Bb, 5 = C.
Additional versions to listen to:
Monroe Brothers - key of D:
Note: On this recording, the progression is slightly different: 5511 for the last line instead of 1511: thus:
which is Prog. W2 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout, and is the progression that I use for New River Train, though when others have led New River Train at the jam, some of them have chosen to use the progression that Flatt & Scruggs used for When The Saints (Prog. V2). Prog. V2 is the progression we will use at the jam for When The Saints when I lead it.
Note: For the column 2 progressions, more so than for any other column on the chart, it is almost never safe to assume V2 over W2 or vice versa when playing a song for the first time with the person leading the song, no matter how well you know the song that is being played. Unless the leader specifies in advance, you won't know whether the progression will be V2 or W2 until you see or hear him either play or lead into the beginning of the last line of the progression. I've seen it happen at many jams where, for instance, during 'Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms' some of the people, including the leader of the song, are playing W2, while others are playing V2 and seem not to notice that they are not following the leader.
The Lilly Brothers & Don Stover - key of F:
For harmony singers: notice the arrangement of the vocals: For the first line of each verse and chorus, the lead singer and the harmony singer(s) alternate with each other rather than singing at the same time: in the space after each of the two halves of the lead part in the first line, there is exactly enough time for the harmony singer(s) to repeat the lyrics that the lead singer has just sung before he needs to start singing his next syllable, then after that, the remainder of the verse or chorus is sung as usual with all the singers singing at the same time. Notice what makes this a very jam-friendly arrangement: it this means that one does not need to know in advance which verse the lead singer will sing next in order to sing harmony with him; the harmony singers need not ever even heard that verse before in order to be able to sing it, they can learn it as they go during the first line of each verse; for once they have learned the first line of the verse, echoing it back the two halves of it to the lead singer, then they will use that same set of lyrics for the second and fourth lines. As for the third line of every verse, it is always the same as the third line of the chorus: "O Lord I want to be in that number".
Note: When I sing this song at a jam, I usually don't use a chorus for the song. The chorus in the versions provided here functions in my version as the first and last verse of the song: this allows for more breaks to be played without the song lasting so long.
'When The Saints Go Marching In' is one of the few songs in my repertoire that I find the key of F better suited than any other key for my vocal range. This is a big part of the reason why I chose this song for the song of the week. I have noticed that of the 8 standard bluegrass keys (the 7 naturals + Bb), the key of F is the key that we least often play in at the jam, and I have found it useful to use 'When The Saints Go Marching In' as a way to get myself started for playing in any key that I am not accustomed to playing in. Not only does the song have a familiar chord progression, but the melody consists of only the first 5 notes of the major scale (do-re-mi-fa-sol). The first 3 notes of the major scale (do-re-mi, or in Nashville Numbers 1-2-3) are especially important points of reference for playing in a given major key, since it is extremely rare for even one of these notes to be absent from major key melodies.
For mandolin, fiddle, and bass players (and players of any other instrument on which capos are not commonly used): the two major scales that share the most notes and in common with the F major scale (one flat in the scale: Bb) are C (no flats or sharps), and Bb (two flats: Bb and Eb), so if you are more familiar with playing in Bb and C than with playing in F, you might find it helpful for finding your way on the fingerboard in the key of F to think of it as having a lot in common with playing in these other keys. (The F major scale differs by only one note from the C major scale, and differs by only one notes from the Bb major scale.) As for the three most frequently used chords in the key of F (F, Bb, and C, the 1,4, and 5 respectively), you might notice that two of these chords are among the three most frequently used chords when playing in the key of C (C, F, G, the 1,4, and 5 respectively), and when playing in the key of Bb (Bb, Eb, F, the 1,4, and 5 respectively).
For banjo players:
On the Flatt and Scruggs recording, Earl played his banjo in F without a capo (but with the 5th string spiked at the 7th fret, so that the 5th string is tuned to a note - an 'A' note - that is one of the notes that makes up the '1' chord i.e., the F chord.) His break was played up-the-neck, but it works well on banjo also to play a down-the-neck break for this song in F without a capo, so I have included a down-the-neck melody sheet in the attachments written in banjo tab in F. But, if you know how to play an up-the-neck break in G for this song, and if your break contains no open strings other than the 5th string, all you need to do is move it down two frets lower and you will then be playing it in F.
Not all banjo players may wish to play this song in F without a capo; and for those who have never tried playing in F without a capo before, and do not have much time to work on this song before coming to the jam, I suggest working it up in either the key of D or the key of C without a capo (whichever feels more familiar to you) and then capoing up to the key of F, by spiking the 5th string at the 10th fret, or, if you - like myself - do not have a 10th fret spike - spike at the 9th fret and then tune the 5th string up the extra half step so that it registers as a 'C' note on your tuner, and then capoing to the 3rd fret if you were playing in D when you didn't have the capo on, or to the 5th fret if you were playing in C when you didn't have the capo on.
I prefer to play a Scruggs-style down-the-neck break for When The Saints in D without a capo rather than in C without a capo, for the key of D requires less left hand fingerings, and allows me to locate all my melody notes on the 4th and 3rd strings, which gives me more options in terms of which roll patterns I place around the melody.
The melody sheet in C in banjo tab is written with no open strings although one could make it easier on the left hand by getting all the D notes on the open 1st string instead of the 3rd fret of the 2nd string, and by getting all the G notes on the open 5th string instead of the 5th fret of the 1st string, but I have written it this way, so that the melody can be moved up-the-neck to any other location of the fretboard, depending on which key you desire to play it in without needing to change the left hand fingering patterns. For instance, to play the melody in F, just move all the key of C fingerings up 5 frets higher (because going up 5 half steps higher in pitch than a C note lands you on an F note).
For guitar players:
I have not included a melody sheet in guitar tab for the key of F without a capo, because bluegrass guitar players tend to avoid playing in F without a capo. Among other reasons, it does not allow them enough open strings in their chords to get that open 'ringing' sound that bluegrass players tend to favor, and to form a Bb chord (Bb is the 4 chord in the key of F) on guitar within the first few frets in such a way as to get the most desirable bass notes for bluegrass rhythm playing involves barring the index finger across the first fret of all 6 strings. This can be physically difficult to do on a guitar with the medium gauge strings and relatively high action that many bluegrass guitar players find desirable in order to get enough volume from their instruments so as to not be drowned out by the naturally louder instruments (banjo and fiddle especially). But, if you wish to try picking out the melody in F without a capo as a good exercise, or just for the fun of it, you may use the banjo tab melody sheet that is written in F, for the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd strings of the banjo are tuned the same way that the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd strings of the guitar are tuned. The same goes for dobro. (Any melody sheet I provide for banjo - unless I indicate on the tab a tuning other than G tuning - that does not involve the 5th string can be read as though it were dobro tab, for the first 4 strings of banjo and dobro are tuned the same.)
For guitar players who wish to play a Carter-style break for 'When The Saints', I recommend using the key of C melody tab included in the attachments (capo 5 for F). For those who prefer to play in D without a capo rather than in C without a capo (some, for instance, like to avoid playing 'F' shape chords whenever possible, others like to be able to use D runs in their backup and/or breaks, etc.), I have also included a key of D melody tab (capo 3 for F).
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