Another excellent jam last night! The song of the week is 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken' in the key of G.
As I play it, this song uses the same chord progression as I'll Fly Away (Prog. V3 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout):
Other progressions that have been used on recordings of the song include:
(In the key of G: 1=G; 4=C; 5=D; 6m=Em.)
Since the person leading the song is responsible for determining which progression will be used for the song, it is important at a jam to pay attention to the choice of chord changes being used by the person leading the song, so that you don't find yourself using a different progression than that used by the leader.
Here are some youtube links to listen to of 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken'
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - on their classic 3-record 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken' album: with Earl Scruggs on banjo, Vassar Clements on fiddle, Doc Watson on guitar, and Mother Maybelle Carter, Jimmy Martin, and Roy Acuff taking turns singing the verses: key of A
Will The Circle Be Unbroken bluegrass version - Key of G:
(Notice that this version uses the 6m chord in place of the 1 in the last measure of the 3rd line, and ends with an a capela chorus.)
The Carter Family: Key of Ab
(I include this version for historical reasons - although it is pre-bluegrass, and is quite 'crooked' (1/2 measures being used in place of full measures in various spots within the song), and uses 5511 instead of 1511 for the last line of the progression.
About the melody sheets attached here: notice that while the G major scale consists of the 7 notes G, A, B, C, D, E, and F#, only five of these notes are used for the melody of Will The Circle Be Unbroken; these are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th notes of the G major scale: G, A, B, D, and E. This 5-note subset of the G major scale forms what is called the G major pentatonic scale.
Knowing which 5 notes of the major scale form the major pentatonic scale can be very useful when trying to find the melody of a song on an instrument, because there are many songs like Will The Circle Be Unbroken that have melodies that use only the notes of the major pentatonic scale, and even in songs that use more notes, the notes of the pentatonic scale tend to show up more frequently than the two major scale notes that are not included in the major pentatonic scale.
Some other songs that use only the notes of the major pentatonic scale in their melodies are: 'Amazing Grace', 'Shortnin' Bread', 'My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains', 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot', 'Canaan's Land', 'Mountain Dew', 'All The Good Times Are Past And Gone', 'Down The Road', 'Nine Pound Hammer', 'Handsome Molly', 'Camptown Races', and 'Liza Jane'.
Examples of songs on the top 20 and additional 30 lists that have one or two more notes in their melodies besides the notes of the major pentatonic scale, but which still have for the most part, a major pentatonic sound because these extra notes occur only once or twice in the melody and/or are used only in passing between two more prominent melody notes in the tune, include: 'I'll Fly Away', 'Mama Don't Allow', 'Shady Grove', 'Angeline The Baker' (some versions of the melody for 'Angeline The Baker' are entirely pentatonic), 'Leaning On The Everlasting Arms', 'Worried Man Blues', 'She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain', and 'This Little Light Of Mine'.
Here is a comparison of the major scales and major pentatonic scales for the 4 keys we play in most frequently at the jam:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
G major G A B C D E F#
G major pentatonic G A B D E
A major A B C# D E F# G#
A major pentatonic A B C# E F#
C major C D E F G A B
C major pentatonic C D E G A
D major D E F# G A B C#
D major pentatonic D E F# A B