Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Beginning Instructional Jam Material

I thought it might be helpful to include on our blog the information we covered at the Instructional Jam Class last night.  This will give everyone the opportunity to review the information.  We covered a lot!

VOLUME - Don't play too loudly if you aren't playing the melody.

BLUEGRASS vs. FOLK - In bluegrass music, only one person sings the lead and only one person plays the melody at a time.  In folk, everyone does everything at the same time all the time.  If you break this rule in bluegrass, no one will want to jam with you!

VERSE & CHORUS - The verses of a song have different words.  Most songs have 2-3 verses.  The chorus of a song is the part that is played after every verse.  The words are always the same for the chorus.  Usually, harmony is sung on the chorus and not the verses, though this is not set in stone.

KICK-OFF - The instrumental lead (melody) that starts a song.

BREAK - This is a "break" for the vocalist.  It means that one of the musicians is going to play lead (melody) on their instrument.

STANDARD FORM - The standard form for a bluegrass vocal with three verses would be:  Kick-off, 1st verse, chorus, break, 2nd verse, chorus, break, 3rd verse, chorus, tag & end.

TAG - The "tag" is when you repeat the last line of a song at the end of the song.  It serves as an ending.  Sometimes the tag is two lines, but usually just one.

THE MUSICAL ALPHABET - The musical alphabet goes from A to G and then starts over again.

NASHVILLE NUMBER SYSTEM - Very basically, this means assigning numbers to the chords of a song.  This system is what studio musicians use so that there is only one chord chart no matter how many different keys the song may be played in.  It makes it easy to transpose to different keys, and it doesn't matter if one person uses a capo and another doesn't.

The numbers used to designate the chords are Roman Numerals.

Most bluegrass songs use I, IV & V chords.

Mandolin and banjo players learned how the Nashville Number System and their moveable chords work together.

HOW TO SIGNAL THE END - Lifting your leg up on the last line of a song is a good way to let others know you are ending the song.

HOW TO TELL WHAT KEY A SONG IS IN - If the songs starts and ends on the same chord, the song will be in that key.  If the song start and ends on different chords, then the song will be in the key of the ending chord.

We only played two- and three-chord songs last night, but we actually got through quite a few songs.  Everyone received copies of the lyrics and chords so that the songs may be practiced at home.  I will be passing out tabs to the songs at the next session.  Our repertoire is currently all in the key of G and includes bluegrass, gospel and folk songs:

1.  I Am Bound for the Promised Land
2.  Buffalo Gals
3.  Hot Corn Cold Corn
4.  Mountain Dew
5.  You Are My Sunshine
6.  This Land is Your Land
7.  The Crawdad Song
8.  Worried Man Blues

Banjo players are working on their G licks and the walk-up.  The G lick is played after the final D chord of a verse or chorus.  It is used in place of simply returning to the G chord with regular back-up.  Eventually, different licks will be used as well.  Banjo players also learned that they may use the D7 chord in place of D, as long as the song is not in the key of D.

Fiddle players learned simple "chords" to use as back-up, and how and when to play them.  Fiddle players may also play harmony to the vocalist, especially on slower songs.

Everyone, regardless of what instrument they play, learned what the G, C and D chords look like on guitar.  We also talked about how people may make their chords differently, and how you might be able to still tell what chords they are even though they are a little bit different.

Everyone also practiced singing the chorus of the songs as we played.

HEADS UP - We will add Bile Them Cabbage Down as our first instrumental.  Banjo players - start practicing with your capos at the 2nd fret!  We will be in the Key of A for this song.  Those without capos will be using the chords A, D & E.