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Thread: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

  1. #26
    jbmando RIP HK Jim Broyles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    Quote Originally Posted by LongBlackVeil View Post
    True, but it certainly sounds good with a minor backup as well
    The A part is minor, B part goes major then back to minor.
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  2. #27
    Registered User LongBlackVeil's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Broyles View Post
    The A part is minor, B part goes major then back to minor.
    But you could accompany the a part with major chords if you wanted to couldn't you? Idk I've never done it myself but I believe you can
    "When you learn an old time fiddle tune, you make a friend for life"

  3. #28

    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    Billy in the Lowground.

  4. #29
    Registered User doc holiday's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    "Billy in the Lowground is in Cmaj. It just has a minor chord in it.

  5. #30

    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Broyles View Post
    The A part is minor, B part goes major then back to minor.
    See my post #18
    Yes, that's the way Compton plays it. Since he has dedicated so much of his life studying Monroe's music, I tend to take is word for it. The tonality in that tune can be confusing though.

  6. #31
    Registered User Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    "Muddy Waters" as by the Seldom Scene; "Imitation of the Blues" by Larry Sparks.
    Beware Folks, sometimes a minor chord is like a big hole where all the energy of a song disappears.

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  8. #32
    bon vivant jaycat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    I want to thank everyone for the turnout. Much bigger than we had at the jam. Thanks for all the suggestions.

    I did try Pretty Polly in A Minor. Nobody seemed to know what I was getting at. Oh well.
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  9. #33

    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    I think that many of the traditionals mentioned here are modal old time tunes that were not standard major or minor before they were incorporated in the bluegrass repertoire. Many or all of them have older interpretations where the thirds were ambivalent, disputable or absent.

    In some of Monroe's minor tunes you can hear Monroe himself playing major thirds over the minor accompaniment. I always doubt if that is intentionally modern or wild, simple musical misunderstanding or a freedom that would have sounded nice over old timey thirdless accompaniment but does not work over chord triads. His B part in Crossing the Cumberlands sounds pretty NPON to me.

    Monroe's major chorus in Wayfaring Stranger, his major/minor ambivalence in Southern Flavor and Flatt's E major in Foggy Mountain Breakdown also sound somewhat uncomfortable to me. It makes me wonder how exotic a fixed minor third in a chord or scale may have been to early Appalachian ears.

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  11. #34
    jbmando RIP HK Jim Broyles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    Well, I have only really ever heard one version - Monroe on a TV appearance with Marty Stuart on guitar - but it is plain to my ear.
    "I thought I knew a lot about music. Then you start digging and the deeper you go, the more there is."~John Mellencamp

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  12. #35
    jbmando RIP HK Jim Broyles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    Originally Posted by Jim Broyles:
    The A part is minor, B part goes major then back to minor.
    LongBlackVeil posted:
    But you could accompany the a part with major chords if you wanted to couldn't you? Idk I've never done it myself but I believe you can

    No, the G note kind of militates against playing E major. Major sounds totally wrong there, to me.
    "I thought I knew a lot about music. Then you start digging and the deeper you go, the more there is."~John Mellencamp

    "Theory only seems like rocket science when you don't know it. Once you understand it, it's more like plumbing!"~John McGann

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Broyles View Post
    ...the G note kind of militates against playing E major. Major sounds totally wrong there, to me.
    But on another tune, Flatt played E-maj against Scruggs's G note in Foggy Mountain Breakdown on the initial Mercury recording. My old-time banjo picking friend Bob Schneider insists on having guitarists play the major chord when he picks the tune, 'cause that's what F & S did in 1949. It does add a bit of dissonant tension to the cliche´tune, IMHO.

    Just because a major-key tune has a minor chord in it, doesn't make it "in a minor key." Every teenage love song written in the '50's (I exaggerate, but not by much) had the !-6m-4-5 progression. Didn't make 'em "minor."
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  15. #37
    jbmando RIP HK Jim Broyles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    That's exactly what I said about Willow Garden backthread a ways.
    "I thought I knew a lot about music. Then you start digging and the deeper you go, the more there is."~John Mellencamp

    "Theory only seems like rocket science when you don't know it. Once you understand it, it's more like plumbing!"~John McGann

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  17. #38
    jbmando RIP HK Jim Broyles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    We can't ask the principals, but I'd bet a dollar Earl Scruggs intended the second chord in FMB to be E minor. The fact that Lester played E major there doesn't make it right. The fiddle's back up is Em and so is the banjo chord. Whoever insists on having the guitar play E major there is just being arbitrarily pedantic if you ask me. BTW, the dissonant tension sounds stupid, to me.
    "I thought I knew a lot about music. Then you start digging and the deeper you go, the more there is."~John Mellencamp

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  18. #39
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Broyles View Post
    We can't ask the principals, but I'd bet a dollar Earl Scruggs intended the second chord in FMB to be E minor. The fact that Lester played E major there doesn't make it right. The fiddle's back up is Em and so is the banjo chord. Whoever insists on having the guitar play E major there is just being arbitrarily pedantic if you ask me. BTW, the dissonant tension sounds stupid, to me.
    You have a point; later versions of the song had Flatt playing Em, though as I look at videos that show his left hand, his index finger seems to be dancing on and off the 3rd string -- who knows.

    My friend Bob's not being "arbitrarily pedantic," though; he just wants to recreate the sound of the 1949 Mercury recording, where Flatt played Emaj. It's not "right" or "wrong"; the band played what it played, and if the Emaj was a mistake, surely they could have re-done the take with the "right" chord. But they didn't, and the Em-against-Emaj dissonance is part of the classic first recording of Foggy Mountain Breakdown. Apparently they didn't think it sounded "stupid," and neither did Mercury Records -- nor Warren Beatty, who used the 1949 Mercury recording on the Bonnie & Clyde soundtrack, perpetuating the "error" forty years after it was made. Steve Sullivan's Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Records, V.2 footnotes Flatt's "mistake," saying it creates "a compelling sense of tension."

    However, every guitarist (me included) that's played FMB in my presence, has played Em -- unless Bob Schneider was around to ask for the major chord. So I guess that's now the "right" way to play it -- but Flatt's Emaj chord still lingers 65 years later. Differences of opinion, they say, are what makes horse races, and interesting Cafe´threads.
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  20. #40
    jbmando RIP HK Jim Broyles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    Record companies correcting mistakes! LOL!

    " Only youuuuuuuu... can-da make..."

    In Ernie K Doe's Mother in Law:

    "She ax me what I made..."

    Compelling tension - maybe to some, I don't like it at all.
    "I thought I knew a lot about music. Then you start digging and the deeper you go, the more there is."~John Mellencamp

    "Theory only seems like rocket science when you don't know it. Once you understand it, it's more like plumbing!"~John McGann

    "IT'S T-R-E-M-O-L-O, dangit!!"~Me

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    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    I'm with Jim, I don't like it. Those that insist on playing it (a very select few, in my world), do so to be 'authentic'. It's often a guitar man who does on it, therefore coloring the whole vibe. The bass? One-Five is E to B, doesn't much matter. On Tony Trischka's great LP Banjoland, they pick it. Tony gets out there, but sticks to the Em. And on that track, Buck White and Dawg do kind of a twin mandolin thing, just fantabulous.

  22. #42

    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Broyles View Post
    Record companies correcting mistakes! LOL!

    " Only youuuuuuuu... can-da make..."

    In Ernie K Doe's Mother in Law:

    "She ax me what I made..."

    Compelling tension - maybe to some, I don't like it at all.
    I don't think that grammatical or pronunciation errors are a fair comparison here. Unless of course you believe that those four chaps from Liverpool would have been as successful with 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' or 'She Loves You Yes Yes Yes'.

  23. #43
    jbmando RIP HK Jim Broyles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    Well, the two things I listed are a little different from colloquialism, or poetic license. If I had been at the Beatles' early sessions, I would have tried to correct Paul's "sawr them winging..."
    "I thought I knew a lot about music. Then you start digging and the deeper you go, the more there is."~John Mellencamp

    "Theory only seems like rocket science when you don't know it. Once you understand it, it's more like plumbing!"~John McGann

    "IT'S T-R-E-M-O-L-O, dangit!!"~Me

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  25. #44
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    I love playing the modal old-time tunes. I'd offer up a list, but it ain't quite bluegrass!

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  26. #45

    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Broyles View Post
    Well, the two things I listed are a little different from colloquialism, or poetic license. If I had been at the Beatles' early sessions, I would have tried to correct Paul's "sawr them winging..."
    Great point.
    And, I wish you had been at those sessions. The "sawr" is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

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    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    Yeah, but the lovely guitar solo makes up for it.

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    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    [QUOTE=allenhopkins; Differences of opinion, they say, are what makes horse races, and interesting Cafe´threads.[/QUOTE]

    Right on!

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  30. #48
    bon vivant jaycat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    Quote Originally Posted by FLATROCK HILL View Post
    Great point.
    And, I wish you had been at those sessions. The "sawr" is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.
    I have to say that the Beatles' rendition is not my "go-to" version of that tune. An example of one of the many fine takes over the years:

    "The paths of experimentation twist and turn through mountains of miscalculations, and often lose themselves in error and darkness!"
    --Leslie Daniel, "The Brain That Wouldn't Die."

    Some tunes: https://soundcloud.com/j-person

  31. #49

    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    Quote Originally Posted by doc holiday View Post
    "Billy in the Lowground is in Cmaj. It just has a minor chord in it.
    Thanks for correction. Having played less than a year I guess I was just going by what Tottel said in his book bluegrass mandolin as having a relative minor sound. I guess that is different than being in a minor key....

  32. #50
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Songs In a Minor Key?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eddie Sheehy View Post
    Lonesome moonlight waltz, Poor Wayfaring Stranger, Jerusalem ridge
    The Moonlight Waltz is in the key of F major. Nobody seems to be aware that Monroe's original recording of Wayfaring Strnager was in the key of Ab major. Not quite sure, but I believe even Jimmie Rodgers' Gambling Barroom Blues (from the electric sessions) was done in a major key. Seems Monroe resisted minor keys for quite some time. The earliest recorded example of a Monroe tune in a minor key is, I believe, Kentucky Mandolin, live with Doc Watson.

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