DAY 4 – Bluegrass Week @ Augusta

It’s been a few days since posting….sorry the Elkins week got broken up….I’ve had a few rehearsals and gigs, completely updated my computer, and changed a few diapers…

Here’s a pic I took from the roof of a late night jam….



Day 3 began with discussion of playing backup to vocal songs, with an emphasis on less familiar keys.

My suggestions:
• Figure out the key;
• Knowing the key prepares you for chords you might expect (1, 2, 2min, 3, 3min, 4, 5, 6, 6min, b7); there are others of course, but that list contains common choices in our traditional music;
• Transpose fiddle tunes to different keys for familiarity in new territory;
• Listen for holes in the lyrics – which is where you should concentrate your playing;
• Be careful when playing the 4th scale degree of a given chord — use as passing tone, not resting tone;
• Play along with recordings and imitate notes and placement of fills;
• Think of it as “call & response,” voice calls & instrument answers;

We took this opportunity to call and respond…beginning in A. Next we moved to a bit less comfortable territory: Bb. After call & response, we talked about the common chords in Bb, and learned how to find double stops for each. I then called out chord numbers o chord progressions….lots of thinking on your feet. Finally, it was time to learn a Bb fiddle tune.

Done Gone (Bb) Traditional - Bluegrass '96 - Done Gone

Now that we knew the melody and the chords, it was time to learn to communicate that with a fellow picker — through learning how to write a chord chart.

Our steps: 1) Determine time signature; 2) Count the bars of the first part; 3) Draw barlines, in even groups if possible, for that part; 3) Figure out the first chord and write it down in Bar 1; 4) Figure out where the next chord change happens – beat and bar – and write it in; 5) continue step #4 to finish the part. Repeat steps 2-5 for each part of the tune.

Don’t forget to label the different sections of the tune with A’s, B’s, or C’s, etc. Write the title, key, time signature at the top of the page.

Once that was done, to clean up our chart, we rewrote it without the barlines — a chord by itself indicated one bar (and there’s some shorthand for bars with more than one chord or odd bars). Our final version of a chart was to replace each chord with it’s corresponding number to the key — making this easy to read for quick key changes.


The faculty concert was tonight.  I played fiddle with Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble and our rehearsal/soundcheck was during the camp jam hour. I jammed with dancers instead.

For the concert, each instructor picked a tune to pick, in whatever configuration they wanted. I played Working on a Building solo style.  Here’s a brief clip of a solo rendition while out on the road with the Sparrow Quartet (Béla Fleck, Abigail Washburn, & Ben Sollee) in 2007.

One more day left.

See you tomorrow,


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