session notes

The following notes were offered by Chris Talley at www.bluegrassshack.com

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.

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