Song Structure for Instrumental
and Vocal Arrangements
Many bluegrass, country and traditional tunes have relatively simple chord structure. A typical song will consist of the; I, IV and V chords derived from the Major Scale. More on the major scale can be found on my other instructional CDs.
A typical song will consist of two Parts (Part I and Part II). Part I would be repeated after a first ending and once repeated will end in a second ending (skipping over the first ending). The second part may also be repeated.
Example of a basic instrumental bluegrass tune may consist of the following:
ü Banjo plays Part I (first break) and first ending
ü Banjo repeats first break skipping the measure for the first ending and ends instead with the second ending
ü Banjo continues to Part 2
ü Banjo repeats Part 2 and once again ends with second ending of Part 2.
ü The next instrumentalist continues in a similar manner.
The following example demonstrates a typical bluegrass song with vocals. While there are many variations, this is one example to help you understand how to perform a song. The instrumentalist who starts the song will depend on decision of the group performing the selection.
ü Introduction by One Instrument (may or may not be followed by a lead break)
ü First Verse (Vocal)
ü Chorus (Vocal)
ü Lead Break by First Instrument
ü Second Verse (Vocal)
ü Chorus (Vocal)
ü Lead Break By Second Instrument
ü Pattern Continues Until an Instrumentalist Ends the Song
As I stated above, there are many variations of playing a typical tune. For instance, in some cases, every instrument may not take a lead break. In other cases, the fiddle, banjo, guitar or mandolin will be featured. As a general rule of thumb, however, the instrumentalist who introduced the tune will likely play anywhere from a maximum of two to three lead breaks in one song.
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