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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