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Author Topic: Rag Blues and Circle of 5ths  (Read 19207 times)

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Offline waxwing

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Rag Blues and Circle of 5ths
« on: November 23, 2004, 03:16:04 PM »
I've been transcribing Scrapper's Back Door Blues (inspired by Ari and Alex's recent query) and noticed the II7ish chord in the intro so I was able to get the II7-V7-I in the verse, but, inspite of several BBF rags I do, no bells were going off and I was stuck after the IV7 section. I was sorta thinking this might be where RJ got the idea to put the II chord in Love In Vain. Fortunately someone on the PWBL serendipitously mentioned Scrapper using a III-VI-II-V-I on a few tunes. I realized that the one little figure I'd worked out was an F#7 (Key of D) and everything fell into place. Cool! So it's a |I|I|I7|I7|IV7|IV7|I-III7|VI7|II7|V7|I|I| progression in D (capoed up 3), at least for the first couple verses. Granted this, too, is a 12 bar blues and I was thinking maybe we could start a new thread on Rag Blues with various Circle of 5ths progressions. I like the lists of various styles of blues we've been generating. The way Scrapper works it, tho', it doesn't really have a strong rag feel, especially in the break and final verse where he simplifies it quite a bit with very blue single note runs.
I promise I'll post this one on the Back Porch, once I get the snapped treble over the strummed bass down. It's coming.
All for now.
John C.
Edited to add:
Was working on it this morn and he actually does hit most of the chords in the break, tho' not always with the same time values, but the third and especially the last verses seem to be simplified. Nice little double stop figure in there, too.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2018, 11:49:25 AM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
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Offline waxwing

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Re: Rag Blues and Circle of 5ths
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2004, 06:55:22 AM »
Hey JohnM, thanks for movin' this over and getting a thread started (I'm assuming it was you since you seem to have done a bit of housecleaning last night - I'm out on the east coast, at the moment, with limited access).
So I guess it would be a little crazy to list all of Blind Boy Fuller's rag blues (easier to list his non-rags, eh?), so why don't we limit this to non-Piedmont blues with any Circle of Fifth/Rag tendencies, 12 or 8 bar? Of course, I'm drawing a blank at the moment, out of my milieu, but there is another Scrapper tune that I'll look up when I get back to my temporary home in SF. I'm thinkin' there must be some in the string/jug band repertoire or from the likes of Stokes and Sane, the Shieks, et al.? How 'bout some of those piano influenced St. Louis players?
Take it away, Weenies!
All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Willie Brown's Liquor at CD Baby

Offline a2tom

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Re: Rag Blues and Circle of 5ths
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2004, 08:28:20 AM »
I am intrigued by the whole rag/circle of 5ths progression thing.  In fact, this is how Ragtime Ditty #12 came about - I got to playing with this chord progression idea around the fretboard.  My brother asked me "what makes a rag a rag", and I pretty much pointed to the chord progression, and syncopation.   So, yes, where is this idea used outside of "rags" and "ragtime blues"?   I have a very small "cranial database" of this kind of information.  Aside from knowing some BBF and a few others rag blues that use the VI7 - II7 - V7 - I progression.  If I get the point, the tune you refer to adds one more cycle back in the circle, back to the III7 chord, which then leads into VI7 - II7 - V7 - I? 

tom

Online Johnm

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Re: Rag Blues and Circle of 5ths
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2004, 10:00:49 AM »
Hi all,
Yes, John C, I thought the suggestion in your post to make this a separate topic was a good one because the circle of 5ths thread runs through so much of the blues.  As for where this type of progression occurs outside the raggy blues, Tom, the circle of fifths was a major driving force harmonically in the Pop music from the 20s on up through the 50s among such composers as George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and many others.
One kind of blues you encounter the circle of 5ths in a lot is what you might call a "Pop" blues, because it uses the 32-bar structure and A-A-B-A phrasing commonly found in the Pop music of its era.  Bo Carter was a major practitioner in this style, and such tunes of his as "I Want You To Know", "I Get the Blues" and "Honey" fall into this category.
All best,
Johnm

Offline waxwing

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Re: Rag Blues and Circle of 5ths
« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2004, 10:09:34 AM »
Hey Tom, head on over to the Juke, where you can request the tune and give a listen yourself. Scrapper only plays a little partial (2, 3, 4 strings) of the III7 for half a measure (or not at all in verse 3 and 4 - only one beat in the break).

I'm no expert, but I think the Circle of Fifths, played the right way 'round, is fairly common in many folk musics.

Ah, Weenie Central informs me that JohnM has posted. Maybe I'm thinking of pop-folk from the '60s Folk Scare?
All for now.
John C.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2004, 10:49:19 AM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Willie Brown's Liquor at CD Baby

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Rag Blues and Circle of 5ths
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2004, 09:59:42 AM »
Hey BJ (Barbeque John):

One of the first Country Blues I ever heard was "Early Morning Blues" by Blind Blake. I remember thinking what a bluesy sound it had was despite the fact that it used more than the I, IV and V chords

I-IV(1/2), V(1/2)-I(1/2), V(1/2)-I(1/2), I7
IV-IV(1/2), V(1/2)-I(1/2, V(1/2)-I(1/2), VI(1/2)
II7-V-I(1/2), V(1/2)-I(1/2), V(1/2)

Alex

Offline frankie

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Re: Rag Blues and Circle of 5ths
« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2004, 10:07:46 AM »
I'm no expert, but I think the Circle of Fifths, played the right way 'round, is fairly common in many folk musics.

Ah, Weenie Central informs me that JohnM has posted. Maybe I'm thinking of pop-folk from the '60s Folk Scare?

It seems to me that the circle of fifths found expression in a lot of homegrown music because it was a popular way to harmonize at the time.  Echoing what JohnM wrote, I think that it's adoption by rural musicians reflected a desire to sound uptown or (for lack of a better term) "jazzy".  It's use in Scrapper Blackwell's material definitely sounds less to me like ragtime than jazz in its execution, maybe because of the way SB articulates the rhythm.

Offline frankie

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Re: Rag Blues and Circle of 5ths
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2004, 02:02:23 PM »
where is this idea used outside of "rags" and "ragtime blues"?

In addition to Bo Carter's solo material, the music of the Mississippi Sheiks very often incorporates these changes.  If I had to, I'd also describe the Sheiks' music as jazz-y rather than ragtime-y.  I think JohnM nailed it as the prevailing harmonic language of pop music from that period.  Those Chatmons...  so snazzy.

Ramblin' Thomas' Lock and Key Blues comes to mind.  In theory, I suppose he's not really doing anything too far afield from what Scrapper Blackwell does in Back Door Blues, but man...  is his execution weird!

Online Johnm

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Re: Rag Blues and Circle of 5ths
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2004, 04:26:59 PM »
Hi all,
One musician who worked this harmonic territory a lot and exceedingly well was Papa Charlie Jackson.  I've been thinking a lot about his version of "Skoodle-Um-Skoo", recorded very near the end of his recording career, in 1934.  It can be found on Document DOCD-5089, Papa Charlie Jackson, Vol. 3.  The form for "Skoodle-Um-Skoo" is as follows:
 Intro: |V-II7|V-II7|-circuitous descending chromatic run that ends up at--
 Vamp: |I-VI/#I|II7-V7#9| while he sets up the song's subject matter, followed by a run into--
 Verse:  |  VI  |  VI  |  II7-V7#9 |  I   |
              |  I     |  I     |  II7          |  II7 |
              |  II7  |V7#9|  to--
 Chorus: | I      | I       | II7            | II7  |
              |V7#9|V7#9| III             | III |
              | VI    |  VI   |  II7           | II7  |
              |V7#9|V7#9|  I               | I     |
After the first chorus, all subsequent choruses replace the initial two bars of I with two bars of VI7.  The intro, vamp and verse never return.
A couple of interesting things about this rendition of "Skoodle-Um-Skoo":
 * Papa Charlie played it in open Bflat (without a capo), tuned a half step low.  He played a surprising number of tunes in Bflat, something which I don't think even Rev. Davis did much of, though some of you who really know Rev. Davis's repertoire may know otherwise.  In Bflat, the VI/#I chord works out to be G/B, fingered:
                                        x 2 0 0 3 x
Papa Charlie fingered his I chord, Bflat, on the interior four strings here:
                                        x 1 3 3 3 x
  * On other tunes he played in Bflat, Papa Charlie also fretted the third fret of the first string, which makes me think he was using the ring finger of his left hand to barre the top four strings at the third fret when he fingered a Bflat chord.  That first string third fret ends up being a 6th relative to Bflat which gives it a jazzy sound.
Papa Charlie's V7#9 chord in Bflat ends up being F7#9, fingered:
                                        1 x 3 2 4 4
The rasty #9 note, G#, at the fourth fret of the first string, clashes with the A note at the second fret of the third string.  I think Papa Charlie picked it up coincidentally with his left hand little finger, which he was using to fret the seventh of the F7#9 chord at the fourth fret of the second string.  The sound of this chord is a really good way of telling when Papa Charlie was playing in Bflat, because he used it all the time in that context.
The chorus of the tune ends up being a 16-bar blues, though not like any of the models we have discussed so far on the 16-bar blues thread,  The chorus, especially when starting on VI7, starts out being a straight circle of fifths progression until it hits the III chord, D.  The III chord effects a sort of "resolvus interruptus" action by delaying the resolution to the I chord and sending the circle of fifths progression back to VI, which III is the V of.  It is a neat way to extend the progression and delay resolution until the end of the form.
Here's the progression expressed in Papa Charlie's key, Bflat.
 Intro: | F-C7|F-C7| run
Vamp:  |Bflat-G/B|C7-F7#9| run into verse
 Verse:  |  G  |  G  |C7-F7#9| Bflat|
             |Bflat|Bflat|  C7  |  C7  |
             |  C7  |  F7#| 
  Chorus: 
| G7(Bflat first time)|G7(Bflat first time)|  C7  |  C7  |
|  F7#9                     |  F7#9             |  D    |  D    |
|            G                |       G            |  C7   | C7   |
|           F7#9            |     F7#9         | Bflat | Bflat |
If you've never played in open Bflat before, you may want to give it a try.  It's a hell of a lot of fun, and makes you feel like a real guitar ace.
All best,
Johnm 


 
« Last Edit: January 23, 2006, 03:18:10 PM by Johnm »

Offline frankie

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Re: Rag Blues and Circle of 5ths
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2004, 12:22:40 PM »
Thanks for this post, John - really excellent.  A double-whammy of theory and exposition of the style of a truly underrated guitarist.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Rag Blues and Circle of 5ths
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2004, 01:10:17 PM »
John -just to clarify. You use the phrase "open B flat". This is not to indicate an alternate tuning, right? He's playing in standard tuning (a half step low) in the key of Bb, as I read it. 

I suppose playing on a guitar banjo would make playing in Bb a bit more comfortable.  :)

This tune benefits from being one of his last recordings (and the record's in good shape) -- the sound is quite clear. You can really hear that F7#9 in there, which may not have been the case with some of the early recordings!

I also really like the song that follows on the CD, If I Got What You Want. More of a standard rag but a fun tune.

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Re: Rag Blues and Circle of 5ths
« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2004, 02:35:38 PM »
Yes Andrew, you're right, I meant in standard tuning, playing in Bflat without a capo.  It is not as uncomfortable as you might think.  I agree with you about "If I Got What You Want", it's a good one, as is the oddly titled "Self Experience" which tells about getting busted when police raided a gambling spot.
All best,
Johnm

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Rag Blues and Circle of 5ths
« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2004, 07:20:30 AM »
Hi John - Thanks. I'll definitely be trying Skoodle-Um-Skoo, Bb be damned. From the way the lyrics are so realistic and detailed, Self Experience sounds just like that, a real story of Papa Charlie getting busted.

The song I should really be learning is We Can't Buy It No More, in honour of our current Quebec liquor board strike. A lot of work getting a bottle of red wine here these days...

Edited to add: Forgot to mention that just a few songs after Skoodle-Um-Skoo, is another favorite, one of the earliest personal banking songs, You Put It In, I'll Take It Out...
« Last Edit: December 16, 2004, 07:35:44 AM by uncle bud »

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Rag Blues and Circle of 5ths
« Reply #13 on: December 16, 2004, 09:59:54 AM »
Hey Unkie Bud:

No red wine in Quebec? There must be riots in the streets!

No Same Sex Marriage Alberta Alex

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Rag Blues and Circle of 5ths
« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2004, 11:12:28 AM »
Hey Unkie Bud:

No red wine in Quebec? There must be riots in the streets!

No Same Sex Marriage Alberta Alex

Quebecers are crying all over their camembert...

Actually, you can get it (management is running 50 stores or so out of 400 or so) but it's work. Plus there's still wine and beer in the depanneurs, but the wine's for teenage girls. Not a lot of sympathy for the union as you can imagine. Even I say privatize...

As for marriage, the more the merrier I say. We know you're secretly a Frankie Jaxon fanatic, Alex...  >:D  (Trying to maintain some semblance of CB content)