Widgeteering Blue Ridge Cabin Home; Looking beyond the Licks

Last month I posted 4 measures of "Blue Ridge Cabin Home" from Wil Huckaby's first "Cut 'N Paste" banjo book. This is available from It fits perfectly well with the song, and you can certainly get away with playing it as-is in a jam session. (Angie's pdf file) Only problem I can find with it is, it might be a little tedious to practice. It just doesn't sound much like Blue Ridge Cabin Home when you play it all by itself.

That's because, when you just string licks together to fit a chord progression, the melody isn't going to be in there, unless you put it there on purpose..

If you want to review that variation, you can have a look at it hereWil's BRCH

Making the song sound more like the song

In the bluegrass arranging class at ETSU, the first thing they teach you is to establish the structural tune, or the melody.

I'm going to write it in tab, but you don't have to write it down if you can keep the tune in your head and play it that way every time. But I'm writing it down to make sure it stays the same and I always have that stake in the ground to come back to. When we start adding stuff to this basic tune, it's sometimes a good idea to have it written, but if you're good at keeping a tune in your head and want to do it that way, go for it. Here is the melody, written out in tab format:

and this is what it sounds like melody only

Now, to make it more interesting, just stick some ornamentation notes in around that basic melody. I'm sticking with notes that are in the underlying chords in this example.

Here's a sound file of this variation--just the basic melody with underlying chord notes added to it: melody with chord onamentation

If you want to have a look at the measures individually, with the appropriate Fiddlewidget display for each one, here they are:

measure 1 measure 2 measure 3 measure 4

Nothing here is all that mysterious; so far we're just working notes in around the melody that are in whatever underlying chord the song is in at the time. If you know the chord patterns already, this is pretty easy to find, and if not, a chord book or Fiddlewidget tool will point them out for you. I like the widget here because it shows all the possible chords in all positions, all the way up the neck at the same time, without flipping pages in a book.

A Fiddlewidget will become more handy as you get outside just the basic chord notes, which is what we'll do next in our mission to beat Blue Ridge Cabin Home completely to a pulp. Stay tuned.