Widgeteering Blue Ridge Cabin Home; Getting out of the Chords Rut

Last month we looked at 4 measures of "Blue Ridge Cabin Home" that started with the basic structural melody and ornamented it with notes that are in the underlying chords. You can review that here. Now I'm going to go a little outside the lines and use some ornamentation notes that are not in the chords, and in some cases not even in the scale.

Chord notes work just fine, and they never steer you wrong, but you can get away with using other notes when you get a little bored and want a different sound. So let's do some of that now----

Keeping it Weird---but just barely

This is not a set-in-stone kind of a rule, but a good safe thing to do is remember where the melody notes are, and leave enough of them in there to keep the tune recognizeable.

This is a matter of taste, and you might want to get a little wierder with it, particularly the 2nd or 3rd time thru the song. But as Bobby Hicks so eloquently put it, if you get too far over people's heads, you'll look out into the crowd and see your audience kind of wandering off.

It's the beat, stupid-----

After taking care of the melody, the next thing that seems to help is having the downbeat in the chord if it's not in the melody itself. There are probably times when you don't need to do this, but it's a safe place to start.

If you keep the downbeat in the underlying chord, this allows your ear to get it's bearings a little better and everything sounds like it fits. Or has a lot better chance of sounding like it fits.

Here's that first 4 measures again, this time with some ornamentation notes added that are not in the chord positions. All this goofiness is added so as to not fall on the downbeat, and you can get away with that just fine.

and this is what it sounds like: BRCH Widgetized

Setting the Fiddlewidget to display the underlying chord lets you see what close-by notes are in the scale, and if you want to get a little further outside the box and use notes that are not even in the scale, like the flatted 3rd (Bb), it shows you those, too.

In measure 2, instead of just hanging out in the C-chord shape the whole time, I opened up the 1st string to give me a D note. It's not in the C chord, but a D sounds alright since I'm not using it on the downbeats anyway.

And so on. Everybody that creates a new lick probably does some of this without thinking about it. Looking at it in detail helps me understand what I'm doing, and having the Fiddlewidget map shows me ALL the nearby possibilities, not just the first thing that intuitively comes to mind.

If you want to have a look at the last two measures individually, with the appropriate Fiddlewidget display for each one, here they are, along with the first two that you've already seen:

measure 1 measure 2 measure 3 measure 4

This is a really long way of saying you can occasionally use notes for ornamenting a lick that are not in the underlying chord, or in some cases not even in the scale. The safest way to do it is to use these "outliers" where they don't interfere with the melody or the downbeat.

Using a chart of some kind or a Fiddlewidget will help narrow the search for these tones, but you will probably need to try it out first to be sure it works. Then refine it as you like.

Next we'll use the widget to chase this tune up the neck a ways, before we get completely out of the comfort zone. Keep on checking in; thanks.