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Cello Lessons: “Billy in the Lowground”

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As we've progressed through these tunes in
the Bluegrass curriculum,
they're gonna get a little harder,
and we're also gonna be
playing them a little faster.
And I also wanna be a little more
insistent on, sort of stylistic thoughts,
and even just the embracing of
the variations inherent in each tune.
There's no one version of these tunes.
So I'm gonna talk you through,
some of the main versions that I draw
on when I play Billy in the Lowground.
[SOUND] And I'll sort of help you,
make your own version as we go.
Billy in the Lowground is a great,
[SOUND] great cello Bluegrass tune,
because it's in the key of C.
A lot of Bluegrass tunes are in A,
which is kind of annoying.
And we'll get to those later in
the curriculum because they have a lot of
extensions, and
even B major is a big Bluegrass key.
Both of those keys are really
hard on the cello, but
Billy in the Lowground is probably
the most standard Bluegrass tune in C.
So, [SOUND] this has to be a part
of your repertoire as a cellist.
[SOUND] Let me play you the first phrase.
Four, three, four, O, one,
four, O one, two.
We're just kind of working our
way up from C, [SOUND] to C.
[SOUND] See,
if you can sing it along with me.
Now, pizz it with me.
Let's play it.
One more time, and.
Next phrase.
sing it, and.
Let's pizz it.
Now bowing wise,
I'm gonna do it on this bowing.
Down, up, down, up.
Down, up, down, up.
Let's just air bow that.
Down, up, down, up.
That little down, up,
at the end is really satisfying.
It's gonna help straighten our bowing out,
to start the next phrase on a down bow.
Let's play that.
Ready, play.
okay So, moving on.
It goes from here.
Just kind of a,
a downward lick there in A minor.
O, one, O, four, one.
And then we go back up to C.
So together.
Sing that phrase.
Pizz that phrase.
Let's play it together.
Let's do it in that same bowing
from the previous phrase.
And by that,
I just mean like ending up bow.
We'll just find any way to end up bow.
okay, Let me put those last two
phrases together.
[SOUND] Let's sing that much.
Ready, and.
play it.
One more time.
So now,
we have to end this part.
Right from where we start, and
it's just gonna down the C major scale.
We're skipping a couple of notes,
we're gonna end with a nice up bow,
bow, push.
Two, O,
four, one, O, up.
Let's sing that.
Now, let's play it.
okay, Before we get ahead of ourselves,
let's put it all back into context.
Let's do the trifecta with
everything we've learned so far.
So just listen to me once, sing with me
the second time, then play the third time.
Now sing.
Now play.
I'm actually changing the bowing.
It's very instinctively,
each time I play it.
But I'm drawing a lot on all of
the patterns, that you've learn so far.
And let me see, I think [SOUND] we're
almost done with the whole A section.
Actually, we are.
We got the whole A section.
It's the same thing we've
got two times in a row.
So let's just play that.
Let's just identify this A section, and
then we'll move on to the B section.
So from the top.
See, if you can already start to improvise
your own slurs for these melodic notes.
[SOUND] Two.
[SOUND] One, two.
[SOUND] Ready and.
that's pretty
Let me say a couple other things,
that last [SOUND] that bow push.
I like [SOUND] adding the open C
string on the bottom on the push.
To give it like some more umph
here's what it sounds like.
Often times when you do these bow
pushes it's at the end of a phrase,
where your melody note is the root.
And so often [SOUND] you will have
an open string that you can add to it, or
other double stops.
And that will help
the feeling of finality.
Between these two A sections,
we can add some filler notes.
It's a big thing in Bluegrass to
add these filler notes to always be
connecting phrases.
So in the A section.
When we get to the end.
We just do a little
one, three, four.
Some little filler notes just to keep
us moving, as we repeat the phrase.
Maybe you wouldn't do it like us, so
what I just played is one A section, and
we're gonna play that twice.
So each time through the A section,
it already has an internal repetition.
And so
we would wanna connect those things.
But when we go back, and
repeat the big A section,
you could maybe do different filler notes.
you could just sort of sit on that C.
So it feels like a section is ending.
Because this tune is so repetitive,
the A section is two identical phrases,
there's some really common
variations that people play.
So it's starts like this.
[SOUND] And, actually, the first version
that I learned started on G instead.
It sounded like this.
And it's still, obviously,
in the C major harmony, we're just
starting on a different chord tone.
One, four, one, four, one, two.
So why don't I just play through
the A section and I'll alternate back and
forth between those so you hear it.
that actually
helps create
a longer phrase.
The repetition isn't so quick.
I would recommend you could throw that in
for the first time, maybe the second time,
or whenever.
The other thing
when we get to this middle of the phrase
which is over an A chord.
A lot of people like to like hold
an A note for maybe a longer time like
we could do a hammer on slide.
So we're playing G and then A
Sliding into it while playing the open
A next to it.
That's a great bluegrass sound.
And if I
and if I shift up to the first finger,
Four, one, three, one.
All while holding the A string.
It's a really nice, sort of a,
place to breathe.
Again, so we don't always
have constant subdivisions.
Let me throw that into the melody,
too, so you can hear it in context.
there are two notes
leading up to the A.
But whether you do two notes or just.
Just that riff, the idea is just to sort
of hold that A and
sort of give it some breath.
Let's move onto the B section now.
The B section core melody goes like this.
One, four,
one, four, four,
four, two, one.
Let's pizz that.
Let's play it, two, ready and
I'm doing that bowing again.
Down, up.
I'm ending these phrases down, up, so
that I can start the next
phrase on the down bow.
However I need to get there,
I'm trying to end that phrase upbow.
Okay, so that's over the C chord,
then we're going to do a similar
pattern over the F chord next.
So we just go two,
two, one,
four, one coming back to C there.
Let's pizz that.
Three and
let's play it.
Ready, and
For this B section [SOUND]
we can do it separate,
or slurred.
I would actually change it back and
forth pretty instinctively
as I'm playing the tune.
So it really doesn't matter
as you're learning it.
So we've got these two
patterns now, one in C major.
ands f.
And we need to put in some filler
notes to connect these phases now.
So those would sound like this.
Yeah, we learned that before.
Down, up, and then.
Actually, we just do the same thing,
just to really ground us In C major.
Listen to this once.
Let me do the trifecta for
this beginning of the B section.
Listen the first time.
Down up.
Let's sing that together.
One, two, ready and
bada bada bap ba da da up.
Bada bada da bada bada bada.
Now let's play it.
Two ready and
last time.
I'm kind of settling in, actually,
a default bowing I want to share with you.
So, down, up, down up,down, up, down, up,
Slur, slur, down and
then it's all separate
until the last two ups.
Watch that one more time.
You can do the same buoyant for
both phrases, if you want.
At this point, we've actually
learned all the notes to the tune, so
the way the B section is gonna
end is with that C major motive.
One more time.
And then, new filler notes.
To that ending.
So let's learn that.
We've got these two filler notes, but
the down beat is on C
We'll do that three times.
And then, we end with that final riff,
that we learned in the A section.
Down up, down, up, down, up.
Okay, so let's do the trifecta, just for
this new ending.
Sing, and.
Now, let's play, two, and.
One more time,
two, and.
Okay, we are ready to do the trifecta for
the whole B section.
Listen the first time.
Now we
Now let's play.
I'm actually having
trouble restraining
myself from adding
filler notes.
It's such a key part of the bluegrass
style, to connect these core phrases,
and actually those are very
brief moments of freedom.
So let me show you a couple of filler
note options for the B section.
That's what we learned, so
to get to the F,
we could do
just a little first finger there, or
we could even do a fourth finger for a G,
Let me play both of those.
Now the G.
I mean it's a subtle difference.
But it totally, actually,
will be different every time,
as you hear people play it.
The other thing I was doing
is from the F riff, back to the repeat of
the C riff, I was doing this upward
scale to get me back to the E.
These very basic upward or
downward scales of just one or
two notes are sort of like the bread and
butter of these filler notes.
You can get a little more creative,
but just like a two note scale is gonna be
the smoothest way to keep things going.
So let me play the B section,
with a few filler notes, just so
you maybe hear a few of the options.
But they're not really
things that are totally set.
And that's a way for you to just
sort of make a melody your own,
is when you decide to
throw in filler notes.
You don't have to do it all the time,
and what notes they might be.
So we've learned the whole melody.
I do wanna talk a little bit more about
sort of like the style of how I'm playing
this melody.
I am defaulting bowing wise into a three,
three, two, type feel, at the beginning.
But any of our other bowing
patterns will work, like Run Jimmy.
And of course, ultimately you're gonna
wanna be improvising the accents and
But a lot of the ornaments,
we learned in our lessons,
connected to Tennessee Waltz, are actually
going to work in this fast tempo.
So there's a lot of pull offs from
like second finger, to first finger.
You could maybe do it there.
Definitely there, yeah.
I like that one better, actually.
Two one, four.
And it just kinda gives it
a different feel there.
Rather than just going straight for the E.
Yeah, yeah, there's a lot.
I wanna say more about
improvising in this tune,
in a next lesson,
about question, answer phrases.
So why don't we move on to the chords for
>> [MUSIC]
Here are the chords to
Billy in the Lowground.
We've got one, one, one, one, one,
one, one, one, one, one, one, one,
one, one, one.
Six, six, six, six, six, six, six, six,
six, six, six, six, six, six, six.
One, one, one, one, one, one, one, one,
one, one, one, one, one, one, one.
Six, six, six, six, six, six, six, six,
five, five, five, five, one, one, one.
So this is the first tune we've learned
where we have a six chord.
It's a minor A minor chord in C major.
So we just have C major [SOUND], and
then to A minor [SOUND],
then back to C major [SOUND], and
then the cadence is six [SOUND],
five [SOUND], one [SOUND], okay?
Let's play that two together just in
our default chugga chugga pattern.
One, two, ready, and one, one, one,
one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one.
Six, six, six, six, six, six,
six, six, six, six, six, six.
One, one, one, one, one, one, one, one,
one, one, one, one, one, one, one.
Six, five, one, again, [SOUND].
The only difference in the chords for
the B section is instead of
going to the first six chord,
we're gonna go to a four chord, an F.
And that's actually really important to
nail because that's the only thing that's
gonna signify that we're in the B section
for the chords, so that sounds like this.
One, one, one, one, one, one,
one, one, one, one, one.
Four, four, four, four, four, four,
four, four, four, four, four.
One, one, one, one, one,
one, one, one, one, one.
Now, six, same cadence.
Five, one, again.
One, one, one, one, one, one,
one, one, one, one, one.
Four, four, four, four, four, four,
four, four, four, four, four.
One, one, one, one,
now we go to cadence six, six, six, six,
six, five, five, five,
five, one, one, one.
Those are the chords to
Billy in the Lowground.