If you’ve ever wanted to sing bluegrass harmony and didn’t know how to learn, or if you’ve been trying and need some help figuring out the parts, Stephen Mougin has come to your rescue.
Stephen plays guitar and sings with Sam Bush. He knows his way around bluegrass harmony, and he’s come up with a learning tool that is top notch.
His recording studio, Dark Shadow Recording, has produced two CDs designed to help you learn to sing harmony naturally.
Bluegrass Tenor Singing (featuring Russell Moore)
Bluegrass Baritone Singing (featuring Ronnie Bowman)
What Stephen has done is to take five traditional bluegrass songs, and produce a great quality recording of each one. The songs are:
- Little Cabin Home On The Hill
- Mr. Engineer
- Blue Ridge Cabin Home
- My Little Georgia Rose
- How Mountain Girls Can Love
I spent some time with the tenor CD and it’s great. The recordings are well done and these are quality arrangements worth learning. The band consists of Adam Steffey (mandolin), Megan Lynch (fiddle), Ned Luberecki (banjo), Daniel Hardin (bass), and Stephen Mougin (guitar). The vocals, the focus of the project, are sung by Stephen (lead vocal), Russell Moore (tenor), and Ronnie Bowman (baritone).
The first track for each song presents you with the full mix of the tune so you can get a feel for what the finished product should sound like. We all like to sing along with recordings, so go ahead do so, but be sure to spend some time just listening as well. Listen to the blend of the three vocals.
The second track for each tune consists of just the choruses of the song, cut together back to back, with only the band and the lead vocal. This track is important. It will help you learn the melody, as well as the phrasing and dynamics. I worked with Little Cabin Home On The Hill, and noticed that the final chorus is a bit different than the others. It’s got a minor little frill that sets it apart. This is common in bluegrass, and I’m glad they included it in the arrangement.
Once you’re comfortable with the melody, phrasing, and dynamics of the song, you can move on to the third track. This track is identical to the second, back to back choruses, with the tenor (or baritone, depending on which CD you’re working with) vocal, and no others. This allows you to hear the part you’re trying to learn. Still in the context of the band, you’ll hear where the harmony part lies within the chords. You can repeat this track until you’re confident that you know the part, then move on.
The fourth, and final, track for each tune is the same as the first, but with the harmony part removed. On the tenor CD, you’ll hear the full mix of the song, solos and verses included. On the choruses however, you’ll hear only the lead and baritone vocals. It’s up to you to provide the tenor part. This provides you with a sort of “jam along” track, where you can try out your new skills.
This is a great way to learn these parts, and I think you’ll learn more than just the five songs included on the disc. You’ll learn to hear where the parts are, and should be able to take your new skills and figure out the harmony to other songs as well.
The Bluegrass Harmony Training Series CDs are sold individually for $15 + S/H or you can purchase both the tenor and baritone CDs as a package for $25 + S/H.
Here’s a video introduction to the series.