Mandolin Song Breakdown: Jerusalem Ridge

Today’s mandolin song breakdown will be focusing on Jerusalem Ridge. Often this tune is considered a jam buster due to it’s length and complex melody. Aside from having 4 parts, this tune is also in a minor key and has some minor oddities with the form. So weird stuff all around as far as fiddle tunes go. However, it’s still a fantastic Bill Monroe tune worth learning. I’m a huge fan of duos and trios playing this tune personally.

You can get the charts here:

Listen to Jerusalem Ridge

Here’s a few recordings to check out before you start


Jerusalem Ridge is a 4 part fiddle tune with 3 parts repeating. Since the chord structures for the first two parts are pretty similar, it’s easy to get mixed up early on. It’s important to remember the melody while soloing! Also while most parts repeat, the 3rd part (C part) is played through just once. It’s more of a bridge than a part really. Last, it’s good to note that the 3rd and 4th parts both have a short 2/4 add on making the form a bit crooked.

The below is a simplified form for this song.

Mandolin Song Breakdown: Jerusalem Ridge - Song Form

Something to note on the C part. The progression is a i iv III V i (or minor 1, minor 4, major 3, major 5, minor 1) which creates a descending line. This can come in handy when choosing a chord voicing for the section or if you plan on taking a more improv approach to the tune. I’ve outlined this below.

As a side note here, when I’m learning a song/tune I like to review the notes in the chords, or the arpeggios of the chord. Mostly I’m looking for tones that are unique to certain chords (like the D in the D minor or the G# in the E chord in the C part), tones that remain the same between chords or appear often (like A, C and E appear often in the C Part), and tones that move stepwise up or down like I outlined above. You can use this information to highlight chord changes (playing unique notes), or to build some tension (playing the same note), or provide some movement (moving stepwise).

Main Melody

The tune is normally played fast around 120 – 140 bpm though I swear it feels like its way faster sometimes!!

I find most folks play this tune straight and rarely improv breaks. When players choose to improv, often they’ll improv only parts of a section while playing the main melody relatively straight otherwise. As such, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the main melody and work up to small embellishments. I suggest starting off by learning the each part of the main melody individually at a slow tempo and then stitch them together.

For the intro – there are usually some slides into the chord (so starting 1/2 step higher and sliding into the chord) though not always.

In my opinion, the A and D sections are the most difficult parts of this piece – lots of notes and some what fast. This is countered nicely by the B and C sections which give a bit of reprieve on speed and number of notes – despite having some triplets. The B and C sections are also a nice place to add some embellishments like triplets.

Also, for the sheet music purists out there – check out the standard notation only chart here.

Mandolin Song Breakdown: Jerusalem Ridge - Main Melody 1
Mandolin Song Breakdown: Jerusalem Ridge - Main Melody 2

Alternate Fingering

While I almost always play this song shown in the “main melody”, I’m a huge fan of learning songs in multiple positions. The alternative fingering essentially is playing the main melody starting with your second finger on the A note (7th fret on D string). You can use this variation to create a more embellished melody to use as a “solo” of sorts or just practice fingering (lots of pinky work!)

Mandolin Song Breakdown: Jerusalem Ridge - Alt Melody 1
Mandolin Song Breakdown: Jerusalem Ridge - Alt Melody 2

If you’re looking for more exercises on this, try starting the main melody on your third and fourth fingers as well.


First, this is not an easy song to harmonize – especially when played at tempo. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!!!

The double stops in measure 9 may be difficult at first but you can opt to play those as single notes if that makes things easier. Start slow and make sure you and your partner are playing the same version!

Mandolin Song Breakdown: Jerusalem Ridge - Harmony 1
Mandolin Song Breakdown: Jerusalem Ridge - Harmony 2

Wrap up

Jerusalem Ridge is an under called tune but a great one to have down. I hope this breakdown helps you get this tune under your fingers! Let me know if you end up playing this tune at a jam!!

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