Phrasing, Form, and Embellishments
Playing rhythm guitar requires a lot of thought and musical flexibility. This class will cover how to listen, how to frame a song, and tricks to embellish your rhythm playing.
1. Marking Chords, Dominant 7ths, Dynamics, Licks
3. Song Sections
4. Ensembles Size and Stages
5. Listening and Responding
Hit Parade of Love - PDF
Don't Fall in Love With a Rambler - PDF
Old Home Place - PDF
Waltzes and Country Songs
Bluegrass has a unique way of styling waltzes. This class will give an overview of how to play a "power-waltz" and apply rhythm techniques and bass lines.
This class will also present some application of country music styles of playing. Specifically, Honky-Tonk styles using chords in an E-grip.
1. How to play Waltzes
2. Waltz Song Charts
Videos, recordings and charts to jam along with.
Here are a few songs to jam along with. I have included videos, recordings, lyrics and charts. All the songs are in the key of G. Some of these songs have more complex chord progressions meaning they don't stick to just I-IV-V. Look through the chart first and make sure you know the chords.
Remember, upper-case roman numerals denote major chords, lower-case roman numerals denote minor chords. I have included the transposing chart to help you decipher the chords.
1. Simple Melody - Quarter, half, whole notes
4. Find your own simple Melody - Blank Tab Paper
1. What is crosspicking? Crosspicking is a bluegrass flatpicking technique where more than two strings are played and the alternating picking style is maintained.
4. Applying crosspicking - Find the simple melody using quarter, half and whole notes. Fill the eighth notes in with chord tone from crosspicking shapes.
6. Write your own crosspicking solo. Blank Tab Paper
Learning by Ear - Phrase by Phrase
1. Find the Phrase - (Recordings posted to the right) It is hard to develop ideas if you feel lost while you are playing. Learning how to find phrases on the guitar takes practice. Learning from tablature or notation does not help you learn to express your ideas musically, it allows you to interpret other people's ideas through your musical filter. Instead, you should learn to listen and to hear phrases. The faster you can memorize those phrases, the faster you can find them on the guitar. The following excercises are as much listening excercises as they are playing exercizes. Listen to the recordings, pause them in a logical spot, see if you can sing them, then see if you can find the phrase on the guitar. Try each one several times.
2. Find a familiar tune - You probably already know some melodies ("Twinkle, Twinkle little Star", "Row Row Row Your Boat", "This Land is Your Land" etc.) Choose a random note on your guitar and then try to find that familiar melody. Then choose another note and try to find that same melody. Try different songs. Don't look up tab, just try to use your ears.
2. Make up your own phrases - The goal is for you to be able to hear something and then play it. Choose a note on your guitar and then sing a phrase that starts with that note. After you sing the phrase, play it on the guitar. Try different phrases, and try to shorten the length of time it takes you to find it. Eventually, you will get good enough at this that you can sing the notes you are playing. Doing this will make your ideas more cohesive and your improvisation more fluid.
Since we have been thinking in phrases I thought it would be useful to apply this principle to learning a tune. Luckily, most bluegrass tunes are fairly predictable. Usually, the tunes have an A-part, consisting of sixteen bars and a B-part consisting of sixteen bars. Often, the A-part is an eight-bar section that is repeated. Two eight bar sections makes the sixteen bar A-part. Similarly, the B-part is often the same, an eight bar section that is repeated, forming the sixteen bars. This form is used often (though not always) in bluegrass songs, and in fiddle tunes.
There are more useful consistencies in the tunes than just the predictable measure arrangement. Usually, phrases will be divided out over two or four measures. Furthermore, phrases are often repeated, so if you learn one phrase, it may be likely to appear again in the section, and, of course, it will appear in the repeat of the section. It is common for the section to be divided into four short phrases with the first and third phrase being the same, or very similar. Meaning, if you can learn to play the first phrase, you have already learned 50% of the section. Often, though not always, the second and fourth phrases will be similar with a small variation that changes the resolution. Paying attention to these phrasing arrangements can be helpful because they will guide you to be more accurate with your improvisation. If you know two phrases are similar, and you can play one of them, you will have less guesswork to do on the other, and your solo will sound more cohesive.
In the exercises posted to the right, I have broken a tune into separate phrases. You will find eight short phrases that form the A-part and B-part of a tune. Then, I recorded them in longer phrases by joining the previous short phrases. Putting the long phrases together forms the A-part and B-part as sections. Repeating the sections and joining them together makes up the tune. Dividing the tune into small phrases like this and then pasting them together simplifies learning tunes, and makes even the most difficult music approachable.
Finally, I posted a rhythm track that you can practice playing the tune with. Of course, once you have learned the tune, it's time to play with it, improvise and have fun.
Remember, try to get the melody in your head first, then transfer it to the guitar. Don't go note by note, try to think in phrases. The more you practice this the easier it will become.
Now that we have built several solos, I think it is important for us to look at some fiddle tunes in different styles. It is important to understand that the flat picking style guitar comes from playing fiddle tunes on the guitar. Moreover, bluegrass music itself is heavily influenced by old-time fiddle music. All this meaning, it is impossible to play bluegrass lead guitar without reckoning with some fiddle tunes.
In the last lesson you learned a fiddle tune phrase by phrase from a series of recordings. In this lesson, I have given you three standard fiddle tunes that will be widely known throughout the bluegrass world, they vary in style, and they incorporate some techniques you have already learned (crosspicking, slides, etc.) Additionally, These tunes have good strong melodies that are easy to keep track of. Many fiddle tunes are overly repetitive, or sound like other tunes. These tunes have strong phrases that are easier to remember, and improvise around.
Learn the basic melodies and then start to apply the techniques we have discussed in this course. Ask yourself:
Can I use slides or Hammer-ons?
Does Crosspicking Work here?
Can I hear a different way to play this phrase?
Can I change the phrasing?
Can I hear an alternate melody?
and so on...
There are many volumes of written fiddle tunes, but, remember, this music has traditionally been passed down by ear. Find a good recording, or a good player, listen closely to the phrases, and try to find them on your guitar. If you can get the tune in your head, you can get it onto your instrument.