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Bluegrass Rhythm and Backup Guitar

Class 1

The Basics

1. Equipment - PDF

2. The Chords - G5, C, D -- PDF - Video

3. The Right Hand -- Video

4. Alternating Bass Strum -- Video

5. Down Up Down Up Strum -- Video

6. Blueridge Cabin Home -- PDF - Video

Class 2

Bass Lines and G-runs

Class 3

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

2. Phrasing


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

Class 4

Carter Style - C-position

1. Carter Style - Presentation Video

    a. Keep On The Sunny Side - Lyrics - Tab - Video

    b. On the Rock Where Moses Stood - Lyrics - Tab - Video

    c. Blackjack Davey - Lyrics - Tab - Video


2. Modified Carter Style - Presentation Video

    a. Last Train From Poor Valley - Lyrics - Tab - Video

Maybelle Carter Videos:

    a. Sarah and Maybelle Carter - Sweet Fern

    b. "Wildwood Flower" with Flatt and Scruggs

Jam Along

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.


"Rolling In My Sweet Baby's Arms" - Lyrics - Video

"Blueridge Mountain Blues" - Lyrics - Video

"Memories of Mother and Dad" - Lyrics - Video

"I've Been All Around This World" - Lyrics - Video 

"Salty Dog Blues" - Lyrics - Video

Class 5

Bluegrass and Swing Music

Bluegrass and Western Swing are different styles of music from different regions of the country. But they have become closely associated over the years. Bill Monroe's legendary fiddler, Kenny Baker, started his musical career playing western swing. Hot Rize's alter-ego band, Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers, were festival favorites throughout their 40+ year career. So, it's worth learning a bit about the style.

1. Basic Swing Chords

2. Playing Rhythm in the Western Style


3. Rocky Road Blues

4. Hey Good Lookin'

5. Foggy Mountain Special - Tab

Class 6

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

- Drink Up and Go Home

- Cora is Gone

3. E-Grip Chord Shapes


3. Songs

- Hold Whatcha Got

- Dark as the Night

Class 7

Folk Ballads, D Position and Drop D

Playing out of a D chord position can sometimes limit the tonal range that you can get on the guitar. Because the lowest D-note available in standard tuning is the open D string, often the D-chord sounds less full than other chord positions. This class will explore why we would choose an open D-position and how drop-D tuning can work in bluegrass, and acoustic music.

1. Tuning to Drop-D - To tune your guitar to drop-D simply tune your low-E string down one full step to a low-D. Doing this means that any note played on the low E-string in standard tuning will now be up two frets. So, your G-note will now be on the fifth fret rather than on the second.

2. Drop-D Chord Shapes

2. Drop-D Songs

- Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies

- Darling Corey

- I've Endured


Jam Along Tracks

Rolling in my Sweet Baby's ArmsMartin Gilmore
00:00 / 03:58
Blueridge Mountain BluesMartin Gilmore
00:00 / 03:45
Memories of Mother and DadMartin Gilmore
00:00 / 04:35
I've been all around this worldMartin Gilmore
00:00 / 03:05
Salty Dog BluesMartin Gilmore
00:00 / 03:37
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