Building a Bluegrass Guitar Solo

Introduction and Simple Melody

1. Equipment


2. Simple Melody - Quarter, half, whole notes


3. Long Journey Home - Simple Melody


4. Long Journey Home - Slides, Hammer-ons, and Pull-offs


5. Find your own simple Melody - Blank Tab Paper

      a.) Red Rocking Chair

      b.) I've Been All Around This World


1. What is crosspicking? Crosspicking is a bluegrass flatpicking technique where more than two strings are played and the alternating picking style is maintained.


2. Crosspicking Patterns - G pdf - C pdf - D pdf - Combo pdf


3. Chord Shapes - G Chart pdf - C Chart pdf - D Chart pdf


4. Applying crosspicking - Find the simple melody using quarter, half and whole notes. Fill the eighth notes in with chord tone from crosspicking shapes.


5. Long Journey Home - Crosspicking Variation


6. Write your own crosspicking solo. Blank Tab Paper

Double Stops and Carter Style

1. What are double stops? In bluegrass music, playing two strings at the same time is called "double stops". Often they are played by fiddles and mandolins, but they have a place on the guitar as well.

2. Double Stop Shapes

3. Double Stop Progressions

4. Applying Double Stops

    a. Long Journey Home double stop variation


5. Carter Style

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

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


    c. Blackjack Davey - Lyrics - Tab - Video


6. Modified Carter Style

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


7. Write your own Solo using Double Stops - Blank Tab Paper

See if you can pick out the basic melodies, and jam along with the tunes.

Click the link below to find the jam along songs. Look at the chord chart first to make sure you know the chord progressions. Then play along with the track and try to pick out the basic melody each time the break comes around. Good Luck!

Jam Along

Different Octaves, Re-Phrasing, and Alternate Melody

1. Find the melody in a different octave

2. Change the rhythm without changing the notes

3. Sing a different melodic idea and find it on the guitar

4. Long Journey Home - Different Octave

5. Bury Me Beneath The Willow

5. Bury Me Beneath The Willow - Re-Phrased

6. Bury Me Beneath The Willow - Alternate Melody

7. Write your own solo using these techniques. - Blank Tab Paper

Coordinating your hands and your ideas

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.

More to Come

Materials will be added as they are prepared.

Welcome to the Building a Bluegrass Solo Class with Martin Gilmore, brought to you by Swallow Hill Music Association.

This class is an in-depth look at methods to develop a simple melody and incorporate guitar techniques to create a solo in the bluegrass flatpicking style.

This class is fairly fast-paced, and we cover a lot of material. However, learn the materials at your own speed. This eight week class should provide you with materials and ideas for months worth of practice. Do not feel pressured to keep up, this class is just meant to present you with ideas that you can use to develop your own playing. I realize that people who take this class are often at different levels of playing ability, and there should be something for everyone in this course.

Please feel free to ask questions at any time, even if the course is over. I am always happy to help former students with questions about materials I have presented.

Thanks for signing up, I am looking forward to the class!

Find the Phrase Recordings

Find the phrase 1Martin Gilmore
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Find the Phrase 2Martin Gilmore
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Find the phrase 3Martin Gilmore
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Find the phrase 4Martin Gilmore
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Find the Phrase 5Martin Gilmore
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Find the Phrase 6Martin Gilmore
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Find the phrase 7Martin Gilmore
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Find the Phrase 8Martin Gilmore
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Find the phrase 9Martin Gilmore
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Find the phrase 10Martin Gilmore
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Find the phrase 11Martin Gilmore
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find the phrase 12Martin Gilmore
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Find the phrase 13Martin Gilmore
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Find the phrase 14Martin Gilmore
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