Bluegrass Lesson

by David OToole

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  • Hi all and welcome to this little bitta Bluegrassy Chet Atkins viberoony thing! For those not familiar with Chet Atkins, well he was bit of a pioneer in this style of music and he was a self-taught player from way back in the 1950s. He actually learned how to play in a log-cabin miles away from civilization, just like Johnny B. Goode :)! A real fairytale story his, and what a player he was - unfortunately no longer with us.

    Now in this piece, the right-hand is not using a thumbpick in alternate picking style as the amazing Mr. Atkins was prone to. But the chord style and the overall feel is definitely in that Bluegrassy/Atkins territory.

    This tune is easy enough to play once you get the components in position. Namely the righthand picking pattern (repetitive) and then the simple lefthand partial chords. Basically the same righthand pattern is used throughout, just changing the emphasis (or loud/softness) on certain notes.

    I've added a great exercise which helps to get this picking pattern off - it's video number 7. It involves simply muting the strings with the lefthand and running the pattern with the righthand. This is a great method to use to learn any picking pattern.

    Lots of open strings are used to get that flavor too. On the electric, use a clean sound using the middle and bridge pickup together. I use this configuration, but I also put in a switch on my Strat which allows me to add in the neck pickup too. This gives the classic Telecaster sound of Neck pickup and Bridge with the middle thrown in (out of phase).

    On a Humbucking 3 way switch style guitar such as a Gibson Les Paul Standard or an Ibanez and so on, try it on each pickup and see which sounds best. This will depend a lot on your personal technique - how hard you pick and fret the strings, your amp setup and your feel in general. You might have to work a little harder to get the sound on this one. But it is do-able. Not to mention you can use an emulator like the cool Line 6 Pod and the likes.

    This piece and similar type of stuff sounds equally at home on the electric and acoustic guitar. Although the bend may be not be possible on the acoustic - just replace the bend with a slide from the 7 to a 9 on the G string instead, and add the B string fret 8 note to make a diad (2 note chord).

    I used a clean sound running through delay (my trusty Boss DD3), and a "Large Vocal Plate" reverb on a Quadraverb. I ran the Strat through a Sansamp into the desk.

    There's a little backing track added to the lesson which is a handy little tune to practice Bluegrass/Country lead too, as well as the main parts. Oh and don't forget the pre-requisite "yee-har" to get the full effect hee-hee, and hope you enjoy and pickup something new from it.

    Pull it out at parties on an Acoustic and stay fashionable :)!

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