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Teibleol Contents

The Hlsfory ol fhe Flelplcklng GvlTet $tyle
lcornlng to Flotplcks A Hlslodcol Approoch


Secllon One Technlgues,Exomples, eind Exerclses


fhe Role ol the Rhyftm Gullan Ployer

Slmple G Chord Rhyflrm
G, C, D Rhyffrm wllh R.epecflng Bcss l{ofes
AJrtetncrllng Boss Llne
Wolk-ups, Wolk-downs, ond lcodlng Tones
Chromerllc Wclk-Ups cnd Wolk-Downs
Boss R.uns-Old-fime StVle
Half Nole Boss R.uns
The Resf Slroke
Nletnate Plck Dlrecllon and E?gtrlr Noles
Elghth l{ofe Runs and Flll Licks
Borrowlng From Boss Plcycrs
G-R.uns,Hcmmer-Ons, Pull-Offs, cnd Slldes
Crcctlng tovemenl on One Chord
The Bfuegrass G Chord cnd Nlernale Slnrms
"lonesome R.ood Bluestt Exomple


Secllon Thro: Exeimples ltom the FOm Archfues

"R.offlng in tly Sweet Bcby's Arms" 7n lhe StVlc of Chadle f,lonroe
"Bfue Eyestt ?n lhe $fle of Roy Horvey
Rhytlrm ln llre Sfle of Edd toyfteld
Key of G Rhytlrm ln l|ne Sfle of Jlmmy torlln
"Nlne Pound Hnmmer" ln lfte $fle of Brad Dervls (Key of G)
"Nlne Pound Hcmrner" 7a lhe Sfle of Brad Dervls (Key of C)
Key of C Rhylhm ln t|ne Sfle oi Eqrt Scruggs
'Tennegsee Wcg onet'' in llrc $fle of Chodes Selwlelle
Key of C Rhytlrm ln lhe StVle of Tom Poley
"Soldler's Joy" Rhyflrm ln llre $fle of Rlley Puckett
"Herve A Fecsf Here Tfonigffi" ln llre Sfle of Doc Wofson
'rMolly Pvl the Ketlle On" In Jlre Sfle of Rlley Puckefl
Rhytfrm ln tfre Sfy'e ot Edd tlcyfleld 2 (KeV of G)
Rhyllrm 7n lhe Style of Edd ftfcyfield 3 (Key of A)
Rhytlrm ln fhe Sfiy'e ol Petet Rowon (Key of A)
Rhylfrm 7a lhe Sfiy'e of Chcdes Serwfelle (Key of E)
gfle of Davld GrTet
"Rogflme AnnleD 7n ftie
The R.ood Ahead


Appendlx | : Readlngtablclwe
AppendTx 2z Wor{rlng Wlft A tletronorne
Appendlx 3: tlclor 9coles, Chords, ond Arpegglos


Flatpicking Essentials Volurne 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

Welcometo thefirstbook in theFlatpickingEssentials
series! The Flatpicking Essentialsinstructionalseries
is designed to teach you the art of flatpicking the
acousticguitarin a sequential,
will graduallybuild your flatpicking skill in a way that
leavesno "gaps"or "holes." While this methodwill be
extremelybeneficialto beginners,this serieswill also
be of greatvalueto thoseguitarplayerswho havebeen
working to learn how to flatpick for quite some time,
yet can't seemto get beyonda certainplateau. If you
are having trouble moving beyond memorrzedsolos,
adding interest and variety to your rhythm playing,
learninghow to playup-the-neck.learning
horvto come
up with your own arrangements
to songs,learnin-e
to play by ear,or learninghow to improvise,then this
seriesis for you!
Too many flatpickersare learninghor,vto play by
simply memorizingtranscribedfiddle tune solosfrom
tabbooksandvideotapes.In doingthattheyarelearning
ineffectivelyand inefficiently. They are skippingover
many vital elementsin the learning processand thus
they havea weakfoundation.In this seriesmy goal is
to help you build a strong foundationso that you can
easily maintain consistentforward progressin your
studyof flatpicking.
Each volume of this seriespresentsmaterial that
providesthe foundationfor the next volume. In this
first volume- Rln,tlmt,BassRuns,and Fill Licks-yoll
will learnhow to developall of the basicskillsyou will
need in order to becomea solid rhythm player. This
book is designedto teachyou rhythm skills in a way
that will thoroughlyprepareyou for Volume 2, which
is titled, Learning Hov, To Solo: Carter Sryleand
As you will learn in the first sectionof this book,
the flatpicking guitar style developedchronologically
along a very clear line of sequentialtechnicalskills.
In order to learn how to flatpick fiddle tunes like
Doc Watson,the studentneedsto build a foundation
similar to the foundationDoc built for himself before
he startedpicking lead soloson fiddle tunes. The first
two volumesof this coursepresentthe techniquesand
skillsthat weredevelopedon the acousticguitarduring
the 30s',40s,
and50s-the pre-DocWatsonskills-the
skillsDoc acquiredaspart of buildinghis own musical

This book, and the entire series,is full of practice

suggestionsand homework problems. I highly
recommendthat you take the time to go through all of
the suggestedpracticedrills and homeworkproblems.
Your learning experiencewill be far richer and more
fruitful as a result. If you have any trouble with any
of the homework problems,pleasefeel free to email
me (dan@flatpick.com).Put "FlatpickingEssentials"
in the subjectline and I will do my bestto help you out
with any questionsyou may have.
I have included a three-sectionappendixin this
book. If you are new to guitartablature,or run across
a symbol in the tablature or music notation that is
presentedin this book that you are unfamiliar with,
pleaserefer to the appendixon "Reading Tablature."
If you have neverworked r,vitha metronome,or have
trouble working with a metronome,please see the
appendixon "Working with a Metronome." Similariy.
if you are unfamiliarwith major scales,major chords,
pleasereferto theappendixthatdiscusses
or arpesgios.
I wish you the bestof luck with this book, and the
volumesin this series. I think that if you
work through all of the materialthat is presentedhere
you will gain a lot more confidencein your ability to
provide solid and interestingrhythm and you will be
well preparedto learn how to start playing the guitar
solos that are presentedin Volume 2. Again, if you
haveany questions,pleasefeel free to contactme.
I wish you the best of luck in your study and
Dan Miller
Publisherand Editor
FlatpickingGuitar Magazrne

In additionto the booklCD series.we alsomaintain

a Flatpicking Essentialswebsite that includes extra
examples, songs, scales, answers to homework
problems,and answersto frequentlyaskedquestions.
You can checkit out at:

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rh.vthm, Bcss Runs, and Fill Licks

http :II www.fl atpick .com/essentials


The ll?stoty ol lhe Flalp?cklng @vllqt $fle

By DanMiller

What is "Flatpicking"?
As the editor of Flatpicking Guitar Magaz.ine,one of the
questionsthat I'm frequentlyaskedby non-guitarplaying music
fans is "What is flatpicking?" Ansrveringthis question rvould
seem to be the logical place to start this chapterthat discusses
flatpicking history. Providing a seneral definition of flatpicking
right up front rvill not only give you an opportunityto knorv what
is meant rvhen I use the term, but it will also give me a startin_q
placefrom rvhich your understandingof flatpickin_u
will gror,v.
Over the past fifty years the art of flatpickin_e
has steadily
changeddue to the additionof new techniquesand an expansion
of the style beyond its traditional roots and boundaries.As
flatpickerscontinueto "push the envelope"of the style by adding
new techniquesand explorinsnervmusicalgenres.the definition
of flatpickinghaschan_qed
and evolved.and rvill continueto do so
in the future. In order to adequatelystudy the chan_ees
we must
first havea startingdefinition.
Plectrum versus Fingers
The simplest,broadest.and most general,rvay to define
"flatpicking" is to say that it is the techniqueof playin_u
a guitar
rvith a flat pick (or plectrum).sometimescalleda "straightpick."
versusthe use of barefin_uers.
or a thumbpick.When
askedaboutwhy a -quitarist
lvould want to usea singleflat plectrum
versusmultiplefingerpicks,a thumbpick,or barefin-{ers,Dan Crary
put it best in an article rvritten for Frets Maga:ine (June 1985)
"The answcrseemsto be that the plectrum-a simple
by sayin-u.
piece of plastic. or nylon. or torloiseshell.or r.vhatever
a player holds dear enoughto hold in his fin,eers-is capableof
bringin-esomethingout of a steel-strin-u
guitar that nothing else
can." Indeed.the tone and volume one can _qetfrom usin_ea pick
to play a _euitarare qualitiesof the style that make the technique
very attractiveto guitar players.

at incredibly high tempos.It takes a stron-qright hand and an

incredibleamount of dexterity and enduranceto keep pace rvith
a group of mandolins,banjos,and fiddlesplayin_e
a fast bluegrass
breakdown.Driving the rhythm is difficult enough;taking a solo
in this musicalenvironmentremainschallengingfor playerseven
after years of practiceand experience.The strength.endurance,
and speedrequiredof the flatpickerinspiredone rvriterto describe
flatpickingas a "full contactspoft." So, flatpicking the acoustic
guitar does indeed require a different set o1' skills than those
requiredto play an amplilied electric guitar rvith a thin pick and
strings.Due to the divergentright-handskill sets
inherentto the acousticand electric_ruitar,rve will only apply the
"flatpicking" term to the steel-strin_e

Nlusical Genre
The third elementthat rve need to add to our basic flatpicking
definitionis that of musicalgenre.The term flatpickingoriginated
rvith early lead acoustic-quitarplayersin traditionalcountry and
musicrvhouseda plectrum.They devisedthe "flatpick"
term in order to distinguish their techniquefrom "fingerstyle"
players rvho used fin_eer-picks,
thumb-picks.or bare fingers to
pick the strin-es;Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, Maybelle Carler,
LesterFlatt. Carter Stanley.Edd Mayfield, and others.r.vereearly
playersrvho used a fingerstyle.or thumb-pick
Acoustic versus Electric
Becausethe origins of the term "flatpickin_e"_srewout of
Anotherelementto add to our basicdefinitionof flatpickin_e.
traditionalcountry.old-time.early folk. and blue-erass
for the purposesof this book. r,vouldbe to limit its applicationto
the acousticsteel-stringflat-topguitar.While most electricguitar the term is most ,eenerally
used in thesecircles-our most basic
players do indeed use a plectrum rvhile performing. the term delinition of flatpicking rvill be limited to genres of American
"flatpickins"is not -eenerally
appliedto their technique.Because roots music that rvere traditionally played on an acousticsteelthe acoustic guitar does not rely on pickups and amplifiers string guitar.In regardto genre.flatpicking is typically definedin
lor volume. and becausethe stringson the acousticguitar are termsof the musicoriginallyplayedby the style'sfive "founding
generallyheavier.the porverrequiredin the ri-ehthand technique fathers": Doc Watson. Clarence White, Norman Blake. Dan
Crary, and Tony Rice. Holvever, as we rvill discusslater in the
of a "flatpicker" is differentthan that of an electricplayer.Rightguitaristsdid
hand techniquesemployedon the electric_euitar
cannotahvaysbe "pioneers"sectionof thischapter,thesedestiguished
cffectivcly appliedto the acousticguitar.This rvasespeciallytrue not necessarily"invent" the style, and the standardsthat they set
backin the 60s,70s.and 80s.arecontinuallybeingredefined
back in the early days when little or no soundreinforcementwas dor,vn
of nervplayers.
availableto the -suitarist.
Thus, the varietiesof -suitartechniques
that come under the flatpickin-edefinition.for the
of our
rudimentarydefinition. are thosethat are typically applied to the Other Factors
As rve pro-qresschronologically throu_shthe history of
our definitionis going to expanddue to variousfactors
One of the true challen,ees
all flatpickersface.especiallyin fast,
such as guitar design.technolo_eical
advancesin amplification
styleslike blue_erass,
is learnin_e
horv to push a thick
piece of plastic throu_shheavy steel strings in rapid succession and sound re-enforcement.the srorvth of the radio broadcasting
Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

and recording industries,the accessibilityof teachingmaterials,

and the introduction of new senres of music to the flatpicking
repertoire.In addition, various technical advancesand creative
nuancesintroducedby key flatpickingartistsover the last five
decadeswill also serveto broadenour definition.As flatpickin,u's
founding fathers and their followers began expanding their
reperloire,flatpickinggrew far beyondits traditionalroots.
Basic Definition
As Dan Crary has said."With flatpicking,it isn't just what it
originally rvas;it's also rvhatit's becoming." With that said.for
the time being.let us defineflatpickingas a techniqueof playing
American roots music on the acousticsteel-strin_e
guitar using a
flatpick. From this startingpoint, let's nor.vbegin to explore how
historyhas broadenedthat definitionby dividin-ethe development
of flatpicking into four separateeras.

The Pioneer Era (Pre-Doc Watson)

Historically,r,vecan breakdor.vnthe developmentof flatpicking
into four distinct eras. While the term flatpickin_qand its
a p p l i cat ionon t he ac ou s ti cg u i ta ro ri g i n a l l yc a m eto p romi nence
in the mid-to-latc1960srvhenArlhel "Doc" Watsonbe_uan
fiddletuneson his acoustic_uuitar.
Watsondid not inventthis style
of ,cuitarplayin-ein a vacuum.Therewere influences
that leadhim
to develophis techniqueand thus rve rvill rcf'erto the first era
in the history of flatpicking.rvhich pre-datedDoc Watson,as the
"Pioneer"Era. While the guitaritself hasa very long history,and
the steel-stringguitardatesbackto around1900.we are going to
confineour discussion
of the PioneerEra to the time betrveen1920
and the early 1960s.
Guitarists of this era rvho influenced future generationsof
flatpickers include old-time players such as Riley Puckett. Tom
Paley, Frank Hutchison and Roy Harvey; traditional country
performers such as Maybelle Cafier, Jimmie Rodgers, Doc
Addington. the Delmore Brcthers, the Blue Sky Boys, Charlie
Monroe, Joe Maphis, and Hank Snorv; bluegrassplayers such
as Lester Flatt, Edd Mayfield. Jimmy Martin. George Shuffler.
Bill Napier, and Don Reno: early jazz players such as Django
Reinhardt, Nick Lucas, Eddie Lang, and Charlie Christian; and
early western swing guitarists such as Sleepy Johnson,Herman
and DerrvoodBrorvn.
The earliest plectrum players in old-time and country music
typically combineda heavy useofbass runs rvith rhythmic strums.
Occasionallythey would throw in short runs (mostly on the bass
stdngs) used as an embellishmentto a bass line or as a fill at the
end of a vocal line. Many old-time players such as Riley Puckett
(lvith Gid Tanner ard the Skillet Lickers) and Roy Harvey (with
Charlie Poole and the Nonh Carolina Ramblers)made heavy use
of basslines in their guitar playing, especiallywhen the bandsthey
performed with did not have a bassplayer.Other early string band
players, such as Sleepy Johnson,Derwood Brown, and Herman
Arnspiger adopted a similar style. While this style of guitar
playing is not prevalenttoday among modern bluegrassplayers,
due mostly to the inclusion of a string bass player in bluegrass
bands. this style is wonhy of study for any player who wishes
to improve their understanding,knowledge. and skill in playin-r
acousticrhythm guitar. In this book we will focusa lot oftime and
effort on studyingthe style of the early flatpickingpioneers.
A significant event in the evolution of early guitar playing,

Guitar Pioneer Rilev Puckett

and traditional roots music in general, occurred in August of
1927 rvhen Ralph peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company
came to Bristol. Tennesseeto audition and record musicians in
that region. Jimmic Rodgersand the Carter Family where among
those selectedfor peer's recordings.which subsequentlyhelped
propagatethe guitar styles of Rod-sersand the Carter Family's
Maybelle Carter. Rodgers' plectrum style consistedof rhythmic
strums punctuatedby bass notes. bass runs and shon lead lines.
Although Maybelle Caner used a thumbpick and fingers, her
chord-melody style (picking the melody rvith her thumb while
insening chordal strums with her fingers) is easily adaptedto the
flatpickingstyle and has beenusedextensivelyby all flatpicking
-suitarists.Both Jimmie Rodgers and Maybelle Carter's guitar
styles influenced many early countly and bluegrassplayers. and
that influence continuesto this day.
The next group of influential guitar players came to popularity
in country music shortly after Jimmie Rodgesand the Caners and
included guitadst from the ,,brother,'groupslike Charlie Monroe,
Doc Addington. the Delmore Brothers. the Blue Sky Boys. Edd
Mayfleld, and others. Although their techniqueswere rudimentary
by today's standards.theseguitarists were among the first to play
lead guitar in the flatpick style and thus their contribution is of
great value to the chonological developmentofflatpicking.
During the 1950'sbluegrassmusic's lead guitar pioneers
included Don Reno and George Shuffler. Although Reno was
primarily knorvn as a banjo player, his guitar work is significant
because,in a tune called .,CountryBoy Rock and Roll". he was the
first to record a bluegrasslead guitar solo. As Dan Crary likes to
say."The first recordedflatpickingblue_urass
solo was by a banjo
player playing a rock and roll tune!"

Flatpiching Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bo,ssRuns, and Fill Lichs

Reno'sguitarstyleincorporateda strongmelodic sensecombined

rvith flashy runs, the use of harmonizedscales,and variousother
effectssuch as a quick descendingglissando,i.e., sliding dorvn
the fretboardfrom a high note to a low note. GeorgeShuffler's
introductionof the crosspickingtechniquein his work with the
Stanley Brothers in the late 1950s and early 1960sprovided a
rvay for flatpick guitar playersto "fill up the spacebetlveenvocal
pauses"with arpeggiatedrolls, similar to roll patternsused by
banjo players. The crosspickingroll could also be intertrvined
rvith melodicbassnote leads.as in the Carterstyle, by substituting
Maybelle Carter'sstrumsrvith Shuffler'scrosspickingrolls. This
techniqueaddedmore textureand interestto the flatpickingstyle.
The most si,snificantcontributionsto flatpicking from the jazz
r,vorldcame from Django Reinhardt and Nick Lucas. Django
Reinhardt'sguitarwizardryhasinfluencedevery guitarplayerrvho
hashad the opportunityto hearhis recordings.Doc Watsonheard
DjangoReinhardt'srecordsas a boy r,vhenhe attendeda schoolfor
the blind in Ralei-eh,
North Carolina.It is saidthat ClarenceWhite
carrieda box of Reinhardtrecordingson cassettetapesin his car.
Direct quotesfrom Reinhardtrecordscan be heard in a numberof
flatpickin-esolosby a variety of prominentflatpickin_e
Nick Lucas had a lon_qand distinguishedcareeras a jazz
in 1922.and rvasa major
-euitariststartingrvith his first recordin_es
influenceon lar_qenumbersof jazz _quitarists
r,vholvould follorv
him. His mostdirectinfluenceon flatpickers,however.camefrom
one of his instructionalbooks.Doc Watsonhas said,"I ordereda
-cuitarfrom Searsand Roebuckand therecamea book r,vithit rvith
differentlittle songsin therethat you could flatpick. It showedthe
old-timejazz gurtaristNick Lucas:it shor,ved
hor,vhe heldhis pick.
My youngestbrother.David, shorvedme hor,vLucas heldhis pick,

andthat'shorvI learnedto hold mine." Although you may not hear

a lot of Nick Lucas licks in today's flatpicking,his instructional
book surelyhad an influenceon the young Doc Watson.
During the pioneerera of flatpickinghistory,developmentsin
radio and recordingtechnologyallowed regional music to reach
wide-rangingaudiences.For the first time, the pioneersof musical
stylesand genresfrom variousregionsof the country were able to
hearand be influencedby guitaristsfrom other areasof the United
Statesandaroundthe globe.Old-timemountainmusiciansfrom the
Appalachianregion and traditionalcountry musiciansperformin-{
in the southernstatesrvereableto hear rvesternswing from Texas
and Oklahoma.blues performersfrom the MississippiDelta, and
jazz musiciansfrom the northem statesand New Orleans.Thus.
the playin-estylesof acousticguitaristsfrom many genresof roots
musicbeganto havean influenceon thedevelopmentof flatpicking
as it began to take shape in the early 1960s.The influence of
mainstreamjazz, Gypsy jazz, Celtic music, Westernsrving,rock
and roll. blues. and various other forms of American and world
music has continuallybroadenedthe flatpickingguitar style.

The Heroes Era

Arthel "Doc" Watson is the man who is typically vier.vedas
of the flatpickin_e
style. While he 'uvasplaying in a
dance band. Jack Williams and the Country Gentlemen,in the
mid-to-late1950s,Doc was calledupon to play fiddle tuneson
the -suitar.Williams' banddid not havea fiddle player about90o/o
of the time. however.the dancehalls that hired the band rvould
usuallyrvantthem to do a squaredanceset. Williams, who had
heard Doc fooling around rvith a ferv fiddle tunes on the guitar.
that Doc learn horv to play lead on some fiddle tunes.

Flatpicking vs. Fingerstyle

In America, ftom the 1800sthrough the 1930s,the guitar rvasprimarily usedas a rhythm instrumentin an ensemblesettingor
as an instrumentthat a solo vocalist usedto accompanyhis or her singing. Typically the ensembleguitadst would strum rhythm
rvith a pick as this techniqueproduceda louder volume. and the full "punchy" chordal sound of the strum of the pick across
the -suitar'sstringsprovided a nice rhythmic backdropfor the rest of the band. One of the reasonsthat the guitar player did not
usually take solos in the ensemblesettingwas that the small-bodiedacousticguitars of this era simply did not possessufficient
volume to be heard as a lead instrument. By comparison,mandolins. banjos, fiddles, and homs are much louder ensemble
On the other hand, when the guitar was being played by a solo vocalist such as a traditional Delta blues guitar player, the
fingerstyletechniquewas more effective than playing with a pick. A fingerstylist can play a melody line with his or her nngers
while conlinuing to thump a steadybassline rhythm with the thumb. Using fingerstyletechnique.the player is able to provide
both lead and rhythm simultaneously.This is much more difficult to accomplishwhen utilizing the flatpicking techniquebecause
rvhenlead lines are being played with the flatpick, the rhythm strum drops out by necessity.
Early-on we can seea trend startingto develop which continuesto this day in the world of acousticsteet-stringguitar playing.
Fingerstyleplayers tend to be either solo instrumentalistsor vocalists who accompanytheir singing with the acoustic guitar,
while flatpickerscan mainly be found performing with ensembles.The intricacies of the fingerstyletechniquecan somerimes
clashwith other instrumentsin an ensemblesetting.while the fingerstylecombinationofmelody and rhythm make this technique
ideal for solo pedormance.Conversely,the sparsesingle-string lead lines of traditional flatpicking don't typically provide a
very full sound when this technique is used solo. but fits pedectly in an ensemblesetting with the other instrumentsholding
the rhythm. The flatpicking techniquealso brings more volume out of the acousticguitar and thus is ideal for strong and full
rhythmic accompanimentfor other instruments.
With time the world of flatpicking hasevolved technique-wiseto the point where super-chargedstylesofCarter-style picking
combined with intdcate crosspickinghave allowed performers such as Norman Blake, David Grier, Steve Kaufman. ard Dan
Crary to perform solo rvith the flatpick style. In the early days of the style, however,flatpicking techniquewas mainly reserved
for use with an ensemble.

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

The Flatpicker's Guitar

During the flatpickingPioneerEra, the guitar underrventmany designchan_ees
technologicaladvances.Most of the modificationsthat rvheremade to the guitar's
materialsand physical design after 1900 r,verefor the purposeof making it louder.
hadbeenintroducedaroundI 900.A strengthening
of the X-bracepattern,
rvhichguitarbuildersbeganusing around1850,not only allowedthe guitar'stop to
supportthe tensionof steelstringswhen they rvereintroduced,but also allowed for
rviderbody styles,r,vhichgavethe guitar the increasedvolume and resonanceplayers
It was during the PioneerEra that the coveted"every flatpickerhas to have one"
style -tuitarwas invented.Due to its volume, tone, and unique voice, the Martin
guitar becamethe perfect flatpicker's tool. Doc had one, Clarence
had one, Tony had one, Norman had one. and in the early days of flatpicking.nearly
every other flatpickerhad to have one too. The Martin D-18 (mahogany)and D-28
(roservood)Dreadnoughtguitars made durin_sthe Martin Company's"Golden Era"
(1934 through 1945)have ahvaysbeen the standardby rvhich all flatpicking guitars
are measured.
Since most of the early PioneerEra flatpickersrverenot playing Dreadnou_eht
guitars,we can't say that the Dreadnoughtstyle guitar helped define flatpickin_e
until we reachedthe next era in the evolutionof flatpicking.The Dreadnoughtstylc,
horvever.rvas invented.improvedupon and came into high re,eard-especiallyin
circles-durin-cthe PioneerEra.
Martin originallymanufactured
the Dreadnought-size
body styleunderthe Ditson
name from l9l6 throughthe late 1920s.The first Dreadnoughtguitarsthat carried
the Martin namewere introducedin l93l and designated
as stylesD-l and D-2. The
"Dreadnought"namervasadaptedafter the British Dreadnoughtrvarships,which had
a similar rvide shape.Thesemodels featuredtwelve-fretnecks (12 frets clear of the
body) and slottedheadstocks.
The D-1 had mahoganyback and sides'nvhile
the D-2
had roservoodback and sides.ln 1934 the D-l and D-2 models r,verediscontinued.
The D-l rvasmodifiedto includea fourteen-fretneck and renamedthe D-18. The
fourteen-fretversionof the D-2 becamethe D-28.
As Flatpicking Changes, so Does the Flatpicker's Guitar of Choice
Although the Martin Dreadnoughtis still prominent today-and thoseMaftins that were built during the "Golden Era" are still
the most coveted-many playershave moved on to Dreadnoughfstyle guitars that are madeby other builders.The bassresponse
of the Manin D-28 made it a great rhythm guitar, especially in the bluegrasssetting. Early bluegrassplayers who primarily
filled the rhythm roll in the band, whose bands played around one microphone,and who kept their lead work in the areaof the
first four or five frets loved the D-28. As sound re-enforcementtechnology improved and players beganto play into individual
microphones,the D-28 could soundtoo "boomy" to some playem and they opted for the soundof the D- l8 which had a stronger
treble presenceand cut through the soundof the other instrumentsbetter when they took solos.
As flatpicking solos became more intricate and flatpickers explored areasup-the-neck more frequently, especially when
playing music outside of the bluegrassgenre. flatpickers began to seek Dreadnoughtstyle guitars that could provide a more
"modem" sound.They soughtDreadnoughtdesignsthat provided a better mid-rangeand treble responsethan the standardD-18
or D-28 Manin provided. especially in those up-the-neckareas.Builders such as Taylor, Collings and SantaCruz beganto filI
this void in the 1980s.
With the improvementsmade in soundreinforcementover the years,volume is no longer such a big issue.For decades,sound
re-enforcementfor the acousticguitar consistedof pick-up systemsthat made the acousticguitar sound very brittle or "nasal."
Early pickups removed the rvarm woody tones that made players fall in love with the sound of the acousticguitar. In order to
achieve an adequateacousticsound when played through a PA system,the only solution was to use a high-quality microphone
and hope that you had a good soundman.Today the situation has changedand many players are not only finding bener external
microphones.but are also taking advantageof blended systemswhich help maidtain the walm tone of the asousticguitar when
it is amplified.
With volume less of a concem, some flatpickersare norv using smaller body styles rvhich are generally more comfortable to
play than the large Dreadnoughts. Just as our definition offlatpicking techniquechangesover time, the tools that flatpickersuse
to practicetheir craft have also changed.

Flatpicleing Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

During the "folk boom" of the early 1960s,Doc beganperforming

as a solo act on the acousticguitar and by the mid-sixties r,vas
travelingas a duo with his son Merle. Doc adaptedhis fiddle tune
picking styleto the acousticguitarand folk musicenthusiasts
amazedat Watson'sability to play fluid lead lines at fast tempos
on the acousticguitar.
About the same time that Doc Watson began tourin-ethe
countrywith his son Merle, severalother prominentplayersin the
bluegrassand folk music worlds also beganfeaturinglead -suitar
rvork using the flatpickingstyle.While Doc Watson'splaying had
an influenceon all of theseplayers to some degree,we cannot
say that any of them were simply copying what Doc Watsonrvas
doing.We can't even say that they all beganto developtheir style
after first hearin-qDoc. Most of the great guitaristswho rve point
to as our heroeswere developingtheir own stylesof lead acoustic
guitar playing usin_qa flatpick at the sametime Doc Watsonrvas
touring the country and introducingthis style to his audience.
To whatever degreeeach of our flatpicking heroeshas been
influencedby Doc Watson'splaying. they each also made their
own significantcontributionsto the stylein its formativeyearsand
that is rvhy r,velist them here. Theseprominentplayersincluded:
ClarenceWhite, NormanBlake.Dan Crary.andTony Rice as the
main "heroes"of flatpickinglvith additionalplayerssuchas Larry
Sparks,Russ Barenberg,David Bromberg.Pat Flynn, Charles
Sarvtelle.Mark O'Connor. John Carlini. Phil Rosenthal.Eric
Thompson,Joe Carr. and SteveKaufman also playing imporlant
roles. This era of flatpicking history ran from the mid-1960s
throughthe early 1980s.We rvill call it the "HeroesEra."
The HeroesEra rvasnot only the time rvhenthe guitar stepped
out of the rhythm sectionand began to be recognizedas a lead
its own voice and unique contribution to a
band'ssound;it rvasalso an era of explorationbeyond traditional
boundaries.While Doc Watsoncontinuedto add tunes from the
blues,old-time. jazz.and folk genresto the standardflatpicking
fiddle tune repertoire.ClitrenceWhite's syncopatedrhythms and
extensive use of crosspickin-talso pushed flatpicking in ner'v
the Carter chord-melody
directions.Norman Blake superchar-eed
style by rveaving intricate lead lines around rhythmic chordal
strums. and Datr Crary brought por.verfuland expressivelead
melodiesrvith his 1970
guitarnvork to fiddle tune and blue-crass
Tony Rice and RussBarenbergr,veretrvo influentialflatpickers
rvho picked up rvhat Doc Watsonand ClarenceWhite had done
and mixed it rvith jtrzz influencesto becomefoundin,cmembersof
the "nerv acoustic"music -qenre.Pat Flynn and David Bromberg
brought in rock and roll influences;Larry Sparks and Charles
guitar solos that rvere bluesy and
sparse.and Mark O'Connor and SteveKaufman helpeddefinethe
conteststyle of hot and flashyflatpickedliddle tunes.It was a time
andexploration.Norv that
of tremendousgrowth,experimentation.
the acousticguitar had an acceptedlead voice. flatpickin,eheroes
werediscoveringnelv possibilitiesand avenuesof expressionand
thus expandingthe conceptof flatpicking itself. As flatpickers
embracedsongs fi'om standardjazz. Gypsy jazz, rock and roll,
blues. Western srving. and Celtic repertoires.flatpickin,ervas
no longer restrictedto traditional old-time. folk, and bluegrass
mu si c.
It rvas during the HeroesEra that flatpicking techniquealso
beganto change.While this changewas ultimately broughton
by the creativity of the style's main proponents,guital design

and technologyalso had somethingto do rvith it. Due to player

demands,guitar builders began making instrumentsthat were
easier to play up-the-neckand provided a balanced"modern"
sound. Sound reinforcementtechnologyalso contributedto the
changein techniqueas players did not have to hit the ,quitarso
hard in orderto be heard.Flatpickerscould now play rvith a lighter
touch, which allowed for betterendurance,speedand fluidity'

The SecondGeneration
The next era of flatpicking runs from the early-to-mid 1980s
through the first ferv years of the nerv millennium. During this
era flatpicking continued to blossom and grow, buiiding on
the foundation laid down by the pioneersand heroes,and then
expanding in nerv directions. We will call this the "Second
sinceall of the heroescontinuedto
Generation"era. Interestin-ely.
recordand performduring this era (rvith the exceptionof Clarence
White who died tragicallyin 1973),they all continuedto play a
role in flatpicking gror,vthand developmentas they themselves
evolved as players ancl perfolmers. The key flatpickersof the
second generation include players such as: David Grier, Tim
Stafford. Jack Larvrence.Kenny Smith. Brad Davis. Bryan
Sutton,Wyatt Rice. JamesAlan Shelton.Robin Kessinger,Mark
Cosgrove. Scott Ny-taard.Beppe Gambetta,John Moore, Orin
Star.Jim Hurst, Chris Jones,Tim May. Jim Nunally,Dix Bruce.
PeterMcl-au,chlin.SeanWatkins.and others.
During the early par-to1'thisera nlany of the young flatpickers
sirnply copied the solos,licks, and overall stylesof the heroes
rvho came before them, rvith Tony Rice beine the one rvho rvas
most frequently"cloned."As flatpickingapproachedthe 1990s.
horvever.the majority of the players who rose to prominencein
the SecondGenerationhad their own signaturesoundand unique
style. David Grier developeda solo style that was basedon an
techniqueanda streamof
incrediblysmoothandfluid crosspicking
endlessmusicalideas;Tim Staffordintroducedsolosthattastefully
and creatively supporledthe song and overall band sound. He
also becamervell knorvn for his "floatinq" technique.Brad Davis
introduceda "speedpickirrg"techniquehe called"double-downup." which spit notesout like a chainsawotr overdrive.Jim Hurst
combineclhis talentsas a country fingerpickerrvith his flatpicking
techniqueto developyet anotherunique flatpickin-uvoice' Bryan
that it was indeedpossiblefor a guitar player
bluegrassband to play fast and clean r.vith-eood
in a high-ener_sy
power,volumeand tone.
In addition, Grier. Davis and Sutton also frequently used a
"hybrid" fingerpickingand flatpicking technique,rvhich rvas first
introducedto the flatpicking world by ClarenceWhite and also
employedby Tony Rice. With this techniquethe player usesthe
flatpick.held betweenthe thumb and index finger,in combination
of the middleand ring fingers.This technique
with the fin-cemails
thatnot only broughtthe fingerpickingandflatpicking
is somethin-e
worlds closertogether,but it alsobrou-shtthe acousticand electric
rvorlds closer together since this techniqueis prominently used
by country electric players. Each new prominent player of this
era had somethingunique to offer and each has helpedthe ar1of
flourishand change.
flatpickingto -eror,v.
video,CD. and DVD technologies
Developments cassette.
easierfbr flatpickingstudentsto
during this era
performersand recording
leam the licks and solos
coursesfrom flatpicking
arlists.By the early ei-ehties.

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

heroesTony Rice. RussBarenberg,and Dan Crary were available,

followed later by video tapes lessonsfrom Norman Blake and
Doc Watson. Additionally, Russ Barenberg rvrote a book of
ClarenceWhite transcriptions.SteveKaufman and Joe Carr also
began to release,through both HomespunTapes and Mel Bay
Publications,a continuousstreamof quality instructionalmaterial.
As time progressedtranscriptionbooks of nearlyeveryprominent
by second
generationpickers such as David Grier, Tim Stafford, Kenny
Smith,JamesAlan Shelton,BeppeGambetta,Wyatt Rice.Bryan
Sutton,Orrin Star.Brad Davis, Dix Bruce. and otherswere also
In additionto quality instructionalbooks,CDs, andvideosmany
beganpoppingup all
over the country.Most notably,SteveKaufman'sAcousticKamps
in Tennessee.
Camp Bluegrassin Texas,RockygrassAcademy in
Colorado,RoanokeBluegrassWeekendin Vir_einia,
the Beachin Oregon,and many othersmadeit easyfor flatpicking
enthusiaststo spend time learning from their heroes. In 1996
High View Publicationsalsobe-panpublishin,eFlatpickingGuitar
Maga:ine, a bi-monthly publication that exploresall aspectsof
flatpickin-qthe acousticguitar.Prior to the SecondGenerationera.
anyonelvho wanted to learn horv to flatpick had to spendhours
in front of a turntable slorvin-edorvn recordingsmade by their
heroesin order to learnthis challengingguitar style.By the year
2000. anyonervho had an interestin learnin_s
how to flatpick had
opportunitiesto learnfrom any of their favorite flatpickers.either
in personat a r.vorkshopor through their rvrittenand videotaped
Due to the varietyof instructionalmaterialavailableduring this
cra. the art of flatpickingthe acousticguitar becamemuch more
accessibleto the averageamateurflatpicker.Whereasduring the
heroesera it was rare to seea local hometownbandrvith a skilled
lead guitar player.by the year 2000 there was a lead guitar player
in nearlyevery bluegrassband.from the local hometownbandsto
As the ranks of both the flatpickingprofessionalsand hobbyists
have risen over the years. the standard flatpicking reperloire
has also swelled far beyond its ori_einalfiddle tune banks and
borders.As flatpickersbecomemore experiencedthey seeksonss
and genres of music that present challen_ees
beyond those of
simple fiddle tunes.Durin_ethe SecondGenerationera far more
Westernswing. Gypsy jazz, Cehic, and standardjazz tunes (and
the techniquesthat accompanythem) have enteredthe avera-qe
flatpicker'srepertoire.Today the definition of flatpickin_rhas to
extendbeyondthe genresof American roots musicto includejust
aboutanythinga playercan performusing a pick and a steel-string

flatpicking have no boundariesin terms of genre,or the melding

of various musical influencesand ideas,or the mixing of electric
and acousticguitartechniques.
The Next Generationincludesplayers such as: Cody Kilby,
John Chapman,Josh Williams. Chris Eldridge, Andy Falco,
Edward O'Day, Adam Wright, Tyler Grant, Matt Arcara, Dillon
Hodges,Justin Carbone,Matt Wingate,Jake Stargel,Tony Watt,
MeganMcCormick. and Mo Canada.Theseyoung playersarenot
only including influencesfrom the flatpickersrvho came before
them, they are also incorporatinginfluencesfrom various other
musical styles to great effect; furthermore.they are doing so in
positionsof prominence.Cody Kilby performswith Ricky Skaggs,
JoshWilliams toured rvith RhondaVincent; Chris Eldrid-sewith
the Infamous Stringdustersand the Punch Brothers;Andy Falco
rvith Alecia Nugentand the InfamousStringdusters;
Matt Wingate
with the Lovell Sistersand the Greencards;JakeStargelr,viththe
Greencardsand the Lovell Sisters;EdrvardO'Day with Adrienne
Young,and Tyler Grant'with Drew Emmitt.
In additionto being more musicallyopen-mindedand versatile
than the averageflatpickerof the past, many players in the Next
Generationera are also more musicallyeducated.In an interview
with Flatpic:kingGuitar Mogazine, Chris Eldridge, r,vhohas a
collegedegreein musicsaid."The nervstandardis to be educated.
Threegenerationback.-euyslike Clarence.Doc, and Normanlvere
all intuitiveplayers.Guys like Tony and David Grisman,knerva
little more abouttheory.Todaythe youngermusiciansare getting
more educatedandtaking it further. Chris Thile thorou-ehlyknorvs
his theory and he is settingthe standardfor the next -qeneration.
The approachis changing."
The art of flatpickingthe acousticguitar has come a long rvay
sincethe day the first guitar player pusheda flatpick througha set
of steelstrin-rs.While this chapterhasbriefly discussedthe various
stagesof developmentthe stylehasunder_eone
during its continual
grorvth.the chaptersrvhich follorv in this instructionalseriesrvill
provide far sreaterinsightsthrough more detaileddiscussionsof
the most prominent and influential players and their milestone
as well as examplesof their techniques.
This Instructional Series
This is the first book in an instructionalseriesthat aims to
teachyou flatpickingsequentially.
along the chronologicallines
it developed.My feelingis thatthis is the mostcomplete
methodto study any musical style or techniquebecauseit allorvs
the studentto leam in a step-by-stepprogressivefashionin a rvay
that developsskill througha completeand systematicmethod. In
the next chapterI rvill outline this approach.

The Next Generation

We will call the fburth era of flatpicking guitar playin_ethe
"Next Generation".
This new _qeneration
of youngplayersconsists
of those rvho have reapedthe benefitsof the creativity of those
rvho havecome beforethem and have be_eun
to makeinnovations
of their own. Theseare playerslvho, due to their age,neverknerv
that flatpicking rvasonce confinedto playing fiddle tunes. They
have -eroln up hearingTony Rice playrngjazz and nerv acoustic
music rvith the David Grisman Quintet and are using Rice and
Grismanas their startingpoint. For the most part,their ideasabout
Fhtpicking EssentialsVolume 1: Rhvthm. Bass Runs. and Fill Licks

Iceirning ro Flcrpick A Hisroriccl Approeich

By DanMiller

As you may realizefrom readingthe lastchapter.the history and
developmentof flatpickingis not an easyor concisetopic. But I
feel like it is very importantto understandthe historyof flatpicking
when you are starlin-eto learnthe style becauservhatthe history can
tell us aboutthe chronologicaldevelopmentof the stylecangive us
-qreatinsi-ehtsregardin,ehow rve can proceedto developour own
skills and talents. Most of the guitar playerswho have a desireto
learn the flatpicking style r,villdo so becausethey are inspiredby
one of the contemporaryperformersthat they have heardat a shorv
or on a CD. Hearinga talentedperformercan providetremendous
to their arrangements
and soloscaneasily
fuel your desireto learn. Horvever.the mistakethat manybeginners
make is that they rvill go out and buy an instructionalbook or
DVD that featurestheir currentguitar hero and try to learn horv to
play thosearrangements
and solosrvithoutfirst developinga solid
foundation. I feel that the bestrvay to learn how to play like Doc
Watsonis not to staft',vithDoc Watsonsolos,but first startlearnin_e
from the performersr.vhoinspiredDoc. You needto first studythe
style and techniqueof the playersof the PioneerEra.
What the PioneerEra playersdid providesa very important
foundation for rvhat all of the professionalplayers are doin_c
today.Listeningto their musicrvill make you a betterguitar player
and learning their techniquer,vill provide you rvith a very solid
foundationfor learnin_e
what Doc Watson,Tony Rice. and Bryan
Sutton are doing today. In this chapterI'm not _coin_s
to talk too
much about the back_crounds
of the pioneers,there simply isn't
room to do that adequately.I rvill mentiontheirnamesandthenyou
can explore biographieson your own as that kind of information
is easyto find on the Intemet. This chapterrvill primarilydiscuss
r.vhylearnin-qabouttheseearly playersand their guitar stylesrvill
help you becomea betterguitar player.

Maybelle Carter with A.P. and Sara Carter

day flatpickers,and we all emulatervhatthey do, the pioneersrvho

came before them. and the techniquesthey employed,are also
certainlyrvorthyof study.
Most flatpickers,
rvill usually
in theearlystagesof development,
havesomeexposerto the chord-melodystyle of Mother Maybelle
Carter,the crosspickingstyle of GeorgeShuffler.and the rhythm
stylesof bluegrassplayerslike Lester Flatt and Jimmy Martin,
horvever.thereareotherearlyplayerswho alsodeserverecognition
and emulation. Guitar playersrvho rvantto add more bassruns to
their rhythm rvork needto take a look at the rhythm stylesof early
playerslike Riley Puckett.Jimmie Rodgers,Roy Harvey,Charlie
Monroe. SleepyJohnson,and Edd Mayfield. Flatpickersrvho are
looking for harddriving energeticrunsto addto their reperloireneed
to examinethe stylesof early countryplayerslike Doc Addington.
Edd Mayfield.the DelmoreBrothers.Don Reno,and Hank Snow.
Those who want to move tor,vardsplaying acousticjazz certarnly
Learning How to Flatpick by
needto studyDjangoReinhardt.but alsoneedto exploretheplaying
of guitaristssuchas Nick Lucas.Eddie Lang, Geor-ue
Going Back to the Roots
Charlie Christian. For any techniqueor style that lve might rvant
While Doc Watsonis the musicianrvho is usuallyvie'wedasthe to learnon the guitar,it is ahvaysa good ideato tracethe technique
"father"of modernflatpicking.thereweremanyguitaristsrvhocame back to its sourceand use its chronologicaldevelopmentas a
beforeDoc rvhoapplieda flatpickto the steelstrin_es
of the acoustic roadmapto move forr.vardin our study.
As discussedin the lastchapter,flatpickingas an art hascertainly
NormanBlake,Dan Crary.and.a little later,Tony Rice-cerlainly
gone throu,ehnumerousevolutionarysta_qes.In learnin-ehorv to
expandedthe techniqueand took it to a whole ncw level, there flatpick,anddevelopinga styleof one'sown, it would makesense
were many guitar players before them who laid dorvn a strong to startrvith an examinationof the earliestplayersand performers.
foundationfor them to build upon. Every one of our flatpicking Each generationhas built upon the techniqueof thoservho have
heroeshadheroesof their own r,vhoinspiredthem. Could they have come before. Today many beginningstudentsbring a Tony Rice.
developedthe techniquesand skills that they madefamousr,vithout Bryan Sutton,Kenny Smith, David Grier. or SteveKaufman solo
first learnin-efrom the early pioneers?Probablynot. So it is rvell into their teacherand say,"I want to learn to play this." Or they
worth spendin-e
sometime developingthe basicskills that guyslike
buy a instructionalbook or video that teachesone of theseplayers'
Doc learnedbeforethey developedtheir styleof flatpicking. While
anangementsand they try to move their study forrvardfrom there.
Doc and the playerslistedaboveare cefiainlyheroesto all modern Unfortunately,most studentswho start rvith Tony Rice or Steve
Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

Kaufman, or Doc Watson don't knorv ',vhereto turn after they

have memorizedDoc. Tony or Steve'sarrangements.They are
missingthefoundationthat Doc. Tony,and Stevebuilt upon when
they createdthose affangements.Without a strongfoundation,the
buildingis alwaysgoingto be weak. So let'stakea look at horvrve
might go back and build up a strongfoundationfor flatpicking.

4) You will have a difficult time coming up with your orvn

solo arrangements,
especiallyon vocal numbers.
5) Finally,you will havea hard time playing songsat a jam
that you have neverheardbefore.

All this rvill lead to you reachinga plateauin your prosress.

You rvill not feel like startingover again.so you will continueto
memorizemore fiddletunesandnoodlearoundon theonesthat you
Building a Foundation
alreadyknorv. Then you will reachanotherplateau. Eventually
In almostevery featurearticlethathasbeenprintedrnFlatpicking you rvill reahzethat there is a lot missin,qfrom your flatpicking
'uvillnot know rvhatto do about it. In order to
Gttitar Magaz.ine,all of the professionalplayersthat have been educationand you
avoid thesepitfalls,I recommendyou journey back to the roots of
interviervedhave statedthat the bestplaceto staftlearningis with
flatpickingto begin your study.
rhythm. They also will tell
they learnedhorvto play
After interviewinghundredsof flatpickers.studyingdozensof
no tablature, they
all by ear. This is not how
booksand videos.listenin-e
to hundredsof flatpicking
most flatpickerslearn today.I have observedtr,vothingsthat most
atpi cki n g st udent sand
haveleamedhorv to flatpickin the past
thebestrvayto study
have in common. First. not enou-qhtime is spent
that it developed.
focusingon rhythm
timin_e)and. second.not enoughtime is
spenton ear training. I knorv this is a true statementfor myself
and. from the feedbackI have reccivedfrom Flatpic'kini4Gttitar
Maga:irte readers,I rvould say it is true for a good portion of the developmentof flatpickingto modern day students. Nor.vI'm
transcriptions convincedof its importance.
So nor.vthat I've boldly statedthatI havediscoveredthe method
and videoshave becomeabundant.
rvhich all flatpickersshould learn and developtheir craft. I
If all of our heroesare telling us to spendmore tinie fbcusin_e
thatI shouldlay out this methodfor all to read.The rvayI
on rhythmand trainin_s
our ear.rvhy aren'trve doing it? If I were
it is to firsttalk abouttheevolutionof theflatpicking
to guessat an answerI'd haveto say that. first. fbr niost people.
in this chapterand su-sgest
that a solid learning
to play lead -euitaris more excitingand interestingthan
then presentsome
playin-erhythm. Secondly,learningfrom tablatureis easierthan
this book. and in
learningby ear. Ear trainins is hard rvork. In this book I have
to developa
done my bestto presentthesetrvo importantfoundationalaspects
of leamin_show to play the guitar in a rvay that I think r,vill be
is absolutely
While I don't feelthat strictchronolo-eical
interestinsand excitinsto vou.
I do feel like spendingsometime studyingeach of the
most important players in the chronologicaldevelopmentof the
style rvill serveto _qivethe studenta completeunderstanding
the flatpickin-u
styleand fill in any holesin one'sknorvledgeandi
or skill. For instance.in order to developyour ability to play
rhythm in a blue_qrass
band it is fine to study LesterFlatt, Jimmy
Marlin. or ReclSmiley beforestudyin-uthe stylesof Riley Puckett
or Roy Harvey. Horvever.if you ever wanl to improveyour bass
run repertoire.
or if you are goingto play in a smallensemblethat
playerslike Riley Puckett.
doesnot includea stringbass.studyin-e
CharlieMonroe.Edd Mayfield.Tom Paley.or Roy
Harvey is highly recommended.However.in generalI feel that
The problenrrvith ther.vaynervstudentsarelearningthesedaysis
is the bestway to proceed.For instance.l
someonestudyDoc Watson,Tony Rice,
flatpickin_rdevelopmentby learningfiddle tunesfrom tablature,I
predict that you are going to run into some problems. After you
style or
Shuffler's crosspickingtechnique. You have to
learn fifteento trventyfiddle tunesfrom tablature,you may indeed learn to add and subtractbeforeyou learn algebra,and algebrais
beforeyou try to tacklecalculus. Learningto play the
be ableto executethe memorizedarrangements
of thosetunesin a
jam sessionat a moderatespeed.But one or more of the fbllorving -euitarshouldfollor,va similarstep-by-step
difficultieswill fall uponyou:
I ) You may have trouble rememberingthe chords rvhen you
Rhythm and Ear Tlaining
sran to play rhythm (becauseyou never practicerhythm).
2 ) Onceyou do know the chords.you will eventuallyget tired
As statedpreviously,the large majority of professionalplayers
ofplaying the sameold rhythm lick (becausethereis not much
and guitar instructorsthar I have talked with over the years agree
tablatureavailable for rhythm).
that rhythm is the most important placeto startwhen leaming horv
3) You will have a very difficult time learning hov to
to flatpick. Most will alsoagreethat studentsdo not generallyspend
improvise. You rvill "crash and bum" when you are in the enoughtime studying rhythm beforethey trytomove on toplaying
middle ofa memorizedsolo and you will get lost.
lead. In the early yeal.Softhe steel-stringflat-top flatpick playing,

Advice From the Pros:

The Two MostImportant Aspecfs

of Learning to PIay the Guitar:
1) Rhythm & Timing
2) Ear Training

ftatpiching EssentialsVolum.e1: Rhythm, Bass Runs,and.Fitl Lichs

the guitar rvasused as a rhythm instrumentalmostexclusively.

So if our learning method is going to follow the chronological
developmentof the style,a solid focuson rhythm is lvherewe need
to start. And that is rvherewe will start in this book.
Typically a beginningflatpickerrvill start learningbasic first
positionchordsrvith the left handand the simple alternatingbassnote strum"or "boom-chick", 'with the right hand. Once that has
thenmany studentswill learna coupleof G-run
variations,a handfulof simplebassruns,andthenmaybea couple
of alternateright handstrummingpatterns,all the while chomping
at the bit to move on to learnin-show to play lead.
Overthe yearsthatI've publishedFlatpickingGuitar Maga:ine
I havefrequentlyrun into frustratedflatpickerswho are "'stuck"in
their developmentas a rhythm player becausethey feel as though
they only know a ferv things and they play thosesamethings over
and over. One questionthat they will typicallyask is "How can I
learn more about bassruns?" My answerto that is to go back to
recordingsby someof the earliestflatpickerslike Riley Puckettwith
Gid Tanner.Roy Harvey with CharliePoole.or Edd Mayfield rvith
the Mayfield Brothers.Also take a listento any of the musicians
rvho played rvith the Light Crust Dou-ehboys(HermanArnspi-eer.
SleepyJohnson,or DerrvoodBror.vn)or any of the -euitarplayersin
the brotherduetsgroupsof earlycountrymusic(MonroeBrothers.
Bl u c Sk y B oy s . Delm o reBro th e rs e. tc ). Wh y ? B e c ausethese
guysplayedin bandsthat did not havea bassplayerso their style
of rhythm rvasfilled rvith bassruns. They playedthe part of both
the guitar and the bassin the band and so their rhythm rvork rvas
full of creativeand interestin_e
licks and runs.
Many players rvho are accustomedto leaming from tablature
are -eoingto say."Where can I find transcriptionsof theseplayers
so that I can learn some of those -qreatbassruns?" Well. there
havebeensometranscriptionsover the yearsin FlatpickingGuitar
Magozine,and I havepresenteda good numberof them herein this
book. However,anotherrvay to learn this stuff is to buy thc CDs
and listenI You rvill not only hear some ,sreatmusic and -euitar
picking. but you will alsobeginto leam horv to train your ear. Ear
training is a vital pan of learnin-ehorv to play the guitar and. like
anythingelse.if you don't spendtime rvith it everyday.you rvill
not -qetvery far.

then trying to transcribeeighth-notesolos. There are fewer notes

to rvorry about. So I hi-ehlyrecommendthat you dorvnloada ferv
Gid Tannerfiddle tunesand try to figure out Riley Puckett'sbass
runs. Work with the transcriptionsand tabsthat I haveprovidedin
this book to build someconfidencein the style and technique.but
thenlistento someCDs and try to pick out somerunson your own.
You might be a little frustratedat first, but you rvill find that it gets
easierlvith practiceand it is well rvorththe effort.
In workin-eto transcribetheserhythm runsyourself.you aregoing
to beginyour eartrainingdevelopmentat a placethat is appropriate
for your skill level. Plus,in transcribingall of thesebassruns by
yourself.you are going to learn to internalizethem in a rvay that
is not possibleif you do it by using tab. You are going to really
hearhow and wherethey are employedand thus you are going to
instinctivelyknow horvto do it rvhenyou go out and play in a jam.
You are going to hear it in your head and you are -eoingto be able
to find it on your guitar in real time. That is the -ereatvalue of ear
training. This skill is harderto achievelvhen learningfrom tab.
So. my suggestionto thoservhorvantto either learnhorvto spice
up their bluegrassrhythm, or rvho want to learn a diffbrentrvay to
accompanya fiddle,mandolin,or banjoin a smallensemble-that
doesnot includea bass-is to go back and listen to someof the
of flatpickingandtry to transcribetheirrhythmwork
by ear. If doingthat -qivesyou someconfidence,
thenlnoveon up
to the bluegrassera and listen to. and study,early rhythm masters
like LesterFlatt, Jimrny Martin. and Red Smiley. Havin-qspent
you may havean easiertime hearing
time rviththeir predecessors.
rhythm playersare doin-e.Spendsome
time studyinghorv they shapedthe -euitar'srole in the bluegrass
band settingand your ability to play rhythm guitar rvill improve
greatly.In this book I lvill ,eiveyou someexamplesto practicethat
rvill help you hearuvhatthe pioneersrveredoing.

Learning How to Play Lead

Once you have spent time studyingthe rhythm stylesof the

earlyold-timeplayerslike Riley Puckettand Roy Harveyandthen
playerslike LesterFlatt.Jimmy Martin.
and Red Smiley were doing.you are readyto stepinto the realm
of playing leadguitar. During your rhythm study you shouldhave
Ear Training
becomevery familiar rvith playingbassrunsrvhileintegratin-e
11'youtry to stafiyour ear trainin_u
by listenin-rto Doc Watson with a steadyrhythm strum. The natur"alprogressionfor moving
or Tony Rice CDs, you are -eoingto becomefrustrated. lt is too
from rhythm to lead is to norv tum those basslines into melody
hard for a beginner! Guys that have a very good ear and have lines. A studyof Mother MaybelleCarter'sguitar styleis just the
to transcribesome thing to help you do that.
for yearsfind it challen-einq
Althou-shMaybelleplayedrvith a thumb pick in combination
back to some rvith her index finger,her style is easilyadaptedto the flatpicking
of the early playersand picking out bassruns is not nearly as technique.Becauseof the smallensemblesituationsheplayedin
and thus you rvill beginto developyour ear and gain rvhenshebeganperformingrvith her brother-in-lar,v
confidencein usingyour ear if you startrvith transcribin-rbassruns her sisterSaraCarter.Maybelle had to find a way to play the lead
and rhythm.
lines rvithoutallowing the rhythm to drop out. She accomplished
Startingyour ear training by picking out bassruns on old
thi s by pl ayi ng the mel ody on her bassstri ngsr vhile placing
for severalreasons.First.theensembles rhythmic strumsin-betweenmelody notes.In Volume 2 of this
recordingsis advanta-geous
are small and since there is not a bass in the band the bassruns seriesI rvill give you many examplesof the Carler style. Then, as
on the guitar are easierto hear. Secondly.becausebassruns are homervork.you will be askedto developsome Carler style leads
mostly playedon the lorvestthreeor four strings,and sincethey of your orvn.
areusuallyplayedon the first threeor four frets,you havea limited
In orderto leam how to play Carterstyle,on your own rvithout
areaof the fretboardto rvork rvith in trying to find the notesthat you
tab, simply rvork out the melody to a songon the bassstringsand
hear. Lastly. the notesin most bassnote runs are usuallyat leasta
then strunrthe appropriatechord rvhenthereis a melody note that
quarternote in duration.so trying to transcribebassrunsis far easier hasmorethana quarternoteduration.If you havespenta sufficient
Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

amount of time training your ear to identify chord changesand

bassruns while working on your rhythm technique,it should not
be too difficult for you to pick out melody lines and mix them with
your ftythm technique. In Volume 2. we will also study a number
of other helpful techniquesthat you can use to fi1l in betweenthe
melody notes. Ifyou aresuccessfulin developingthis skill, you can
teach yourself the Cafter style and how to develp your own solos
to vocal tunes without relying on videos or tab books. Horvever,
it is always helpful to go back to the source. Listen to some old
Carter Family recotdings to help you better learn the style and
inspire new ideas. There have been plenty of examplesof Carter
style solos pdnted in Flatpicking Guitnr Magaline over the years
ifyou need some help. and there are plenty of examples,tips and
guidelinesin Volume 2.




Most flatpickinginstructors,andflatpicking instructionalmaterial

written for beginners. will introduce the student to flatpicking
lead solos by flrst teachinga Carter style tune such as "Wildwood
Flower." After introducingtwo orthree morc Carterstyletunes,they
rvill usually move right on to flatpicking fiddle tunes. My feeling
is that in moving directly from Carter style to fiddle tune picking
the instructionalmethodis missing key techniquesthat developed
historically prior to Doc Watson popularizing the flatpick fiddle
tune style. The first is a style of lead playing that was prominent
inthe l930sand 1940s. GeorgeShuffler called it the "quick wrist
mandolin style" and indeedit was a style of leadguitar playing that
rvasprobablybroughtover to the guitarby mandolinplayersbecause
it involves filling in the gaps between melody notes by simply
repeatingthe melody note in an eighth-notetremolo fashion.
While this styleofplaying is looked upon as"old-fashion" today,
given the advancesthat have been made in flatpicking technique
that have been introducedover the past 45 years, I am becoming
more and more convincedthat any studentof flatpicking shouldat
least spend some time learning how to craft solos to vocal tunes
by studying musicianslike Edd Mayfield, Doc Addington, Alton
Delmore, Hank Snorv.and Don Reno in order to help transition
from Carter style picking to instrumentalflatpicking fiddle tunes.
This is the way it developedhistorically, and it makes senseas a


problem. Theseare the techniquesand ideasthat we will address

in Volume 2 ofthis series.
For ear training purposesvocal songsare much easierto learn
how lo play than fiddle tunes. Vocal tune melodiesare more sparse
than fiddle tunes and it is usually easier to pick out the melody
becauseyou can hum the words. However, ir is a challenge to
learn how to fill in the gapsbetweenthe melody notesifyou don't
have experiencewith it, Learning how Doc WatsonorTony Rice
does it is not an easytask for a beginning player. Going back and
studyinghow the pioneer'sdid it providesa steppingblock between
playing rhythrn and playing Doc Watson style leads. We know
that Doc \vasa fan of Riley Puckett,Jimmie Rodgers,the Delmore
Brothers, and other early pioneers. If you go back and listen ro
theseartists, you can hear, in their playing, many of the runs that
Doc later incorporatedinto his style. Doc did not invent what he
did without having first been influencedby theseplayers.
In Volume 2 ofthis series,Iwill provide you with a few examples
of the "tremolo style," and the other techniquesmentionedabove,
and I'll explain how they work so that you can get a feel for the
techniquesand begin to develop your orvn ideas.your own solos.
and be well on your rvay to learning horv to improvise.
Let's Boogie
During the late 1940sand into the 1950sthe techniquesofearly
flatpicking took anotherevolutionary stepforward as the "boogiervoogie" rhythm gained popularity and served as a link between
the Western srving of the I940s. popularized by Milton Brown
and Bob Wills, and the rockabilly of the 1950s. Perhapsthe most
well-known of the early boogie songs was the Delmore Brothers
"FreightTrain Boogie." which reachednumbertwo on the Billboard
charts in 1946as performed by the Delmores and number five on
the charts in 1947as performedby Red Foley. This songwas later
recordedby Reno & Smiley, The Maddox Brothers and Rose,Bill
Harrell, John Denver. and many othen. (For a transcription of
Ronnie Reno's guitar solo to "Freight Train Boogie," See FGM
Volume 6, Number 4).
By 1946 the Delmore Brothers had moved from two-piece
arrangementsto a full band sound that included bass.mandolin.
steel guitar. fiddle, and harmonica. By the end of the next year
they were alsoincluding electricguitarsand drums. The Delmore's


bluesy influcnce,thumping backbeats,and hard-driving boogiesas

Solos on Vocal Songs
A study of this early flatpicking sryle on vocal tunes is helpful evidencedin tuneslike "Hillbilly Boogie," "SteamboatBill Boogie."
for severalreasons. First. the solos are simple. straight-fonvard, "Barnyard Boogie," "MobileBoogie," "FreightTrain Boo-tie," and
and melody-based.The repeatingofthe melody notesin a tremolo others. The long guitar brealisand extendedsolos on some tunes
certainly helpedusherin the rock androll era. Unfortunately,Alton
fashion introduces the student to the altemating pick stroke
techniquethat they will need to learn when they begin flatpicking Delmore died in 1952 ard one of the most influential groups in
country. rockabilly. and rock and roll history ended.
fiddle tunes. The introduction of alternatingpick direction while
Arthur Smith's "Guitar Boogie" (see Joe Carr's column in
playing an eighth note tremolo makes sensebecauseyour left
FGM Vol. I I , Number 2), recorded in October of 1948, is often
handdoesn't move and the pick stayson the samestdng. So it is a
cited as being the first rock & roll song ever recorded. Hank
simplerway to leam. Secondly,tbisstyleteachesthe studentavery
Snow's "Rhumba Boogie," recorded in 1951. was also another
simple way to fill in the spacesbetween melody notes on a vocal
popular country boogie tune that featured an example of early
song. When flatpickers,who staned their leaming processwith
fiddle tunes. are at a jam sessionand are required to take a break flatpicking. (SeeHarold Streeter'scolumn in Volume I I , Number
4 of Flatpickirtg Guitar Maga:ine for a transcription of "Rumba
on a vocal tune they have a difficult time becausethey don't know
how to fill in the spacebetweenthe melody notes. Had they spent Boogie" and alsorefer to Kathy Banvick's anicle in that sameissue
lbr more aboutHank Snow). Don Reno's "Country Boy Rock and
sufficient time leaming the simple methodsof the Cater style.the
use of double stops,the tremolo style, leading tones,neighboring Roll," recordedin I 956, is cited by many as the first songrecorded
band that highlighted lead guitar work asthe song's
notes and crosspicking.I don't think this would be such a tough by a blue-erass
Fhtpiching EssentialsVolume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs,and Fitl Lichs

centralfocus (for a transcriptionof that tune, seeAdam Granger's

columnin Volume I I , Number4 of Flatpicking Gttitar Maga:.ine).
lncidentally,in 1955Arthur Smith and Don Reno collaboratedon
what was to becomeone of the most well-known bluegrassstyle
songsin history."Feudin' Banjos". The song r'vaslater renamed
"Duelin' Banjos" and featuredin the film Deliverance.
While the countryboogie-rvoogieguitar style of the late 1940s
andearly 1950shad a greaterinfluenceon rockabillyandearlyrock
and roll than it did bluegrass,it is still a style worthy of study for
bluegrassandflatpickingguitarplayers.Not only aretherelicks and
phrasesfrom theseboogietunesthat can be usedrvhenflatpicking
bluegrass.but thesesongsarejust plain furt to play' The next time
you are at a jam sessionpull out "Freight Train Boogie" and see
rvhatkind of reactionyou get. Peopleusually love it. In Volume

One other flatpicking techniquethat was brought forward by
a bluegrassguitar pioneer,prior to the time of Doc Watson.is
GeorgeShuffler'scrosspicking.Like Carlerstyle.this is oneof the
techniquesthat all beginnirtglevelflatpickerswill usuallylearnhor,v
to executeand it is a techniquethat is usedto somedegreeby all
modernday flatpickers.GeorgeShufflersaysthat he inventedthis
techniqueon the guitarout of necessity.During the "lean yearsof
bluegrass"back in the l9-50sGeorgervasplayinerviththe Stanley
Brothersand the group rvastravelin-{as a trio. just Carter.Ralph.
saidhe neededto comeup r,vitha techniqueon
the guitar that would fill in the gapsbetweenvocal lines on "those
slorvmournfulnumbers."While all flatpickershaveemployedthe
technique.guitaristslike ClarenceWhite and David
Crier havemadeextensiveuseof crosspickingand havetakenits
applicationfar beyond Shuffler'semploymentof the technique.
Crosspickingis a techniquethat has beencoveredextensivelyin
FlotpickingGuitar Magazineandin variousinstructionalbooksand
DVDs andit is a techniquethatall blue,erass
study.I rvill introducethis techniqueto you in Volume2 also.and
to practice.
-eiveyou severalexampleson-qs

Doc Watson

I hope that this chapterhas given you an appreciationfor those

rvho came before Doc. My approachto or-qanizingthe teachin-g
methodin this instructionalserieswill run alongthe lines of the
of the flatpickin-estyle. I rvill first
presentyou rvith this book on rhythm. rvhich focusesprimarily on
the studyof bassruns. We r,villthen.in Volume2, examinehorv
you can turn thosebassruns. combinedrvith rhythmic strums.
From thererve rvill examine
into Carterstyle lead arran-sements.
a ferv other ideas-such as tremolo.crosspicking,leadingtolles.
Doc Watsonhas said that he first beganlearninghorv to play
neighboringnotes.and double-stops-thatwill help you develop
the guitarrvith the "thumb leadstyle" of MaybelleCarter. Later he
startedlistenin-sto JimmieRodgersrecordingsand says."I fi-sured, the ability to createyour own soloson vocal tunes.
'Hey.he must be doing that rvith one of them straightpicks" So
In Volume3, we rvill move on to studyfiddletunesand help you
build a solid fiddle tune repeftoire. In Volume4 rve rvill study the
I got me one and beganto rvork at it. Then I beganto leam thc
fingerboardand get you familiar rvith playing up the neck' After
Jimmie Rodgerslicks on the guitar. Then all at once I beganto
'Hey,I could play that Carterstuff a lot betterrvith a flat
that.in Volume5"my friendTim May and I rvill introduceyou to
pick."' Doc starledteachinghimselfhow to flatpickfiddle tunes the stylesand contributionsof the heroes:Doc Watson.Clarence
in the 1950swhen he rvas playing the electricguitar rvith Jack White, Tony Rice, Dan Crary, and Norman Blake. Following
Williams'danceband. Doc hassaidthat the first personhe heard that, in Volume 6. Tim rvill provide you rvith anotherrepertoire
flatpickfiddle tunesrvasDon Reno. He alsosaidthat afterhearing book. this time r,vithintermediateand advancedlevel solosto both
Grady Martin and Hank Garlandplay vocal and instrumentaltunes. SubsequentVolumesrvill explore
somefiddle tuneson the electricguitar rvith Red Foley he figured, techniqucs
"if they could do it, he could do it." Later Doc rventback to the andWestemSrvine.
andlearnedhorvto flatpickthosefiddletuneson his
Martin D- 18. The restis history.
While it r,vasDoc Watson'slead acousticguitar soloson fiddle
of modernday flatpickin,{.
tunesthat is often seenasthe be-einnin-s
Flatpiching Essentials Volum,e 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks


Psrt One:
Technlques, ExclmplGsreind Exerclses

The Role of the Rhvthm Guitar Plaver

The threeprimary rolesof the rhythm guitarplayerin
any musical settingare going to be, first and foremost:
provide timing, outline the chords, and add texture.
When the vocalistor lead instrumentalistis centerstage
they are relying on the rhythm sectionto provide solid
timing anddo so in a way that outlinesthe chordchanges
and createsan interestingbackdrop for their vocal or
soloexpression.The techniquethe rhythmguitarplayer
choosesto utilizesin orderto fill this role r,vill always
dependupon the configurationof the ensembleand the
contributionof eachinstrumentto the ensemble.If each
ensemblememberis aware of his or her role, listens
to each of the other band members,and works to fill
his role suchthat it makesa positivecontributionto the
soundas a whole. then the overall ensemblesoundis
going to be pleasingto the musiciansandthe audience.
The examplesgiven in this book are not intendedto
provide you with an all encompassing
rhythm guitar. Although we will cover a lot of ground
here, all of the techniques,subtleties,and intricacies
required to develop your skill as a complete rhythm
guitarist will not be presentedin depth. InsteadI r,vill
focus on presentingconceptsrelatedto applyingbass
runs andfill licks to your rhythm playingin orderto use
that skill as a springboardto creating interestinglead
breaksto vocal songsin the Carter style, and beyond.
Advancedrhythm conceptsand skills, such as chord
be examinedin a futurevolume.

To thatend,we will startat squareonewith the simplest

rhythmic expressionand graduallymove forward.

Bass versus No Bass

If you are performing in an ensemblethat has a
bassplayer,manyof the examplesthat areshownin this
book will be too bassrun heavy to apply in that band
configuration. If you, as a guitar player,are utilizing
too many bassruns in a band that has a bassplayer.
you are going to undoubtedlyget in each other's way.
However,much of what is presentedhere in this book
was usedin the earlydaysof stringbandmusicby guitar

Timing and Simple Rhythm

Most commonrootsmusicin Americais playedrn 414
time. This meansthat therearefour beatsper measure
of musicandeachof thosebeats'notevalueis a quarter
note. ln 414time a whole note is four beatsin duration,
a half noteis getstwo beats',a quarternotegetsonebeat,
andtwo eighthnotesget onebeat. Dividing a measure
into quarternotes-four beatsof equal duration-we
can count the four beat rhythm simply as " l - 2 - 3 -


playerswho were in two or three member ensembles

that did not include a bassplayer. In many of those
cases,the guitar was the primary rhythm instrument
and thus the guitar player was also filling the role of
the bassplayer.
If you find yourselfin an ensemblethat doesnot
includea bassplayer,taking over the bassplayer'sjob
meansthat you will want to includetechniquesin your
that will help leadthe listener'sear
to eachnew chordchange.You will be ableto fill this
role very effectivelywith bassruns. The more varied
your knowledge of bass runs, the more varied and
interestingyour rhythm will be. Therefore,in this book
my goal is to presentto you materialthat rvill help you
achievethe followins:
l) Keepbettertime.
2) Outline and define the chords and chord
3) With the useof bassruns,leadthe listener'sear
through the chord progressionin a way that helps
provide forward movementand momentumto the
4) Providea texture,dynamics,and interestto the
rhythm accompaniment
in waysthat positivelyand
tastefullyimprovethe overallbandsound.

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

Quarler Nofes ?n 4/,4 Tlme







ll = downstroke

4". Using this count,beatsI and 3 are usuallydefine

as the "down beats" and beats2 and 4 are definedas
the "off beats" or "back beats" (seeexampleabove).
When providing a simple and straight-forwardrhythm,
the guitarplayerr,villusuallyplay a singlebassnoteon
the down beatsand a rhythmic chord strum on the back
beats.The notethat is selectedfor the bassnoteshould
be the note,or notes,rvhichbestdefinethe chord that
is beingplayed.Most prominently,that r,villbe the root
noteof the chord at the lowestpitch (theroot note is the
first noteof the scale).For instance,if you areplaying
a G-chord.the root note is a G note and the lowest
pitched G note in a standardG major chord shapeon
the guitar is at the third fret on the low E string (see
the Example I below). For more information about
pleaserefer to the Major Scales,Chords
major scales,,
& Aryeggiosappendix.

Before you move on from here,
take some time to play through
Example 1. You should be able
pattern over and over with
fluidity, accuracy,confidence,and, eventually,
speed.And, most importantly,you haveto be able
to do it in time. Your ability to play in time is vital
to every thing you do in music. And, although
beginningmusicianshate it, that meansthat you
need to get yourself a metronomeand work with
it on a regularbasis. What I recommendis that
wheneveryou are practicing any of the examples
in this book, you ALWAYS have a metronome
in front of you clicking away. If you are having
trouble learninghow to use a metronome,please
refer to the MetronomePracticeappendix.

After you have practiced Example
I with the G-chord, now work on
other chords that you know using
this same pattern. Hold the chord
shapethat you know, figure out where the root
note of the lowestpitch is located,and then play
the same pattern while holding that chord. In
preparationfor working with the next sectionof
this book, practiceExample I over and over with
the G chord.then practicewith the C chord,then
r,viththe D chord. If you do not knorv the first
position shapesof basic major chords,refer to the
Major Scales,Chords& Arpeggiosappendix.

Excmple l: Simple G-Chord Rhytlrm wlflr Repectlng Bass Nofe


Flatpicleing Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

Play this Exampleusing all Downstrokes

Adding More Chords

We can easilyextendthis repeatingbassnote at the
rootof thechordideato a simple8-barchordprogression
in the key of G (seeExample 2 at.the bottom of this
page).You canseethatin this progression
we havetwo
measuresof G, followed by two measuresof C, two
of D, andback to two measures
of G. This is
often referredto as a I-IV-V
four-five) becausein the key of G the G note is the
first note of the G scale(the "one"), the C note is the
fourth note of the G scale(the "four") and the D note is
the fifth note of the G scale,or the "five." Therefore,
musicianswill referto a G, C, D progression
in the key
of G as a I, IV, V progression.
Looking at Example2, you can seethat with each
chordchangethe root noteof the chord (first noteof the
chord's scale - C note for C chord, etc.) is repeated
on every dor,vnbeat
and that is followed by a chordal
strum on the offbeat. You may have noticed that in
the chordalstrum,the entirechord (all six strings)are
not strummed. While you can strum all six strings,
you r,villfind that just strummingthe top three or four
stringsprovides a better sound. The strum should be
executedwith a relativelylight, short,andquick snapof
the wrist,asif you wereshakingwateroff of your hand.
Don't "dig in" too much or the soundwill be too loud
and harsh. Work to achievea smoothand percussive

effect. The strumshouldnot soundlike you areplaying

threeor four separatestrings. The notesshouldall ring
out at the sametime.

Before you move on to the next
section,take some time to play
throughExample2. Again, you
should be able to play this repeatingpatternover
and over with fluidity, accuracy,and confidence.
Don't woffy about speedright now. Use your
metronomeat a comfortabletempo and practice
clear and distinct bass notes with "punchy"

After you havepracticedExample2
with theprogression
show(I-N-V in
the key of G), now work on playing
the same I-IV-V progressionin at
leastone other key. The key of C, or the key of
D, perhaps.Theseare commonkeys in all styles
of music. Rememberthat a I-IV-V progression
in the key of C will use the chordsC, F, and G.
The I-IV-V progressionin the key of D will use
the D, G and A chords. Try to play in the style of
Example2 in eitheror both of thesekeys.

Excrmple2z G, C, D Rhyfhm wlfh Repeoting Bass Nofes



Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Boss Runs, and Fill Licks

Adding A Little Texture The Alternating BassLine

chords,the 5th note of the scalethat you will usually

play is going to be the one found on a lower pitched
string. Examples4 and 5 on the next pagedemonstrate
If you were to alwaysplay the root note of the chord this for the C andD chords,respectively.Sincewe want
on the downbeatfollowed by a chordalstrum on the off a basssoundin our bassruns,you are usuallygoing to
beat,as outlinedin the last two examples,you would want to choosethe notewith the lowestpitch r,vhenyou
be filling your rhythm roles of outlining the chords are choosingnotesfor the bassruns. Sometimesthose
and keepingtime. However,with this simplerhythm noteswill be higher in pitch than the root note, as was
technique the texture you would be providing in the casein our G-chord example,and sometimesthat
supportof the other instrumentsand/orvocalist would note will be lower in pitch than the root note,as it is in
be very dull and monotonous. In order to provide a
tiny bit more textureand interest,we aregoing to notch
it up just a little and play the root bass note on beat
Practicethe G-chord alternating
I and then play the fifth note of the scale on beat 3
bass rhythm that is shown in
(seeExample 3 at the bottom of this page). This is
calledan "alternatingbass"stylebecausethe bassline
Example4, andthe D-chordrhythm of Example5.
is alternatingbetweenthe two most prominentnotesin
Onceagain,playalongwith a metronomein order
the chord,the root note and the "dominant" note.or 5th
to work on your timing. Focus on timing, tone,
note, of the scale (for more information about chord
noteclarity, and confidence.The more familiarity
constructionpleaserefer to the Major Scales,Chords
and comfort you gain with the alternatingbass
& Arpeggiosappendix).
rhythm style, the better your rhythm foundation
In our examplewe are playing the root note of the
will be.
chord(in thiscasethelow G note)on the I stbeatof each
measureand then playing the fifth note of the G scale
(the D note) on the 3rd beat of the measure.The backAfter you have practicedExamples
beat strumsremain the same. If you are not familiar
3,4, and5, try andexperimentwith
with alternatingbassrhythm, play through Example 3
the alternating bass line rhythm
for a while using your metronomeuntil you can play
while holding other chords that you may know.
cleanly'accurately,fluidly, and in time. The alternating
At a minimum, try this style of rhythm with the
bassrhythm will be a fundamentalbuilding block for
F-chordand the A-chord. It may alsohelp you a
everythingelsethat will follow in this course.
little later on if you try to also play an alternating
One thing that you will notice when you move on
bassrhythm with the E-chord.Always work to hit
to playing the alternatingbassstyle rhythm with other
that bassnote with accuracyand strength. Other
chordsis that you are not alwaysgoing to usethe 5th
musicianswho you are playing with will usually
note of the scale that is located on a higher pitched
like to hearthat strong.cleardownbeat.
string,as we did with the G-chord. For example,when
you play the alternatingbass style with the C and D

Excmple 3: G-Chord Rhytlrm Wlth Alternatilng BeissLlne


Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

Exeimple 4: C-Chord R.hythm Wlth AJlternallng Boss Llne

Excrmple 5: D-Chord Rhytltm Wlflr Nlernating

our C and D chordexampleson this page.

Now that you are familiar with the alternatingbass
rhythm while holding one chord, look at Example 6
and try to play the alternatingbassrhythm for a I-IV-V
progressionin the key of G. This is somethingthat
everyonewho has played the flatpicking style on the
acousticguitar is most likely familiar with, as this is
the most commonstyle of rhythm playing. This is the
foundationfrom which all variationswill develop,so it
is very importantthat you learnhorv to play this rhythm
technique. Unfortunately,many flatpickersrely on this
techniquea bit too heavily andthustheir rhythm playing
can becomestaleandmonotonous. If you don't havea
handleon this technique,you needto spendsome
time with it until it becomessecondnatureto you. Once
you can play the alternatingbassmethod,however,it
is recommended
that you learn more techniquesto put
into your rhythm
of tricks." We'll beginto explore
someof thosealternativetechniqueson the next page.
Thus far we havehad you only practicea downstroke
strum.Anothervarietyof thestrumaddsa quick upstroke
afler the downstrokeas shown in Example 7. While
this exampleshowsthe upstrumon every measure,for
practicepurposes,most rhythm playerswill not usethe
down-upstrumevery time. It soundsbest if the down
strumand the down-upstrumaremixed.

Boss Llne

Practice the G-C-D alternating
bassrhythms that are shown in
Examples6 and J . Practicewith
a metronome in order to work on your timing.
Once again. focus on timing, tone, note clarity,
andconfidence.The morefamiliarity and comfort
you gain with the alternatingbassrhythm style,
the betteryour rhythmfoundationwill be.

After you havepracticedExamples
6 and J, try and experiment with
the alternating bass line rhythm
techniquewhile playing a I-IV-V
progressionin a differentkey. At a minimum, try
this methodin the keysof C and D.
After you have becomecomfortablewith this
rhythm technique using both the down stroke
strum and the up-down strum, try mixing the
two strummingmethods. Use one or the other
randomlyand developa feel for how they sound.

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rltythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

Exomple 6z G, C, D Rhyflrm wlllr AJ.,lernatingBoss Llne

Excmple 7z G, C, D Rhyfhm wltlr Altetnatilng Bclss Llne and

Addlng lhe Upsfroke Sfrum

ll =downstroke

V =upstroke

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and FilI Licks


Guiding the Listener's Ear:

Adding Leading TonesoWalk-Ups and
Thus far, we have talked aboutthe rhythm player's
roles of defining the chordsand providing timing and
texture. Another role that the rhythm player can play
in executinghis or her bassruns is to help lead the
listener'sear to the next chord change. In doing this
the rhythm player can provide a senseof motion and
anticipationin the music that helps propel or drive it
We have demonstratedhow playing the root note
on the first beatof eachmeasure,or at leaston the first
beatof eachchord change,helpsdefinethe chordsand
chord changesin the songin a strongway. We have
also practicedadding the dominantnote of the scale
(the 5th) in order to form an alternatingbassline and
makethe bassline more interesting.Nor,vwe aregoing
to add anotherbassnote to our "bag of tricks," this
noteis calledthe "leadingtone"of the scale.
If you will replacethe last strum before a chord
changein any chordprogressionwith a bassnote,and
choosethat note to be a half step below the root note
of the next chord.then this will providea simplebass
line that helpsleadthe listener'searto thatchord. This
"leading tone" is the seventhtone in the scaleof the
chord to which your are moving. The chart below
the notesthat arein the G, C. andD scales.The
notesunderthe"J" columnarethe leadingtones.
If we were to nor,varrangeour I, IV. V progression
in the key of G to be the same as Example 6, but
substitutethe last strumbeforeeachchordchangewith

Nofes 7n the G, C, ernd D 9coles

Play through Example 8 many
timesin a row with a metronome.
Be sure to stav risht with the
click when you are playingthe threebassnotesin
a row. Sometimesbeginnershave a tendencyto
rush throughbassruns. Keep the time even. Do
you notice a difference betweenExample 6 and
Example8? You may noticethat it soundsmore
interestingand it helps your ear anticipatethe

After you have practiced Example
8, and becomefamiliar with how the
leadingtonessound,try to figureout
the samestyleof progression,
for a I, IV, V progressionin the key of C andin the
key of D. The changefrom F to G in the key of C
might be tricky! Seeif you can figure something
out for that change.If you havetrouble,shootme
an email: dan@flatpick.com.

G Scale


C Scale

D Scale




the leading tone of the scale for the chord to which

we are moving, the resultwould look like Example8,,
shownon the next page.
Looking at Example8, you will seethatjust before
we changeto the C chord, rve play the leadingtone of
the C scale,which is a B note. Then just before we
move to the D chord we play the leadingtone of the D
scale,which is a C# note. Thenjust beforewe move
from the D chord to the G chord, we play the leadin-e
toneof the G scale.which is the F# note.



Fl atpic king E ss entials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

Exomple 8: G, C, D Rhyflrm Uslng Lecdlng lones


Adding More Notes from the Scale

While the progressionin Example8 doeshelp lead
the listener'searto the next chordby includingleading
tones before the chord changes,we can improve on
this quality. Examiningthe progressionin Example8,
you'll seethat we are moving from the 5th note of the
G scaleto the 7th note of the C scale,(in measure2),
and we are moving from the 5th note of the D chord
to the 7th note of the G chord (in measure6). We can
smoothout the soundof the walk in to the C chord of
measure3 and the G chord of measureJ tf we change
that fifth scalenoteof the old chord to the 6th scalenote
of the new chord. This providesa lonserbasswalk-up
along the scaleof the new chord and thus strengthens
the soundof movementtowardsthat new chord.
Walking Up
Takea look at Example9 on the next pageand play
through the progressionto get a feel for this bassline
walk-up in measures2 and 6. If you take a closelook
at the notesthat we are using to changebetweenthe G
andC chords,you will seethatwe arewalkingup theG
scaleusins all of the notesbetweenG to C. We hit the
G note on the first beat of the measure,then we strum,
then we hit the A note,the B note,thenthe C note. So

in that measureour bassnotesare G. A. B-then we

play the C note on the first note of the next measure,
which is wherethe chord progressionchangesto the C
chord. So what we have done is simply walk straight
up the scalefrom G to C usingeverynoteof the G scale
that lie betweenthosetwo notes.This type of bassline
reallyhelpstie thosetwo root notestogetherandmoves
the listenersear from one chord to the next.
If you will look at the bass notes in measure6,
you'll noticethatwe havedonethe samething. We are
moving from the D chord to the G chord,so we played
the D note on the first beat.executeda strum,and then
we playedthe E,F#,and thenG note. We havewalked
up the D scaleplaying eachnote betweenthe D note
and the G note.
If we look at measure1, the measurethat transitions
from C to D, you rvill noticethat this measurehas not
changedfrom Example 6. Becausethe C note and
the D note are right next to eachother on the C scale,
we don't have any more room to expandthe "walk"
betweenthosetwo notes,so we simplyplay the leading
tone of the D scale. In orderto "walk" betweenC and
D chords,we are going to havego down the scaleand
then reversedirection and move back up in order to
providea walking movement.We will work with that
concept short\.

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fitt Licles


Exomple 9t 9, C, D Rhylfim Walklng Up lfte Scale Belween Ghord Ghongcs


Play through Example 9 many
timesin a row with a metronome.
Be sure to stay rieht with the
click rvhen you are playing the three bass notes
in a row. Although I have shown only the dor,vn
strokestrum in this example,feel free to substitute
any of the down stroke strums with down-up
strums. Get a feel for varying that componentof
the progression.

After you have practiced Example
9, and become familiar with how
the leadingtonessound.try to figure
out the same style of progression,
using similar scale r,valkup tones, for a I, IV,
V progressionin the key of C and in the key of
If that is easyfor you, and you are feeling
move on and seeif you can't figure
out this scalewalk up progressionin the keys of
E and A as well. I'll be providing someE and A
exampleslaterand so you'll be aheadof the game
if experimentwith thosekeys now.


Walking Down
If walking up the scaleto the root note of the next
rvorksto leadthelistener's
chordin a chordprogression
ear to the new chord, then logic would tell us that
moving down the scaleto the root note could do the
samething. Let's checkit out. Play throughExample
l0 shownat the top of the next page.
If you analyzethis progression,ref-erencing
the G,
C, and D scales,you will noticethat the notesthat are
being playedjust beforethe changeto the C chord are
the E andD notes.So we arewalkingdown the C scale
herefrom E, to D. to C. Similarly,when changingto
D lve walk from F#. to E, to D. Theseare the 3rd,
2nd,and I st notesof the D scale,respectively.Finally,
when moving to G, we are walking from B, to A, to G.
While the walking down bassrun does lead the
listenersear to the next chord, it does not do that job
quite as strongly as walking up becausewhen you are
walking up that leadingtone (7th note of the scale)
has a strongerpull back to the root in the listener's
ear. However,if you were to walk up every time you
changedto a new chord,the listenerwould tire of that
soundand welcomean occasionalwalk down, or other
variation. Providinga variety addsa degreeor interest
and texturethat is desirablein your rhythm playing.
When to add variety,and how much to add, falls into
the categoryof tasteand style and is very subjective.

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

Excmple lo: G, G,D Rhylftm chonglng chords by wolffag Down the Scole

Play through Example l0 many
timesin a row rvitha metronome.
The changebetweenthe C and D
chords,whereyou haveto reachdown andget that
F'#note,might feel a little awkr,vardat first. Make
sureyou can play that smoothlywithout rushing.
studentshavea tendencyto rush throughdifficult
or ar,vkwardruns, so focus on keeping right with
that metronomeclick.

After you have practiced Example
10, and becomefamiliar rvith how
the scale walk down tones sound,
try to figure out the same style of
usingsimilarscalewalk up tones,for
a I, IV, V progression
in the key of C andin the key
of D. As you try the variousbasswalk methods
in different keys,you will find somethat are more
awkward than others and some that sound better
than others. Run through them all and get a feel
for them under your fingersand in your ear. you
will gravitatetowardsthe onesthat feel and sound
bestto you,but it is worthtryingthem all.

Longer Bass Walks and Mixing Things Up

As mentionedbefore,if you are providingrhythm
andyou alwaysdo thesametypeor style
of bassrun, or strum,or combination,thenyour rhythm
will startto sounddull and stale. you never wanr ro
be so busy that you take away from the lead performer
or get in the way of the othermusicians,however,you
also do not want to sound so repetitive that you put
the audienceto sleep or annoy them with the same
soundoverandover. Ideally,youwantto haveenough
techniquesto draw from, and the ability to know just
rvhento apply them,that you will complimentwhat the
othermembersof the ensembleareplaying. you do not
simply wantto providegoodtiming,outlinethe chords,
and leadingthe listener'sear to the next chordchange.
On top of that,you want the runs,strums,rhythms,and
fills that you use to make the band,as a whole, sound
better. You want to make it fit jusr right. The ability to
do that comeswith having a lot of differenttechniques
to draw from, having an ingrainedfamiliarity of those
techniques,and having an intuitive feel for just where
to apply thosetechniques.This all comeswith a lot of
practiceand experience.
I've said all of that in order to also say that as we
progressalongin this course,Iwill give a few examples
of how you might combine the various elementsthat
you have learnedand suggestyou come up with more
on your own in your homework. So now we aregoing

Flatpicking Essentialsvolume l: Rhythm.,Boss Runs, and Fitt Licks


to work lvith a few examplesthat add to what we've

alreadyworked with and alsomix thingsup a little. we
aregoing to work with bassruns that are a little longer
(a whole measurelong) and we are going to combine
the walk-upsand walk-downsin variousways.
Mixing Things Up I
Takea look at ExampleI I . our bassrun measures
2,4, and6. we aredoingsomethingslightly
differentin each. Measuretwo is a walk up, similarto
measure2 of example9. The differencehereis that we
havereplacedthe strumthat was on beat2 with a bass
note. The bassnote we picked is a repeatof the root
note (G) that we played on beat I . Rememberwhen
we saidthat a walk up the scalewill leadthe listener's
ear to the next chord changeand we playedG, strum,
A, B then C? Taking out the strum and replacingit
with anotherG notehelpsemphasize thatwalk up since
you hear the walk on threeconsecutivebeats,instead
of havinga strumseparate
the G andthe A notes.This
is a very commontechniquethat you'll hearbeginnine
bassplayersutilize. This is one of the first
bassrvalksthat they rvill learn.
In measure4 we areagaintaking awaythe strumand
repeatingthe root note of the chord (C), but then we
are walking back a note, then r,valkingback up a note
beforewe changeto the D note. We are playingC. C,

B, C, then D. Notice that we didn't play the leading

tone (C#) this time beforechangingto D. you can try
to play thatC# note afterplaying the B note,but I don't
think it soundsquiteasgoodasstickingwith the c note
in this particularrun. Shortly,after we talk about the
chromaticscale,r,vewill take a look a very simirarrun
that does include the leading tone (c#) when moving
to D.
Measure6 of exampleI I showsa walk-downthat
is similar to measure6 of example10. The only thing
that we havedonedifferenthereis replacethe strumon
beat two with a c note so that we have extendedour
walk-down. Insteadof the walk down being B, A, to
G, we havenow createda 4-notewalk-downthat goes
from D, to C, to B, to A, then G. This longer walk_
down is really going to help guide the listenersear to
the chord changeto G. Play throughthis progression
andyou'll seewhat I mean.
Mixing Things IJp 2
Before we talk aboutPracticeand Homework,let's
look at Example 12. Here is anothervariationon the
lon,gerbassrun and mixing things up theme. Again,
our bass run measuresare measures2, 4, and 6. In
measure2 ourrun movesfrom G, to D, to E, backto D.
and then to C. This bassmovementprovidesan ..upand-back"or "toggling" motion to the bassline. The

Excmple ll: G, c, D Rhytfun - fhixing Things up I



E ss en tials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Filt Licks

Example l2z G, C, D Rhytfurr - tlixlng ThlngsUp 2


movementfrom D to E leadsthe ear in one direction,

but then it comesback in the other directionand walks
to the C note for the chord change. You have that
r,valk-dorvnfrom E to D before moving to C, but that
is precededby that one stepwalk-up from D to E. The
up-and-backeffectprovidesa nice little surpriseto the
In measure4, the changebetr,veen
the C and the D
chords,we have a little bit of bouncingfrom one side
of the root note to the other,so again it is a technique
that movesin one directionand then back in another.
Playing the E note on beatthree (the note abovethe D
note on the scale)leadsthe ear in one direction. Then
we follow that with the C# note,the leadingtoneof the
D scale,rvhichis the notebeforethe D note in the scale.
So, insteadof leadingprogressivelyup to the D note,
asin a walk-up,orprogressively
down to the D note,as
in a walk-down,herewe arebouncingon eithersideof
the D note. Anotherway to look at it is that sincethe
E note is part of the C chord, you are simply using an
alternatebassnote in your C chord and then moving to
D throughthe C# leadingtone. Either w&], it is a nice
techniqueto learn and experimentwith.
Finally,in measure6 we move from a D note,to an
E, back to a D, then to B, before landing on G with
the chord change. This is another variation of that
togglingeffectthat we usedin measure2. In fact, we

are toggling on the samenoteshere (D, E, D), but in

different chords and in a slightly different place in
the measure. Notice that after you have played the D
note on beat one and the E note on beat two, you are
then playing the noteSD,, then B, then moving to G.
You may note that theseare not notesthat are next to
eachother in the D or G scales.However,thesethree
notesarethe notesthat make up the G chord (for more
information major chord construction,see the Major
Scales.Chords & Arpeggiosappendix). So our bass
walk this time is basedon the G arpeggio.An arpeggio
is a group of notesthat all belongto one chord,in this
casethe G chord. Bassline movementstypicallymove
alongthe scaleof the chord,the chromaticscale,or the
chord's arpeggio. We will talk about all threeof these
movementsin this course.
One other interesting thing to note about this
progressionis that in all three of the measuresthat
involvebassrunswe usethatE noteasthe pivotalnote
of the run. Play throughthe progressionseveraltimes.
Do you hear that E note pop out on eachof the bass
runs? If you want, play that note with a little more
emphasisevery time it comesup in the run. Listen to
the soundof the entire progressionand notice that by
using the E note each time we are leading to the next
chord rve sort of tie things togetherand, once again,
give the listener'sear a que that the chord is aboutto

Flatpicking EssentialsVolurne1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Lichs

change. The listenercatchesit the first time and the

secondtime and by the third time their mind has kind
of latchedon to the fact that the soundof that E note in
this progression
is signalingsomething.Of coursethey
are not necessarilyconsciousof it, but it doesgive a
familiarity to the progressionthat leadstheir ear along.
You'd probably r,vantto abandonthe use of that note
after the third or fourth time thoueh.so that vou avoid
Thereis a fine line betrveenfamiliarity and annoying
repetition.Wheneveryou usea technique.only repeat
it a few times, then go away from it. The change
doesn'thave to be drastic.and you can come back to
it later. You want to provide comfort and familiarity,
but you also want to avoid being repetitious. If you
ever listen closely to Earl Scruggsbanjo playing, he
was a masterof givin-ethe listenera certainfamiliarity,
then changingever so sli-qhtly,so that there was still
familiarity. but also somethingdifferent. You can
approachyour bassruns and rhythm playing the same
way. You can provide variationwithout going to far
left or right of a familiar pattern.

Play through Examples 1l and
12 many times in a rorv with a
metronome.The focus herer,vill
be on playingthroughtheseexamplesenoughtimes
to becometamiliarwith thesoundof thetechniques
and they will eventuallybecomesecondnatureto
you and you can apply them in otherkeys and in
a variety of situationswithout having to 'think'
aboutthem.They will just pop-outof your finsers
whenyou leastexpectit!

After you have practicedExamples
ll and 72.andbecomefamiliar with
their mechanicsand their sound.trv
to play the exact sameruns in other keys. See if
you can do it by ear, rvithouthaving to mentally
figure out the notesof the scale. This will help
you developyour ear. After you have done that,
go back to the key of G progressionand seeif you
can come up with someother examplesof mixing
walk-upsand walk-downs. Those runs that you
createon your own will be the onesthat will end
up beingyour favorites!

Chromql?cWeilk Ups & Wolk Downs

So far we have only been working with the notes
of the major scales. We walked up and we rvalked
down using those notes as our pathway to lead from
one chord to another,and then we mixed things up a
bit using thosesamenotes. However,the notesof the
major scale are not the only ones that will work in a
bassrun. Thosenotesthat are positionedin-between
thenotesof themajorscalewill alsowork. Thesenotes,
tones."arefound in the
chromaticscale. While the major scalecontainsseven
uniquepitches(do, re, me, fa. so, la. ti), the chromatic
scalecontainsl2 pitchesand consistsentirelyof halfstep intervals (for more information about half-steps
and r,vhole-steps
as they relateto scales,,
seethe Major
scale,startingwith the G note,is as follows:

C rC#rDrD#rE,

F, F#

Let's apply the notesof this scaleto our bassruns.

Takea look at Examplel3 on the top of the next page.
In this example we are applying chromatic runs in
measures2 and4. In measure2 we are startingon the
root note of the chord (G), then we are moving to the
next note in the G scale(theA note) and from therewe
walk up the chromaticscaleto C by playingA,A#,8,
In measure4 rve startwith the root note of the chord,
then we stepback a half stepso that we can makeroom
for a chromaticrun betweenthe C and D chords. Once
r,vestepback from C to that B note,we then r,valkup the
chromaticscalefrom B, to C, to C#. thento D.
In measure6I threwin another"mix it up" variation.
Here we hit the root note of the chord (D) on the first
beat. Then we startto walk down the scaleby playing
the C note on beat two, and the B note on beatthree.
With these notes we are leading the listener's ear
down the scaleand headingfor G. So the listener's
ear is ready to hear the A note next, followed by the
G. However,we are going to threw the D note at them
insteadin orderto providea little variety. The D note
works becauseit is the root note of the D chord and it
is the 5th tone of the G scale,so it fits very nicely with
bothchords.This is an exampleof hor,vyou canchange
a run ever so sli-ghtlyin orderto give the listener'sear
a little surpriseand make it perk up.

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Boss Runs, and Fill Licks

Exomple 13: G, C, D Rhyfhm wilh Chromati,cWalk-Ups


BassRuns-Old-Time Stvle
Play throughExample l3 many
times. Make sure that you are
working with you metronometo
play thosechromaticrunsright on thebeat,rvithout
speedingup. Startat a slowtempo,getcomfortable
r,viththe speed,thengraduallyincreasethe tempo.
It might alsobe a good ideato go back to our first
exampleand review all of the progressionsthat
have been presentedso far. From here on things
will startto get a little morecomplicated.and also
you needto havea solid foundation.

By now you know what's coming
for homework! After havepracticed
Example 13, and become familiar
with the mechanicsand sound.trv to
play the exact samechromaticruns in other keys.
Once again!,seeif you can do it by ear, without
having to mentally figure out the notes of the

Norv thatyou havesomestandardbassrun examples

under your fingersand in year ears,let's try a G, C,
D progressionin the style of someof the the old-time
guitar playerslike Roy Harvey,Tom Paley,and Riley
Puckett.This progression,
Example14-which makes
veryheavyuseof bassruns-can be heardin theplaying
of many of the old-timeplayers.As mentionedbefore.
theseperformerstypically playedin an ensemblethat
did not include a bass player, so their rhythm guitar
stylemadeheavyuseof bassruns. I love listenin-e
and playing,this type of progression.If you ever find
yourselfjamming, or performingin a small ensemble
with a mandolin, banjo, andior fiddle-but no bass
or secondguitar-this type of guitar accompaniment
Later in this book, when you play throughsomeof
the songexamplesprovided,you will find this stylerun
in the transcriptionof Roy Harvey's accompaniment
to the song"Blue Eyes." You will also find a similar
run used by CharlesSawtellein the key of C for his
to thefiddletune"Tennessee
Althou-ehCharlesperformedin a full bluegrassband
(Hot Rize), he was also a fan of the old-time style
rhythm andusedthis styleon a recordingsessionwhere
he was playingin a duo with a mandolinplayer.

Flatpiching Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and FilI Licks


Example l4z G, C, D Rhyflrm Old-Tlme Style

SpreadingOut BassRuns: Using Half Notes

Play throughExample 14 many
times with a metronome. This
one is a little trickier than those
we've lookedat thus far. Work with
it over and over until you can play it without
lookingat the tab. Onceagain,the longerthe bass
runs,the easierit is to speedup and get off timewise. So focus on your timing. Start at a slow
tempo and then gradually increasethe tempo on
the metronome.This is a fun prosressionto play.

For the time being,I'm not going to
ask you to find this progressionin
other keys. Later, you will see an
exampleof similar runs in the key of C, and I'll
point that out when it comesup. What I would
like you to do herefor homework is try to analyze
what is going on here. Takea look at eachrun and
figure out what notes are being used,what scales
theyarefrom, if they arewalk-ups,or walk-downs,
etc. When you analyzewhat is going on with runs,
it helpsyou seewhat is happening,and it can also
help inspireyour own ideas.

The sequenceof notesthat have definedall of the

bass runs that we have examined this far, in terms
of walking up or dor,vna scale,have been spaceda
quarter note apart in time. We can also spacethose
and placea strum
notesa half note apartin sequence,
in-betweenthem. The result,time-wise,is similar to
the alternatingbasstechniqueexceptthe bassdoesn't
up or down a scale.
alternate,it progresses
Takea look at Example15. In measuresI and2 we are
walking a bassline up the chromaticscalejust like rve
did in measure2 of Examples13 and 14, however,I
havespreadthe walk out overtwo measures
strumsin-betweenthe bassnotes(exceptfor the last
beat of measure2 rvherewe play anotherbass note.
however,a strum could have been usedthere-more
aboutthat shortly).
Similarly, in measures3 and 4 we have repeated
the bassline that you learnedin example I 3, but we
spacedthe notesout a half-noteapartandput strumsinbetweenthem. You will noticethat sincewe are using
our middle finger to play the B note on the 3rd beatof
measure3, we areonly strummingthe top threestrings
on the strum that follows that beat.
In measures5 and 6 we arewalking down the same
line that we usedin measure6 of Examplell. Again,

Flatpicleing Essentials Volume 1: Rhyth,m, Bass Runs, and Fill Licles

Excmple 15: G, C, D Rhyfhm Uslng Hclf-Nofe BcrssR.uns


we spreadthe bassrun acrosstwo measuresinsteadof

one. Notice that on beat 4 of measure5 and beat 2 of
measure6 we are not playing the high E string so that
we can free up fingersto play the run, yet still hold part
of the chord at the sametime. In measures2,4 and 6
we are not strummingon the beatjust beforethe chord
change.As mentionedbefore,we could strumon that
beat,however,by playinga singlebassnotethere,,
a little extraemphasis,it bettersignalsthe movementto
the next chord. I recommendthat you try it both ways,
seeif you notice a difference,and then usethe one that
you like best.
When you are executingthis style of bassrun, the
strum can be executedlightly so that it has more of a
percussivesound.When you strumlightly andquickly,
you don't have to be so exactwith your fingeringand
you can also get away with strummingall of the strings
eventhough all of the notesof the chord are not being
fingered. When you are working out thesehalf-note
style bassruns, experimentwith the strumsand what
notescan be played,and soundOK, and which ones
cannot. Many times you can still executea full strum
even if you've moved a finger off of the full chord in
order to play the bass run. Experimentand see what
soundsgood to you.

Flatpiclzing Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

Play throughExample 15 many
times with a metronome.At first
it may feel awkward for you to
continueto hold the chord at the sametime you
are executingthe bass run. Take your time and
work out the fingerings that will feel the most
comfortable to you. Also experiment with the
soundto see if you have to limit the number of
strings that you are strumming. Sometimesit
soundsOK to executea full strum.sometimesit
doesn'tsoundgoodat all.

The first thing to do for homework
this time is to see if you can work
out somehalf-notebassruns in the
keys of C and D. After you do that look back
at some of the quarter note walk-ups and walkdownsthat you haveplayedpreviouslyand seeif
you can spreadout the run and play it in the halfnotestyle.

The R.esfSfoke
You may havenoticedthatin Example15 insteadof
simply using an alternatingbasspatternin the last tr,vo
measuresI did somethingdifferent. What I provided
herewas a very simpleversionof the famous"G-Run."
We will rvorkwith theG-run,andmanyof its variations,
a little lateron in this book,but I'm goingto talk about
one aspectof the G-run herebefore we move forward
in order to introduceyou to the conceptof the "rest
The term "rest stroke" is borrowed from the
terminology of the classicalguitar style. Classical
guitarhastwo basictechniques
for pluckin_e
the strings:
apoyando(Spanishfor "resting") and tirando (Spanish
for "pulling," alsoknown asthe"free stroke").The rest
strokeis the easiestand usuallythe first one learnedby
classicalguitarists.For flatpickersit is the other rvay
around. We usually learn the "free stroke" or "sr,ving
stroke" first and then later addthe rest stroketo our set
of skills.
If you will take a look at the diagramat the top
of the
of the next column I have useda cross-section
guitar stringsand vectorlinesto show the differencein
attackbetweenthe swing strokeand the rest stroke. In
the swing strokethe pick comesdown at an angle,hits
through the string and then sr,vingsback out again so
thatthepick only hits onestringand avoidsthe adjacent
strings.In the executionof a reststrokethepick pushes
through the string at a dor,vnwardangle and literally
comesto reston the next string(without pluckingit).
The "rest" stroke is a very important flatpicking
technique.especiallyif you'reafter moreof a Clarence
rest stroke article in Flatpicking Guitar Magazine
the ideaof usingpicks to play tiddly-r,vinks.
Placethe pick on a coin and snap it dorvn-that's the
motion you're looking for. On the guitar,you need a
quick, snappymotion to drive through the string and
thenyou immediatelystopsolidlywhenthepick comes
to reston the next string.
The an-eleof the pick stroke is about45 degrees
dor,vnthrough the string and towards the guitar's top.
The noteyou just pickedis verystrongandsolid,which
is the purposeof this technique.A rest strokeprovides
greatpowerand volumeandis used for emphasis.You
can modify it with a hammer-on,pull-off, slide,or just
let it ring (we will rvork with those embellishments

Swing Stroke

Rest Stroke

Try this techniquewith the exampleshownabove.

I've indicatedtwo rest strokesin a row here-the last
note of measureI and the first note of measure2.
Executea solid rest strokeon the first note. When the
next note comes up. repeatanothersolid rest stroke.
It's entirelypossibleto play an entiresolo,with plenty
of notes,using only rest strokes.You'll get a distinctly
sound,and using the rest stroke
on G-runs
thatsolidpoppingG-run statement
that really provides your rhythm playing with great
In order to becomea great acousticguitar player,
you'll needto becomevery familiar and skilled with
both swing strokesand rest strokes. Knowing when
andhow to useeachof thesetechniqueswill add a great
rangeof dynamicsto your guitar playing. Work with
the simpleG-run shorvnin theexampleaboveusingthe
rest stroke. Then play throughExample 15 many times
usingthe reststrokein thoselasttwo measures.Notice
that when you get it right, thosenoteswill really pop.
Work with a metronometo make surethat your timing
duringthe executionof the reststokesremainssolid.

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

Altetnal?ng Plck DilseclZonand Elghtlr NolePssctilce

Before we move onto more bassrun examples,I
needto takeanothershortdiversionandgive you a little
bit of practice with eighth notes. Up until this point
in this book we primarily worked with quarter note
timing. You worked a little bit with eighth note timing
when I introducedthe up-strumearlier,but otherwise
everything that you have practiced so far has been
executedin quarternotetiming usingdownstrokeswith
your pick. In this sectionI need to introduceeighth
note timing and the alternatepick direction right hand
techniquethat goes along with it so that you will be
readyto handleeighthnoteruns andrhythm fill licks in
the examplesthat we will examinein the remainderof
this book. Eighthnoterunsnot only help spiceup bass
lines,but they alsoserveas great"filler licks" that can
be insertedbetrveenvocal linesin songs.In a full band
the fill licks are usually given to the banjo or fiddle
player,however,if you find yourself in an ensemble
that doesnot includethoseinstruments,you can take
over that role. Doc Watsonis famousfor his ability to
providetastefulandexcitingfill runsduringthe pauses
in his vocal delivery.

time) and upstrokesareplayedon the "and" counts.As

a beginnerthis is a very importantconceptto graspand
a vital skill to obtain with the right hand.
players use that will go againstthis rule of thumb,
however,asa beginneryou will wantto solidlypractice
this conventionuntil it becomessecondnatureto you.
In flatpicking the right hand is the keeperof time, the
produceroftone, and the sourceof speedand accuracy.
If you don't have a solid alternatingpick direction
technique,it will be difficult for your right hand to
develop the necessarytechnique to reach advanced
levels of skill. So, it will do you a world of good to
practice the alternatingpick techniquewhen playing
eighth notes-playing them slowly at first and then
working to increaseyour speedwith a metronomebeforewe introducethem into our bassrun sequences.

Alternating Pick Direction

At the beginningof this book I presentedquater
note timing tn 414time and suggestedthat you count
| - 2 - 3 - 4 , w i t h e a c h n u m b e r r e p r e s e n t ianqgu a r t e r
notein time. I alsosuggested
thateachtime you played
a note on the quarternote count that you play it with
a downstrokeof the pick. When we introduceeighth
notes into a measure,we can count the measurein
eight equal segmentsin time as "l-and-2-and-3-and4-and-". Conventionally,downstrokesare played on
the numberedcounts (ust as they were in quaternote

Alternating Pick Direction Exercises

Starting with Exercises I and 2 below, and then
continuing on the next two pages with Exercises
3 through 8, practice your alternating pick stroke
technique. Exercises1 and 2 may seemvery simple,
however,they are well worth your time. Set your
metronomeat a relatively slow tempo and, using the
"swing stroke," practice Exercise I over and over.
Focuson economyof motion with your right hand and
try to get your downstrokeand upstroketo be equal in
volume. During this exercise,you can also work on
your tone and timing. Work with your metronometo
improve timing and listen carefully to your tone. Vary
your angleof attack,your distancefrom the bridge',hor,v
hardyou hit the string,andhow firmly you aregrabbing
the pick in order to try and get the best possibletone.

AJlernatilng Pick Exercise I

Alternating Plck Exerclse 2


tl = downstroke

V = uPstroke

Flatpich,ing Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks


Use the exercisesin this sectionto do more than create

alternatingpick muscle memory. Use them to make
advancesin timing, tone and note clarity by being
awareof thosecritical elementsof your guitar skill.
As you move on to Exercise2, you shouldalso be
awareof your left hand'scontributionto tone and note
clarity. Experimentwith the amount of pressurethat
you use r,vhenfretting the string and how quickly you
lift the finger off of the string. Simple exerciseslike
this are greatvehiclesto use in order to work on all of
your fundamentalskills. If you listen carefully,and
remain keenly awareof the fundamentals,your skill
level will greatlyimprove.

AltesnatTng Pick Exerclse 3

After working with Exercises I and 2, work

sequentiallythrough Exercises 3 through 6 using
alternatingpick strokes. The notes are basically the
samein thesefour exercises,but we are changingthe
right handpatterns.
After you feel comfortablewith Exercises3 to 6,
then work with Exercises7 and 8. Exercise7 is an
G scale.Exercise8 takesthe
G scaleand "folds" it on to itself in a repetitivepattern.
With all of theseexercises,work with a metronome,
start at a slow tempo, and then graduallyincreasethe

Play Examples3 through I using AlternatingPick Strokes

NletnatTng Plck Exercise 4

NletnatTng Plck Exercise 5

Altetnotilng Pick Ex. 6

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Lichs

NlernatTng Pick Exeecise7

Count 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &






IIV ltV trV llV


fl = downstroke

trV llV


V = upstroke

Altetnat?ng Pick Exercise 8

Flatpicking EssentialsVolume 1: Rhythm, Boss Runs, and Fill Licks


UsingEighth Notesfor Runsand Fill Licks

thentry changingthe quarternoterun of Example 16 to

an eighth note run and fit it into measure6 of Example
Now, back to bassruns! In the last bassrun segment 1 2 .
we took quarternotebassrunsand spreadthemout a bit
so that they wereexecuteda half note apart. Similarly,
we can take our quarter note runs and executethem
Play throughExample l6 many
more quickly usingeighthnotes. Thesekind of quick
times with a metronome. If
runs can be employedvery effectively,particularly if
you've neverplayedeighthnote
you want to placea quick fill run during a vocal tune.
runs before, start out slor,vand get a feel for the
Takea look at ExampleI 6. In measures2 and4 we've
timing and pick direction. Make surethat you are
takenthe bassruns from measures2 and 4 of Example
not rushingthroughthe run and startslow enough
l3 and compressed
them down to be executedin just
that you areplaying eachnotecleanly. Work your
trvo beatsinsteadof four. In measure6 I've provided
way up to fast tempos,but do not lose the note
you with anotherone of thosemixed runs. This one
clarity in this run asthe tempoincreases.
beginson anA note,whichwouldbe the noteyou would
play if you weregoing to continuethe alternatingbass
line pattern on the D chord that you played on beats
I and 3 of measure5 and beat I of measure6. From
Like the homework assignment
there,this run simply outlinesa G major arpeggioby
on the previouspage,try to apply
playingthe B, D, B, thenG notes.I introducedtheidea
rvhatyou havelearnedhereto other
of moving in one directionalong a chord arpeggioin
keys. Seeif vou canr,vorkout some
measure6 of Example 12. That run was a quarternote
eighth-notebassrunsin thekeysof C andD. After
bass run that startedon the D note at beat one, then
you do that, look back at someof the quarternote
movedto an E note,back to D, then to B and G. You
walk-upsand walk-downsthat you have played
could also try that samerun hereby startingwith the D
previouslyand seeif you can condensethe runs
noteon beatthreeandplayingD, E, D, B, thenG. Just
and play them in the ei_ehth-note
for fun, try the Example 12 run as a quarternote run,

Excrmple 16zG, C, D Rhyflrm wllft Eighl|n Nole Runs


Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Boss Runs, and Fill Licks

3 with the last two beats of measure 1 and first tr'vo

beatsof measure2).
At the startof measure 4,Riley thenthrowsin aneighth
one of my favorite guitarist to listen to for bass
note run. Notice that the first five notesof measure4
run inspiration is Riley Puckett. In one of the very
are the samenotesas the first five quarternotesof this
early issuesof Flatpicking Guitar Magazine Joe Carr
arrangement,but played in reverseand sped up from
transcribeda Riley Puckettrhythm arrangementfrom
quarter notes to eighth notes. Pretty cool trick! But
a recordingof the song"Molly Put The Kettle On." In
he's not done playing r,viththe timing of this bassrun
that arrangement(which we will look at a little later),
yet. Check out measures5 and 6. He takesthe same
Riley combinesquarter,half, andeighth-notebassruns
run asmeasureI and makesit a half-noterun with each
in an interestingand effective manner. Riley played
by a strum. Measures7 and 8 then
that arrangementin the key of C',but I've transposedan
simply repeatrvhatwas played in measures3 and 4. I
eight-barsectionto the key of G for Example 17'
how you
this arrangementbecauseit demonstrates
You'll noticethat.like Example14,this is a very bass love
can take a simple sequenceof bass notes,play them
run heavy progression.In the first four bars,there are
forwards,playthembackwards,and changethe timing
only two strums.The bassline in thefirst two measures
around so that you have a variety of bass run sounds
is basically a G major arpeggiobassrun, thror,vingin
that fit togetherin a cohesiveway'
and sequences
the 6th note of the scalein two placesfor a little added
Before we move onto the practice and homework
flavor. [This is a very typical line for bass players,
throughExamplel7 a few times andthen
which we will work with more in the exampleon the section,play
takea look at ExampleI B (underthe "Borrowing from
next pagetitled "Borrolvingfrom BassPlayers"']
Bass Players"title on the next page)' Once you've
Riley rvalksup this bassline andthenbeginsto walk
playedthroughExamplel8 you may noticethatyou've
back down the samebassline, but insteadof walking
heard this bass line before. It is a very popular line
all the way back down to the low G note,he throws in
for bassplayersto play when they are playing a l2-bar
a strum after the D note (on the last beat of measure
two). In measurethreehe plays four quarternotesthat
outline a part of the samesequence(comparemeasure

Mixing Up the BassRun Timing

Exomple lrzG, G, D Rhyrhm iltixlng up lhe Bass R.unTlmlng

Ftatpiclting EssentialsVolume 1: Rhythm, BassRuns, and Fill Licks

Excmple 18: Borrow?ng From BeissPloyers - The l2-Bsr Blues in G


The first two bars in this bassline rvalk up the G

arpeggio(rviththe sixthnoteof the scaleaddedfor extra
"spice"- so technicallyit would be a G6 arpeggio).We
r,valkfrom the G noteon the low E stringto the openG
note on the G string,and then walk back down to end
on the lorv G note againon the first beat of measure3.
Recognizethis sequenceof notes? Our friend Riley
Puckettdesignedthe entireS-barsof the progressionin
ExampleI 7 aroundthisbassline! He playedit forward,
played it backward,changedthe timing, and threw in
some strums.but it is exactly the same sequenceof
notes. And you can do the samething with this and
many othersbasslines. If you know any bassplayers,
askthem to show you a few of their favorite basslines,
then pick them apart,changethe timing, and throw in
some strums in order to createvour own interesting

In Example I 8, the bassline that is playedagainst

the G chord is the samein measuresI and 2, 3 and4,
and7 and 8. The C chordbassline is very similar,but
does not add in the 6th note of the scale. This bass
line simply outlines the three notes that make up the
C major chord-C, E, and A. This C major arpeggio
can be usedin many differentways againsta C chord,
just like Riley Puckettusedthe G major aqpeggioin
Example17. Keep this sequence
in mind for a variety
of bassline applicationsthat can be played againstthe
C chord.
In measures9 and l0 I am providingyou two runs
that r,valkup the A string and the D string,respectively,
in a chromaticstyle. Then in measures1l and 12 we
arewalkingback down the G arpeggioagainto end on
a low G note. This 12-barbassline sequence
is one of
many that bassplayerswill use r,vhenaccompanying

Flatpiclzing Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Lichs

songthat is in the standardl2-bar form. Variationson Alletnsle tleeisures lor Exomple

this themeaboundand so I've providedsomesubstitute
of G
on this pagein the right handcolumn. These Alt 1: Substitutefor anv2 measures
are alternatemeasuresthat you can plug in to the
progressionshown in Example 18. Alternate#l is
the samebassline as shownin Example 18, however,
we have replacedthe G note on the first beat of the
secondmeasurewith an F note (the flatted7th note of
the G scale). Adding this note gives the bassline a
distinctbluesfeel. Alternate#2 is a simpleG arpeggio
repeatedtwice. You'll notice that it is the sameline
thatyou playedin measures
5 and6 of ExampleI 8, but Alt 2: Substitute for anv 2 measuresof G
transposedto G. Alternate#3 is the sameas Alternate
#1,,but played in C. Alternates#4 and#5 go together
9 through12 tn Example18. The
sequencethat is played againstthe D chord is, once
again,a simplearpeggio.


Play throughExample l8 many
times with a metronome. This
is not a sequencethat you will
play as a guitar player, but going through it r,vill
help you get ideas and give you familiarity with
arpeggiosand how to use them. After you are
familiar with Example I B, try to plug in someof
the alternatemeasuresthat are shown in the right
handcolumnon this page. Mix andmatchandsee
what soundsgoodto vou.

Now that you have practiceda few
bass lines in the context of what a
bassplayermight use,seeif you can
break a few of theselines apartand
play them with strumsintermingledwith the bass
notesasRiley Puckettdid in Example17. Also try
changingthe timing to half-notesand eighthnotes
on someof theseand seewhat you can create.
To get you started,simply play throughExample
l8 in its entirety,but thrervin a strumbetlveenevery
bassnote. You'11noticethat it soundsprettygood.
The next time you are in a jam session,instead
of continually playing an alternatingbasspattern
betweenyour rhythm strums,try an arpeggiobass
line betweenyour strums. We'll talk more about
thosekind of basslinesa little later.

Alt 3: Substitute for anv 2 measuresof C


Alt 4: Substitute for measures9 & 10


Alt 5: Substitutefor measures11& 12

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythrn, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks



9-R.uilsr HamrnGr-Ons, Pull-Offs, ond Slldes

In this sectionwe are going to startworking with fill saysthat all downstrokesoccuron the numberedcounts
licks and the "Granddaddy"of them all is the G-run. and the upstrokesoccur on the "and" counts-when
As you will see,therearemany variationsof the G-run, we start measure3, we are going to play a downstroke
and a good numberof them employ embellishments, (seethe count and compareit with the pick direction
or slurs,known as hammer-ons,pull-offs, and slides. symbolsandtab below).
So beforevvetalk aboutthe G-run,letsfirst discussthe
In measure4,I introducethe "slide." To execute
just in caseyou are this technique,play the C note at the third fret with
hammer,pull, and slidetechniques
not familiar with them.
your ring finger,then play the B note with your middle
Take a look at Example 19. You will find that it is finger. After that noterings, keeppressureon the string
very similar to Example 16, however,thereare a few and slide the middle finger up along that string until
new symbolsand lettersaddedin measures2,4, and you hearthe soundof the C note at the third fret again.
6. [n measure2 | have addeda hammer-on.For this Then play the C# note at the forth fret by fretting that
techniqueyou will simply fret the A# note on the first note at the fourth fret'uvithyour ring finger andpicking
fret of the A string with your index finger and pick the an upstroke. Again, in keeping with our alternating
stringas before,however.insteadof picking the string pick strokeconvention,we are not picking the C note
a-eainto play the B note on the secondfret, you simply that is playedon the 3rd beat-so we havean upstroke
"hammer"your middle finger dorvnon that note. The to initiate the slide and then we play anotherupstroke
importantthing to noticehereis that becauseit is your after executingthe slide. Working out pick direction
left hand making the sound on the B note, you will rvhenplaying embellishments
and slurs is one of the
not play the upstrokepick directionat the end of the most difficult right hand challenges.Focuson it now
andin keepingwith ourruleof thumb-which and it will not causeproblemslater.

Exomple 19: Adding Hcmrner-Oisr Pull-Offs, and glldes # |


1 &2 & 3&4


1& 2&

3 &4&







Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Lich,s

The next slurs occur in measure6. The first one is

anotherhammer-ontechnique. Play the open A note
and then "hammer" down onto the B note. On the
fourth beat of that measureyou will executea "pulloff' technique.In orderto accomplishthis, play the B
note with your middle finger on the secondfret of the
A string. Then slightly pull on the string while lifting
up your middle finger. This causesthe string to snap
off the end of your finger and allows the A note to ring
out. Notice that althoughnotesarebeing playedon the
"and" after beat 2 andbeat 4, you are playing with all
downstrokesin this measure.The hammerand pull are
taking care of those notesthat you hear on the "and"
beats,so no up strokeis required.
Next take a look at Example 20 below. This
is very similarto Example8,,however,I've
pull-offs,and slides. Interestingly
enough,all of theseembellishments
are executedon a
downstroke. So, even though you have some eighth
note timing here,you can play this entire progression
with all downstrokes.Also notice that I've not just
addedthe slurs to measures2 , 4, and 6. I startedoff
with a slide on beat I of measurel. This is a nice
accentthat you can use anytime that you play that G
note on the low E,string.

Play through Examples 19
and 20 many times with a
metronome while focusins on
direction and timing. Pay special
attentionto measure4 of Example 19. You may
feel like you want to play the last note in that
measurewith a downstroke,but it needsto be
played r,vithan upstroke. At this point in time it
may feel awkward to play two upstrokesin a row.
Take your time and play that measureover and
over to get a good feel for the technique.

Now that you have a little
experiencewith hammer-ons,
pulloffs, and slides,go backthroughall
of the Examplesthat you have worked with thus
far and see where you may be able to add these
embellishments.Adding slursreally helps spice
up your rhythm runs,however,don't get too over
zealouswith them. Too much can be distractins
to the listener.

Excmple 2Oz Addlng Hcm.ner-Oilsr Pull-Offs, ernd Slildes #2


Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Rlrns, and Fill Licks

On the two pagesthat follow I have laid out 20
variationsof the G-run. I have given you plenty of
examplesto work with so that you can get accustomed
to this importantelementof rhythm guitar and so you
can also have plenty of opportunitiesto practiceyour
hammer-ons,pull-offs, slides, and rest strokes. As
always, timing is the most important componentto
work on, especiallyif you arenew to playingslurs.
Regardingthe use of G-runs,the greatbluegrass
guitar player CharlesSawtellethoughtof G-runs like
"punctuation."Below I havereprintedan interviewthat
I conductedwith Charlesaboutthe useof the G-run:

I play anotherone that just startswith an upstrokeon

the 5th string(seeexample13). That gives a different
soundto it. The differencesare subtle,but the art lies
beyond the obvious.I also use this chromaticG-run
(seeexamplel8), or I will also go forwardsand then
backwardswith the G-run (seeexample 20). Another
one I sometimesplay _qoes
like this (seeexamplel4).

Do you also play a G-run type of lick out of the C

Not too often.Somehowendingthe G-run lick on an
unwoundstring(first fret on the B string)doesn'tsound
right to me, so in C I usuallywon't play that run.
I think of the G-run as punctuation.When you are
Tim O'Brien told me that I should ask you about an
it within a tune,it is a good way to get people
analogy you have made between punctuation of the
to pay attention.The G-run is what really setspeople
written word and playing rhythm guitar.
(Charleslaughs)Well. I sometimesthink of the back.When you play the G-run.no matterhow out of
G-runlike punctuation-theperiod,,the questionmark, whackthebandgets,whenyou hit theG-runeverything
the exclamationpoint, and the comma.For instance, falls back into focus.It is prettyimportantto havethat
in "Roll in my Sr,veet
Baby'sArms" (Charlespicks up in the song.
his -quitarand startsto play and sing). (Sings).,"Roll
in my sweetbaby's arms." At the end of singingthe So if you didn't have it, it might be like trying to
rvord "arms." Charleshits a short trvo note G-run on read a paragraph that had no punctuation marks?
Yeah,that is r,vhatI think.
the guitar (E noteon the D string and then openG) and
says,"There's your comma." He continuessinging,
"Roll in my sweet baby's arms," then he throws in Do you have any comment about when you would
another"comma run" by playing the D chord trvo note play thosedifferent type of G-runs, or do you strictly
G-run (B noteon the A stringfollorvedby an openD). vary the G-run just to have a variety?
I fill them in for varietybecauseI think that you can
He continuessinging,"Lay aroundthe shacktill the
mail train comesback,roll in my sweetbaby'sarms." really overdothe G-run.But it has to be there,so if it
At theendof the"arms"Charlesthrowsin a full. strons. is there in severaldifferent forms, you can get away
with playingit more.Waltztime on a Bill Monroetune
G-runand says,"Thereis your period."
would be a time whenI mightusethatrealheavyG-run.
But othertimes it might not work out. You haveto be
Can you give us some thoughts on the G-run?
A lot of peopletry to get away with only havingone sensitiveto the mood of the sons.
G-run,but I think you shouldhave severalin your bag
of things that you do and you shouldnot alwaysplay If you are playing a really fast song are there times
when you can'tfrt the whole G-run in?
the sameG-run all the time.
I can usuallyfit the G-run in, but just the last two
Can you give us an example of some of the G-runs notesof it sometimesworks really good. In a fast song
my strumis really light and quick. So in that kind of a
you use?
The first generationbluegrassguys,especiallythe tune I r,villjust lay back and do the punctuationand if
onesthat playedwith a thumb pick, did one that was you do that,you can play rhythm really fast.If you try
all straight dorvn with down strokes (rest strokes) to play the whole chord,you can get in a lot of trouble
on the four strings(seeexamplesl0 and ll). That is and you can drown out everyoneelsein the band.
like a really heavy G-run. I think of that one like an
Practicethe 20 G-runs on the next two pages.
exclamationpoint or a questionmark. (Sings)"Will
you be loving anotherman?"(playsreststrokeG-run). Descriptionsanddetailsfollorv.

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

ftrenty G-Run Veideiflons

1 3 /;\






Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

ftrenfy G-R.unVariaflons (contf)


alternating .)
rest stroke *




Fl tt



l'l F



Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

Number L - This first G-run is the most basic of all
the G-runs. The G-run soundis executedon just two
notes-the E note on the D string, follorved by the
strong open G note on the G string. Sometimesthis
one is referredto as the "Lester Flatt" G-run because
Lesterwas found of playingthis two-noteG-run. Note
that Lesterplayed with a thumb pick, so all of his runs
were executedusing downstrokes. This run (and the
next three basic variationsof it) are nice to use when
the tempo is fast. Make surethat you use rest strokes
so that theseG-runsreally pop.

time value. This gracenote hammer-onis played very

Number 10 - This G-run is similar to number 6,
however,we have addedthe hammer-onsand changed
the time values. This one is tricky time-wise. This
measureusesa dottedquarternote. We will work with
that time value shortly. If you are having trouble with
this one. come back to it after I introducethe dotted
quarternote. Use a metronometo get the timing right.
Numbers 11 through 14 - These four G-runs are
variationson numberB. We are simply changingsome
timing elementsand someof the slurs.

Numbers 2 through 4 - These three G-runs are the

sameasnumber1 on beat4 of the first measureandbeat
1 of the secondmeasure(thesearethe most critical two
notesto have in the G run). The differencebetweenall
of theseis the way you leadinto beat4 of measureone.
Thesethreeall lead in with different strum patterns.

Numbers 15 through 18 - In these G-runs we take

more liberty to change around some of the notes in
measure1. Theseruns providesomespiceand flavor
to the G-run. You might want to use one of theseif
you feel like you keep relying on the sameold G-run
all the time. Adding one of thesewill give a different
Number 5 This is againsimilar to number l, except soundto your G-run. Try 15 usingbothreststrokesand
we areaddinga pull-off. Again executethis G-run with alternatepicking,as indicated.
Numbers 19 and 20 - Thesetwo G-runsare "forwards
Number 6 - This G run is leadingup to the G note on and backwardsruns." They starton the low G note on
beat one of measure2 with four eighth notes. Some the low E string,move to the openG string,thenmove
peoplewill play all four of thesenoteswith reststrokes, back down to the originallow G. Thesearenice to use
but it requiresa very fast right hand. You can try with at the end of a verseor chorus.or at the end of a solo.
rest strokes,but if that is hard for you to execute,then
use the alternatingpick technique. You can also vary
There are many more G-run variationsthat you
this G-run by executinga hammer-onon both beats3 might comeup with, and you'll seeseveralmore as we
and4 of measure1. If you do that, then it r,villbe easy go throughthe remainderof this book. If you are able
to executerest strokeson thosebeats.and on beatone to work throughall of the G-runs that I have provided
of measure2.
here, you will not only becomemore proficient at the
rest stroke and playing slurs, you rvill also improve
Number 7 - This G-run is similarto the last.however, your senseof timing when playing quarternotes and
we've changedthe first note in beat 3 of measureI and eighth notes in variouscombinations.You will also
addedthe hammer-ontechnique. As indicated,use all havebuilt up quite a few nice G-run licks to addto your
As you work throughthe variousG-runs,makenote
Number 8 - This is the "classic" G-run that many of how they differ. How doesthe timing change?Hor,v
playersuse as their standardG-run lick. Again, you doesthe note selectionand sequencechange?How do
can try it with all rest strokes,,but that can be a little the embellishmentschange? If you study thesethings
tricky. At a minimum the lastbeatof measureI andthe you will begin to get some ideas about how you can
first beat of measure2 shouldbe rest strokes.
createyour own variationsof the G-run,andotherlicks
and runs that you may alreadyknow. If you take what
Number 9 - This is a variationof number5. The first you alreadyknow and changethe timing a little bit, or
note of beat 3 in measureI is called a "grace note." add a slur, or changethe note selectionslightly,then
A gracenote is executedvery rapidly and is given no you arecreatingyour own musicandyour own musical
Flotpiching EssentialsVolume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks


identity. It is neverto early to startcreatingmusic that

is all your own! Don't be afraidto experiment!

Play through all of the G-runs
that have been presentedusing
a metronome. Start at a slow
tempo so that you can work through the timing
and the pick direction carefully. Make sure that
you practiceeachG-run enoughtimesso thatthey
begin to becomesecondnatureto you, especially
the first three or four. In a fast bluegrasstune
you aren't going to have time to think aboutthat
G-run,you haveto have it built in to your muscle

After studying 20 vartationsof the
G-run try to come up with at least
tr,voor three of your own. They
don't have to vary much from the
ones you've alreadypracticed. Experimentand
come up with somethingdifferent. Also, see if
you can transposea few of theselicks to the key
of C and the key of D. By doing that you will
not only createa few new runs that you can use,
you will alsoget somemore greattiming and slur


Wherf Youtve lceirned

Now that you've spenta little bit of time practicing

G-runs,eighthnoteruns,reststrokes,and slurs,letsput
those things togetherwith a fer,vmore I, IV, V chord
Examplesin the key of G.
Example2l presentsseveraleighthnote runs. Play
through this progressiona few times and take note of
any commonthreadshere. Do the eighth note runs tie
into eachotherin somervay? Checkit out and seewhat
you think.
The first thing that you may have noticed is that
the eighthnoteruns in measures2 ,4, and6 are similar
to each other. They all have a similar descending
movement.Again,this is oneof thoserepeatedthemes
that is going to key a listener'sear into recognizing
that a chord changeis coming. Take note that the run
in measure2 andthe run in measure6 are exactlythe
same,exceptmoved over one string. You may have
also noticedthat the run played on beats3 and 4 of
measure6 is the exactrun, but in reverse,of the piece
of the endingG-runthatis playedin measure7 on beats
2 and3. I designedthis progressionin this mannerto

G, C, D Rhylhrrr - Example 2l

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

show you how you can createcommon themesfrom

one basic idea. If you createone lick and then learn
how to move it to other stringsand play it againstother
chords, and then play it going forwards and moving
backwards,you can come up with a lot of great ideas
on your own. You may alsonoticethat I didn't put any
slursinto this progression.The G-run is just like G-run
number8, but rvithoutthe hammer-ons
or pull-offs. So
thereyou haveanotherG-run variation.
Before we move on to Practiceand Homework for
this section,lets take a look at the next two examples.
Play throughExample22. The first thing that you may
notice here is that we start off the progressionwith a
G-run. The G-run is not just for endings. It makes
a greatstatementright from the beginningsometimes.
your attentionwas
The next thing that may havecau_eht
the very cool D lick in measure5. This onecomesto us
from Jimmy Martin. Jimmy played this one with rest
strokes,so give thata try. Playeverynotein measures
and6 usingreststrokes.You canalsopracticemeasure
5 with alternatingstrokesas indicated. We end with a
simple G-run, rvhich should also be played with rest
Next take a look at Example23. This one also starts
and endswith G-runs. The first G-run is like number
9, but doesn'tbegin with a gracenote. If you usethe

rest strokefor the G-run and then walk down to the C

chord as show,you get a real nice classicbassline. In
measure4 we have a nice variation of the chromatic
walk up to D. This one is borrowedfrom the playing
of Del McCoury. This is a cool lick!
In measure6 and 7 of Example 23, you'll notice
that I've taken the forward and backwards G-run
(number l9) and placedthe backwardspart in front of
the forrvardspart. Notice that the first note of measure
6 is a half note,so don't rushby playing a quarternote
That is the last of our I, IV. V progressions
in the key
of G. Hopefully by working with the23 examplesthat I
you now feel confidentwith usingbass
runs and fill licks in a chord progressionthat moves
from G to C to D. And if you've doneyour homework,
you will also have practicedthe same,or similar,runs
and licks for I, IV, V progressions
in at leastthe keys
of C and D. Also, I hope that by going throughall of
theseexamplesyou have seenhow easy it is to start
rvith a few principles(walking up and walking down,
useof timing, useof slurs.useof reststrokes)and with
the addedknowledgeof a few scalesandarpeggiosyou
can createnearly an infinite number of bassruns and
fill licks. Once you have a fer,vexamplesunderyour
belt. the skv is the limit!

Gr C, D Rhyffurr - Exomple 22

a lt e rn t i n g



ke + l l


Flatpiclzing Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

G, C, D Rhyffurr - Exeimple23

Play through Exercises 21,
22, and 23 r,vith a metronome
focusing on timing and correct
pick strokes. Practiceat a slow tempo first and
makesurethatall of your notesareclean,especially
when executinga slur.

Now that you have worked with
23 examples,get togetherwith one
of your picking buddiesand try to
put what you have learnedto use.
If you have worked through these
examples,and done your homework,you should
find that you can easily mix and match different
runs and licks to come up with somethingnew.
Rememberthat in all of the exampleshere I've
overloadedthem with runs and fill licks just for the
purposeof you being able to learn as many things
aspossible.You rvill not necessarily
usethis many
runs in just eight bars of music. Sometimesyou
will just want to strumand play it simple. It will
all dependon the size and instrumentationof the

Creqtlng fhovernenf Whlte StayTng

wiflr Only One Chord
Earlier I statedthat one of the goals of a rhythm
player was to createmovementin a song by leading
the listener'sear to the next chord change. All of
the examplesthat we have worked with to this point
in the book have been progressionswhere the chord
changedevery two measures.However,in many of
the songsthat you are going to play the chordsdo not
changethat often. Therefore,in this sectionI am going
to give you someexamplesof how you can createan
interestingrhythm accompaniment,
and createa sense
of movementthat propelsthe songforward, when you
are stayingwith the samechord for more than a couple
of measures.The old-timeplayerswho playedbehind
banjosor fiddles,wheremastersof this technique.
Play through both of the G rhythm exampleson
the next page many times in a row. Basically we are
usingthe alternatingbasstiming,but insteadof always
alternatingbetweenthe root and the 5th note of the
scale,we are moving{he bassnote aroundby using
other scalenotes. More times than not we will use
notesin the scalethat are also in the chord, but as we
have seenin other examples,using the 6th note of the
scale(theE notein the key of G) alsoworks well. This

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Liclzs

G Rhylhrn - Example I

G Rhyfhtn - Excrmple 2

createsa senseof forward movementin the songeven

though you are not changingthe chord. The quarter
notebassrun at the end simply addsa bit of spiceand
extrainterestto the mix.
After you have become familiar with the G chord
rhythm examplesabove,try G Rhythm Example 3 on
thenextpage.All I've donehereis takenwhat is r,vritten
aboveas a basisand addedsomeeighthnoteruns to the
mix. There are dozensof different variationsthat you
could derive from what you have learned already in
this course.This is just one of many that you can use.
For example,take the first two measuresof Example
18 and expandthe quarternote bassline to half notes
by throwing a strumbetweeneachnote. As always,I
encourageyou to experimentand come up with new
waysof playing a G Rhythm. The bestway to do this
is just sit with your guitarand work up new ideas.
Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

Play through G Rhythm
Examples I through 3 with a

Play each of the G chord rhythms
presentedhereand seewhat kind of
embellishmentsyou can add. For
instance,play G RhythmExample2
andhammer-onthe third beatof measureI andthe
first beatof measure2. Experimentwith different
variationsbasedon someof the G measurebass
runs you alreadyknow.

G Rhythrn - Exomple 3

Onceyou havea feel for the G Rhythm Examples,

move on and try the threeC Rhythm Examplesshown
at the bottom of this pageand the next page. The first
two are similar to the first tr,voG Rhythm Examples.
Then in the third exampleI add in a bunch of eighth
note runs. While eighth note runs can soundbusyand thus you shouldonly use them when you are not
competing with anotherinstrumentalistthat is trying
to play fill licks-they are nice to use when you are
the only instrumentin the ensemblewho is providing
fill licks. I have also providedtheseeighth note fill
licks becauseoneof our goalsin this book is to provide
you with the basicskills that will help you developthe

ability to play lead guitar. If you becomecomfortable

with eighth note runs while playing rhythm, you can
easily use thesesameruns to fill in betweenmelody
notes when you start to learn how to play lead guitar.
So practicetheseruns over andover so that you gain an
intuitive familiarity rvith them.
When you are playing C Rhythm Exercise3, make
surethat you practicemoving from measureB back to
measureI while playingthroughthis exerciseover and
over. That way you will learn how to use the lick in
measure8 to full effect.

C R.hyflurr - Exomple I

Flatpiching Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

C R.hytfun - Exomple 2

C Rhyfhrn - Excmple 3

Flatpiching Essentials Volume 1: RhStthm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks


Play through C Rhythm
Examples I through 3 with a

Play each of the C chord rhythms
presentedhere and see 'whatkind
of embellishmentsyou can add.
Also work to find somevariations.A good idea
is to try and mix and match different licks from
each of the examplesto see how they might fit
tosetherin differentwavs.

D Rhyfhfrr - Excmple I

Now let's look at somebasslines and fill licks that

you might play againsta D chord. Again,the first two
examplesaresimilar to the first two that werepresented
for G and C, just transposed
to D. The third example
here has six measuresof D and then movesinto G for
the lasttr,vomeasures.I havealsoprovidedsomeextra
measuresthat you could use in placeof the chromatic
run in measure2. I r,vanted
to add the first lick because
this is the typical D chord versionof the G-run. You
canplay this as written,or you can usehammer-onson
both the 3rd and 4th beats and combine the hammeronswith reststrokeson thosebeats.A lot of the earlier
bluegrassplayers,like Jimmy Martin, usedthis type of
lick when playing againsta D chord and looking for
that G-run feel.
The secondlick is a variationof the first and I've
addedthis in orderto introduceyou to the dottedquarter
note. We will rvorkwith this timins moreasthis course

D Rhythrn - Example 2

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

D Rhythm - Exeimple 3

Substitutesfor Measure 2

SecondSubstituteWith RestStokes:

First Substitute:

SecondSubstituteWith AlternatingPick Technique:



progresses,so it is appropriateto take a look at it here.

A dotted quarter note gets the sametjme duration as
three eighth notes. If you look at the count on the
measureshown on the left you will seethat whereasa
quarternote would receivethe time duration"1 &", the
dottedquarternote receivesthe time duration" l & 2" .
This timing can be tricky if you've neverworked with
it. So get out your metronome,setit out a slow tempo
and work with this lick.
I've given you two picking options. The first (left)
is using alternatepicking and the second (above) is
executedwith all downstrokesin the rest stroke style.
Eachis a challengewith this lick, so practiceuntil you
get it right.

Flatpiching Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Rttns, and Fill Licks



Play through D Rhythm
Examples 1 through 3 with a
metronome. PracticeExample
3 over and over using the alternatemeasures.
Work with the second alternatemeasureusing
both alternatingpick directionand the rest stroke
until you feel comfortable with both styles of
picking and you feel comfortablewith the timing
of the dottedquarternote.

Play each of the D chord rhythms
presentedhere and see what kind
of embellishmentsyou can add.
Also work to find somevariations.
Again, a good idea is to try and mix and match
different licks from eachof the examplesto see
how they might fit together.
Also, you've now been introducedto over
20 variationsof the G-run. Seeif you can't find
somemore alternateD licks that aresimilarto the
first measure2 alternate.I'm surethat you can
find two or threeothersthat you mieht like.

In the last sectionI introducedyou to the conceptof

the dottedquarternote. In this section,on syncopation,
you are going to get the opportunity to practice the
dottedquarternotetiming quitea bit sothatyou solidify
this conceptin your mind and on your guitar.
Syncopatedrhythms are those that are, in some
way, unexpectedin that they deviatefrom the common
senseof strongbeatsand weak beats. In other words,
beatsare stressedin placesthat they normally are not
stressed.So far in this coursethe down beats(beats1
and 2) have been stressedthe most prominently,with
beats3 and 4 being the weakerbeats. When playing
eighthnote rhythm,beats1,2,3, and 4 arestressed
morethanthe "&" beats.When we syncopatea rhythm
we stressthose6'&'! beats,and using a dottedquarter
note is an excellentway to make those65&"beatspop
out and get noticed.
Example I belor,vshowsa chromaticrun that we
haveworkedwith in severalof our previousexamples.
It is shownin straightquarternotetiming. Playthrough
this progression,
which startswith the G chord,moves
to D, and then back to G. Get comfortablewith the
Example2 showsthe samerun, but I've alteredthe
timing. I slid the secondnote forward in tirne by an

Example 1 - Straight Quarter Note Time


Example 2 - Syncopation #1


FlatpicleingEssentialsVolume 1: Rhythm, BassRuns, and Fill Licks

Example 3 - Syncopation#2

Example 4 - Syncopation #3

Example 5 - Eighth Note Run

Example 6 - Half Note Bass Run


eighth note and I made it a dotted quarter note. Play

all rest strokeson this measurewith a specialemphasis
on that secondnote. Examples3 and 4 aboveshow the
samenote sequence,but I've moved the notes around
in time again using the dotted quarter note in different
places. In example 3 it moves to the third note and in
example 4 it moves to the 4th note. When working
with these examples,play all rest strokes with more

emphasis on the dotted quarter note than the other

notes. Practicewith your metronometo help you with
the timing.
Example 5 shows the same run, but compressed
to eighth note time, and then Example 6 spreadsthe
run out over two measuresusing the half note bassrun
timing. Measures2 and 3 in example six can be a little
tricky. Make surethat you notice and play the half note

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks


Taking lnventory

Play through all of the
syncopation examples paying
special attention to the timing.
The first syncopatedexample (Example 2) is
probably the most common as far as usage,
however, I'd like you to practice all of them in
order to get a feel for working with the dotted
quarternote timing. Work with the metronomeat
a varietyof tempos.

After you have worked through all
of the examplesin the syncopation
section,look at the tab shownat the
bottom of his page. The example
showsa chromaticrun that we have workedwith
previously.Seeif you can takethis run and insert
dotted quarternotes as you did on the last two
pages.Playthe exampleas is, with quarternotes.
Then chansethe first note to an eighth note and
the secondnote to a dotted quarternote and work
rvith that variation. Then changethe timing as we
did in examples3,4, and 5 on the previouspage.
After you've worked to changethe run shown
below by adding a dotted quarternote timing in
variousplaces,go back throughsomeof the I, IV,
V progressionin thekey of G thatyou haveworked
with previouslyin this book and see where you
might insertsomesyncopated
timing. Experiment
and seeif you can come up with somenew runs
that soundgood to your ear. Anywhere you see
two quarternotes in a row, changethe first to an
eighthnoteand the secondto a dottedquarternote
and seehow it sounds.

Thus far in this book you've been introducedto

a variety of bassruns and fill licks that utilize eighth
notes, quarter notes, dotted quarter notes, and half
notes. You've been shown how to build those runs
using scalesand arpeggiosas road maps and you've
learnedhor,vto embellishand ornamentthoseruns with
the use of slursand rest strokes. If you've done your
homework,you've learnedhow to play thoseruns and
licks in a varietyof keys.
Havingpracticedeverythingthatthis book hasshown
you so far, you should feel comfortableand confident
with taking all of these elements and mixing and
matchingthem in a variety of ways in orderto comeup
with your own bassruns and filI licks. The variations
that you can createare literally endless.All you have
to do is take what you've beenshownand thenchange
aroundthe note duration,or the note selection,or the
slur,and you havesomethingthat is all your own.
From here,in order to learn how to use what you
havelearnedit is simply goingto takea lot of practice.
In orderto implementwhat you've learnedin a jam. all
of these variationsand various elementsare going to
haveto becomesecondnatureto you. If you practice
them enough,thesevariousruns and licks will come
out of your subconsciousas you are jamming with
other people. A good idea is to get togetherwith some
friends who love to play lead on their instrument,or
sing, and back them up. As you are backingthem up,
don't be afraid to experimentand try different things.
Take note of what soundsgood to you and get some
feedbackfrom your picking partner. If you don't have
a picking buddy,thenput on someCDs andplay along
with them. Find a songthat you know that is on a CD
and play along with the band over and over again and
try new thingseverytime.

Example to work wlfh lor Syncopafion Homewor{r

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

The BluegreissG Chord & Atlenqte$trums

Thus far in all of our examplesI have focusedthe
instructionon basslines and fill licks. My purposefor
this is rooted in preparingyou for the next volume of
the coursewhere we will be looking at moving from
rhythm to playing lead. My feeling is that if you have
a lot of experiencewith bassruns and rhythm fill licks,
it is very easyfor you to move on to playing leadguitar
using the Carter style as a stepping stone. The one
variable on playing rhythm that I have not addressed
much at all is how to vary the strum.
Before I provide you with examples of rhythm
styles from some of the famous players in old time
and bluegrassmusic,I will first briefly introduceyou
to some alternate strumming possibilities. While
there are dozensof different strummingcombinations
and variationsthat you might come up with, I have
nine popularstrumsthatyou could chooseto
use in additionto the two that you've alreadyworked
with in this book.

G Chord Variations
Before we get to the strum variationsthough,I want
to also show you a differentway to play your G chord.
Take a look at the diagramson the right. The first is
the standardG chord that you havebeen r,vorkingwith
in this course. The secondis sometimesreferred to
as the "bluegrassG chord" becauseit has a mellower
or "lonely" sound and is popular amoung bluegrass
players. Strum eachof the two chordsand seeif you
can recognrzea difference.The X at the bottom of the
A string in the seconddiagramindicatesthat you mute
that string with the meatypart of your middle finger so
that it doesnot makea sound.
Technicallythe differenceis that in the "bluegrassG"
we have eliminatedall of the B notes. A major chord
is made up of the root. 3rd, and 5th notesof the scale.
In the standardG chord all of thosenotes are present.
In the "bluegrassG", we've eliminatedthe 3rd (B note)
and thus the chord is only madeup of the root note (G)
and the 5th note (D). This gives a mellower soundto
the chord, which is desirablein some songs. If you
are playing a happy song,you'd want to choosethe
standardG chord,however,a lonely,mellow songmay
soundbetter with the "bluegrassG." Experimentand
seewhich one you like bestin a given situation.In the
examplesthat follow in this book you will find both of
theseG chordshapesbeingused.



Steinderrd G

3'Bluegrers O')

Alletnqle Sfrums
Number 1 - You've seenboth of thesestrumsbefore,
however,whatI did herethat is differentwasto combine
the low G note (root) and the D note (5th) in an eighth
notetiming patternon beat3 of measure1. Adding this
patternhelps give a fuller and more complex soundto
the rhythm.
Number 2 - This oneis similarto NumberI , but instead
of playing low G then D on beat 3 of measure1, you
play the openstring D notefollowed by the openstring
G note.
Number 3 - This variationcombinesthe elementsof
Number I and Number 2 in the samemeasure.This
providesan evenfuller soundto the rhythm. You might
chooseto threw in this kind of rhythm to fill the space
rvhen there is a vocal pause at the end of a singing
Number 4 - Here we have a syncopatedrhythm using
the dottedquarternote. This is a greatstrumpatternto
usewhen you want to emphasizethe secondbeatof the
measure.Play the dottedquarternote strum with extra
emphasis. This one also fits r,vellrvhenthe vocalist
addsemphasisto a word on the samebeat.
Number 5 - Here I've addeda strum acrossthe lor,v
notesof the chord insteadof just playinga singlebass
note (which you can do at any time for effect) andthen
I've alteredthe timing of the strumsthat follor,v. Pay
attentionto your strum direction here (see direction

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks


Alternste Sfrum Pstlerns







Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

Number 6 - AlternateStrum PatternNumber 6 is very

similar to Number 3, however,we begin the measure
with a grace note slide into the G note on the low E
string, and I have not included the eighth note figure
on the third beat. You could add it in there,or not, as
you desire.

dynamics in your playing is to "lay back" or have a

softer volume when the singer is singing or when
anotherinstrumentis soloing. Then when there is
gap,or a hole to filI, in the vocal line or the soloist's
you "punch it," and increaseyour volume.
Outside of that generalrule of thumb, the use of
dynamicsis very subjectiveand is a matterof feel that
Numbers 7 through 9 - These three patterns are is basedon your experiencelevel and the messageyou
indicative of a rhythm style that rvas introduced to aretrying to communicatewith your music. You want
the bluegrassworld by Jimmy Martin. BeforeJimmy to learn when it is appropriateto really accenta bass
joined Bill Monroe's band, many of Monroe's guitar line, or alternatively,when it might be more effective
playersplayed r,vitha thumb pick (LesterFlatt, Carter to lower the bassnotesin volume and really punchthe
Stanley,Edd Mayfield to name a few) and so their strumsin a percussivemanner.The bestthing to do is
rhythm stylehad heavydownstrokebassruns. Jimmy be ar,vare
of your dynamicsand listen to other players.
Martin's addeda differentdynamic. Banjo playerBill The worst thing to do is be that guy at the jam session
EmersonexplainedMartin's style by saying,"Jimmy that plays at the samevolume all the time and doesn't
was a whole different style of guitar player than know how to lay back and allow the otherplayers,or
LesterFlatt who was a thumb pick finger pick type of singers',
to be heard.
Tim Stafford is knorvn as one of the most tasteful
a player.Jimmy was a flatpick player.Jimmy Martin
had a drive and a tone on his guitar that no other guitar playersin bluegrassand Tim alwaysrecommendsthat
canpushyou andmakeyou you "play to the song." What that meansis that you
go wherehe wantsyou to go with his guitar."Jimmy useall of the tools in your rhythmic bagsof tricks in a
Martin referredto his styleof playingrhythm guitaras way that helpssupportthe singerand othermusicians
"rumble rhythm." It consistsof very full down stroke communicatethe messageand meaningof the song.
andupstrokestrumsas shownin Examples7,8, and9. Skillful use of dynamics helps communicatethe
Jimmy masterfully interspersedthese full strumming meaningand emotionof a songin a big way.
measureswith bass notes and runs, and provided a
soundthat helped"put the gravelin everychug hole," LonesomeRoad Blues Example
as he usedto say.His masterfulplacementof runs and
the dynamicshe used to appropriatelyprovide power
On the next page I have put togetheran example
and drive when neededearnedhim the respectof all rhythm progressionthat might be usedto supportthe
song"LonesomeRoadBlues."This examplemakesuse
bluegrass of a few of the alternatestrum patternsthat are shown
I've intervieweda numberof contemporary
rhythm guitar players
utilize this type of rhythm on the previouspage. Play through this progression
techniqueand they say that they like to use this style severaltimes until you feel comfortablewith all of the
rhythmin a full bluegrassbandsettingbecausewith the techniquesthat are used. Try to get a feel for where
bassplaying the bassline and the mandolinproviding you might soften the volume and r,vhereit might be
a solid off beat "chunk", this style rhythm fills in the appropriate
to increasethe volume. It might be helpful
gapsand helpsto providea nice
of sound"when to get togetherwith a picking partnerand have he or
it is needed.
shesing the tune and play it on their instrumentso that
you can practiceyour dynamicsand fit the increases
A Word About Dvnamics
and decreasesin emphasisand volume in accordance
r,viththe vocalist'sdeliveryof the lyrics. Also try to use
In order to make your rhythm playing have more
someof the other strum alternatives.
textureand interest,one otherelementthat you should
learnto takeadvantage
of is the useof variablevolume,
or dynamics. I've discussedplaying the rest stroke
and the dotted quarternoteswith emphasis,meaning
playing thosenotes,or strums,with more pop, punch,
and volume. The seneralrule of thumb when using
Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Boss Runs, and Fill Licks


"lonesotne Rood Bluestt uslng Alternstegfrum p,,lerns


I' m


dorvn that













Flatpickin'g Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass
Runs, and Fitt Licles

Peirt llro: Exclmples lsom the

Flortplckl ng Gu Ttsr Mei golzlne Archlves
Working with the Examples

Learning How to Learn

Thus far in this book I have introducedyou to the

majority of rhythm techniquesthat are required to
fulfill all of the basicrhythm guitaristroles in a variety
of settings. There are certainlymany other techniques
that rhythm guitaristsemploy,however,if you can get
a graspof what hasbeenprovidedhere in this book so
f-ar,you will certainlybe able to provide effectiveand
interestingrhythm accompaniment.
In order to gain more experiencewith the techniques
that you have alreadylearned,and to add more runs
and licks to your rhythm repertoire,the remainderof
this book will presenta numberof examplesthat I've
taken from the Flatpicking Guitar Magazinearchives.
Theseexamplescome directlyfrom the playing styles
of many of the famous players that I mentionedin
the first sectionof this book. Work through all of the
examplesmany,many timeswhile usinga metronome.
You will seesomeof the exactruns, licks, and strums
that you've alreadypracticed. You will also seeruns
and licks that are new to you, and you will definitely
seenew waysto combineall of the licks andruns,both
nervand old.
I will not analyze manyof thesetranscriptionsfor you .
I will make a specificcommenthere or there about a
lick or run thatI like, or mentionr,vhyI choseto include
a certainexample.Beyondthat,I rvill leaveit up to you
to take a good look at eachmeasurein order to figure
out why each run and lick works in the place where
the arlist used it. Analysis leadsto understanding.
rccommend that after you've played through each
example,you take sometime to look at eachfill lick
or bassrun. As you've seenin our previousexamples,
you cantakeonebassrun or lick thatyou like, isolateit.,
practiceit, thenmove it to anotherkey,play it forwards
andbackwards,or combineit with otherlicks or runsin
variousways in order to come up with somethingthat
is all your own.
I have organizedtheseexamplesin sucha way that
the easiest,or mostapproachable
and then they get progressivelymore difficult. If you
can play through David Grier's fiddle back up at the
endof this chapter,thenconsideryourselfa "graduate"
of this book!

The greatflatpicking guitar player Dan Crary likes

to say that the best way to understandanything is to
learn how to teachit to yourself. And he is right! If
you can absorbthe rudimentsof any discipline,look at
examplesof how othershave utilized thoseelements,
and then move forward to createnew ways to employ
those elementsbased on your o\,vnexperimentation
and ideas,you havediscoveredthe processof teaching
yourself.The key to this processis takingwhat you've
learnedfrom others and then vary it, change it, and
expandit beyond what you have been taught so that
you cancreateyour uniquestyle.
Studieshave shown that one of the common
of all peoplewith "talent" is that they
all are driven to continuouslychallengethemselvesto
explore,experiment,and grow beyondwhat they have
beentaughtor shown. They havean inherentcuriosity
that compelsthem to take what they havebeentaught
and think aboutit in new and creativeways. They are
alwaysasking,"What if I did this?" and then they try
to do it! That kind of curiosityand explorationis what
is meantby "teachingyourself." So I encourageyou
to analyzeeverythingthat you are shown in this book
andthentakeit all "to the nextlevel" throuehvour own
creativityand exploration.
In the firstpartof this book I havegivenyou all of the
rudiments. In the next part you will work with many
examples.Although I do not mentionanythingabout
"homelvork" in the next section,I do encourageyou
to continuewith your "homework"by thinking of new
ways to play all of the progressions
that are presented
in the next section. After you have played through
what is written, experimentand substitutesome of
the measuresas they are rvritten r.vithother ideasyou
have learned,or ideas that you have discoveredon
your own. The more you work to developnew ideas,
the more comfortableyou will becomewith all of the
rhythm concepts.You will alr,vays
havean easiertime
rememberingand executing runs and licks that you
havecreatedthan you will rememberingand executing
thosethat you havememorizedfrom someoneelse.
Good luck and havefun with all of theseexamples!

Flatpicki,ng Essentials Volu.me 1: Rhythm, Boss Runs, and Fill Licks


"Rolllng In lty Sweef Bcbyts Armstt ln tlteSfyle of Gha tl?elUlonroe

Intro mandolinsolcr


by-Dix Bruce

C h o ru s :


Lay around

Flatpiching Esserttials Volume 1: Rh3,thm,

Bass Runs, and Filt Liclts

eRofflng In ty 9weef Bcbyts Arms" ln dre $tyle of Ghodle tonroe (con'l)


2nd mandol i nsol o:


Flatpiclting Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

'.Blue Eyestt Rhyfhm ln the

style of R,oy Honrey
Transcribed by Dix Bruce




bout my

blue eyes,


Notes: Do you recognizethe bassrun sequencethat

you practicedback in Example 14 of the I, IV, V

Flatpickirzg Essentials volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, ancl Fitt Licks

Rhytlrm in the StVle of Edd lheryfleld I

Transcribed by Joe Carr

To Solo

Notes: In order to play the F# note on the lorv E string

on the third beat of measure3 (the D chord), you can
wrap your left thumb aroundthe top of the neck to fret
that note.
I love the quarternote bassrun motion that Edd uses
startingin measure4 andendinsat measure6.

Ftatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Lichs


Key of G Rhyfhm ln the Style of Jlmmy ftleirfln

Transcribed bv Joe Carr

Notes: This one can be a challenge.Take it slow and

work throughthe variousstrumpatterns.Therearea lot
of G-runshereand a coupleof the D chord"G-runs."
Also, you just gotta love that eighth note lick in
measurel2 !


Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhyth.m, Bass Runs, and Fill Li.cks

"Nlne Pound Hclmmer," 7n the Style of Brad Delvls (Key of G)

Arranged by Brad Davis



tt ll

Notes: I like that walk to D in measure5. And check

out that great G-run in measureJ ! Also' pay close
attention to the timing of the chromatic r,valkup in

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks


'3Nlne Pound Homm er)' ?n the Style of Brcrd Dovls (Key of C)

Arranged by Brad Davis

Notes: This is the first opportunityto seea few licks In measure15 you may noticethat this is the "G-run"
for the F chord,otherthanwhat you've comeup with in lick transposed
to C.
homework. Thereis someintricatepicking in measure
5, take your time with that. I like the move from G to
C in measure6 and the move from F to C in measure
12. Thesewill be nice additionsto your baq of tricks!

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

Key of C Rhyflrm ln the Style ol Eolil Scruggs

Transcribed bv Dix Bruce

Note: This wasa backup affangement

thatEarl Scruggs
played to the song "Jimmie Brown the Ner,vsboy."I
addedthe transcriptionto this book mainly due to the
verycool bassline that Earl usedin measures
7 through

Flatpicking EssentialsVolume 1: Rlrythm, BassRuns, and Fitt Li.cks


'oJennesseeWcAonerrt Rhythm In lhe $fle of Ghcdes Sawtclle


by Joe Carr































+ J j+

















lrJ | |























21 c











d 1






I | *l























NIotes: I love this whole arransement.It is very fun t o p l a y l












Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

Rhytlrm ln the Style of Tom Pcley

Transcribed bv Dix Bruce

Frankie and Johnny were sweethearts;

p l e a d- e d ,
Frankie she begged and

Now, oh, my honey,

leave her;


they had a quarrel one

"My love Johnny, please

said he was going

please don't go

Flatpiching Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Boss Runs, and Fill Licks

Rhythm ln the Sfyle of Tom Pcley (con'l)

winterwindsbe-ginto blow,the groundis covered up, And whenyou

thinkof the way you're gonna



back, your

to solo or next verse

Notes: This one is full of "classic"bassruns. Here

you alsohaveanotheropportunityto pick up someF
chordruns.The movefrom the D to E note on beats
3 and4 of measure4 followed by that low F note in
measure5 is a nice surprisingmove. You expectthe
runto continueto moveup thescale(aswasthepattern
in thepick up notesandtherun in measure2), but then

it dropsan octavedownfrom thehigherF note(on the

D string)thatyou expectto hear.Verycool!
Also, in this transcriptionyou will encounter214
timing for the first time (measures
20 and29). ln 214
time you have2 quarternotesper measure.Listento
theCD to get a feel for thetiming.

Fhtpiching EssentialsVolum.e1: Rhythm, Bass Runs,and Fill Lichs

33Sold7er'sJoy" R.hyflrm in the Style of Rlley Puckel4 (Key of C)

Arranged by Brad Davis






Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

"soldler's toy" Rhyftrm in lhe Etyle of Rlley Puckeff (key of D)

Arranged by Brad Davis

f l







Flatpiching Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licles

3'Soldler's Joy" Rhythm ln the Sfyle of Rlley Puckefl (key of A)

Arranged by Brad Davis

t lt l
Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks


"lfqye cr Feastllece Tonlghltt in lhe Sfyle of Doc Werfson

Transcribed bv Joe Carr

Joe Carr's Notes: In 1993, SmithsonianFolkways

releaseda CD of live duetsfeaturingDoc andbluegrass
innovator Bill Monroe. The recordingswere made
between1963and 1980 and show off both musicians
in an informal duet settingthat really showcasestheir
unique talents.We also get a senseof the incredible
audienceresponseDoc's flatpickedsolos receivedin
the early days of this style. The duet setting allows
eachmusiciana freedomand spontaneitythat is really
"Have a FeastHereTonight"("Rabbitin a Log") was
recordedin 1964in Boston.Both Bill and Doc seem
to be having a good time with this Monroe Brothers
favorite.Behindthe first mandolinsolo, Doc plays an
activebassline which servesas a countermelody to

Monroe'slead.This techniquewould be too busy in a

full band,but it works greatin the duet format. Notice
the useof the secondfret F# note on the sixth string of
the D chord (measurel2). Thumb-wrappersknor,vthis
chordwell, althoughit canbe played"over the top."

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

"Molly Put the l(ettle On" R.hythm ln the Etyle of Riley Pvckett

by Joe Carr

Notes: You will recognizethe last eight measures the samerunstransposedto C. The first threemeasures
of this arrangementfrom Example lJ rn the I, IV, V (theguitarintro) outlinethe basicmelodyto the song.
in G example. Theseeight measuresare
Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fitt Licks

t at

Rhyfhm ln the Stvle of Edd frfaytield 2 (Kev of G)


= Strum

Notes: This affangementprovidesa lot of sreateighth

note filler licks. Note the timins in measure14. The

strum on beat2 getsa dottedquarternote time value.

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

Rhyfhm ln the StVle of Edd fhcryfleld 3 (Key of A)

Notes:Right offthe bat,in measure

2, you aregoingto Pay closeattentionto that one. Also work to get the
encountera run with tricky dottedquarternotetiming. timing right with the strumsin measures
4,8 and 16.
Flatpiching Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, BassRuns, and Fill Lichs


Rhyfhm ln the Style ol Peter Rowan (Key of A)


by Joe Car

Notes: This arrangementincludes a lot of chromatic

runs on both the lorv E string and the A strin,v. Note
how thoseruns-combined with the runs in measures
8 , 14, and 15 - help tie everything together.


Flatpiching Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

Rhylhm ln lhe SlVle of Cha lles Sawlelle (Key of E)

Transcribed bv Joe Carr



' ur t










































itJqJ j







+t 1fr1






Chorus A










*\c +
-+ -t










Notes:I like this one from CharlesSar,vtelle

includessomegreatbluesyandrock androll stylelicks
in the key of E.
Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and FiIl Licks


Rhyflrm ln lhe EtVle of CherdesSerwlelle (co n'tl



r J




J lJtt








+qJJ t








Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rh3tthm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

"Rogflrne Annlett Rhylhm ln the Stvle of Deivild Gfiet

Notes by Joe Carr:

OK. I'll admit it. I'm a big fan of David
Grier's album Hootenanrr_r,.
This self-produced album featuresGrier on _{uitarrvith
g u e st mus ic iansT im O ' Bri e n o n v o c a l s
and mandolin and Dirk Powell on fiddle.
banjo.andbass.The album hasan intimate
homey feel that I find very attractive.Also.
lvith only three instrumentsplaying most
of the time, the guitar is easyto hear. The
song selectionand format is probablybest
describedas "new old-timey." I can only
aqreervith Norman Blake's opinion from
the liner notes: "From rvhat I have seen
and heardover the last fervyears.I believe
David to be one of the most important,quitaristson the acousticmusicscenetoday."
Before this article startsto sound like a

record revierv,let's go to the transcription

for "RagtimeAnnie."
The tunebeeinsrvith fiddle leadwith guitar backup. While way too busy for a bluegrassbandsetting.the bass-runfrlled_uuitar
rhythm is perfectfor the duo setting.David
playsthis backupslightlymuted.usingthe
heelof his right handsli-ehtlycontactingthe
just at the point rvherethey leavethe
bridge. This nice percussiveeffect would
likely be lost in a bandsettin_s.
In measures
I -3. the"C" noteis playedon the "and" after
beatfour and rin-usthrough beatone of the
nextmeasure.The tie indicatesthatthenote
is allowedto ring and is not pickedagain.
Continuepicking as normal on the "and"
after the " l ." This anticipationcreatesan



In measures
5-7,David usestheopen4th
string "D" note as a "spacer"betweenthe
melodynotesof the licks. Placeemphasis
on the frettednotesand play the open "D"
rvith less volume. The lick coveringthe
"F" chord in measure20 showshorv supple
David's right handreally is. Use the third
finger to slide from "G" to "A" in measure
28 and keep the first finser at the third fret
until it hasplayedthe "G" at the be_einning
of measure30. Use the open "A" strin-[to
shift backto openposition.so that the third
finger plays the third note of the measure.
"C." The last two measuresplay quickly
throughDm7. G7. and C arpegg_eios.

(Fiddte Back-up)

Flatpicking Essentialsvolume 1: Rhythm, BassRuns, and Fitt Lichs

Arranged by David Grier

Transcribed by Joe Carr


Ragtime Annie

(Fiddle Back-up-con,t)

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1:

Ehythm., BassRuns, anct Filt Licks

The Roed Ahecrd

I hopethat you haveenjoyedworking throughall of
the examplesin this sectionof the book. If you work
to combine what is presentedin this sectionwith the
knowledgeand skill that you achievedin working with
theexamplesin thefirst sectionof thisbook,you should
have a very good understandingof how to build and
apply bassruns and fill licks to your rhythmplaying.
By now you shouldhave the knowledgeand skill
requiredto createyour own bassruns and rhythm fill
licks. If you utilize the techniquesof changingthe
or arpeggionotes,varying the strum patterns,varying
the G-runs,and utilizing dynamics,you can createan
endlessnumber of your own rhythm arrangements.
Work with it, practiceit, experimentwith it. and you
can becomethe person that everyoneloves to pick
As statedpreviously,helpingto make you a better
rhythm player was only one goal of this book. The
secondgoal was to prepareyou to begin playing lead
guitar in the style of Maybelle Carter,and beyond.
In the secondvolume of this series,you rvill learn to
turn your knowledgeof bassruns into the formationof
melody lines on the bassstrings. If you have worked
diligentlywith the materialin this book,you shouldbe

able to easily transitionto playing and arrangingyour

own lead solosto vocal sonssas outlinedin the next
In addition to teachingyou how to play solos in
the Carter Style, the next volume lvill also give you
practicehearinga melody and finding it on your guitar
and then embellishingthat melody with a numberof
techniques,including: chordal strums,double stops,
fi11licks, neighboringnotes,crosspicking,
tremolo,andmore. By the end of the next volumeyou
will be able to take any melody that you can hum, find
that melody on your guitar, and then createmore than
one interestingsolo to that song.
If you have any questionsabout any of the material
in this book, pleasefeel free to contactme and I will
do my bestto answeryour question.If I don't know
that answer,I'll find someonewho doesand get back
with you. You can email me here:dan@flatpick.com.
in the subjectline.
Pleaseput "FlatpickingE,ssentials"
When you feel like you have a good graspof the
materialthat I've presentedin this book, thengive us a
call at 800-413-8296to orderVolume2. Or download
I'll see you
Volume 2 at rvr,vw.flatpickdigital.com.

Flatpiclzing Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks


Appendlx l: R.eeidlngTefilslrultse
book Zfte
This appendixon ReadingTablaturewaswrittenby BryanKimseyfor the High View Publications
BluegrassGuitarStyleof CharlesSawtelle.

by Bryan Kimsey
If you play a bluegrassinstrument you will sooneror
later run acrosstablature (tab for short). Tab is an extremely usefultool that complements,while drawing some
important featuresfrom, standardmusic notation. Tab
isn't difficult to use,although there is a bit of a learning
curve (aswith most things!),and onceyou havethe basics
down it can open up a whole world of learningtools. Tab
has one great feature over standard music notation and
that is that it can show you where to put your fingers.
Standardnotation onlv showsthe note and the fingering
is pretty much left up to you. This can be fine for flddle
tunes becauseit lets you developyour own voicingsand
positions,but if you're trying to learn a CharlesSawtelle
solo note-for-note,it helps tremendously- and may even
be vital - to know where Charlesputs his fingers.
The easiestway to learn tab is to dive right in, so let's
tear apartan exampleof CharlesSawtelle's"SugarfootRag."
As with many things,learningmusicis a caseof "you can't
learn it until you know it," meaning that sometimesone
thing doesn'tmake senseuntil vou know a secondthing,
but that secondthing doesn'tmake senseuntil you know
about the first thing, and then...well,you get the picture.
I'r'e indicated points of interest on the tab with small
circlednumbersand theseare explainedbelow:
1. Capo position. Tellsyou where to slapyour capo if you
want to play with the record.You'll still play the chord
shapesindicatedin (11),but the actual pitch will be differ ent( s ee( 6) f or m o re o n th i s ).

2. This is a measurenumber. This is the flrst measure,so

it getsnumber 1- look at the line below and you'll see"6."
Measurenumbers are great for referencingsections. If I
askyou to look at measure16, you can find it quickly and
accurately.Measuresare discussedin (13).
3. Standardmusicalnotation. The top 5 linesarestandard
musical notation that can be read by anyone who reads
the stuff. For pure tab reading,you can mostly ignore the
standardmusic, although the more you know about it, the
better off you'll be.
4. Tab. The bottom 6 lines are the guitar tablature. Tab
tells you where and when to put your fingers, but mav
not giveyou asclearan idea of the musicasdoesstandard
notation, one reasonwh.vboth are usuallvincluded.
5. Clef. This tells vou that the standardmusic notation
usesthe G-clef,which is standardfor most of the music
you'll be dealingwith. Other instrumentssuchasa doublebass("doghouse"to bluegrassfans!)use a different clef.
Technically, the notes shown here are actually written
an octaveup from their actual pitch. This is a standard
practicewith guitar notes and shouldn't affectyou unless
you and a violin playerget into an argumentabout which
'A' note to play.
6. Key signature.More standardnotation stuff that doesn't
affect the tab, but does help your understandingof the

Sugarfoot Kag


Arrangement Charles Sawtelle

Transcribed by Adam Cranger



Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythrn, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

piece. The single # says that this tune is in the key of G

(more on this later!) since the G-scale has only a single
sharped note and all the others are natural. (The G scale
goes:G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G). Any good music theorybook
will have a list of key signatures if you're interested in
pursuing this. The easiestway to identify the key of 99o/o
of bluegrasstunes is to look at the last note - the tune will
nearly always end on the key of the song.
Now, about that "more later;" in this example, the song
is written as if it were in the key of G. When actually playing the tune, you put a capo on the second fret, thus raising
the pitch and the key to A. This presents a dilemma to
peopie who write out tab: do you put the standard music
in the actual pitch, or do you put it in the relative pitch?
In other words, do you write it out in A, which is where
the actual notes are, or do you write it out of G which is
what the guitarist plays it out of? A mandolin or fiddle
playing sans capo would play in A, but a capo-ed guitarist
would play out of G-position. Most of the time, you will
seeit as it is here, with the notes representing the relative
position. Again, none of this affects the tab itself, but be
aware that if you hand the tab for "Sugarfoot Rag" to your
flddle player, thev're going to play it in 'G.' You'll either
have to ask them to transposeit to 'A'or you'll have to take
your capo off. Since other fiddle players will likely play it
in 'A', you'd better ask your fiddler to transpose.
7. This indicates the amount of time each note gets. The
bottom number tells you which note gets 1 beat, and the
top number tells you how many beats per measure there
are. '414'says a quarter note gets l beat and there's 4
beats per measure. If you count the number of groups of
notes in the Znd measure,you'll seethat, indeed, there are
4 groups of notes. Each group is made up of eighth notes;
two eighth notes = 1 quarter note, and 4 quarter notes =
1 whole measure. The vast majoritv of bluegrassmusic is
in either 414or 3/4 time. Other music, particularly lrish,
u se so t her t im es s uc h a s 6 l B ,9 l B , o r 5 1 4 .
One point of confusion is between 214 and 414. in
practice, these two are the same. The only difference is
how they're written. You can say " 1-2-3-4" or you can say
" 7-and-2-and" and as long as they take the same amount of
time to say,they mean the same thing. Bluegrassrhythm
guitar typically usesa bassnote-strum, with the bassnote
corresponding with the bass fiddle's note and the strum
corresponding with the mandoiin chop. A measure of 414
time would call the 1st bassnote beat 1, the 1st strum beat
2, the Znd bassnote beat 3, and the 2nd strum beat 4. A
measure of 214 time would call the 1st bassnote beat 1,
th e 1s t s t r um ' and' , th e 2 n d b a s sn o te b e a t2 , a n d the 2nd
strum 'and.' Instead of seeing 4 groups of 2 eighth notes
in measure 2, you'd see2 groups of 4 eight notes. There's
stiil 8 notes total in each group, they're just grouped differently. Don't let it confuse you! It doesn't make any
difference in how you play the tune, but vou just don't
want to be playing rhythm twice as fast (or half as slow)
as you're supposed to be doing.

8. These are rests - places where no notes are played and

where silence reigns. The flrst one is a half note rest and
the second is a quarter note rest. The two pickup eight
notes take up a quarter's worth of time, so now we've got
a half, and a quarter, and another quarter for a whole
measure. You DO know that music and mathematics are
closely related, don't you?
9. Pickup notes. Otherwise known as lead-in notes, kickoff, or intro. These notes get the tune started. Take a look
at the end of measure 5 and you'll see these same notes
leading back to a repeat of the tune.
10. Coda. The double bar with 2 dots means "repeat between the two areas." You will notice another double bar
with 2 dots at the end of measure 5; play the 4 measures
between these two areas twice and then go to the next
section. This first section is usually called an " A" part in
fiddle tune terminology while the second section is called
the "B" part. Hence, when you hear a fiddle tune referred
to a being of AABB format, it means that vou repeat the
A part twice, then the B part twice. Some tunes have an
AABA structure. Don't get hung up on this, just keep it in
mind. Categorizing your tunes may help you memorrze
11. Chords. The letters on top of the standard notation
indicate which chords shouid be played over the tune. As
we discussedearlier,414 time counts the guitar's bassnote
as 1 beat and the strum as another, so a single measure
here will have 2 bassnote-strum sequences.
1.2. And flnally, we have TAB! The top line of the tab represents the high E string while the lower line is the low
E (easy'to remember: high = high and low = low). The
numbers simply tell you where to put your fingers - in this
case,the first note is open ("0"), so you don't have to put
your finger anywhere. The second note calls for the 2nd
fret to be fretted. The third note asksfor the 3rd fret (it's
not alwaysthis easy...),and so on. Pretty soon you're going
to have to stretch for the Sth fret and this may cause you
problems. If you started the serieswith, say,your middle
finger you're going to have to jump to grab that 5th fret.
This leads to the question "How do I know which finger
to use?". In most cases,a little trial and error will point
out the most useful fingerings. In some cases,you'll see
small numbers above the tab - these indicate which finger
you should use for the passage.Most of the time, though,
the fingerings are obvious enough that additional guides
would just clutter up the page. Eventually, you'll learn to
look ahead and seewhat the high note is and experience
will help you decide the fingerings. In any case,remember,
you've got 4 useful flngers- use them all!
13. A measurel i ne. A l so cal l ed a' bar.' Indicat est he end
of a measure. Sometimes the two terms are interchanged
"Play 4 bars of 'Sugarfoot', Sam" means the same thing
as "Play 4 measuresof 'Sugarfoot', Sam," except that the
former might sound more sophisticated. Maybe?

Flatpiclzing Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bcss Runs, and Fill Licks


14. Natural. In the key of G, the F should be a F#. Sugarfoot Rag, however, calls for a "flat 7th" and thus the F
in this case is an F-natural, not an F-sharp. This is fairly
typical in bluegrass tunes and is responsible for much of
their bluesy sound.
15. Slide. The symbol 'S'indicates a slide, 'H' a hammeron, 'P' a pull-off, and 'B' a bend. In this case,you would
fret and pick the 2nd string at the 1st fret and then slide
the note up to the same string, 3rd fret. These techniques
are called "slurs" and also give a bluesy sound. They can
be fairly readily interchanged, too. If you're more comfortable doing a hammer-on instead of a slide, then by all
means, do that.
16. This is a casewhere tabiature can indicate a fingering.
The standard notation shows an 'E'note, and the open E
string is shown in the tab at this point. However, the Znd
string fretted at the 5th fret would also produce an E note
and might be easier to flnger, although it will produce a
slightly different sound. Fingering the E note down-board
of and succeedingthe D note effectively kills the D note,
whereasif you played the E on an open string, the D could
continue ringing. You'll have to listen to the song and
seewhich you prefer. If you didn't have tab, though, this
fingering might not be apparent to you.

We will now address some tablature symbology that is

not as common as those we have discussed above. However, you will seeall of these symbols in this book, so they
are worth knowing.
1. Sixteenth notes: these receive half the time value of
eighth notes.

2. Whole note: This gets twice the time of a half note. In

4 l 4 time, count "one-two-three-four".

1 7 . Fir s t ending. T h i s s m a l l ' 1 .' i n d i c a te s th a t y o u shoul d

play this measure the first time through, and the measure
under the'2.'the second time through. The second version
will typically lead you to the B-part of the tune, whereas
the first version typically echoes the pickup notes.
18. Another rest. In this case,it indicates that you should
kill the previous notes and not let them ring.
19. Two eighth notes. These get the same time value as
(1 6 ). I n 414 s ay " on e -a n d ."
20. A quarter note. This gets the same time value as (15).
In 414, say "one", or say "one-and" and hold the note for
both words.

3. Triplet: Eighth note triplets receive the same time value

as two eighth notes. Where the latter might be said "oneand", the triplet fits the phrase "one-da-and". Another way
is to think "tri-pu-let" in the same time as "one-and". In
either case,you have to sneak the extra note in. An easy
way to play triplets is to keep the same down-up, downup pick direction you'd use for eighth notes and either
hammer-on or pull-off the second note of the triplet. This
may help you keep a consistent pick direction.

2I. A half note. This note gets twice the time value as (20).
In 414 say "one-two" and hold the note for both words.



Flatpiching Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

x = false harmonic

4. Dotted note: increasesthe timing of the dotted note by

half. If the dotted note is a quarter note, for instance, and
a quarter note gets 1 beat, then a dotted quarter note gets
one and a half beats. This could also have been written
with a tied note from the quarter note to the 1st eighth
note in the next phrase, but tied notes are more difficult
to read.

9. Muted strings: these are strings that are picked, but

without an audible note. Think of them as percussive
effects. You can mute with either the right hand or left
hand, depending on the effect desired.

5. Grace note: a grace note is a very fast note just before

the main note, usually played with a slur (slide, hammeron, or pull-off). It doesn't really have a time value - just
play it as fast as you can without disrupting the timing of
the main note.
6. Tied notes: these simply indicate that you hoid the 1st
phrase of notes until the time value of the Znd phrase is
reached. If a quarter note is tied to another quarter note,
you are effectively holding the note for the value of a half
note. Tied notes are generally used when a phrase is heid
from one measure to the next; using a longer time value
would violate the structure of the measure (3 quarter notes
and a half note would equal 5 beats, whereas tying the last
quarter note in the measure to the first quarter note in the
next measure is perfectly legal).
7 . Bend: play a bend by fretting the note which appears
just prior to the bend symbol, picking that note, and then
pushing the string up or down so that the pitch changes.
You'11generally bend to a specific pitch, although sometimes bends are used for effect and the ending pitch isn't
all that precise.
B. False harmonic: played by the right hand instead of
the left hand. This is a common electric guitar technique
that can work well on acoustic, too. To do it, pick the
note and simultaneously use the tip of your thumb (or
middle finger, whichever works best) to play a harmonic
just in front of the pick. The resulting harmonic will be
extremely high-pitched. You will have to move your right
hand closer to, and even in front of the soundhole, to find
the harmonics.

X = mutedstrino
10. Dampened notes: similar to muted notes, but the
sound of the note can be heard. To dampen a note, the
hand which is producing the dampening effect lightly
touches the string so that the note can still be heard, but it
is not allowed to ring. The damped note falls somewhere
between muted notes and implied notes in the dynamic
Damped notes appear in two songs in this book, the
first is "BluegrassPart Three" and the second is "The Old
Rounder." We have not used a special symbol to annotate
the damped strings other than to place a written comment
that says "damp notes" near the notes in the tablature.

11. Impl i ed note: a note that i s " j ust sort of t her e". Also
called a ghost note. You can either skip it altogether if
it's in an awkward place or play it by fretting the note
and picking it very, very softly. Implied notes are almost

12. Strums: representedin tab by severalnotes stacked

on the sametime value. In reality, you can't play these
notes on exactly the sametime value, unlessyou're a fingerpicker,but it is easierto show them this way than as
Flatpicking Essentials
Volume1: Rhythm, BassRuns,and,Fill Lichs


128th notes! Strums can also be shown by a single black

slash mark. Individual notes are good for showing unique
voicings while slashesare easier to read when a standard
chord is being used.

13. Simultaneous notes: sometimes you will find placesin

the tab where you're required to play the same notes on different strings or two different notes at the same time. This
is where tab really wins over standard musical notation,
since the latter would simply show a single note. Playing
the same note on two different strings produces different
dynamics, tones, and keepsthe notes ringing against each
other. In this book, when simultaneous notes are show,
Charles is picking one with his pick and the other with
his middle finger.

Tips for ReadingTab

As we've seen, tab is fairly straightforward to read. The
music itself may not be, though. It might be full of off-beat
notes, slurs, grace notes and so on. Following are some
ideas that may help you:
. Turn everything into eighth notes to get the feel for
the piece. If the tune uses a lot of syncopation, triplets,
or other timing tricks it may be difflcult to 'hear' how it
sounds. If so, try dropping the middle note of the triplets,
playing syncopated notes as standard timing, and so on,
until you get the feel for the solo. Then you can put the
tricky stuff back in gradually.
o Likewise, you can increase or decreasethe slurs. Sometimes, it's easier if you pick the slurs and sometimes it's
easier to add more slurs, depending on whether you have
too many flngers to control or wish you had 'just one
more finger'. Slurs can also easethe burden on the right
hand, since it has fewer notes to pick. Just be sure you
don't change the timing of the piece when you add slurs.
In fact, if you are playing an eighth note slide a bit too
fast, this might be a good reason to reduce the slurs and
pick both notes.
o Get a metronome and use it. You might find it easierto
set the 'nome to click on both the bass and the mandolin's rhythm space, or you might find it easier to have it
click on just the bass'sspace. Clicking on both, it's easy
to drop a beat and think you're on, although most newer
metronomes can accent beats.
o Certain computer programs are also great tools. Encore, Finale, Muse, ABC, TabRite, and Bucket o'Tab, and
NoteWorthy all let you enter tab or standard notation for
playback. You can easily change the tempo of the piece
with these programs, letting you start with it playing extremely slow and then bring it up to speed. Another great
program is CoolEdit which will record from a CD and play
the actual recording at slowed down speeds.Non-computer
tools include the Marantz and Ibanez 2-speed tape recorders, Riff-O-Matic, and similar digital deviceswhich you can
use to record the original music for slow-down.

Other Symbols:
l.l - downstroke
V = upstroke
// - chordal strum


Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rh3tthm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

Appendlx2: Wotfk?ngwlt]r ei Melronome

eitherlove them,or you hatethem. I was rushing." He told the engineerto go back to the
For a beginnerthe metronomecan be one of the most beginningof the solo. He got out his metronomeand
frustrating devices that you have ever encountered. clocked the time. He then askedthe engineerto fast
The first time I tried to play along with a metronomeI forward to the end of the song. David clockedthe time
was convincedthat the thing was broken. It wouldn't again. Sure enoughthe tempo that he endedthe song
keepcorrecttime! Of courseI was the one not playing with was slightly fasterthan the tempo that he started
in time and the metronomemadethat very clear to me. with. It wasimperceptibleto my hear,but David picked
So I was frustratedevery time I turnedthe dang thing it up. Again, I vowed to usea metronomemore often.
Somedayspracticingwith the metronomefeelsgreat
on, and thusit was not a fun experience.
Later, when I startedto improve I made my next andI feel right on, otherdaysit doesn'tfeel asgoodand
wrong assumption.I thought,"I'm gettingbetter,so I have to work a little harder. What I do know now is
I don't needthat metronomeanymore!" Wrong. No that I needto usea metronomeevery day and I always
matterhow "good" you get, you will always need to r,vill. When I first madethat discoveryI sat down with
use a metronome. About the time that I was thinking thatcontraptionand wasdeterminedto becomefriendly
that I was good enoughto not need the metronomeI with this thing. Insteadof trying to play a fiddle tuneor
read an interview with Bela Fleck. Bela was talking whole songI startedfrom squareone with the simplest
about his own use of the metronomeand told a story thingthat I could imagine-playing onerepetitivenote
aboutbeing on stageone night and thinking all night per click over and over until I got a goodfeel for it. On
that Victor Wooten(Bela'sbassplayer)was dragging. thosedayswhen I just don't feel like I can get in sync,
Bela said that when he got home that night he got out I go back to this. I startvery simply andmove forward
his metronome and reahzedthat Victor hadn't been slowly.
So,if youarehavingtroubleworkingwith a metronome,
dragging,he had been rushing. I thought to myself
then and there,"If Bela Fleck still needsa metronome, I'd like you to play throu-ehwhat is written on the next
page. Startrvith the first line until you feel that you are
I guessI do too!"
I'll haveto admitthatI still don't usethe metronome playingright on the click. I've set this exerciseup so
asmuch asI should.Thatpoint wasdrivenhometo me that each click of the metronomerepresentsa quarter
a short r.vhileago when I was talking with Flatpicking note in 414time. I recommendthat you also tap your
Guitar Magazirzecolumnist John Carlini. John has foot along with eachclick. The arrowsat the bottom of
been playing music professionallysince the 1960s eachline indicatewhen you shouldhearthe click. The
and has a very impressiveresume. We were talking pick directionis also shown. The trickiesttiming will
about the metronomeand John told me that unlesshe be the dottedquarternotesusedin the bottom line.
Try going througheachline at a very slow tempoand
is on stageperforminghe never plays a note of music
without the metronome.He usesit everydaywhen he then graduallyincreasethe tempo. Note that in terms
is practicingandhe usesit durin,eeverybandrehearsal. of keepinggood time the moderatetemposwill, many
times, feel easierthan very slow tempos. You need
OK...I guessI needto usethe metronomemore.
As if that conversationwith John wasn't enou_eh, to work with all of them. John Carlini observedthat
I was talking with David Grier once and he said, "I manyof his studentshavethreespeeds-fast,medium,
wish I hadmoretime to practice."More practice!This and slow. He recommendsthat they work with a far
guy is one of the best guitar playerson the planet! I greatervariety. Don't work at 80, then 120,then 180.
said,"David, if you had the time to practice,what is When you are increasingthe tempo, increaseby small
it that you would practice?" He said,"I'd get out the incrementsso you don't fall into the fast,medium,and
metronomeand practicemy timing."
The exercisesshown here are very basic,but they
Anothertime I wasin the studiowith David. He was
playing solo and recordeda 3 to 4 minuteversionof a should help you begin to becomecomfortablewith a
fiddle tune. When he had run through it severaltimes metronomefor the purposeof playing the material in
he came into the control booth to listen. We listened thisbook. In futurevolumeof this courseI will provide
to the first take and David said, "I was rushing at the somemore challengingmetronomeexercises.
end." I said,"It soundedgood to me!" He said,"No,
Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Lichs


Quarter Notes

Half Notes

Mixing Half and Quarter Notes

Eighth Notes



Mixing Eighth and Quarter Notes


Clicks: t






I \ /t vI T

Dotted Quarter Notes




Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

Appendh 3: tlcior 9coles, Chords, snd Arpegglos

Moior Sccrles eind the FTngelboard
Many guitar playersthink that scalescan be boring, but they can also be exciting if you let them do what they
are meant to do-which is help you find your way around the fingerboardin the context of the music you are
playing. Although scalepracticecanbe beneficial,I'm not going to ask you to mindlessly practicescales. In this
appendixwe are going to take a look at the G major scale(somethingthat you may alreadyfamiliar with). Once
that groundwork has been laid, I will ask you to apply the principles that you have learnedin looking at the G
major scale and apply it to the other major scalesthat you are exposedto in this book-most notably the C and
D scales.
Half and Whole Step Intervals
Ifyou have studiedany music theory you will know that the majority of westernmusic is basedon a sequence
of twelve notes, or tones. The interval betweeneach note in the sequenceis called a semi-toneor half-step.A
scalebasedon all twelve semi-tonesis called "chromatic." The guitar fretboard (seediagram below) is laid out
suchthat playing each successivefret along any given string will raisethe tone one half-stepand thus walk up or
down the chromatic scale.
When two half-stepintervals are combined,the new interval is called a "whole step." What this meansis that
if you play a note on any given fret and then play the next note two frets higher, the interval you've createdis a
Notes on the Guitar






















Starton the G string of your guitar. Play the open G note,then pressyour fingerjust behind
the first fret and play that note (G#), then the secondfret (A), then the third (A#), thenthe fourth
(B), all the way up to the twelfth fret. You've just playedthe chromaticscalein the key of G.
Eachnoteyou playedwas a half-stephigherthanthe previousnote.
Now play the open G string again, next pressyour finger just behind the secondfret (A) and play that note.
You've just played a whole-stepinterval.
Yes,this is simple, but we have to start somewhere!

The Major Scale

The major scaleconsistsof eight musical notes (scaledegrees)played in the following sequenceof intervals:
whole-step,whole-step,half-step,whole-step,whole-step,whole-step,half-step. If we start this sequenceon the
G note, we form a G major scale(seethe circled noteson the diagram at the top of the next page).
Flatpicking EssentialsVolume 1: Rhythm, BassRuns, and Fill Licks


Whole step

whole step




whole step

whole Step

Whole Step


@ c+nr@ D#/Eb@ F @"r@
@ c#/Abu(D
G Major Scale Linear Note Map (low octave)



that the pattern

The importanceof knowing whole-stepand half-stepintervalsand scaledegreeslies in the fact
figure out the scalein
of whole-stepand half-stepintervals in any given scaleis the formula that you will use to
any key. For instance,the formula for any major scaleis:
whole-step, whole-step, half-step, whole-step, whole-step, whole-step, half-step
to do it:
using this formula you can figure out the scaledegreesfor any major scale. Here is how
working with For
l) Write down the chromatic scalestarting with the letter designationfor the key you are
instance,if you would like to figureout the scale
degreesfor the D major scale,you would write
down the chromaticscalebeginning
D as follows:
D - D# - E - F' - F# - G - G# -A-A# - B - C - C# - D
2) Start rvith the first note and circle the notesas
designatedby the formula (as we have done for the
key of G at the toP of the Page).













3) Now write down the notesthat you havecircled'

They shouldbe:


















































D-E -F#-G-A-B


You havenow figuredout the D major scale!

Your ability to usethe whole-stepand half-step
formulasto definescaleswill comein handywhen
you want to figureout any given scale. A:' long as
you knorvthe formula,you can figure out the scale'
The chart at right showsthe major scaledegreesin


Essentials Volunte 1: Rhythm, Bass Run.s, and F|II Licles

Homework-Find the Scales

Cover up the major scalechart on the previouspage and see if you can figure out the scale
degreesof the major C, A, E, B , & F scales.Checkyour answerswith the chart. The morefamiliar
you becomewith building various scalesusing the chromaticscaleand whole-stepand half-step
intervals,the easierit is going to be for you to learnyour fretboardandto transposefrom one key to

another.This ability will comein handywhenyou startto jam with otherplayers,especiallyif therearesingers
or harmonicaplayersin the group.
The G Scalein the Open Position,Lower Octave:
phrase,riff, or wholetuneon the guitaris referredto asusingthe "openposition"
A run, lick, scale,passage,
whenopenstringsareusedin conjunctionwith fingerpositionson thefirst threeor four frets. Theopenposition
fingeringsareasfollows (lst positionfingeringsarethe same,however,thereareno opennotes):

Openstringsareplayed,asthe definitionimplies,with no fingerspressingon thefingerboard.

The indexfingerplaysthenoteson the first fret.
The middlefingerplaysthenoteson the secondfret.
Thering fingerplaysthe noteson thethird fret.
The pinky fingerplaysthenoteson thefourthfret.

After the "open position," fingerboardpositions are definedby the fret played by the index finger, i.e. in the
"first position" the index finger is playing the notes on the first fret, middle on the second,ring on the third, and
pinky on the fourth. In the secondposition, the index finger plays noteson the secondfret, middle on tbe third,
ring on the fourth, and pinky on the flfth, etc.
In the last exampleI showedthe G Major scaleplayed only on the low E string. Playing the G scalethis way,
for the most part, is impractical. I initially presentedit in this fashionbecauseit is very easyto seethe whole-step
and half-step interval distanceswhen a scale is presentedon one string. However, here is how the samescale
would be laid out and played in the open position (low octave):

G Major

Scale, Open Position,

Low Octave Note Map


Flatpicleing Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm., Bass Runs, and Fill Licles


The G Scalein the Open Position,Upper Octave:

Below you will find the upper octave G maior scale laid out linearly and then in the open
G Major

Seale Linear


Note Map (higher





G Major Scale, Open Position, Higher Octave Note Map

Play It!-The

G Major Scale

Play through the G major scaleseveraltimes forward and backward in the lower octave,
the high octave,and then both the lower and upper octavescombined (as shown on the next
page). You may alreadybe familiar with the G major scaleas shown here. If so, that is great,
but I would still like you to take a few minutesand play through this scalea numberof times.
Familiarizing yourself with the sound of this scalehere and now will help you work with some of the bassruns
and fill licks that you will practice in this book.
Practiceplaying thesescalessmoothly,fluidly, evenly, and in with good solid timing and tone.


Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Liclzs

The G Scalein the Open Position, Lower and Upper Octaves:

Here I haveput both the upperand lower octaveG major scalestogetherin one illustration.
G Major

Scale, Open Position,

Two Octave Note Map



The G Scalein the 2nd Position (Closed),Lower and Upper Octaves:

Here we havethe exactsamescaleshownin the closedposition(no openstringnotes). Closedpositionsare
importantbecausethey are "moveable." More aboutthat in later volumesof this series!
G Major Scale, Second Position, Two Octave Note Map





Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Lichs


Chords: tlalor, gevenflr, cnd Mlnor

In the last sectionon scalesyou saw that eachscale
hasa formula that you can usein orderto find the notes
of the scale. We only addressedmajor scalesin the
last section,however,the samegeneralprincipleis true
for any scale-minor scales.,
scales,whole tone scales,etc. Eachtype of scalehas
its own half-stephvhole-step
formula. If you know the
formula for the scale, you can
flgure out the tonesof any scalein any key. The same
is true r,vithchords. If you know the formula, you can
find the notesthat makeup the chord.
If you'd like to figureout which notesarein a major
chords,youstartwith the major scalein that key. The
notesthat appearin a major chord are the first (root),
third, and fifth tonesof the scalefNote: In the parlance
of music theory,thesenotesare referredto as the root.
major third, and perfectfifthl . Below I have written
the notesof the G major scale:
Notes:(G) A (B) C (D)


You r.villnoticethat I've circledthe 1st,3rd,and 5th

scaledegrees,andthusI've foundthe 3 notesthatmake
up the G major chord G, B, and D. Thesenotesform
what is referredto as a "major triad." If you look at the
diagramof the G chordbelow,you will seethat when
you strum a full G chord,every note that you play on
all six stringsis eithera G, B, or D note.

Therearemany waysto makea G major chordon the
fretboardof the guitar,however.no matter rvhatchord
shapeyou useor whereyou are on the fretboard,every
note that you play is going to either be a G, B, or D
note. This formula (major chord = lst, 3rd. and 5th
degreeof the major scale)holds true for every major
chord. So,with theknowledgeof thatformula,you can
figure out what notesare in eachmajor chord and then
find those notes on the fretboardto createthat chord.

On the next pageI haveprovidedchordchartsfor all of

the major chordsthat you will encounterin this book.
The lettersat the lorver part of the chart indicatewhat
notesyou are playing on that string.
In parttrvoof thisbook (Examplesfrom theFlatpicking
Guitar MagazineArchives)you will also encountera
few Seventhchordsand a few minor chords,so let's
takea look at their formulasas well.
There are a number of different types of seventh
chords,horvever,when not otherwisespecified-and
for the purposesof the examplesshownin this book- a
"seventhchord" is a chord consistingof the notesof
the major triad plus a flat seventhnote (also called a
"dominant seventhchord"). So our formula for the
seventhchordswhich you will encounterin this book
is: first (root),third, fifth. and flat seventh.
If you'll look at the G scaleshownin the previous
column,you canthenseethataG7 chordwill be made
up of the notes:G, B, D, and F. You r,villfind the chart
for the G7 chord shapethat is usedin the examplesin
this book on the next page. Additionallyyou will find
the chartsfor the D7 chord and the 87 chord that are
usedin this book.
Minor Chords
While playingthroughthe examplesin this book you
will also encountera couple of minor chords,so let's
look at the formula for a minor chord as well. A minor
chord differs from a major chord by having a minor
third abovethe root. So the formula is: root, minor
third, perfectfifth-or in terms of scaledegreesit is
the 1st,flat 3rd, and 5th. This formulaforms a "minor
The minor chord that is usedin an examplein this
book is the Em chord. So let'sfigureout what notesare
in that chord. The notesof the E scaleare:
Degree: 1
Notes: E






Therefore,the notesof the Em chord are going to be

the E, G, and B notes(lst, flat 3rd, and 5th). The t,uvo
most commonminor chordsthat you will encounterin
acousticroots music are the Em and Am chords. The
most common shapesfor thosetwo chordsare shown
on the next page.

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fil.l Licks

Chord Shcpes Used ln This Book:

Major Chords











B E G # BE

Seventh Chords







X B D # AB F #

Minor Chords





Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks

The numbers used on the chord

The fingersin the chartsconespond
rvith the hand diagramabove.

An arpeggiois a groupof noteswhich all belongto the
samechord and are played in sequence,either moving
up or down in pitch. The chordmay,for example,be a
simplemajor triad chordr,viththe 1st,3rdand5th notes
of the scale in it. An arpeggioin the key of G major
going up two octaveswould be the notes(G, B, D, G,
B, D) as shownin the first examplebelow.
An arpeggiois a typeof "broken"or "melted" chord.
Other types of broken chordsplay chord notesout of
or more than one note but lessthan the full
chord, simultaneously.
Arpeggioscan rise or fall for
morethan one octave.
An "arpeggiatedchord" meansa chord rvhich is
"spread"in time.,i.e., the notesare not playedexactly
at the sametime-as in a chord strum-but are spread
out. In the guitar world the techniquefor playing an
chordis sometimescalleda'"rake."

There are many different arpeggioexercisesthat

guitar playerscan practiceto improvetheir knowledge
of the fingerboard. However,for the purposesof this
book, you only need familiarize yourself with the
simpletwo octavearpeggiosshownbelow for G andC.
For homework,you can figure out the arpeggiofor D,
or any otherchord.
The G. C, and D examplesat the bottomof the page
show the chord tones from thosechordsthat you will
usemost frequentlyin the constructionof bassruns in
this book.

G Arpeggio





Flatpiching Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Boss Runs, and FiIl Licks

CD Track List:
0l ExamplesI to 5.mp3
02 Examples6 to l0.mp3
03 ExamplesI I to 15.mp3
04 AlternatingExercises.mp3
05 Examples16 to 20.mp3
06 G Runs I to 10.mp3
0 T G R u n sl l t o 2 0 . m p 3
08 Examples2I to 23.mp3
09 G Rhythm.mp3
l0 C Rhythm.mp3
11 D Rhythm.mp3
I 2 Syncopation.mp3
I 3 AlternateStrums.mp3
14 LonesomeRoadBlues.mp3
15 CharlieMonroe I .mp3
16 CharlieMonroe2.mp3
l7 Roy Harvey I .mp3
18 Roy Harvey2.mp3
19 Edd Mayfield I .mp3
20 Jimmy Martin.mp3
2l Brad Davis I .mp3
22 Brad Davis 2.mp3
23 Earl Scruggs.mp3
24 CharlesSawtelleI .mp3
25 Tom Paley.mp3
26 Riley Puckett1.mp3
27 Doc Watson.mp3
28 Riley Puckett2.mp3
29 Edd Mayfield 2.mp3
30 Edd Mayfield 3.mp3
31 PeterRowanin A.mp3
32 Sawtelle2 (Key of E).mp3
33 RagtimeAnnie.mp3

Flatpicking Essentials Volume 1: Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Lichs