The classic instrumental from the 1840’s, on guitar in open G tuning. The guitar arrangement is a combination of the original, named “Violet Waltz”, and Elizabeth Cotton’s version from the 1950’s. This also fits nicely on uke in standard tuning. If you learn one instrumental, this is the one.
Easy’s Getting Harder Every Day
This is a variation on a patterned Travis Pick, pretty much the way Iris recorded it. Capo on the 3rd. fret to play along with Iris. “A” chord shapes in the key of C.
3/4 time song that is perfect for working on your alternate basses and bass runs.
One of the most famous jug band-blues songs from the 1920’s. Finger pick on guitar and learn the “tickle”! It’s a stretch, so you might want to capo up a few frets.
Maybelle Carter’s great guitar part, using C chord shapes. She recorded this using Key of G chord shapes, but the part is mostly the same.
This is a great antebellum song, with surprisingly modern lyrics. The guitar arrangement is in a typical “parlor style” of the era. Included is a sound file with guitar arrangement ( yours truly) with a fabulous minstrel banjoist; Paul Draper. Also, the original sheet music from Library of Congress.
Hard Times, Come Again No More
The beautiful, and sad song by S. Foster, covered so many times through the years. Here is a parlor guitar arrangement, based on the 1850’s style arrangements that the composer would write out for his friends for some of his songs.
T For Texas
This lesson includes the lyric sheet, a sound file, and the link to a film of Jimmy Rodgers playing and singing “T For Texas”. It’s faster than it sounds, and you can get a good appreciation for just how good a guitar player he was. Good for learning and playing along with leading and alternate basses.Also, a nice syncopation strum to move it along.
Guitar Bass Runs
A chart created by myself, that lays out leading, alternate, and bass runs for I,IV,V chord changes in the common keys. This applies to every type of traditional guitar playing: fingerpicking and flat picking. The thumb will pick most of this, whether plucking the notes or guiding the flatpack. Either way, the goal is to develop an educated thumb (as Pete Seeger would say); and ear! To keep it visually simple, on the chart: a large number is the string, and the small number next to it is the fret on that string.
A dropped D fingerpick, alternating bass song as recorded by Dave Van Ronk. Listen and learn to move around a regular D chord to accent melody to counterpoint the bass. Introduces the use of a hammer-on while fingerpicking.
Here’s a unique antebellum guitar instrumental from Worrall’s Guitar School, published in 1856 in Ohio. It’s a 3 part tune , in 2 keys, and is iconic for chord, leading bass, and arpeggio techniques. Included is a scan of the original, a tab version (in RGTab), and a recording by your’s truly on an 1880 Martin with gut strings…they sound a little squeaky!
Deep River Blues
This is a song by the Delmore Brothers in the 1930’s, that Doc Watson recorded in the 1960’s. His arrangement features a great travis picking part, that’s also a good introduction to the country jazz guitar style.
A blues written by Brownie McGee, that works well with a slow “shuffle” guitar arrangement. Also included is the classic blues tag in E. This was recorded in a jazzed up arrangement by Dave Van Ronk, as well.
Do Re Mi
A great, and universally true song by Woody Guthrie. Basically, if you “ain’t got the do re mi”; forget it. Just like today! The guitar part is very instructive as it illustrates some syncopation, odd timing and more strums, i.e., fuller sound than heard in earlier bass-strum styles. Also his tempo:for everything going on – – fast, and with lot’s of hammer ons. A good guitar challenge, and worth the effort to master some of these moves and rhythmic complexity.
The last song Stephen Foster composed, and one of his sweetest . The guitar part is a combination of parlor styles from the mid nineteenth century:melodic, arpeggio, and bass-chord finger picking.Foster would sometimes write out guitar parts for his songs, to be played by his visiting guitarist friends.The sound file is a recreation of ante-bellum sound.
This is the one of the initial fingerpicking blues I teach my students. It’s just one chord-D! The goal is to develop an alternating bass to keep the beat, where it is becoming automatic.There is no fingering on the D6th string open to the D4th string open to facilitate this process.(Low E tuned down a step to D). A great piedmont blues by Mississippi John Hurt, which also has some interesting phrasing:just keep that thumb going like a metronome.
Great Dreams From Heaven
A guitar classic from Joseph Spence, a really different rhythmic feel from the Bahamas. This is another dropped D piece, but the bass is not a steady metronome like drone; rather a mix of first beat in a measure, or moving bass through a measure. The feel than is somewhat a floating meter versus the usual driving beat.The recording is my own, followed by another hymn instrumental.You can find out more about Joseph Spence at the Smithsonian Folkways link.
A ragtime piece in two parts, based very loosely on some old tunes, as played by Dale Miller.Includes a moving bass out of the “F” shape, as well as as a circle of fifths in the B part. A good portal into ragtime guitar techniques.
There are many versions of this song, and here’s the ragtime blues guitar way by Gary Davis-Dave Van Ronk. The challenge here is an alternating thumb bass, that is sometimes backwards, (relative to the beat), and sometimes on the beat.
This song has been recorded countless times in the past century.This version is a slow ragtime blues by Dave Van Ronk by way of Rev. Gary Davis.The chord shapes work in the same way as Candy Man on my site, so learning both provides a good foundation to apply to many guitar blues, as well as ragtime. See Black Berry Rag.
Sock Chords : Hey Good Lookin’
This lesson demos the basic sock chord shapes, and their basic harmonic relationship: Tonic (I)…the key you are in, Dominant(V)….strongest resolution to the tonic, Subdominant (IV)….weaker resolution to the tonic or first to the dominant. These are the major chords in any key. On guitar they are more percussive sounding and can move anywhere up and down the neck in different keys. A good application is in country western, swing, etc.
King Kong Kitchy, Kitchy, Kimeo
One of many versions of “A Frog Went A Courting”; this one from the 1920’s by Chubby Parker. He was one of the first stars on the barn dance radio show format; his being WLS out of Chicago. Although he played banjo, this arrangement translates very well to some melody and bass lines on guitar.This is a good start to intermediate flat picking guitar backup to a song.