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Lesson for Right Hand

  • The object is to achieve independent action of P, i, m, a and to learn which sounds go with which finger.
  • Thumb(P), index(i), Middle(m), Annular(a)
  • Guitar Strings are E, A ,D, the bass (P) and
  • G, B, E the treble and belong to i, m, and a

Their are a variety of patterns that can be employed to arrange any piece of music for which you have the chords. One of the simplest in 6/8 time is P – i – m – a – m – i where P plays the bass and i – m – a – m – i are plucked on the treble strings. This is the pattern for Silkie as played by Joan Baez. Its a good place to start if you like the song. Here are the chords:

D  C  D // G  D  C  D  / C  Em  Am D — // means repeat first line / means new line.

Silkie is in 6/8 time. One beat, one string at a time. Play each chord for six beats. Use a metronome and count 1 2 3 4 5 6. Same patterns for Hallelujah but more difficult chords.

Two alternatives for 4/4 time are:

  • P – i – m – a Bass 2 – 3 – 4. Play the root of the chord in the bass.
  • P – m – i – a as above play the root of the chord with your thumb.

Alternating these two patterns makes a more intersting arrangment. Note that this technique gives you a distinct sound for each finger on each beat. If you hear the melody in your head you can always change the pattern to play it, but it is best to start out simple and just get control of each finger.

When I play 900 miles I use the second pattern and play the melody with my thumb in the bass.

Charlie Byrd recommended the Guilliani 120 studies for the right hand as a way to mastery. These studies will be familiar to anyone who has studied classical guitar. I have done page one. People who have had piano lessons may be concerned that they don’t learn any notes. True enough, but this approach will connect your ears to your fingers.

There are a few weeks of work here. The next logical step would be Travis picking which requires a completly independent thumb playing alternate bass. Freight Train is a great place to start as the melody is all on the b and e strings.

10 Nov — Remembrance

I’m not a pacifist. People have a right to self defense. Still, the idea that we have to fight them over there so they won’t come and kill us over here is a bit much for me to swallow. My contribution to remembrance is more likely to be Girl from the Hiring Fair than Johnny comes marching home.

Canada has had two wars that I might have fought. One was the war of 1812. Cue up Stan Rogers’ Billy Green the Scout or the Arrogant Worms’ 1812. We were on the winning side of that one. The Chilcotin War(1854) was more of a draw. We don’t have a song that I know of but we have a Supreme court ruling that has established aboriginal sovereignty in the region and an apology from Justin for trespasses.

Themes for Future Circles

  • Anti-war
  • Australian
  • Seasonal
  • Canadian
  • Irish
  • Scottish
  • Comedy
  • Cowboy
  • Farming
  • Gospel
  • Hardship
  • Harvest
  • Hunting
  • Injustice
  • Love
  • Work
  • Protest
  • War
  • Australian
  • Seasonal
  • Canadian
  • Irish
  • Scottish
  • Comedy
  • Cowboy
  • Farming
  • Gospel
  • Hardship
  • Harvest
  • Hunting
  • Injustice
  • Love
  • Work
  • Protest
  • War

Thanks to Graham Baldwin for the list above.

  • Train Songs
  • Political Songs
  • Blues
  • Country
  • Bluegrass
  • Dylan
  • Joe Hill 
  • Jazz 

More Tricks

A metronome for your phone or computer — https://www.musicca.com/metronome

A tuner for your phone or desktop — https://tuner.ninja/

A free Audio Workstation — https://www.audacityteam.org/download/

  • Listen to the music — what do you really want to achieve?
  • Plan
    1. Where are you at?
    2. Where are you going – folk – blues – jazz – classical
    3. What steps will take you from one to two
  • Divide and conquer – one bar, one lick, one tune at a time.
  • Slow down — practice make permanent
  • Be Accurate — play with a recording or a metronome
  • Record everything on your phone or on your computer – track your progress

Tricks of the Trade

a list from John Lyon


Tricks Of The Trade could be any little thing, any idea of piece of information that helps us provide more depth and variety in our playing.  Examples could include:

  • Turnarounds, the little 2-bar chord progressions and licks that mark the end of a 12- or 8-bar blues progression, or the end of a chorus of a jazz standard like “All Of Me”.  
  • The Circle Of Fifths as used in tunes like “Sweet Georgia Brown”—-how to play the on guitar, and the licks that can be used with these chords.
  • Tricks and licks used when playing the II-V-I chord progression. There are whole books on this subject.
  • Double stops (playing two adjacent strings at once)—-where, when, and how to use them.  Jazz guitarist Howard Alden is a master at this and even teaches a whole class on double stops for Mike’s Master Class.
  • Syncopation—how and why it makes our playing better—-examples of this. You can’t play blues, jazz, or popular music without knowing something about syncopated rhythm.
  • How and how much, and when to practice. How to learn to play fast.
  • Who each of us has learned from the most, and what in particular we have learned.
  • Voice leading, which is the idea of playing each note in a new chord no more than two frets away from the notes in the last chord—-what it is and what it can do for your playing (hint, it sounds great). Bach was a master at voice leading.
  • Key changes and modulations—examples of songs that use them, and how we manage to play them. Coker’s book on chord progressions has many examples of this.
  • Examples of using diminished chords and scales.  Where and when are they used.
  • Examples of using the #5 chord in both major and minor keys, e.g. the chord in “What A Wonderful World” sung by Louis Armstrong where he sings “And I think to myself…” it’s used in the minor blues and other minor songs too, e.g. “The Thrill Has Gone” by B.B. King.
  • Octave displacement, chromatic passing tones, repetition, blues notes (flat thirds and flat sevenths)
  • Chet Atkins and Travis Picking
  • licks,
  • string bending

11 Aug – Jazz standards for Beginners

I’ll start out by saying that jazz beginners are usually pretty good blues players. We have a few of those at the circle but nobody needs to stay on this list. As usual play what you like, just show up to play.

Here are 25 Jazz standards from the teachings of Aimee Nolte. If she played guitar she would be perfect but alas no one is perfect. These are ranked by difficulty for pianists from easy to more difficult. I’ll try to work down the list by linking to examples of performances and tutorials. As I learn new tunes I’ll link to my own renditions.

If anyone has a list that is specific to guitar players please let me know in the comments.

There is also a lot of Sandra Sherman here. She is a terrific teacher for beginning jazz guitar.

Back to Basics – June 30

After a year on Zoom we played together Friday in the tent at Brock House. For those that can’t make it out to Point Gray or to Trout Lake I’m going to continue to host Zoom Circles as long as we have people who want to play together.

I’ve found my own playing has not suffered from Zoom mostly because I have used the opportunity to play at several venues in addition to the Vancouver Folk Song Society where I started out.

So let’s celebrate the summer with some simple songs with basic strums and perhaps we will be joined by some folks who are still improving.