This is the first lesson in our bluegrass guitar lesson series. We have a lot in store for you and are very excited to have the opportunity to share this with you. As you may know, bluegrass music began in Kentucky which is also known as “The Bluegrass State” and is named after the great Kentucky mandolin player Bill Monroe and his band The Bluegrass Boys. Bluegrass is a fun, exciting genre of music that encourages players of all skill levels to participate.
It is the goal of this series to provide beginning to advanced bluegrass guitar players a wealth of information that will help you to build on your existing bluegrass guitar playing skills and to develop new ones. The aim of this lesson series is to provide lessons that are:
*Easy to follow and fun to play
*Appealing to players of all skill levels
*True to the bluegrass genre
Introduction: Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms
For the first lesson of the first series we will take a look at the basic rhythm guitar part for the bluegrass classic “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms”. We will cover the basic techniques used and focus on the “alternate bass” strumming pattern so common in bluegrass guitar playing. The second lesson will cover a more advanced rhythm part including bass walks, hammer-on’s/pull-off’s, and the infamous “G” run. The third lesson be more of an intermediate to advanced lesson where we will build off of the basic elements we’ve already learned in the previous lessons and introduce your first solo for this song. It will focus more on alternate picking single notes, stringing consecutive eighth notes together, and creating patterns to solo over for this song and others in the key of G.
By the end of this first series you will have mastered this song and be ready to take it to the jam circle. You‘ll have been taught basic rhythm essentials and tools for learning your first solo. If you are wanting to learn bluegrass guitar this is a great place to start!
Roll in my Sweet Baby’s Arms, Lesson 1/3: Basic Rhythm
This is a basic rhythm guitar part for the bluegrass classic “Roll in my Sweet Baby’s Arms.” Make sure you have a good understanding of the concepts below before moving on. If you follow the video/tabs/text provided below you should be able to get a good feel for the concepts explored. Here are a few things to focus on during this lesson:
1. The most important thing going on in the right hand is what I like to call “Alternating Bass Movement” which simply means that you are alternating the bass note after each strum. There is a certain pattern for each chord so it might be a good idea to work on each chord pattern separately from the piece. This style of strumming is very common in country and bluegrass music and once you get a feel for it you will be able to turn any song into this style of music.
2. Don’t let the tabs overwhelm you. It looks like there is a lot going on but if you watch the video I’m almost always staying inside the chord which means I am moving my left hand very little. Most of the work is in the right hand.
3. Memorize the chord progression once you get a feel for the rhythm pattern and the movements in the right hand. It will help master the piece much faster and make it more musical. If you have to keep looking back and forth from the paper to the guitar it will give you a headache. You may have to do a little of this at first but take the song in sections and begin to memorize!
4. Pay close attention to the pick directions that are below the tab line. This is very important for establishing good timing. I encourage you to make sure you’re perfect with each strum or stroke of the pick. It will pay off down the road. Always remember- down- strokes on down beats and up-strokes on up beats.
5. Last but certainly not least- Make sure you are finding the groove. You may notice in the video I’m not quite playing the eighth notes straight, I’m giving them a little swing. That’s called creating the feel or the groove. Relax into the playing and make sure you can tap your foot and feel the pulse all through your body while playing, once you can do that, you’ve got it!
6. Make sure to check out live bluegrass music whenever possible!
Things to Watch For:
* Keep a close eye on the “G” run measure. Also know where your eighth notes and quarter notes are.
* Make sure your pick direction is perfect.
* “H” is for hammer-on and “P” is for pull-off. They take the place of the pick direction.
* Quarter notes have a straight stem with no other notes connecting. Eighth notes are two notes connected by a single stem. This lesson only has quarter and eighth notes.
Make sure you have fun!
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