Bluegrass Guitar Solo:

Lesson on Alternate Picking


This lesson will get you started on your first solo for “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms.” It involves the technique of alternate picking. If you are just joining us in this three part lesson series and want to brush up you can review the first and second lessons covering beginning and intermediate rhythm for this song. If you want to go straight for the solo keep reading!

If you are new to alternate picking then this lesson may prove to be difficult at first. It is imperative that you have each pick-stroke perfect otherwise, you will never be able to obtain the speed necessary to perform this piece. Many people ask me, “How do I know what notes to solo over for each chord?” This lesson will give you a good start on what to do when soloing over a G, C, or D chord. I also need to mention that while this particular solo does not follow the melody very closely (not the purpose of the lesson)- It serves as more of a first step into alternate picking and give you ideas on which notes and patterns you can play over certain types of chords. So, again, once you learn some of these licks/patterns for each chord- You can put them into other songs with similar chord progressions.

Practice Tips and Focus Areas:

1. Master the right hand pick strokes! Remember that it should be down-strokes on downbeats and up-strokes in upbeats. Quick music theory tip- The downbeats are 1,2,3,4 and the upbeats are what’s in between. The &’s. So, a series of eighth notes are counted 1& 2& 3& 4&- Which means you pick down, up, down, up, down, up, down, up. Get it?!

2. I know I said this in the last lesson but its so true- Master the first two measures. It helps set the tone and gets you going in the right direction.

3. Pay close attention to measures with hammer-on’s and pull-off’s because it creates for a double up or double down stroke which can really throw a beginner off course. I know I struggled with this for a long time before I was comfortable at executing it. There are only a couple measures with hammers and pulls.

4. Memorize two or three measures at a time. Not only is is great for providing for more musicality in your song and better long term memory- You also won’t have to keep twisting your head back and forth from the paper to your left hand, to right hand. Ya know what I mean? I get headaches when I do that!

5. Practice S-l-o-w-l-y and you will master this technique. This requires patience.

6. Please comment on the lesson if it was helpful or you liked it and tell me why. Thanks!


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First Solo
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2 thoughts on “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms, Guitar Lesson 3/3”

    1. Sure! Many of these techniques and scales can be applied across the genre to many bluegrass songs, just follow your ear!

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