Oh When the Saints (difficult fingerstyle)

Previously, I presented an easy fingerstyle guitar version of When the Saints Go Marching In. Now I’ll try and take it to the next level, by adding some syncopation, bass runs, and a slightly more complex chord progression. I make no claim to be a fingerpicking virtuoso, but I believe this demonstrates some useful techniques. I find it lots of fun to play, and to my ear it sounds pretty good.

If you haven’t learned the previous version, I suggest checking it out now, as this lesson builds on that. If you find this one to be too big of a jump from the last one, stay tuned, as I will be posting some more intermediate songs, or check out some of the books listed below. Continue reading Oh When the Saints (difficult fingerstyle)

Can Education Kill Instinct?

Note: This is based on a message I originally posted on the Harmony Central Forums. Revised and extended.

This is a topic that seems to come up quite often, both in online forums and in talking to people. Does learning music theory take away from the ability to simply “play what sounds good?” Can learning proper vocal technique remove the raw emotion from singing? Does learning more about the established techniques in a field (like songwriting) remove true creativity and make us all sound alike?

I’ve thought about this a lot, and I’m going to say no. And here’s why.

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Oh When the Saints (beginners fingerstyle)

One of my favorite ways of playing acoustic guitar is country-blues fingerpickin'. Also known as Cotten pickin' (after Elizabeth Cotten) or Travis pickin' (after Merle Travis). The style consists of a steady bass line played with the thumb, accompanied by a syncopated melody line played with the fingers. The combination of the driving bass and the melody that seems to float in space over it creates a sense of movement and lets a solo guitar sound like more than a solo guitar.

The best way to learn a technique is to learn songs in that technique, so that's what this lesson is for. A good song to start with is Oh When the Saints, because it has a simple melody that we all recognize, but still has a lot of room for elaboration. That way, we can start simple and add embellishments as we go along.

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Chord Progression: I-vi-IV-V

Throughout the long tumultuous history of Rock ‘n’ Roll, there have been certain song patterns that have shown up over and over. Many of them are cliches by now (how many times have you heard the fire/desire rhyme?), but others are classics, comfortable sounds we recognize in our bones. We’ve heard them a million times, but can’t help but feel inspired anew every time. Today I’ll cover one of those: The I-vi-IV-V Chord Progression. Yeah, just rolls of the tongue, right? Well, trust me that it sounds better when you play it than when you try to name it.

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My Problem with Jazz

I pride myself in a willingness to listen to different styles and genres of music. I have favorites in rap, heavy metal, Irish folk, country, classical, even opera. So my strong negative impression of jazz may come as a surprise. To be fair, there is a lot of jazz I like, mostly the early stuff and the great singers. Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, basically back when jazz had melodies and was meant to be danced to. Before rock and roll came along, jazz was young people’s music. It’s what people danced to, it was rebellious, it was accessible, it was listenable. Then something happened.

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