Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fingerpickin' the Guitar

After four decades of playing the guitar, I think I've gotten pretty good at it. But then I listen the the really good players and am reminded that there is so much room to improve.

Yesterday morning, the Belmont Street Fair was kicked off with a set from Mary Flower, a fingerstyle guitar virtuoso who also plays a mean slide guitar and now resides in Portland. She teaches in Portland as well as through Skype, and has issued a few instructional DVDs. Here she is performing an original tune, "La Grippe."

After watching one of Mary Flower's lesson on ragtime guitar on YouTube, I wandered over to watch Chet Atkins play Black Mountain Rag using some form of open tuning:

After that, I have to end with the great Merle Travis playing "Cannonball Rag." Merle's playing has been a big influence on me (though I estimate I can only reach about 50% of his playing capacity, and that would be on a good day). If you're learning guitar, pay attention to the important part the thumb on the picking hand plays for all of theseplayers; the key to fingerstyle guitar is keeping a steady rhythm going on the bass strings. Also, check out how all three wrap their left thumbs over the top of the neck to fret bass notes. Merle Travis stands out by using his left thumb to fret several strings. Most standard guitar lessons don't teach the technique. Jimi Hendrix is another guitarist known for wrapping his thumb around the neck (though, in his case, it was the right thumb since he played left-handed).

I'll post more about Merle Travis in the future.

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