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Double Stop Blues - A fingerstyle guitar lesson

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate

Here's an interesting one, one that sounds a lot trickier than it is. It's mostly a series of double stops, so there are rarely more than two fingers involved. Don't let the movie fool you, I usually finger whole chord shapes even if I'm only using a little fragment of it. I've always found it the safer way to proceed, just in case I don't pluck the right strings. As long as I'm holding the whole chord shape down, even if I flub it with the picking hand It won't sound awful as I'm going to be playing another chord tone. They always sound good together. Refer to the tab when in doubt.

It's in A and it uses a few 'outside' chords. If you analyze it, you'll find the I-IV-V chords holding it all together and you'll also find that the F# and B chords, which are usually minor in the key of A, have been majorized -- standard deviation from the diatonic. There's also a minorized IV chord in there, the Dm. The progression can be written like this in Roman numerals. Remember that Upper Case is Major, lower case is minor:



|I - - - | IV9 - - - | I - - - | VI - - - | II7 - - - | V7sus4 - - - | I - I7 - IV - #ivdim |

| IV - - - | iv - - - | I - V7 - | I - I7 - | IV - - - | iv - - - | II7 - - - | V - V7 - |

|I - - - | IV9 - - - | I - - - | VI - - - | II7 - - - | V7sus4 - - - | I - I7 - IV - #ivdim |

| I - V - | I - - - |

Apply that to any key, and you'll have the same sounding progression. If you're looking at that scratching your head wondering what it's all about, don't worry about it.

One of the interesting things (to me, anyway) is how little of any chord you really need to hear the progression progressing. In most cases, I'm just playing tiny little double stops interspersed with the appropriate bass notes, but there's no doubt as to what the tunes is all about.

From the top

I start on a little A power chord (1-5-1) and move up to another A double stop, this time a 3-5, so it's here that you can hear it's a major chord. Then I start the D9 measure on a 1-3 double stop (the major quality is established) and move up to a 7-9 double stop. Then I repeat the first measure but this time move the double stop down chromatically through G#, G to F#. Now we've established the F# sound, and the next little descending line (1-b7-7) turns it into F#7. It acts as a V chord of the B7 that follows, which in turn acts as a V chord to the E. So in a way, over bars 4 to 7, there are a series of key changes: from A to F#, then F# to B, then B to E and back to A.

Notice that I grab an F bass note under the B7 and I do that with my thumb. It's a little unorthodox, but works well in this case. That F note acts a passing tone to the E and momentarily turns the B7 into a 'flat five' chord.

At bar 7 there's a little turnaround. It will make it much easier to get the fingers around it if you see that the D to D#dim change is just moving that whole D shape down a string-set and down one fret. Here is a case where I'm holding the whole D shape down, but not playing the treble (thin) string. I find that, because we all know that little D triad shape so well, it's much easier to hold the whole thing down than to rethink it as a 'D missing the top string' ... why tax your brain like that? Plus, it makes the next move to the diminished chord much easier as the whole (familiar) shape shifts down and over.

Brings us to the 'middle bit'. Here I'm stating each chord with a little double stop/bass note syncopation. For the D I'm using the 1-3 double stop, for the Dm the 1-b3; the A uses a 3-5 double stop, the E7 uses a 7-3 double stop, then a new A double stop (1-3) and finally the A7 double stop (b7-3). Notice that all the bass notes are open strings.

I then repeat the D and D minor part, but move to a B7 and here I use my thumb to grab the root on the 6th string. Again, unorthodox, but effective in this instance. You can use any finger you want, of course. The middle bit ends on a E7, bringing us back to the repeat of the first section.

You can hear and see in the tab that many of the chord changes are 'anticipated', in other words come just before the first beat of the bar, where you'd normally expect them. This is not unusual but it may take you a few passes to nail the feel of this tune so keep that in mind as you work it out. It's mostly the bass notes that sort of 'jump in', and they're taken care of by the thumb, so ... tell it to obey and all will be well. It's these anticipations that keep the tune moving along the way it does. They are as essential as they are subtle. If you're having trouble hearing where they are, look at the tab: wherever you see the chord name right at the end of a measure (like bars 4, 9 , 10, 11) ... that's an anticipated change.

The end is a standard sounding I-V-I ending.

And there you have it. Take it slowly and make sure you take mental notes of the repeating shapes of the double stops. Break it all down into little bites, learn little bits and string them all together until you've got it down. Once you do, it's a fun little ditty to play and will help you to see how chords can be reduced down to very compact little chunks.



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