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House of the Rising Sun - Lesson 3

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Beginner-Intermediate

Click here for House of the Rising Sun - Lesson 1 | Click here for House of the Rising Sun - Lesson 2

Here's the next version of 'House of the Rising Sun' I promised a while back, yet another way to play through this famous chord progression. This one is more of an accompaniment and it's a little different from the other two, a long way from the traditional way of playing it.

The first two lessons are in 6/8 time, this one is in 4/4. The other thing that's changed about this one is the bass line. As you'll hear, I 'pedal' an A bass note under all the chords except the E. It's an interesting way to add a sort of suspense to a piece of music and it works well in this progression. By doing so a couple of things are happening: the C chord becomes a C6 with the 6 in the bass; the D becomes a D/A which is a second inversion D chord; the F becomes F/A, a first inversion F. You can put an A under a E chord (it becomes an E sus4 with the 4 as bass note) but it just didn't work in this tune. The V chord quality disappeared to my ear, and I wanted to retain it. You'll also notice a little E pick-up note each time.

All the chords except the E7 are triads moving their way down the fretboard from high to low. Triads are the 'smallest' chords there are, using just the 1-3-5 (1-b3-5 for minor) and in this case, just one of each. All but one (the very last E) use the same three strings which makes it a little easier to manage. Remember the various 'shapes' and mentally ascribe the appropriate flavors to them as you'll be able to use them again and again over the years. Notice how the progression repeats but the chord shapes keep on moving down the fretboard. What you're looking at here are different inversions of the same chords on the same string set.

If you're interested, here are the exact inversions, reading from bass to treble:

Am= b3-5-1
C = 1-3-5
D = 5-1-3
F = 3-5-1
Am = 1-5-b3
C = 5-1-3
Eaug = 3-#5-1
E7 = 3-b7-5 (1 in the bass)
Am = 1-5-b3
C = 5-1-3
D = 3-5-1
F =1-3-5
Am = 5-1-b3
E = 1-3-5 then 3-5-1

As you can see, they're all different inversions of first-third-fifth except that E7 which needs the extra note since it's an extended chord (the flat7). There's only way to keep those shapes locked into the fretboard and that's to use the fretboard markers as guides. They're there for a reason, use them.

Don't be confused when I get to the Eaug and E7 toward the middle. It looks like I'm holding down another note in the movie, an E note on the fifth string. Well, I am ... I'm just not playing it. I do it because 1) when I know the chord's an E chord, my hand automatically goes to the full shape, and 2) if I were to miss hit the fourth string, at least I'd hit another chord tone and the mistake would be much less painful to the ear, in fact wouldn't sound like a mistake at all. It's a good habit to get into.

I do a little arpeggio over the last Am to end it off.

The chord plucks are done as a unit: the index, middle and ring fingers are locked together and work together. You'll need to move from one chord shape to another quite quickly to keep the flow going. You can see that I've already got my fingers into the required shapes before they come down on the strings (practice!). The thumb handles the bass notes as usual. Try and make sure your chord fingers are nicely arched over the strings so that the bass A note can ring through each time. It's important that it's there as it becomes part of the chord.

Enjoy the lesson. Click the player below for a mp3 of me playing the melody line over it on my resonator so you can hear how it fits in.