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Sitting On Top Of The World - A fingerstyle guitar lesson

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Advanced


Sitting on Top of the World - The Lesson explained

Another one for you Blues aficionados, this time a rendition of something that closely resembles 'Sitting On Top Of The World'. It was written by the Mississippi Sheiks back in 1930. I listened to a bunch of versions while arranging this, all great, but it was the Howlin Wolf version I liked the best. What a dude. The tune also became a well known Bluegrass tune, so it's been around.

I played this on my new nylon string, an 'Ayers' guitar that was given to me by the company. It's my second Ayers, the first being a steel string that I used on a couple of lessons here. They're both beautiful guitars, made in Vietnam. The workmanship is outstanding but they're very affordable, I guess because of where they're put together. You can check them out here.

We're in the key of E for this one, a great key for blues guitar. For once, this isn't a 12 bar blues. It's in 6/8 time, and counting 6/8 it works out to 18 bars. I've written the chords out below as if in 4/4 time to make it easier to read.

| E - - - | E7 - - - | A - - - | Am7 - D9 - | E - C#7 - | CMaj7 - B7 - |
| G - Em/A B7 | E - A - | E - B7 - |

It's definitely not your standard 12 bar blues, but on the other hand you will no doubt hear that it's a fairly common progression. Every version I listened to was different. Some were very 'standard', using just the E, A and B7. Others, like Howlin Wolfs, were more involved and used a bunch of substitutions. This version is pretty much his. That whole section that moves through C#, C and B is a fairly standard set of changes that can replace the more straight-forward E to B7.

Then there's that G chord! You don't often get a G chord in the key of E. Again, there are versions that don't, that just play standard blues changes there, sitting on the E7 there. I think what happened was that the melody note is the 'blue'note there, the flat 3, the G, and that some artists decided to really make that note stand out by turning it into a chord -- a G chord. Once the bass plays a G, it's a G chord of some sort, and this is what I heard in many versions. I figured if a G is good for Howlin' Wolf, it's good for us too.

There's nothing too tricky in this ... a bit of stretching here, a long jump down the fretboard there, some unusual fingerings sprinkled around, but overall it's just a matter of working out each little passage and pasting them all together. That move over bars 3 and 4 will no doubt need a bit of practice to get right, it's quite a long jump down the neck.

I play the whole progression twice in the movie. The second time through is a little different in places (I find it pretty much impossible to play the same thing twice) and you should feel free to alter the arrangement to suit your own playing / hands / taste. There's certainly nothing definitive about my arrangement.

I can't think of anything to add to this so I'll leave it at that. Have fun, that's the main thing.