Kirk Lorange

Finger Style Waltz Study >> Rhythm Part in 3/4 Time

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The TAB, GuitarPro file, midi files and notation that come with this lesson are now only available as part of the "Fingerstyle Lesson Pack" Details here.
This lesson teaches a number of aspects of music and playing the guitar:

3/4 waltz time. Most western pop music is in 4/4 time signature, but 3/4 time, also know as a "waltz", is also an important time signature to get the feel of. It's most commonly heard in country/folk music, but can be used in many other genres as well.

Finger style rhythm guitar. Usually, rhythm guitar playing is thought of as a strumming flat-picking technique, but there's no reason whatsoever that you can't express a rhythm part using your thumb and fingers.

Another look at the related chords of the key. Each major key consists of seven related chords, chords which go well together because they are all from the same scale. This progression is one of those that uses related chords exclusively.

The importance of a strong bass line. Bass notes are the foundation of any chordal structure, and our ears come to rely on them to understand the music we're listening to. They underpin the higher notes within a chord, and in this example, they lead our ear to each new section.

The movie shows both hands quite clearly.

The fretboard hand doesn't need to do much moving around, as all the chord positions used in this example are located down near the nut, in fact they are all open chords. I've even kept the Bm7 as an 'open' (not barred) shape to keep it easy to move from one to the other. Remember this version of Bm7. It comes in very handy.

You'll see that I don't move one whole shape to the next whole shape. That would be too difficult to do cleanly each time. Rather, what happens is that I play each bass note first, and as that bass note is ringing, the rest of the chord shape is fingered. It's still a movement which requires speed, but it's not instantaneous. This comes with practice and planning ahead. Your muscle memory quickly learns which fingers will be needed for each chord shape and in which sequence they will be needed.

The chord progression in this piece is:

I vi ii IV V V I

This Roman numeral system of notating chord progressions is well worth learning, as it instantly reveals the relationship each chord has in the piece, but don't worry too much if it's too much to take in. Simply remembering the chords by name is fine.The beauty of the roman numeral system is that it makes it very easy to change key.

The rhythm pattern I do with my picking hand is pretty much a regular repetitive "thumb - pluck - pluck". The "pluck" is a three finger pluck. You can see in the movie that those three fingers are almost fused together for the bulk of the piece.

One little note is added in during the A chord to kick in the next bar, where I play an ascending harmony line between the A and the D chord. It's a good example of leading the ear back to the I chord, from the V chord. I've shown many examples of this function of the V chord, this is another. Its role as "take me home to the I chord" is self evident here, and the ascending harmony line simply amplifies that role. You'll see in the tab that part of that ascending line is actually a G chord (G/B, meaning a G chord with a B bass note). The A chord reappears for one bar just after the I chord, too. It's function there is that of a simple "turn around", which is a musical interlude used as a hinge between two repeating sections of music. Turn arounds can be much more complicated that this simple V chord, but their function is always that of the V chord.


As always, the most important thing to try and master is the "feel" of the piece, the lilt, the musicality. A good way to practice this might be to first of all get that bass line sounding smooth and musical. Don't even worry about the chord plucks. Once you get that sounding like music, start adding in the chord plucks.

Remember, this is in 3/4 time, so if you need to count to keep track of things, count One Two Three One Two Three One Two Three.

The tab indicates which fingers I use. You'll see that on the Em and G, I don't even play a couple of the notes my fingers are holding down. That's because each section is based on an open chord shape, and I play the whole shape, including those unused notes. You'll also see from the movie and tab that I play an A chord by barring those three strings. I've always found it too difficult to fit three fingers into that A shape, so I don't bother. I just barre them. Of course, you must be careful NOT to play that treble string, or you'll be playing an A6, which will not sound very pleasing.

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