Kirk Lorange

Blackwood Stroll >> part 1

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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.
Here is part 1 of "Blackwood Stroll", a little piece I composed recently which I named after the street I live on, here in White Rock, Canada ... white rock, black wood ... they really should get more creative in their place names. It's a very happy sounding little ditty, lots of fun to play, well beyond the 'beginners' level that this site is named after, but like all the lessons here, everything is broken down and tabbed out, so with enough concentration you can get those fingers to stretch out and OBEY. This is something that never stops, by the way; I've been twanging since 1961 and I still have to concentrate on anything new and make my fingers obey. It's VERY important to play at least a little each day, even if it's just for 5 minutes. I just came back from a 5 day trip without my guitar and it took a lot of playing to get my dexterity up to scratch and my brain back in gear. I think I'll buy one of those little travel guitars to take with me on trips in the future, so I needn't go without.

Blackwood Stroll is in the key of D, and the guitar is tuned to dropped D. As you can see, I'm posting more and more lessons in this great tuning, which is the way my guitar is always tuned these days. So, tune that bass string down to D, adjust all the other strings, and get stuck into it.

The progression for part 1 is:

D - - - | D - - - | D - - - | D - - - | D7 - - - | G - G#dim - | D - Dm-5/A A7 | D - - - |

(Replace the last D with an A, and then repeat the whole thing for the complete verse section.)

The essence to this piece, to my ear anyway, is that steady one-per-beat bass line that thumps away. There are a couple of digressions from the steadiness, but it keeps coming back to it, anchoring the whole thing down. As you can see in the movie, the thumb handles all bass notes. I would concentrate on getting it right first, then adding the melody and chords. The 'feel' of this piece is a sort of swinging triplet feel, which the tab clearly indicates. Count each bar as: 'One and a Two and a Three and a Four and a' ... to hear the essence of a triplet feel. You'll hear in the midi that I've added a shaker sound playing that triplet feel.

I start the whole thing on an A augmented chord, which leads nicely to the first bar of D. The melody line is in four parts; they're not identical copies of each other, but there is a sense of repetition, more in the phrasing than the actual notes. The first three feature that bent note, the flat 3 bending up to the 3. That alone gives it a bluesy/jazzy flavor. Bending flat 3s up to 3s is something that you will do again and again in hundreds of different pieces, so try and lock in where those 3s are in the context of the chord.

You'll notice how the melody line uses open strings a couple of times where you don't expect it. The first time, an open B string comes into play; the next time it's an open E string. I must admit, it was using those open strings that made me continue writing the piece ... there's something about the way they enable the melody to drop into place that's very satisfying. You'll see what I mean when you lock your fingers in.

The little '3's in the tab indicate the triplet nature of the feel, showing how each beat is divided into 3 rather than the usual two. This is what gives it the swing. You can see where notes are played in conjunction with the bass note and where they're played alone. Take your time piecing it all together -- force your hand to obey. The NH written above the last chord means 'Natural Harmonic'.

This is by no means an easy piece to master, so don't be discouraged if you have trouble. The most difficult aspect will no doubt be stitching all the elements together into the 'feel' ... that swinging, gravity-assisted, loping vibe that makes you want to stroll along. The bending of one string while leaving the other un-bent is also not easy to do. But, it's all there in tab format, so you can see exactly which notes go where, so come back to it later on when your fingers ready for it.


See "part 2" of this lesson here

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