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JT Style Picking


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#1 ONLINE   Kirk Lorange

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Posted 03 November 2005 - 03:49 AM

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 a pretty straight forward bit of finger picking, the kind that the wonderful James Taylor made famous back in the mid-70's. He was one of the first to use a classical finger style approach to the steel string guitar. Until then, steel string guitars were usually strummed or if they were picked, it was with finger and thumb picks. James, on the other hand, uses his bare finger tips to get his sound, and always uses strong bass lines to create his parts.

I use a fairly common sounding chord progression in this lesson, one built around a descending bass line. The piece weaves the bass line through a common repeating top melody line, one that fits all the changes nicely. This structure in itself is a bit of a JT trademark, if you analyze his compositions. He has a great knack for turning a seemingly simple melody nto something much richer and complex by repeating it over new chords. All of his tunes are like mini music lessons. He is the master.

I've purposely kept this lesson nice and short and clean. After the last couple weeks of 'Blackwood Stroll', I figured you'd enjoy something more compact. You'll find that once you get the progression down, you'll want to just keep repeating it over and over again anyway, so you can make it as long as you want. You should also experiment with playing these same chords in a different order; try back to front; try doubling the number of bars for each chord; try as many combinations as you can think of.

The main thing to get under your fingers, as always, is the feel of this piece. To my ear, the two elements are very clear. The bass line is a distinct melody in its own right, just as strong as the melody played on the top strings. The way they both work together is what gives pleasure to the ear. The way the differing bass notes change the whole flavor, vibe, color -- whatever you want to call it -- of the top melody is what is so intriguing. The reason for that, of course, is that each time the melody is played, its individual notes have a different relationship to the chord.

The movie clearly shows the position of the picking hand. It's free and floating above the strings, ready to pick whatever needs picking, and allowing the strings to ring on. A common mistake for finger pickers is to anchor the hand to the body of the guitar. This is not a good idea. A relaxed, free moving hand is going to be more musical than one that is glued by the wrist to the guitar. It may feel vulnerable and lonely out there at first, but it will only be for a while. Force yourself to move that hand away from the guitar and let it hover comfortably above the strings. You're giving all your fingers their best chance of clean attack that way. The thumb is very definite in the way it plucks those bass notes. I'm using just the edge of my thumbnail to get a bit of attack. A couple of times, I repeat the bass note. This is just a detail of dynamics.


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