I have uploaded many acoustic fingerstyle lessons
over the years, but you might be surprised to learn that I never really play that kind of thing professionally. I play in a four piece rock/blues/roots band: two guitars, bass and drums. We're loud and we rock out. This lesson looks at the kind of thing I would be playing to a 12 bar rocky tune in the key of A, although I would have my slide
on my pinkie and I'd be inserting some of that here and there to spice it up.
'Rhythm guitar' is usually understood to be played with a flat pick, strumming out patterns to provide the singer or soloist with a backdrop to work against, a kind of sonic canvas that's -- hopefully and ideally -- knitting in with the drums and bass parts. But it can also be this type of thing: a regular pattern set up by grabbing bits of chords and snippets of bass lines, played with the fingers. It's more of keyboard approach to playing a rhythm part. Pianists don't strum, but they can still provide 'rhythm parts'.
Let's have a close look at what I'm doing here.
The opening lick was just me limbering my fingers up, it's not really part of the lesson, but I tabbed it out anyway as I know some of you would have written asking for it. It's an A7 lick.
So, we're in the key A and it's a standard 12 bar rock/blues progression:
| A - - - | - - - - | - - - - | - - - | D - - - | - - - - | A - - - | - - - | E - - - | D - - - | A - - - | E - - - | ... or in Roman numerals,
| I - - - | - - - - | - - - - | - - - | IV - - - | - - - - | I - - - | - - - | V - - - | IV - - - | I - - - | V - - - |
I like to keep my parts simple and compact. In a band situation, it's the better approach in my opinion. All the rhythm part should be doing is bubble along in the background. It should stay out of the way of the singer's part and or the soloist's part. It should be letting the listener know what the chord is and what the feel is, as succinctly as possible. The first 12 bars of this lesson is an example of just that. I'm playing small power chords -- two roots and a fifth -- for each chord. No third. There's a 6 inserted into the pattern. That's the note that comes after the power chord. It's a very standard sounding addition to the root and fifth and keeps kicking it all along. Where's the 3? How do we know what kind of chord it really is, whether it's major or minor? That quality is stated in the little bass line that comes at the end of each bar. It's always a flat 3 to a major 3 of the A chord. That movement between the two thirds tells our ear immediately that this is a blues based rock tune. This genre uses both 3s, usually like this, quickly moving from the b3 to the 3. That's what makes it the blues.
You can see that in the key of A, it all fits neatly into the first four frets of the fingerboard and that the fingering is almost identical for all three chords. The guitar is neat that way.
My picking hand is quite busy muting unwanted strings and clipping the duration of the notes. I want it all to be quite staccato and poppy, so my thumb is deadening the bass strings, and my fingertips are either plucking notes or resting on the treble strings, muting them as well. Again, I want everything to be clipped and I want empty space between most notes.
In the second twelve bars, I replace the bass line with a little double-stop figure, and I would only add this if there was an appropriate hole in the singer's melody line, or if I could hear it wasn't muddying the sound.
The one that fits into the A bars (bars 14,16 and 20) reflects the bass line. That b3 to 3 is there and the 6 is there too. So the very same flavours. That little figure can also be seen as a movement between A and D. The two notes played a the 7th (which are the 4 and 6 of A) fret are a root and third of a D chord. So, in effect, you're hearing A - D - A.
Over the D chord, the figure is slightly different, by one fret (bar 18). Here it becomes the b7 and 9 of D moving to the 1 and 3 of D, and back again. So the overall effect is that the D chord has become a totally appropriate D9 chord.
The E parts are very plain and simple.
So there you go. Just one example of this kind of fingerstyle rhythm. The ways you can mix up all the bits and pieces are endless, of course. There are a million other snippets to add, replace, juggle and a trillion timing changes you can incorporate, but this, to me, is the essence of it. I'll do a few more variations to show you what I mean.
As always, have fun. If it stops being fun, take a break!
For this lesson, I will now be charging a small fee of US $3.95 for the Printable PDF of the TAB/Notation. Click here to order it.
Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange