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Little Lily Ann - Another Travis Picking Lesson

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate-Advanced

The Lesson Explained.


When I was first playing through this, tightening the arrangement up and trying to come up with a title for it. My little daughter Georgia was in the room 'dancing' to it and I thought "look no further" ... so I named it after her middle names, Lily Ann.

This is definitely on the challenging side. The left hand is easy, not much going on there; not so the picking hand. I've always found it very difficult to keep the thumb playing a regular two string pattern regardless of what the top line is doing. I guess I just haven't done it enough. But muscle memory is a wonderful thing and all it takes is a good dose of conscious, attentive practice -- at slow speed -- to get that all-important flow going.

It's in the key of G and there's nothing very fancy about the chord progression. It's all I-IV-V chords with a vi thrown in. Those are the strongest of the seven related chords. So, Gs, Cs, D7s and Em. You'll see that a couple of the Cs are Maj7 ... that doesn't make them 'unrelated'. A Cmaj7 is just an extended IV chord. Same with the Em9, it's just an extended vi chord. "Em add 9" might be a better way of naming that chord, or "Em sus 2" perhaps. I was never good at remembering the finer points of naming chords.

The melody line is the tricky bit. You'll no doubt find as I did that there are a lot of counter-intuitive moves going on and that you really do need to take it nice and slowly as you run through it. You'll also find that once you do have it down, it's easier to play fast that slow. The version here is actually slower than I like but I figured it would be less daunting at this medium tempo. The 'hook' to the whole thing, the ear-catcher, is that recurring flat three to three move in the melody, the very first two notes. That momentary minor third in a major key definitely perks the ears up. That coupled with the momentary 6 in the bass line makes you listen just a little harder than usual to get your aural bearings, to let the discord become acceptable. Normally, bass lines in this kind of picking moves between the 1 and 5. Little Lily Ann follows that rule except for that one 6 that keeps appearing in conjunction with the flat 3. (Another way of looking at it is that those notes combine at that moment to form a partial diminished 7th chord. The 1 is the bass note, the 6 is a double-flat 7, the flat 3 is there ... all that's missing is the flat 5.)

When it gets to the Em9, the picking settles into a new pattern. Here the bass notes keeping jumping between chord tones: 1, 9 and 5 for the Em; 1,3 and 5 for the Cmaj7; 3, 5 and 1 for the G; 3 and 1 for the D7. The treble notes are constant throughout, creating a hypnotic effect.

It ends with a repeating melody line that keeps asserting itself over the different chords ...

I hope you enjoy it. This one really is addictive to play once to get it and open to all kinds of variations and tweaks.

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange

Kirk LorangeAs well as putting together these free guitar lessons, I am also the author of PlaneTalk - The Truly Totally Different Guitar Instruction Package, which teaches a mindset, a way of thinking about music and a way of tracking it all on the guitar fretboard. Yes, there IS a constant down there in the maze of strings and fret wire, a landmark that points to everything at all times. I call it The Easiest Yet Most Powerful Guitar Lesson You Will Ever Learn and many testimonials at my site will back up that rather superlative description. If your goal as a guitar player is to be able to truly PLAY the guitar, not just learn by rote; to be able to invent on the fly, not memorize every note; to be able to see the WHOLE fretboard as friendly, familiar territory, not just the first 5 frets and to do it all without thinking about all those scales and modes, then you should read more here.