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Mr Bojangles - A fingerstyle guitar lesson

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange

Mr Bojangles - The Lesson explained


This one sure takes me back. I remember hearing this and learning to perform in during the late 1960s and it was always a favorite. I've been meaning to do a lesson on it for a long time now, so here it is. I played around with different keys and different feels. I kept coming back to this version in G and minus the usual bouncy lilt that is associated with the tune. You can easily put the bounce back into it without changing any of the notes.

As usual, G works best. No climbing up the fretboard required and most of it based around the open chord shapes. Time signature is 3/4 or 6/8, whichever way you want to count it. I added an intro and outro, just a simple run through the main chords.

Chord-wise, it's mainly the related chords from the key of G with a couple of 'majorizations'. For those who like to know, here is the progression in Roman numeral:

Intro/outro: | I - - | V - - | vi - - | V - - | IV - - | I - - | ii I IV | I - - | X 2

Verses: | I - - | V - - | vi - - | V - - | IV - - | - - - | V - - | - - - | X 2

| IV - - | - - - | iii - - | III - - | vi - - | II - - | V - - | - - - | I - - | V - - |

Chorus: | vi - -| - - - | iii - - | - - - | vi - - | - - - | iii - - | - - - | vi - - | - - - | V - - | - - - |

Remembering that lower case means minor and upper case means major, you can see that there are two case of the usual minors being 'majorized'. I've shown them in red above. They are the II chord (A) and the III chord (B). I point these out because it's important to hear these deviations from the usual diatonic chords. When you really listen, and I mean really listen, you are training your ear to hear the quality of chords, the flavor. There's a good ear trainer in this tune and that's where the iii becomes a III, in other words where B7 immediately follows the Bm7 (bars 35-36 and 63-64). You can hear the minor becoming major. It's not easy to actually see it on the fretboard, but the difference between the two is just a shift of one half step of just one note in the two chords. A tiny adjustment; a huge difference in the sound of the chord. After a while of really listening, you will start to know exactly what is happening without anyone telling you or reading the chord names ... you will just know.

Back to the tune:

There's nothing too tricky it. I usually find one or two speed bumps when I arrange these tunes -- places where I need to really work things out and practice them up -- but not so in this tune. If you know the key of G, which I'm sure you do by now if you follow my lessons, this one should roll off the fingertips with few problems.

You'll see that I don't play the repeat verse exactly the same as the first. Pick whichever version you like best or learn both or, even better, come up with your own way of doing it.

See you next time!

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.