She Caught the Katy - The Rhythm Part.
She Caught the Katy - The Lesson explained
Here's a fun one, a finger style rhythm part for that great blues standard 'She Caught the Katy (and left me a mule to ride)'. It was written by Taj Mahal but made famous in the movie The Blues Brothers. Do your ears a favor and listen to Taj Mahals version at YouTube. It's that version that this lesson emulates. This is also a great lesson as it teaches a few things at once.
First of all, it teaches that rhythm guitar can be played with the fingers and is not exclusively the domain of flat-picking strummers. In this example, I do no strumming at all, even with my fingers, but it's still a rhythm part. You could easily just play this part and sing the tune over it and require no help from any other instrument, which to me is the definition of 'rhythm guitar'. The part is an combination of a repeating bass line, a chord stab and a 'string slap', for want of a better term.
You'll quickly hear that the bass line is identical over all 5 chords, A, D, E, D#dim and G. It's the repetitive quality of the line that gels the whole thing together, both melodically and rhythmically. Except for the diminished chord, the breakdown of the line, in numbers, is Root - major third, fourth - flat five - five (or 1 - 3 - 4 -b5 - 5) each time and you can hear that the second note, the 3, is 'pushed' timing wise. It's played on the off beat (the '2 and' beat to be exact). It's that little push that grabs the ear and gets the feet tapping. So the second thing to really try and digest in this lesson is that 1 - 3 - 4 - b5 - 5 line fits around each chord. It's easy enough to see, literally, that it's the same line over the three primary chords -- the A, D and E -- because they all have the root on the open strings, and the moves are the same for each. It looks different over the G, but they're the same scale degrees there too. Let that sink in.
(For those who care, the scale degrees over the D#dim7 the scale degrees are 1 -b3 - 3 - 4 - b5)
There's a momentary chord inserted into the line over each change to flesh it all out and it's also 'pushed', this time on the 1-and beat. I just used the open shapes here, but they could have been any inversion and position of the chords.
Then there's the 'slap', which is the third element to learn. I've indicated it in the video with that yellow flash on the right hand side of the virtual fretboard. I've written it into the tab too. You'll see in the video that I do it by bringing my slightly closed hand down onto the strings. My finger nails slap down on the strings, muting the notes instantly and making a percussive sound. I'm not religious about doing it every time, it's one of those things that works best when it's ... how can I put it ... casual. You don't want to make a great big deal of it, make it too loud and overpowering. The muting effect is enough to create that rhythmical quality on its own, the percussive sound just adds to it.
So the whole sequence of events in the pattern is:
Root ... plucked with the thumb.
Chord ... plucked with fingers.
Slap ... played with the back of the fingers/nails.
Bass line ... plucked with thumb and fingers.
I suggest you start by just playing that pattern over the A chord, over and over and over until it just happens. Then work on changing chords and applying the pattern to the whole tune. Notice though that I alter the pattern just slightly at Bar 4 and 8. I didn't realize I had done this until I listened back later and transcribed it for TAB. It seems that I just subconsciously made that first beat of the bars a root and chord played at once. It just felt right, and it happened. I always find, and this is just my taste of course, that to allow yourself to change little details here and there, or to leave bits and pieces of the pattern out here and there, adds to the overall effect. The human brain loves little puzzles, loves to fill in the blanks, to finish off the sentences, to pay attention to detail -- or at least mine does. Perfect, mechanical repetition of musical patterns gets very boring very quickly.
The Middle 8
I included the middle eight in this lesson. It's introduced by a triplet feel descending bass line figure over the I chord, the A, and then back to the pattern over a D, A and G chord. That G chord is an outsider in the key of A. Roman numerically, you'd label it a bVII chord, meaning it's a major chord (upper case) built on the flat seventh degree of the key of A, which is G. It's another ear grabber. It then moves to the V chord, letting us know that we're going back to repeat the whole sequence. V chords have that effect.
I didn't bother repeating all the same notes on the virtual fretboard for the end. Instead I grabbed my resonator and played a little improvisation. I couldn't resist. The ending is in the tab, though.
Have fun with this one ... believe me, when you get all the micro-moves down and muscle-memorized, it really is a whole lot of fun to play. This is one where you truly need to let your hand and fingers dance, an analogy I have used often in these lessons. Learn the moves, the sequence, then just relax into it and let your wrist/hand/fingers become Fret Astaire and you fretboard the dance floor. Try to detach yourself from your extremities, just listen, and let it happen.
>> Part 2 of this lesson (The Melody Line) is here.
Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
As 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.