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Shenandoah ( Across the Wide Missouri )

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange

Thanks, member Doug, for suggesting this one. It's a gorgeous tune, the epitome of 'Americana' to my ear.

I've done this one in Dropped D tuning, so grab your tuner and lower that 6th string by a whole tone to D. If you don't have a tuner, follow these steps:

• Start plucking the D string (4th string).
• As you do, pluck the thick E string and start to release the tension.
• Pluck away at both as you lower the pitch of the thick string.
• When the pulsating and throbbing between frequencies starts to smooth out, slow down with the release.
• When there is no pulsating between the two strings at all, you have reached the D note.
• Make any minor adjustments to the other strings if necessary.

This arrangement is quite tricky, but it's also quite sparse, so there's plenty of time to get ready for the tricky bits. You'll see that I've incorporated quite a few techniques into this one, so it'll be a good one to practice up. There are slide-ins, vibrato, a lot of open string notes coming into play at odd times, three-finger plucks, quick arpeggios ... all kinds of things.

The progression is diatonic from start to finish, meaning that all chords come from the D major scale, which is fairly unusual for anything other than nursery rhymes. All but the vii chord are used in this arrangement: D (I), Em (ii), F#m (iii), G (IV), A (V) and Bm (vi). The vii chord in the key of D is C#m7-5 ... that irksome half-diminished. There are a bunch of slash chords in there too, but they're all diatonic.

From the top:

I chose to do a little slide up to the third instance of that D note in the opening phrase, playing the first as part of the G/D chord, the second as a single note on the 2nd string, the third as a slid-up-to note on then third string. Why? Just to keep it interesting, to insert some dynamics, to add some movement. It's not a difficult passage fingering wise, but it will probably take a few run throughs to get it flowing properly. I know it did for me.

Bar 3 moves to a G chord. Remember that we're in Dropped D tuning and that pinkie move on the bass string is playing the root of the G chord. All notes on that bass string will be two frets up form their normal position in standard tuning.

Halfway through bar 3 there's a little ascending chord melody line which is, in fact a G6 > Dmaj7 > G > Dmaj7 progression. I didn't bother indicating those names in the tab or movie. I do a little move halfway through 4 where I drop the melody note by semitone then come back up to the original note. I only pluck once, though. I'm not sure what this move would be called. It's not a pull-off, nor is it a hammer-on ... is it a slur? Whatever it's called, it's a small but effective detail.

Bar 5 takes me up the fretboard to a descending harmonized line played in 6ths. 6ths are back to front 3rds and are nothing new if you've seen some of the other lessons here.

The next passage, bars 6 and 7, is where the open strings come into play in those arpeggios. Make sure your left hand fingers come down onto the strings nice and straight so you don't choke off that open B string.

Bar 10 I play a barre chord for the Bm. I do try to avoid barre chords for these lessons, but this one is an easy grip. The next chord is a D/A, or you could call it Bm7. The A is the open string, so, once again, make sure you allow it to ring for a bit without choking it.

Look out bar 12 ... an open string note appears out of nowhere in the melody line, an open E string, first beat. You could just as easily play it on the second string (5th fret), but by playing the open string it can ring over the next note in the melody line. This is a minuscule detail, but one that I really like.

There's not much to report until bar 17 where you'll notice my left hand forms a Bm grip but I don't actually play anything but the root. This is just muscle memory in action. My brain tells me the chord of the moment is Bm, so my hand moves into position even though I'm just playing the bass note.

Bar 18 comes another barre chord, this time Gmaj7. Notice that the melody note is anticipated there ... it actually gets plucked on the last 8th beat of bar 18. It's played with the pinkie, which stays put as I build the barre shape around it so that the note can keep ringing. Notice also that the arpeggio I play over that barre shape uses all the notes except that melody note, which rings throughout. Small detail, but an important one.

The ending is pretty simple.

This piece is a good example of what I see as "Fingerstyle" guitar. There are no patterns at all, there's not even a regular bass line/melody line correlation going on and even the tempo is shifting back and forth. Playing this kind of thing is definitely trickier than those pieces where your fingers can fall into patterns and roll along with the feel. You need to be more careful in this kind of piece, you really do need to LISTEN as you progress through the piece to keep the feel going. You need to be both the player and the audience at the same time.

Take you time learning this one. It's a beautiful tune, one that just keeps going to the right places and that you just want to play again when you reach the end.

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange

Kirk LorangeAs well as putting together these fingerstyle guitar lessons, I am also the author of PlaneTalk - The Truly Totally Different Guitar Instruction Package.
If you think you know all about chords, theory, scales and modes but you're still wondering how to turn the whole guitar fretboard, (not just the first few frets) into familiar, playable, friendly territory ... If you're still puzzled by the fact that some players can invent on the spot, play riffs, melody, chords, and harmony instantly, anywhere on the neck ... if you'd like to learn how to do this, then my PlaneTalk package could be for you, because that's exactly what it teaches.
Click here to find out more.