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Summertime - A Fingerstyle and Slide Lesson

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate

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The video with un-blurred virtual fretboard can be downloaded from a link at the top of the TAB

Summertime - The Lesson explained

I know you'll recognize this one ... Summertime. There are apparently over 33,000 different arrangements and renditions of this great old tune. Now there's one more. Written by George Gershwin for the musical Porgy and Bess​ in 1935, it's the epitome of a minor key blues. Do your ears a favor and have a listen to the orchestral version​ of it, the way George scored originally. It's just gorgeous. I used it as the template for this finger style version rather than those jazzy versions that seem to be the norm for guitar players. There's nothing like going right back to source to find the best version to work from.

It's in Am, the preferred key for this tune. You will quickly hear a sort of dissonance in the chord structure. Those repeating minor 6th chords set and maintain the bluesy mood throughout. It's a short progression that repeats so there's really not that much to it, but some of the moves are a little tricky.

There's a lot to learn musically from this tune. You will both see and hear that minor 6th chords are almost identical to their V9 chords... which is a fancy way of saying that (for example) Bm6 is pretty much the same chord as E9 ( E is the fifth of B ). In the intro and outro, I switch between them willy nilly and it always works. It doesn't really matter which you use. It's really only the bass note -- the root -- that determines the name of the chord. So, depending on how far along the road you are, this is good information to mentally file away. This is what chord substitution is all about.

There are a couple of tricky little bits to negotiate, especially that filler bit that come at bar 12, but overall it's pretty straight forward. Just take your time, make those fingers comply. It's a nice slow tempo, no need to hurry through it. You might notice my pinky keeping time with a little drum beat in this one ... it's something I find difficult not to do.

I couldn't resist adding some slide guitar to it. I got the old Strat out for this one. The virtual fretboard got bumped but I included all the ending acoustic part in the tab. It's a nice accompaniment if you prefer to just sing it. The slide is played in standard tuning, in case you're wondering. I went through my little DigiTech RP 100 to record it and did a bit of improv à la PlaneTalk at the end.

That's it for this one ... it's a pleasure to play, I hope you enjoy it.