The Birth of the Blues (Part 1) - Beginners Lesson.
The Birth of The Blues (Part 1) - The Lesson explained.
This lesson could have been called "Tiptoe through The Blues" because it uses the same basic progression as "Tiptoe through the Tulips" and "The Birth of the Blues", a couple of great old classics ... the melody line is mine.
Unless you picked up the guitar yesterday, you should be able to handle this one. It's another example of how a bass lines and melody can weave together and become 'the piece'. Even though there are no chords ringing out until the very end, the ear can take these two elements and sort of fill in the spaces between with imaginary chords.
So, if you're just starting out, don't be daunted by this. At any given moment, there are just two notes to worry about, so you're not get all tangled up in chords. There's one good stretch in amongst it (you'll know it when you get there) but other than that it's simply a matter of making your fingers obey. Playing an instrument, especially guitar, is always just that: mind over fingers. Even after all the years I've been doing it, I need to make my fingers obey. It does get a lot easier the more you do it, but it never goes away.
Watch the movie and you'll see and hear that, as usual, the bass notes are handled exclusively by the thumb. I suggest you first learn the bass line. If you can, just use your ear and the movie to do that. The sooner you get your ear trained the better. Constantly referring to tab is not going to help you in the long run. But, in case you can't figure it out yet by watching and listening, the tab is there. Once you've figured out and can play the bass line with me, then do the same for the melody. Use your other fingers though, leave the thumb right out of it. Which fingers should you use? Watch the movie and you'll see I use my middle and ring for most of it, but toward the end, I switch to my middle and index. Apart from the fact that I seem to be automatically muting the treble string with my ring finger there, I can't really say why I switched, but the important thing is this: there is no one single, definitive way to do anything. Find the most logical, economical and comfortable way for you to do it; when you have, feel free to find another. We're all different, our hands work differently, and experimenting is essential to become a proficient player. Try as many ways as you can do everything and eventually you'll know them all and you'll be able to switch around without even thinking about it. The goal is not to learn a piece like a robot, moving fingers in a pre-programmed manner. That's dangerous because you're not learning the piece of music, your learning a series of moves, and if something interrupts the process, you need to go back to the beginning and 're-boot'. Much better to learn the piece as a series of notes on the fretboard that need to be fretted and twanged. Then, you tell your fingers to go and do it.
In this piece, like all fingerstyle pieces, one of two distinct things is going on at any given moment: either you're plucking the melody note and bass note together ... or you're not. It's as simple as that. No matter how complex it may all seem, it always comes back to that. This ditty is a mix of both, and it's the pattern that is set up that becomes the 'feel' of the tune. Again, try and just hear it, but refer to the tab if you can't. You'll see this is a series of similar phrases that start with a bass/melody pluck then the melody line continues, ends and then there's a lone bass note. The bass notes come steadily on the 1 and 3 beats of each bar, the melody fits over the top.
The chords indicated in the tab and movie are the chord that would be there if more notes were added to the two there. They're there to let you see the actual structure of the piece if you're interested, that's all. Also, if you have a friend who likes to play along, he or she could strum those chords while you play this. That would sound very nice indeed.
(If you're a little more advanced than beginner, you may wonder about some of those chord names looking at the notes on the fretboard. For example the second chord I indicate as E7. What I'm actually playing is the 3 on the bass (G#) and the flat 7 on the top (D). So even though you may not recognize anything "E7" about the double stop, it is in fact a couple of notes form an E7/G# chord. The next note I play in the melody line is the 5 of an E7, so in effect I've played the 3-5-b7 ... only the root is missing, but that's OK. The Cm is a little obscure too ... it is in fact a Cm6. The two notes are the flat 3 in the bass and 6 above that.)
The ending is a pretty standard little blues ending, one that you can use over and over again. If you look closely and analyze the little shapes, you'll see how the notes on the 2-3 string-set move down a semitone each time while the note on the treble string stays put. That little movement can apply anywhere on the neck and it's well worth remembering. So, for example, if the piece is in A, just do all of the above two frets higher up the neck, then end on an A chord.
I dimmed down the chord name "G" at the end because it doesn't really stay on G, it's more of a goes G > Gdim > D7sus4 movement.
Take it slowly!
Part 2 of this Lesson 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.