Pick It Up. Beginners’ Guide to Flatpicking

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Pick It Up. Beginners Guide to FlatpickingWant to improve your flatpicking? Not even sure what flatpicking is? Well, this could just be the lesson for you. The piece is fairly straightforward although, as always, there are a few bits to look out for here and there. Well, it looks like winter is finally on the way so I thought I’d write a happy tune this time in the style of those clean-living Yanks the Counting Crows. I’ve been listening to the Satellites album recently so I should credit Adam and the boys for some of the inspiration for this piece, which I’ve entitled ‘Counting Hedgehogs’ (at least I think that’s what our local farmer calls them). The second part already available.

Let’s start with the first chord, which is an easy variation of a bog-standard G major chord. By simply including the open top E string, the chord becomes a G major sixth. Why is this? Well, look at the G major scale:

G major scale Flatpicking lesson

The E is the sixth note (yes, it really is that easy!). As I’m not playing the A string I used this shape (see Picture 1). Try to mute (or dampen) the A string by touching it with the underside of your second finger to prevent it from accidentally sounding (or feeding back if you’re playing particularly loudly).

For the second chord, I recommend using the thumb for the low F# as in Picture 2.

Bear in mind that you don’t have to get your thumb all the way around the neck. It’s usually sufficient to just catch the string with the side of the thumb. It might feel a little difficult at first but stick with it as it’s an incredibly useful technique. You’ll find that you can’t really play most Hendrix songs without it (that may or may not be an incentive!).

The next two chord shapes are pretty straightforward, as you can see probably tell from Pictures 3 and 4.

Be sure to use pull offs at the end of bar 4. These are achieved by first plucking the C note (B string, 1st fret) and pulling your first finger off the string with a slight sideways motion to sound the open B string. Next, fret the A (G string, 2nd fret) with the second finger, pluck it and them pull the second finger off the string, once again using the slight sideways motion, to produce the open G string.

The pick’s the thing. Flatpicking Lesson

At first glance the picking strokes may appear a little odd, but it’s a very logical approach and makes playing this type of tune a lot easier. In essence, the right hand utilises a constant down-up motion, even when not actually picking a string. This helps you to keep in time and adds to the smooth flow of the music.

Anchors away?

There seem to be different theories on this but what I do is anchor my hand to the guitar in some way so that I have a point of reference. In other words so that I don’t have to watch my hand all the time. Some teachers and other players say that you shouldn’t anchor the hand, (especially to the top of an acoustic guitar as that’s where it resonates) so where I usually rest it is on the bridge. This, of course, is physically connected to the top of the guitar but to my ears doesn’t seem to affect the tone quite as much. If you’re a beginner it may seem to be a bit early to talk about things like this but I think it’s better to start off with good habits instead of practising bad ones.

For the ‘B’ section of the piece I used a fairly easy strumming pattern and went between A minor (see Picture 5) and D major (see Picture 6), with a funky little D7 on the fifth fret to finish it all off (see Picture 7).

The Dsus4 chords are produced by simply placing your little finger on the top E string, third fret of the D major chord.

Not only, but also

When I was recording this piece I could hear in my head a nice little counterpoint phrase using triads, so I’ve included the music for that as well; again pay particularly special attention to the pick strokes and take your time to get it right. You’ll find that the ones I’ve written are the most effective. Here’s what the triads look like: First, the G major triad at the 7th fret is shown in Picture 8, while the D major triad at the 5th fret is shown in Picture 9. The E minor triad at the third fret looks suspiciously like that in Picture 10. For the final C major triad simply play the same shape as the D major triad but down (towards the headstock) two frets so that it’s around the third fret.

Once again, take your time with this piece, and you’ll find that the techniques you acquire from playing this tune properly will be useful to you forever. Enjoy the tune.

Beginners' Guide to Flatpicking Photo 1

Pic.1 Take Six – Fingering for the opening G6 chord

Beginners' Guide to Flatpicking Photo 2

Pic.2 All thumbs – Fret the F# with the thumb

Beginners' Guide to Flatpicking Photo 3

Pic.3 Easy, like – A straightforward fingering arrangement

Beginners' Guide to Flatpicking Photo 4

Pic.4 Can you C? – Another straightforward chord to fret

Beginners' Guide to Flatpicking Photo 5

Pic.5 Minor moves – Fretting the A minor chord

It’s a part of Pick It Up. Beginners’ Guide to Flatpicking lesson

Below you can download a full copy of

 Flatpicking lesson with backing track for free


23 December 2012 0 comments
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