workshop # 12
I love playing rhythm guitar behind old-time music and bluegrass. As long as the jam is not too big, and the musicians are listening to each other, I never find it boring or monotonous, and I can happily do it for hours.
Rhythm guitar is a lot like clawhammer banjo in that it is fairly accessible. When you break it down to its elements, there really isn’t that much to it. This can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it doesn’t take a beginner, or someone with some amount of prior guitar experience, long to get to the point where they can play basic rhythm guitar in an old-time or traditional bluegrass jam. On the other hand, this “easy access” can cause players to quickly gloss over the elements and so not learn to use them to their full potential - the end result being a pretty quick plateau.
Unless you pay attention to those basic elements, refine them, understand how they can affect the music, and most importantly, learn how to use them with intention, you’ll be limited by how much you can (or can’t) engage with the music. If you’re not engaged with the music you are going to be either a bored or boring rhythm guitar player (probably both).
For many players, this workshop won’t be about learning something new, it will be about taking a closer look at what you’re already doing, and learning to use your tools to a fuller potential. The workshop itself will run about 2 – 2 ½ hours, during which I’ll talk about and demonstrate several principles (listed below). After the workshop, I’ll provide a written overview and demonstration videos. I’ll also provide play-along tracks so you can apply what you learn in the workshop to a couple of fiddle tunes (played by Scott Prouty). Although the focus of this workshop will be playing backup guitar for old-time music, everything in it could be applied to traditional bluegrass, country, and folk as well.
Here are some of the things I will cover in the workshop.
A Bass Note and a Strum
You need to make sure you understand and can play with constancy, the root/five boom-chuck pattern for every chord. We’ll look at what this means, and how this is the tonal and rhythmic foundation for everything that follows. How well and consistently you can do this is in direct coloration with how good a rhythm guitar player you’ll be (spoiler alert – a lot of people seem to gloss over this).
The Drum and the Stick (beyond boom-chuck)
Your guitar is a drum and your pick is a drumstick. At its most basic level, playing rhythm guitar is just playing drums on a guitar – you’re banging out rhythms. Even within the polite confines of old-time backup guitar, there are several rhythms that you should be aware of and able to play. We’ll look at what they are, and how each can affect the feel of the music.
Walking the Line (bass lines as opposed to bass runs)
This is a step I see people commonly miss. They learn to do their basic root/five bass pattern, and then they go right to trying to incorporate bass runs. Before you do that, you need to make sure you know how to make use of all the potential moving bass lines that are available to you just by choosing different bass notes that already in the chords you’re playing. By choosing bass notes (with intention) that follow the melody of tune, you can make some very effective and beautiful moving bass lines without ever changing your left-hand fingering.
Bass Run Rundown
We’ll look at the difference between ¼ note, 1/8 note, and 1/16 note bass lines. What they do (create and release tension), and how, when, and why to pull them off...and when not to.
Shapes and Colors (chords!)
I’ll share some thoughts on chord choices, as well as some chord shapes and fingerings that I find useful. We’ll touch on how to approach backing up modal tunes, as well as how/when/why to use your capo.
If you purchase this workshop
A couple of weeks before the workshop, I will send you a recording of two or three tunes for you to become familiar with (just the chord changes). On the Friday before the workshop, I'll send you a Zoom link with instructions for how to join the workshop on Jan. 30. A few hours after the workshop, you will receive an email with a link to all the resources for the workshop. This will include a video of the workshop, a written overview (with tab), video examples, and play-along tracks.
This workshop will run live at 2pm ET on Sunday, January 30. Remember - you don't need to be in attendance for the live workshop in order to participate. There's very little difference between taking the workshop live, or in re-run format...although, we hope you can make it live!
HOW TO PURCHASE AND PARTICIPATE IN PAST WORKSHOPS
You don't have to take these workshops live. They are archived for you to purchase and participate in any old time! You get access to a video of the entire workshop as well as all support material provided. There's even a blog for you to ask questions. Scroll down to see ten workshop topics. Click on the links below to read detailed descriptions, and if you wish, purchase the workshops.