“I want you to know I was skeptical that I would get value from the workshop... But you hit on questions I have been pondering, clarified ideas I have been working with, and provided information I have been seeking but could not find. Very cool! I just read through the accompanying booklet and in my opinion, it is masterful” - Dave Kreimer
If you purchase this workshop
You will be sent a link to a page where you can download all the material for this workshop. This includes...
- A recording of four tunes to listen to, and familiarize yourself with before the workshop.
- Access to a recording of the live Zoom workshop as it happened on 1/30/2022
- A 30 page written overview of the subject, which includes talblature, chord diagrams, and rhythm charts.
- An overview video that corresponds with the written material
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.