Stu­art Ryan re­veals the acous­tic ap­proach of singer-song­writer Sarah Jarosz.

Guitar Techniques - - Guitar Techniques -

A gui­tarist, man­dolin­ist and banjo player, Sarah Jarosz is a su­perla­tive singer­song­writer and mul­ti­in­stru­men­tal­ist who can of­ten be found in the com­pany of blue­grass su­per­stars such as Chris Thile and Jerry Dou­glas.

Sarah was born in Austin, Texas in May 1991 and grew up in Wimberley, Texas. Her mu­si­cal jour­ney started with the man­dolin at aged 10 and in­cred­i­bly by the time she was in high school she signed a record­ing con­tract with leading blue­grass la­bel Su­gar Hill Records aged just 16. Af­ter school she stud­ied at the New Eng­land Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic in Bos­ton, grad­u­at­ing in 2013.

It’s hum­bling to know that at such a young age she has al­ready re­leased three al­bums: Song Up In Her Head (2009, fea­tur­ing a Grammy nom­i­nated track, not bad for a de­but!), Fol­low Me Down (2011) and Build Me Up From Bones (2013). These al­bums fea­ture the ab­so­lute cream of mod­ern blue­grass mu­si­cians – the afore­men­tioned Thile and Dou­glas ap­pear along­side banjo ge­nius Bela Fleck, gui­tarist and singer Dan Tyminski from Ali­son Krauss’s Union Sta­tion, and Shawn Colvin.

Jarosz of­ten ap­pears in a trio for­mat with cel­list Nathaniel Smith and fid­dler Alex Har­g­reaves, and it’s fas­ci­nat­ing to watch her in this for­mat ei­ther on gui­tar or her Fletcher Brock oc­tave man­dolin to see how she fills the reg­is­ter in be­tween cello and fid­dle. Be­ing a man­dolist as well as gui­tarist means that Jarosz is adept at both plec­trum and fin­ger­style. For this is­sue’s study we’ll fo­cus on the fin­ger­pick­ing

Her al­bums fea­ture the ab­so­lute cream of mod­ern blue­grass mu­si­cians, such as Chris Thile, Bela Fleck, Dan Tyminski and Shawn Colvin.

ap­proach with a spe­cific em­pha­sis on the very tra­di­tional use of the al­ter­nat­ing thumpicked bass line. The key with this style is to get the thumb com­pletely in­de­pen­dent from the pick­ing hand fin­gers – the al­ter­nat­ing bass line pat­tern is usu­ally de­rived from pick­ing the sixth and fourth strings, athough string five of­ten comes into play as well. This bass line pro­vides the beat around which the first, sec­ond and third fin­gers (‘i’, ‘m’ and ‘a’) can weave ac­com­pa­ni­ment on the third, sec­ond and first strings re­spec­tively. Take care to bal­ance the vol­ume and dy­nam­ics of the bass notes against the other strings – Travis pick­ers will usu­ally palm mute these strings to keep them in check, but singer-song­writ­ers of­ten keep them un-muted and so use a lighter at­tack on the thumb to even things out. An­other ma­jor tech­ni­cal as­pect is be­ing com­fort­able with syn­co­pa­tion: the even rhythms of the bass notes of­ten con­trast with the off-the-beat up­per-string notes, as you’ll see in this month’s ex­am­ple.

Jarosz is a won­der­ful mu­si­cian and writer and well worth check­ing out – UK read­ers can catch her on her sum­mer tour this year!ERIKA

Sarah Jarosz with her lovely Fletcher Brock oc­tave man­dolin

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