Stu­art Ryan dis­cov­ers that coun­try queen Dolly Par­ton has a neat twist on fin­ger­style guitar.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

The undis­puted Queen Of Coun­try, Dolly Par­ton is a bona fide su­per­star, both within that genre and be­yond. Even if you are not fa­mil­iar with her work you may be as­ton­ished to dis­cover that she has penned over 3,000 songs and was the author of Whit­ney Hous­ton’s 90s mega-smash I Will Al­ways Love You. Of course, there are her own hits - Jo­lene, Coat Of Many Col­ors, Here You Come Again, Love Is Like A But­ter­fly and 9 To 5 among many others.

While it’s tempt­ing to be side­tracked by Par­ton’s op­u­lent on­stage im­age, she ac­tu­ally came from ex­tremely hum­ble begin­nings. Born in Ten­nessee she was brought up in a one-room shack but by the age of 10 she was per­form­ing on lo­cal ra­dio and, as­ton­ish­ingly, made her de­but ap­pear­ance on Amer­ica’s flag­ship coun­try show The Grand Ole Opry at just 13. After she left school Nashville beck­oned and she started to work as a song­writer. Weekly ap­pear­ances on coun­try star Porter Wagoner’s TV show saw her reach a huge au­di­ence and soon she was em­bed­ded in the public con­scious. After duet­ing with Wagoner and en­joy­ing a string of Top 10 hits with him she went solo and even greater suc­cess started to come - most no­tably with 1973’s afore­men­tioned Jo­lene. I Will Al­ways Love You was a No 1 in 1974 (and, in­ter­est­ingly, in 1984 too) and by 1979 she had been awarded her first Grammy.

In ad­di­tion to play­ing guitar Par­ton can of­ten be seen with a banjo and it’s the ‘thumb and flick’ tech­nique of banjo that dom­i­nates much of her guitar work. In essence it’s a ver­sion of the classic May­belle Carter ap­proach where the thumb plucks a bass note, which is fol­lowed by the first finger ‘flick­ing’ down to sound the cor­re­spond­ing chord – strike the strings with the fin­ger­nail, which will give a more per­cus­sive sound (McCart­ney em­ploys this tech­nique too).

There are no de­mands on the fret­ting hand here as Dolly is mostly play­ing sim­ple open-po­si­tion chords. But you may find the pick­ing hand needs some work on thumb ac­cu­racy, en­sur­ing you hit the cor­rect bass notes; and on the first-finger ‘flick’ use enough power to strike the strings but not too much that they over­shadow the bass notes. In essence it’s a balancing act be­tween thumb and finger to get this to sound right.

born in ten­nessee dolly was brought up in a one-room shack, but by the age of 10 she was per­form­ing on lo­cal ra­dio

Dolly Par­ton: mixes pick­ing and strum­ming in her play­ing style

Dolly has played many dif­fer­ent gui­tars over the years but th­ese days you will of­ten see her with a Tay­lor GS Mini and other par­lour sized in­stru­ments. Any good acous­tic will work fine, but th­ese smaller gui­tars work ex­tremely well for the more in­ti­mate tone re­quired. Dolly of­ten picks near the sound­hole for a warmer tone, so do ex­per­i­ment with where and how you hit the strings.

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