FOLK BLUES

Australian Guitar - - Technique -

Over the past 40-odd columns, I’ve cov­ered a few dif­fer­ent ar­eas within the blues. But it only oc­curred to me to­day that I have never of­fered up a sim­ple folk blues. From Dy­lan to Broonzy to the Ap­palachian folk bands, this style of pick­ing and strum­ming is well de­vel­oped. These chords, played with this lilt­ing rhythm, pro­vide the per­fect back­drop for you to wax lyri­cal about the wind blow­ing or a train tak­ing your baby.

You can use these chords in dif­fer­ent ar­range­ments, or how­ever you like to cre­ate your own song! This track is recorded at 100bpm (beats per minute) for the sake of learn­ing, and again at 140bpm as no­tated. Also, please don’t leave your baby on the train.

BARS #1-4

This is not the most com­plex piece, but it’s also a lit­tle de­ceiv­ing. As much as these are sim­ple open chords, the right hand tech­nique is es­sen­tial. You must strum down on the beat and up on the off beats. You’ll be strum­ming in a pat­tern of, “Down, down-up, down-ham­mer-down.”

Con­fus­ing? As­sign each of those words to each note in Bar #1 and you’ll see the pat­tern. If you’re not a fan of read­ing mu­sic, at least make sure you lis­ten to the track to get the right tim­ing. It’s okay – Bob Dy­lan couldn’t read mu­sic. I just made that up, but it could be true!

Note the ham­mer-on – this can be dif­fi­cult to co­or­di­nate with the strum­ming. Your sec­ond fin­ger in the C chord should tap down firmly as you swing your strum­ming hand up­wards, be­fore you strike down on the fi­nal beat.

For the F chord, you have the chal­lenge of try­ing to do the same thing with­out catch­ing the open third string on you third fin­ger. You can lift your third fin­ger if you need to clear the third string. Make sure you barre firmly with your first fin­ger on the first and sec­ond strings to get a nice ring out of the top end of the chord.

Re­turn to the C chord and the rhythm for the next two bars.

BARS #5-8

We move back to the F chord here – no new chal­lenges other than a slightly dif­fer­ent end to Bar # 6. Pay at­ten­tion, though, as these lit­tle de­tails make a sim­ple piece much more in­ter­est­ing, and help to add mo­men­tum and res­o­lu­tion.

We head back to the C chord for Bars #7 and #8, only this time we set up a bass run into the G chord.

BARS #9-12 AND SUM­MARY

We hit the G chord in Bar #9, as with most typ­i­cal blues. I’ve gone for a mov­ing bass line that you pick in­de­pen­dently on the mid­dle of the chord. Hold the bass note while you strum the open strings no­tated un­til you hit the next 1/1 bass note, and so on.

You would be fa­mil­iar with the C ma­jor chord and what to do with it by now, but in the fi­nal bar, we chop late to a G7 to sig­nify the turn­around.

Now you’re ready to start verse two of the next 20 or so verses.

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