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.
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.
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.