Piedmont Picking Patterns – Say that five times fast.
Not exactly easy, huh? And at first blush you might think the same thing about learning to play some great Piedmont blues. Listening to some of genres creators like Blind Blake, Blind Willie McTell and others, an aspiring finger picker could very easily become discouraged and move on. I spent a year falling in love with Piedmont Blues before even attempting to learn even the first tune.
I get it.
(Here comes the big motivational line…)
If you would love to learn how to pick it Piedmont, let me assure you that being a great – not just good – Piedmont picker is not out of reach.
It just takes practice (a lot) and the right approach. With practicing guitar, your results often come from how you practice rather than what you practice. I like to practice making things simpler. As with most things in life, the complexities of Piedmont blues can be broken down to several simpler components.
Getting at the Heart of Piedmont Blues
If you aspire to become a solid Piedmont picker, you need to become good at a few guitar techniques. Surprisingly, the vital few will carry you 80% of the way.
To get you started, have a look at a very typical Piedmont blues progression. And while you can certainly play some cool blues by strumming some chords, you’ve got to get your finger picking chops up for some stellar Piedmont tunes. So ditch the pick and let’s pick it fingerstyle!
This video focuses entirely on alternating bass. This is a finger picking technique that you simply have to get down. You’ve got to put in some time here and focus on getting a really solid beat pumping out from the bass strings.
The alternating bass movement with your thumb is one of the core tenets of Piedmont. It’s not done in every song, but you hear it often enough to make it an absolute must to know.
Practice, practice, practice getting your thumb to hold down the bass duty in this piece.
Ultimately, you want to build your muscle memory to a point where your thumb is on autopilot. Seems impossible at first, but if you keep at it, you’ll get there.
Focus on the 80%, Forget the Flash (For Now)
So, forget the flash of a well placed Blind Boy Fuller lick or a dizzying rag by Blind Blake. At least temporarily.
We’ll cover all that fancy finger finesse later.
Next, we’ll learn how to add the melody on top of this alternating bass pattern.
One Kind Favor…
Do you know a guitar buddy that would love to get started with Piedmont Blues?
If so, please do him or her a favor and send them a link to this post. Actually, you’d be doing me a favor too.
You see, I’m on a mission to remind the guitar community of Piedmont Blues. It’s a sweet spot between Ragtime and Blues music. Sharing great music is fun, so please pass this lesson along. Facebook, email, Twitter, YouTube. However you like.