Sunday, January 31, 2016


Downtown-- a #1 pop hit in 1964 by Petula Clark--- was requested by a guitar student of mine.   I've heard this song for many years, and like many other songs, it takes on a new dimension for me whenever I go about the process of learning it on the guitar.

---Performing Notes--- 
  • The original song was recorded in the key of "E"--- however, because of the effort to arrange the song in an easy--to--play form, the Guitar TAB has been written in the key of "C".   It's very easy, though, to play it in the original key. 
  • Just slap your capo on the fourth (4th) fret--- and you can play along with the original recording.   There are quite a few YouTube postings of this song-- here is one that features various pictures of the artist and her song covers.

  • At the end of the chorus, there is a four--bar interlude between verses.  There are two sets of four chords; each chord gets two beats.  8x2=16 divided by 4= 4 bars.
  • At the end of the second (2nd) verse, the recording changes key, going up a half (1/2) step to the key of "F" and launches into an instrumental solo.   The song picks up at the Bridge--- or end of the second line--- where the rest of the "third" verse picks up.   To keep things simple, just stay in the key of "C" (or E, if you're capoed up)-- and keep on playing.
  • At the END of the song, the recording fades out--- but you can simply return to the "C" chord.
  • There are a LOT of repetitive notes in this song.  This might lead you as the player to take these notes for granted.   Do NOT--- treat each note as an important part of the song.    Just because there are seven open notes in a row--- (like at the beginning of the song)--- it does NOT mean that  ALL of them should be played and sound alike.   There should be nuances and changes in rhythm.   Listen to the recording, and attempt to play these notes in the proper way--- with feeling.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Morning Has Broken

NOTES:   This song, made popular in the 1970's by pop / folk artist Cat Stevens, is a beautiful anthem of nature and creation.    The original recording modulates from the Key of C into the Key of D for verse 3--- however, we may choose to remain in the same key.   The chordal interlude at the end of the verse takes us back to the original C chord.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Dueling Banjos & Guitar Boogie--- by Arthur Smith

    I was quite surprised to find that the author of these fine songs was none other than Arthur Smith.  Some people look at Smith as just a country TV star, but he was far more than that.  He was an extraordinary guitar player, and an incredible songwriter.   Not only did he write this famous movie theme song, Dueling Banjos, but he also penned the classic Guitar Boogie (see below).   

(down & up)
   One thing that may help you is learning Alternate Picking.  This is somewhat of an advanced technique, so don't expect to "get it" without a LOT of practice.   But it is not altogether difficult to master-- over time-- if you stick with it.   This technique increases your dexterity, ease of playing, and speed.   This is especially used for Lead Guitarists in performing their licks and solos.  

   Let me explain.  You're probably used to always picking straight down with your pick.   Sometimes, it is helpful and more efficient to use a "double stroke"--- down and up, especially when there is ONE note repeated over and over.   For example, in Section Two of Dueling Banjos, where you have 0--0--0,   1--1--1, or 3--3--3, try picking it like this--- "down--up--down" ---instead of "down--down--down". 

   If you'd like extra practice--- just go up and down your guitar strings--- (with no fretting-- just open strings) picking each string THREE times--- "down--up--down".    That will be a total of 18 notes.   When you reach the last string, then reverse it, and go back through each string again.

   You can & should also try using this in Guitar Boogie, and also in your Spider Exercise. Even though these do NOT have repeating notes, it is helpful to also use this technique here.  

   You will find this is much more efficient, and helps increase your playing speed.    Granted, at first, you will make errors, hitting the wrong string, or playing one of the notes louder or softer than the others.  As with anything beneficial, there is a Learning Curve.   But with time, you will understand and master Alternate Picking.


               (1)--- Notes in parenthese are Optional Notes for Beginners--- they ARE part of the song, but could be omitted--- the optional note is part of a "run" & it can just be omitted, if it is too difficult for you to play at first.

               (2)--- On the original recording, both a guitar AND a banjo are used.   On some versions, two banjos are used-- hence, the name "Dueling Banjos".   We are only using guitar, so I decided to offer some alternative notes.  On the "echo" or Repeat sections, two octaves are presented.  You have the option of playing one octave, then the other--- or repeating the same notes or octave.   Going from high to low presents a different kind of sound or effect.   

               (3)--- The movie soundtrack version was recorded in the Key of A.   This TAB version is written in the Key of G.   Many of the online versions are also in G.    However-- if you would like to play along with YouTube or a CD-- or you just prefer to play in that key--- all you need do is place a Capo on the 2nd Fret.   This will raise the key one whole step to the Key of A.  


    My beginner students normally learn two or three basic songs in their first class or session.  They are usually (in no particular order) Amazing Grace,  You Are My Sunshine, and this song (by Arthur Smith),  Guitar Boogie.  I called it "Bass Boogie" for a long time, until I really learned its roots--- as with Dueling Banjos, I was surprised that Smith was the songwriter.  I'll no longer be as surprised, as I've developed quite a respect for his skills as a guitarist, performer, and now songwriter.

                       (1)--- This is a simple tune that can be learned and relearned--- and embellished as you progress in your guitar playing.   Normally, this kind of a tune is used as a "jam"-- in which multiple guitar players trade licks or riffs.     So it is with Guitar Boogie.   If you listen to all of the recorded or "live" versions on YouTube, you will notice that no two of them sound the same. They are usually adapted and expanded by the artist performing the song.   Hopefully, this will not confuse you, but perhaps give you new ideas along the way.

                       (2)--- One embellishment you can make is whenever you are ready, you can experiment with or try doubling notes.  This simply means for every note represented on TAB, you play it twice.   Other ways you can enhance this tune is by using bends and slides.   And eventually barre chords.

                       (3)--- The very last bar is the ending, and can be played "as shown", only the middle two  notes are played in a syncopated and upbeat way.    It can also be played in a simple fashion, but playing the first note only--- omitting the last three notes--- and just letting the note ring out and sustain for four beats.   Listen to recordings and get a feel for how it is done.