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.

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