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Fingerstyle Guitar
with Stevie Coyle
 
 
About This Course
 
Learn to play fingerstyle guitar, from traditional Travis-picking tunes to arrangements of contemporary fingerstyle tunes, song accompaniment and more, with acclaimed performer, teacher, and entertainer Stevie Coyle.
 
 
Try a Sample Lesson
 
The Beatles’ classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” makes a great fingerstyle guitar piece. In this lesson, Stevie shows you how to get an alternating bass going (Travis style) and then find the melody on the treble strings. Learn the infectious signature melody and bass line that start the verse in Part 1.
 
 
 
Meet the Instructor
Stevie Coyle
 
 
Stevie Coyle is an acclaimed fingerstyle guitarist, actor, singer, guitar-store owner, and juggler. In 1998 he co-founded the whiz-bang string band The Waybacks and toured steadily with the band from 2000 through 2007. The band released four albums and played major festivals like Merlefest, Grey Fox, Floydfest, Bumbershoot, and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass; toured Australia; and collaborated with Lloyd Maines, Michelle Shocked and Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead. Lately he can be found at his high-end acoustic guitar shop, Mighty Fine Guitars, in Lafayette, California.
 
 
 
Peghead Play-Along Tracks
 
Peghead Nation is creating a library of accompaniment videos (and downloadable MP3s) for songs and tunes that are taught on the site, classics that you'll find at many jams and picking parties. As a subscriber, you have access to this library and can use the tracks to practice playing tunes and songs at a slow or medium tempo with guitar accompaniment. New songs will be added regularly.
 
 
The Fingerstyle Guitar Subscription Includes:
  • 40 extensive Fingerstyle Guitar video lessons
  • 24 complete songs to play
  • Notation and tablature for all lessons
  • Lessons on the C-A-G-E-D system and learning the fingerboard
  • High-quality video with multiple camera angles so you can see closeups of both hands in action
 
 
$20/Month For One Course
 
Additional courses only $10/month each!   •   Save 20% with an annual subscription
 
 
Get started now!
Use promo code StevieLand at checkout
and get your first month free or $20 off an annual subscription.
 
Fingerstyle Guitar Course Outline
 
FINGERSTYLE BASICS
 
Learn the basics of fingerstyle guitar with these introductory lessons, including how to assign fingers to strings, some simple accompaniment patterns, an intro to Travis-style (or alternating-bass picking), and more. 
 
Picking-Hand Technique 
Learn to assign specific fingers to strings: index, middle, and ring fingers to the top three strings, and thumb to the bass strings. You’ll also learn to focus on your right hand rather than your left to keep your fingerstyle momentum going, and get great advice on tone production. With a classic example from Leo Kottke.
 

Accompaniment Patterns

Learn simple fingerstyle accompaniment patterns for basic chord shapes. You’ll learn the basic alternating-bass pattern and a Carter-style thumb/brush pattern, and how to use them both to play the chords to the Crosby, Stills, and Nash song “Teach Your Children.” 

 

Travis Picking 
Learn to make your thumb’s alternating motion automatic and then add a pattern with your middle and index fingers. You’ll also learn about palm muting, which gives your bass notes a percussive, muted sound. 
 

Dropped-D Tuning

Dropped-D tuning is a great alternate tuning for beginning fingerstylists because it gives you two low D notes on which to practice your alternating bass. You’ll learn to play the melody to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” while playing a steady alternating bass. 

 

 
FIRST FINGERSTYLE SONGS 
 
Once you’ve started to become comfortable with the basic fingerstyle technique, you’ll learn to play some great fingerstyle guitar songs, from Beatles songs to traditional favorites like “Deep River Blues” and more.
 
While My Guitar Gently Weeps

The Beatles’ song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” makes a great beginning fingerstyle guitar piece. You’ll learn how to get an alternating bass going and find the melody on the treble strings. You’ll also learn some new chord shapes that allow the melody notes to ring together and get advice on how best to finger some of the chords to get all the notes to ring cleanly.

 

Here Comes the Sun

George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” is one of the most popular songs to play fingerstyle. It’s played with key of D shapes with the capo at the seventh fret. You’ll learn the verse, chorus (with its signature “three feel” and repetitive three-note riff with moving bass), and bridge (the “sun, sun, sun, here it comes” part). 

 

The Whirling Dervish

French fingerstyle guitarist Marcel Dadi’s tune “Le Derviche Tourneur” (“The Whirling Dervish”) is a great pull-off workout. You’ll learn the whole piece and get advice on how to play clean pull-offs, as well as how to use palm muting to give your bass notes a percussive pop or thud, and make the sound of the bass notes distinct from the ringing melody notes.

 

Deep River Blues

This fingerpicking blues classic comes from the great Doc Watson. It’s a blues in the key of E in standard tuning and begins with a couple of distinctive chord positions up the neck: E7 and Edim7. You’ll also learn a few ways to play the turnaround at the end of the blues form. 

 

Freight Train

There is no more well-known fingerpicking piece than “Freight Train,” which comes from Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten. It is played in the key of C, with just four chords (C, G7, E, and F). You’ll learn the basic tune as well as a number of variations with more slurs and melody notes occurring on the ands of the beat, as well as a more complex alternating bass and variations that include blue notes, banjo rolls, and sliding sixths.

 

 
LEARNING THE FINGERBOARD 
 
To learn and explore the guitar fingerboard, Stevie uses the C-A-G-E-D system, a method that is particularly helpful to fingerstyle guitarists.
 
The C-A-G-E-D System 
Using the C-A-G-E-D system of chord shapes, you can find useful chord shapes up the neck (as well as extended chords like sixth and ninth chords) that allow you to play variations up the neck on tunes you know in open position. Stevie explains the system and then shows you how to play some variations on “Deep River Blues” that are derived from different chord shapes. 
 

Finding Chord Voicings with “The Shape” 
In this lesson, Stevie talks about a method for finding chord voicings anywhere on the neck using what he calls “the shape.” Stevie shows you “the shape” (created by the fingers in a chord where the root (1) and third (3) are on adjacent strings), how to find intervals on the guitar from the shape using the major scale, a handy way to play the major scale that you can move anywhere the neck, and how to intervals as they relate to the root and the third (“the shape”). He also gives some cool practical applications of “the shape” in the key of E.
 

C-A-G-E-D Chord Shapes 
You’ve learned some of the basics of the C-A-G-E-D system of learning the fingerboard in previous lessons. In this lesson, Stevie goes through each of the useful C-A-G-E-D chord shapes in the keys of, C, A, G, E, and D, giving you ideas for using different shapes in the songs you play.
 

 
FINGERSTYLE ACCOMPANIMENT
 

Fingerstyle is of, course, used to accompany songs as well as play melodies and cool instrumental pieces. In this lesson, you’ll learn different ways to accompany yourself using the fun song “Compadres in the Old Sierra Madre.” 

 
MORE FINGERSTYLE SOLOS 
 
Explore a variety of fingerstyle arrangements, including originals from Stevie, Bach, contemporary fingerstyle gems, and more.
 
Compadres in the Old Sierra Madre 
Learn an instrumental arrangement of “Compadres in the Old Sierra Madre,” playing the melody up the neck, using chord shapes derived from the C-A-G-E-D system. 
 

Cousin Sally Brown

In this lesson, you’ll learn something a little different: the melody to the old-time fiddle tune “Cousin Sally Brown” played “harp style,” with some fretted notes up the neck and some open strings, so the notes all ring into one another for a harp- or hammer dulcimer-like sound. 

 

Both Sides Now

This arrangement of the Joni Mitchell song “Both Sides Now” comes from Chet Atkins. It's in G6 tuning, with a steady alternating-bass pattern, mostly on the fifth and fourth strings, and a few tricky fingerings.

 

In My Life

The Beatles’ “In My Life” makes a great fingerstyle guitar tune. Stevie shows you his arrangement, in the key of D, including some new ways to finger some of the chords to let the melody notes sustain into each other and allow you to move to the next chord more efficiently.

 

Saltflat Rhapsody

Stevie’s original “Saltflat Rhapsody” is a fun fingerstyle tune that uses the fretting-hand thumb to play many of the bass notes. It has a regular alternating bass and some Merle Travis and Chet Atkins-influenced voicings in which you play higher notes on lower strings, for a ringing, chimey effect. 

 

Walking in the Air

The tune “Walking in the Air” comes from the 1982 film The Snowman, which has become a holiday favorite. It has three parts, mostly in the key of Am, and it’s played in dropped-D tuning. 

 

622

Learn Stevie’s original “622,” a fun instrumental tune in dropped-D tuning. It’s mostly in the key of D major, although the third part goes to D minor for a while, and it uses a number of C-A-G-E-D-based shapes up the neck, particularly the A-shaped D chord.

 

Bourrée in E Minor

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Bourrée in E Minor, the fifth movement of his Suite in E Minor for Lute, has become popular far outside the classical world, with Jethro Tull’s 1969 jazz/rock version springing it on an unsuspecting public and making it a must-learn piece for guitarists of all stripes. You’ll learn a jazzy arrangement of “Bourrée,” including the more complex second part. 

 

Microphone Fever

Fingerstyle guitarist Rick Ruskin’s great tune “Microphone Fever” has a lot of activity in the fretting hand, with slides, pull-offs, hammer-ons, and even some cool Telecaster-style string bends. Stevie gives you great advice on supporting the string bend with your other fingers, playing a hammer-on in the fretting hand while picking a bass note, anticipating notes, fingering bass notes with the thumb, playing with dynamics, and more. 

 

Mr. Oster’s Baby

Stevie’s original tune “Mr. Oster’s Baby” is in the key of F, capoed up to the second fret to make it easier to play the low F note with your thumb. F is an unusual key of fingerstylists. You’ll learn to play the alternating bass on the F and Bb chords with palm muting, while allowing the top strings’ melody notes to ring out.

 

Bosch Butt Music

500-plus years ago, Hieronymous Bosch painted “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” which includes a piece of music tattooed on the naked posterior of a man upended beneath a musical instrument. The music was transcribed recently, and now you’ll learn it in Stevie’s arrangement. It’s in dropped-D tuning, capoed at the seventh fret, which makes it sound very mysterious, with lots of long tones and melody notes sustaining into each other. 

 

Two of Us

The Beatles song “Two of Us” makes a great fingerstyle song in standard tuning in the key of G. It mostly uses alternating bass but there are some places where you stop the alternating bass to play sustained chords and the bass lines the Beatles used. 

 

My Walking Stick

The Irving Berlin song “My Walking Stick” was made popular among guitarists by Leon Redbone, who recorded the song played fingerstyle on his 1975 debut On the Track. In this lesson you’ll learn Stevie’s version of Leon’s version. It’s in the key of A minor in standard tuning and includes a couple of voicings of a diminished seventh chord.

 

Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor

Mississippi John Hurt’s version of “Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor” is a fingerpicking classic. Stevie’s version is influenced by Doc Watson and others. It’s in the key of E and features a few unusual chord voicings, including a couple of diminished chords, as well as a G#7 and F#7.

 

Suzanne

One of the great singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen’s early hits was “Suzanne,” a song that inspired Stevie in his early days of fingerstyling. You’ll learn Stevie’s arrangement in this lesson, which includes a cool fingerstyle pattern over the first long G chord, and then arpeggiated patterns over the Am, Bm, and C chords.

 

Don’t Fear the Reaper

The chord progression from Blue Öyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” is also used in rock songs like “All Along the Watchtower” and many more. In this lesson you’ll learn some cool variations on alternating bass fingerpicking and fingerstyle accompaniment using the progression and main melody from “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”

 

Blackbird, Part 1: The Verse

The Beatles’ “Blackbird” has a classic fingerstyle accompaniment played by Paul McCartney in standard tuning. In this lesson, however, you’ll learn Stevie’s arrangement of the melody of “Blackbird” played in G6 tuning (GDDGBE) that includes many of the same chordal moves as Paul’s version. Stevie shows you how to adapt the familiar bass part to G6 tuning and then starts adding the melody, walking you through all the new chord shapes created by the combination of the melody and bass line. You’ll learn the verse to “Blackbird” in this lesson. 

 

Blackbird, Part 2: The Chorus

You’ll learn the chorus to Stevie’s arrangement of  “Blackbird” in this lesson. The chorus is the part that starts “Blackbird, fly.” Stevie walks you through the chord voicings, some of which involve some tricky fingering, and shows you how to fill out the alternating bass pattern with the index finger hitting the same string as one of the alternating bass notes, a sound reminiscent of Leo Kottke’s playing.

 

Lydia the Tattooed Lady

Groucho Marx sang “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” in the Marx Brothers’ movie At the Circus, and who but Stevie would think, “That would make a good fingerstyle number.”? Well, it turns out Stevie was right. The song has a lot of what are commonly referred to as “jazz chords” and some typical jazz chord progressions, so even if you never want to sing the lyrics “She has eyes that folks adore so, And a torso even more so” you can learn a lot from learning “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady.” Stevie starts by walking you through the chords you’ll play in the first part of “Lydia” before showing you the melody. 

 

 
BACK TO BASICS 
 
In this lesson, Stevie reviews some basic fingerstyle concepts, which is important for any level of guitar player to do now and then. He talks about the idea in alternating bass thumbpicking that any melody note will be either a pinch (played at the same time as a bass note) or “not a pinch” (played between bass notes), and gives you a few simple exercises to practice playing notes in different parts of the measure. He also talks about finding melodies on the guitar by singing a melody and looking for the notes within the chord you’re playing, then figuring out where it is in the measure and whether it’s a pinch or “not a pinch.” 
 
CHORDS BY NUMBER
 

 In this lesson, Stevie talks about the benefits of referring to chords by number. He starts by using the song “Alice’s Restaurant” to demonstrate how to think of its C–A–D–G progression as I–VI–II–V and how that can allow you to easily transpose songs to other keys. Then he talks about other common progressions, like blues progressions, pop songs that use the vi (six minor), and even Pachelbel’s “Canon.”

 
 
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