Grammy-winning guitarist Scott Nygaard is one of the most inventive and original flatpicking guitarists in the bluegrass/acoustic music scene.
His solos, a seamless amalgam of bluegrass, folk, and jazz influences, shift easily from breathtaking virtuosity to soulful melodic musings and his accompaniment is always intriguing, supportive, and propulsive.
Downbeat magazine called Scott “a phenomenally talented stylist.” He has performed and/or recorded with Tim O’Brien, Joan Baez, Chris Thile, Darol Anger, Jerry Douglas, Peter Rowan, Laurie Lewis, Anonymous 4, and many others, and has released two solo albums, No Hurry and Dreamer’s Waltz, on Rounder Records as well as self-produced albums with his band Crow Molly, Roger Tallroth and Scott Nygaard, and the Websters and Scott Nygaard. Scott was the guitarist on three recordings that have proven to be extremely influential on the contemporary acoustic music scene: Chris Thile’s Leading Off, Tim O’Brien’s Red on Blonde, and Jerry Douglas’s Slide Rule. He recently released a recording with John Reischman and Sharon Gilchrist, The Harmonic Tone Revealers.
Formerly the editor of Acoustic Guitar magazine, Scott has written hundreds of articles on music, musicians, guitars, and guitarists for Acoustic Guitar, Strings, Play Guitar!, and Guitar World Acoustic; authored two instruction books, Bluegrass Guitar Essentials and Fiddle Tunes and Folk Songs for Beginning Guitar; produced an instructional video, Bluegrass Lead Guitar for Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop, and taught at most of the United States’ best-known bluegrass and/or guitar workshops. Scott is co-founder and editor of Peghead Nation.
Learn a version of the fiddle tune “Angeline the Baker” that illustrates the kinds of variations you can play on fiddle tunes in an actual performance. You'll also learn a version played in a lower octave in dropped-D tuning. With Notation/Tab and Play-Along Track
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.
Flatpicking Guitar Lessons
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Holding the Flatpick While there are many ways to hold the flatpick, it’s important that your hand and arm should be comfortable with as little tension as possible.
Pick Technique, Part 1: Alternating Picking Alternating picking is the basis of good flatpicking technique. In this lesson you’ll learn strict alternating picking and look at some ways to deal with string crossings.
Pick Technique, Part 2: Picking Exercises Some simple pick exercises can help you deal with some of the trickier aspects of alternating picking. Learn three picking exercises that help you work on crosspicking and “back picking.”
Bluegrass Rhythm Basics, Part 1: Boom-Chuck and G-Runs The underlying rhythm of bluegrass and old-time country guitar playing is often called boom-chuck, which you'll learn in this lesson, along with the classic G-run.
Bluegrass Rhythm Basics, Part 2: “Long Journey Home” Put all the bluegrass rhythm techniques you’ve learned together in backing up a song: the Monroe Brothers’ classic “Long Journey Home.”
Pick Technique: Downstrokes and Bass Notes Scott looks at the mechanics of pick technique in depth, starting first with the downstroke and the different ways you can play the bass note of a boom-chuck strum. He talks about the importance of the rest stroke in bluegrass guitar technique, the arm movement required to play an upstroke strum after a downstroke bass note, and the disadvantages of playing bass notes with a “bounce stroke.”
Pick Technique: Upstrokes and Swing Upstrokes are important not only for flatpickers playing fiddle tunes and bluegrass solos, but for rhythm guitarists trying to lock in with the rhythmic feel of the people they’re playing with as well as for communicating how much “swing” a song has.
Temperance Reel, Part 1 When learning fiddle tunes, it’s a good idea to consult the original version. Learn the original A part to “Temperance Reel,” which contains a nice phrase not often heard in bluegrass versions.
Temperance Reel, Part 2 Once you’ve got the A part of “Temperance Reel” in your fingers, it’s on to the B part, which is mostly in a minor tonality but ends just like the A part.
Temperance Reel, Part 3: Variations on the Melody When coming up with variations (or improvising) on a fiddle tune, it’s good to narrow your sights and take a measure or two at a time. Start by finding the melodic signposts that give the tune its character and then try to get to those places in different ways.
Temperance Reel, Part 4: Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing "Temperance Reel" at slow and medium tempos.
Soldier’s Joy, Part 1: Three Fiddle Versions Learn traditional ways to play the fiddle tune “Soldier’s Joy,” a simple old-time version, one from some old fiddle tune books, and bluegrass fiddler Richard Greene’s version.
Soldier’s Joy, Part 2: Clarence White’s Version Clarence White’s version of “Soldier’s Joy” is a flatpicking classic, like Doc Watson’s “Black Mountain Rag,” or Tony Rice’s “Nine Pound Hammer.” Scott walks you through the tune here phrase by phrase.
Soldier’s Joy, Part 3: Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Soldier’s Joy” at slow and medium tempos, with the chord progression that Clarence White preferred.
Gold Rush, Part 1: Learning the Melody It’s important to think about not only the notes you play but how you play them. Scott talks about the different ways of articulating fiddle tune melodies, using Tony Rice’s version of the bluegrass standard “Gold Rush.”
Gold Rush, Part 2: Articulating Individual Notes Learn about the choices you have when deciding how to articulate the notes of the melody. Scott walks you through all the choices on the A part of “Gold Rush."
Gold Rush, Part 3: Variations Scott used Tony Rice’s version of “Gold Rush” in the first two parts of this lesson, but here he shows you a few ways he would play the A part to “Gold Rush.”
Gold Rush, Part 4: Tony Rice’s Picking Style Tony Rice’s picking style has been called “random,” but it actually conforms strictly to its own logic. Tony doesn’t use a strict alternating method, but rather intuitively chooses whether to play a down or up stroke on any given note based on the most efficient way to play those notes.
“Gold Rush” Play-Along Track Use this video of Scott playing rhythm to “Gold Rush” at slow and medium tempos to practice playing the melody or any of the variations.
Fiddle Tunes in D: “Fisher’s Hornpipe,” Part 1: A Part Melody Many bluegrass guitarists tend to favor G and C positions, using the capo to play in other keys like A, D, E, etc. But open D position works well for lots of things, as well, including playing fiddle tunes such as “Fisher’s Hornpipe.”
Fiddle Tunes in D: “Fisher’s Hornpipe,” Part 2: B Part Melody The first four bars of the B part of “Fisher’s Hornpipe” modulate to the key of A. Scott shows you the chords first to get you oriented to the tonality, and then takes apart the B part phrase by phrase, with some tips on fingering.
Fiddle Tunes in D: “Fisher’s Hornpipe,” Part 3: Lower Octave You can play most of “Fisher’s Hornpipe” an octave lower in standard tuning. You just have to make a couple modifications to the melody.
Fiddle Tunes in D: “Fisher’s Hornpipe,” Part 4: Harmony Playing harmony to a fiddle tune can be a fun way for two guitarists to create an instant arrangement of a tune. Scott shows you how to create a harmony to a melody and then walks you through his harmony to “Fisher’s Hornpipe.”
“Fisher’s Hornpipe” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Fisher’s Hornpipe” at slow and medium tempos.
Red Apple Rag
Bonus Tab: “Red Apple Rag” Here is Scott's version of “Red Apple Rag,” which he recorded on his Rounder album No Hurry.
Crazy Creek, Part 1: The A Part The fiddle tune “Crazy Creek” is in the key of A, but has some long sections in C that include some F chords. It can be played without a capo, but Scott found that it also works well with a capo on the second fret played out of G position.
Crazy Creek, Part 2: The B Part The B part of “Crazy Creek” is almost entirely in Bb (with a capo on) and starts with an Eb line, so it’s a good workout for the open-position Bb scale.
Black Mountain Rag
Black Mountain Rag Doc Watson’s 1963 recording of “Black Mountain Rag” arguably created the style of flatpicking you hear today. The clarity, fluidity, and speed of his playing had not been heard before, and soon hundreds/thousands of guitarists were trying to “play like Doc.” Learn Scott’s version of Doc’s arrangement of “Black Mountain Rag” in this lesson.
“Black Mountain Rag” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Black Mountain Rag” at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment.
Angeline the Baker
Angeline the Baker, Part 1: A Part In this lesson you’ll learn a version of the standard fiddle tune “Angeline the Baker” that illustrates the way Scott varies fiddle tunes in an actual performance. While he primarily sticks to the melody as he hears it, he plays subtle variations each time through each part. Scott’s arrangement owes as much to fiddlers as to guitar players. The A part’s melody is similar to the way fiddler Stuart Duncan plays it. Scott walks you through the A apart and the variations he plays on the second A part.
Angeline the Baker, Part 2: B Part Scott’s arrangement of the B part of “Angeline the Baker” has more guitaristic hammer-ons, slides, and bits of cross-picking. Scott walks you through it and shows you how he varies the timing and phrasing the second time through.
Angeline the Baker, Part 3: Lower Octave In this video you’ll learn a version of “Angeline the Baker” in the lower octave, played in dropped-D tuning, so you can add some low D bass notes to fill out the sound. (You can also play this in standard tuning; omitting the low D notes won’t affect the melody.)
“Angeline the Baker” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Angeline the Baker” at slow and medium tempos with guitar accompaniment.
FLATPICKING GUITAR CLASSICS
Big Sciota, Part 1 The old-time fiddle tune “Big Sciota (or “Big Scioty”) has been a bluegrass jam favorite ever since guitarist Russ Barenberg recorded it with Jerry Douglas and Edgar Meyer on Skip, Hop, and Wobble in 1993. Scott also recorded it on his 1990 album No Hurry. There are some similarities between the versions and a few differences. Scott teaches both versions here.
Big Sciota, Part 2 Scott walks you through the B parts to his and Russ Barenberg’s versions of “Big Sciota.” He also shows you the different chord changes that he and Russ came up with and how they affect the different melodic treatments.
“Big Sciota” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Big Sciota” at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment.
Coming Down from Rising Fawn
Coming Down from Rising Fawn, Part 1 Norman Blake is one of the pioneers of flatpicking, with a guitar style influenced by old-time music and mandolin playing, but with his own unique sound. He also writes great tunes that combine old-time fiddle melodies with contemporary ideas. In this lesson, you’ll learn his three-part guitar tune “Coming Down from Rising Fawn.” The A part has a simple song-like melody that showcases Norman’s “almost crosspicking” style of melody and rhythm playing.
Coming Down from Rising Fawn, Part 2 The B part of “Coming Down from Rising Fawn” is more like a fiddle tune, but with a few places where Norman extends his strum to get other open strings, some of which are not in the underlying chord. The C part begins with Norman strumming an unusual G–F–A–D chord progression and then moves into another characteristic Blake single-string lick where he bounces off the open first string while playing fretted notes up the neck.
Huckleberry Hornpipe, Part 1: A MelodyThe great Texas bluegrass fiddler Byron Berline’s tune “Huckleberry Hornpipe” has become a flatpicker’s favorite, in part because of Clarence White’s classic solo on the original recording. You’ll learn both the fiddle melody and Clarence’s solo in this lesson.
Huckleberry Hornpipe, Part 2: B and C Melody You’ll learn the second and third parts to “Huckleberry Hornpipe” in this video. Scott also gives advice on fingering, keeping your fingers in one position until they need to move to another position.
Huckleberry Hornpipe, Part 3: Clarence White’s Solo: A and B Parts Clarence White’s solo on “Huckleberry Hornpipe” is legendary in flatpicking circles. It’s also a great example of how to create a guitar-friendly version of a fiddle tune that might be tricky to duplicate exactly on guitar.
Huckleberry Hornpipe, Part 4: Clarence White’s Solo: C Part Clarence White’s solo on the C part of “Huckleberry Hornpipe” doesn’t follow the melody much at all, but is a guitaristic showcase for some of his modified G-run licks.
“Huckleberry Hornpipe” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Huckleberry Hornpipe” at slow and medium tempos with guitar accompaniment.
Beaumont Rag, Part 1: Doc Watson’s A Part In the 1960s Doc Watson transformed the Texas fiddle rag “Beaumont Rag” into a flatpicking and bluegrass jam essential. If you’re a flatpicker, you have to play “Beaumont Rag,” and Doc’s recordings of it are definitive. You’ll learn Doc’s version in this lesson, including the way he played the second part, which may surprise you. You’ll learn Doc’s A part in this video.
Beaumont Rag, Part 2: Doc Watson’s B Part The B part of “Beaumont Rag” has become an example of crosspicking and is usually played with groups of three notes in regular “forward rolls” but Doc actually plays it a little differently, creating, in essence, a six-note pattern that is played twice. Doc’s version is a little easier to play, so it’s well worth learning.
Beaumont Rag, Part 3: Variations and Improvising Exercises Every flat picker is expected to have their own way to play “Beaumont Rag,” or at least a couple of variations on the standard melody. Because the structure of the tune is so repetitive, it’s a great tune to work on melodic improvising. Scott gives you a few variations that you can alternate with the basic melody, and gives advice on using variations to practice melodic improvising: getting away from the melody and then coming back to it.
“Beaumont Rag” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Beaumont Rag” at slow and medium tempos with guitar accompaniment.
Little Rock Getaway
Little Rock Getaway, Part 1 “Little Rock Getaway” is a ragtime-sounding tune written by swing era pianist Joe Sullivan and later adapted to the guitar by Chet Atkins and Les Paul. It’s a fun tune with an interesting chord progression, and it makes for a good technical workout for both hands. The first four bars feature cascading arpeggios through a series of chords, and in addition to tricky crosspicking, it requires accurate and efficient use of your fretting hand. Scott plays the A part and then walks you through it, measure by measure. He also talks about keeping your fingers in a single position to play all the arpeggios, and how to “plant” your fingers so that you keep a finger down as you play the next note in the arpeggio. You’ll learn the A part of “Little Rock Getaway” in this video.
Little Rock Getaway, Part 2 The second part of “Little Rock Getaway” functions as a bridge (the overall form of the tune is AABA), and is really just four bars repeated, with different endings. It also has some moving arpeggios, just not as many as the A part. Scott plays the B part through and then takes it apart. You’ll also learn an ending for the third A part in this video. Scott finishes by giving you some ideas about improvising or creating simple variations on the chord progression and then plays the whole tune through at a slow tempo.
“Little Rock Getaway” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Little Rock Getaway” at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment.
Crosspicking “Home Sweet Home”
Crosspicking, Part 1: Crosspicking Basics Crosspicking is simply using a flatpick to play arpeggiated chords across the guitar strings. Learn some basic crosspicking rolls and he classic “Home Sweet Home.”
Crosspicking, Part 2: “Home Sweet Home”- Sample Lesson Learn the first part of “Home Sweet Home,” which mostly uses the traditional 3-3-2 roll. Scott starts by playing the melody to “Home Sweet Home” and then takes the arrangement apart phrase by phrase.
Crosspicking, Part 3: “Home Sweet Home” Second Part Once you’ve become familiar with the 3-3-2 rolls used for most of the first part of “Home Sweet Home,” you’ll start varying the rolls up in the second part.
Crosspicking, Part 4: Crosspicking Exercises Some of these rolls can take awhile to become comfortable with, so it’s a good idea to practice them by themselves. You can create your own crosspicking exercises or use the examples Scott provides.
Pretty Polly, Part 1The blues is an essential part of bluegrass. Bill Monroe’s mandolin playing had a very bluesy flavor. Learn some bluegrass blues sounds using the old-time murder ballad “Pretty Polly.”
Pretty Polly, Part 2: Variations Scott elaborates on the first version of “Pretty Polly” with some variations on the melody that keep its basic shape.
“Pretty Polly” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice Scott’s version of “Pretty Polly” and try out your own interpretations.
Nine Pound Hammer
Nine Pound Hammer, Part 1: Melody-Based Soloing Most of the great bluegrass guitarists use the song’s melody as a basis for their solos. Scott uses the bluegrass standard “Nine Pound Hammer” to show you how to create a melody-based solo, as well as how to create multiple variations to each melodic phrase.
Nine Pound Hammer, Part 2: Melodic Variations “Nine Pound Hammer” has four melodic phrases. Scott gives you four variations on Melody 1 and Melody 2 and shows you how they relate to the original melody.
Nine Pound Hammer, Part 3: More Melodic Variations Learn variations to the third and fourth melodic fragments of “Nine Pound Hammer.”
Nine Pound Hammer Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing solos and melodic variations to “Nine Pound Hammer.”
Bluegrass Rhythm: “Nine Pound Hammer” Scott gives advice on backing up a song like “Nine Pound Hammer.” Learn where to put bass lines and fills in “Nine Pound Hammer” to stay out of the vocalist’s way but still create an interesting and powerful accompaniment to the song.
I Am a Pilgrim
I Am a Pilgrim, Part 1: Basic Melody The gospel favorite “I Am a Pilgrim” was a signature instrumental for Clarence White. Scott gets you started on a basic version of the melody and adds a couple chordal fill licks, so you get a good sense of the vocal phrasing of the melody and how it relates to the chords.
I Am a Pilgrim, Part 2: Clarence White Style Clarence never played “I Am a Pilgrim” the same way twice, so you’ll learn a “compilation” solo for “I Am a Pilgrim,” with many of the things Clarence played. Scott takes the solo apart phrase by phrase, explaining the timing and how the variations relate to the basic melody.
“I Am a Pilgrim” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing solos to “I Am a Pilgrim” at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment.
Minor Sounds and “Shady Grove,” Part 1 Learn about different minor scales, and how to know which one to play when improvising or creating a solo for a song in a minor key. You’ll learn a simple melody-based solo to “Shady Grove,” something like Doc Watson would play, sticking to the notes of the melody, which make up a D sus pentatonic scale, slightly different than the D minor pentatonic scale.
Minor Sounds and “Shady Grove,” Part 2 Scott shows you the D natural minor scale and the D Dorian scale, two other options for playing in D minor, and shows you another melody-based solo to “Shady Grove,” this time with notes from the D Dorian mode as well as a bluesy lick with a flatted fifth.
Tony Rice’s “John Hardy,” Part 1 The traditional song “John Hardy” has become a bluegrass jam session favorite, and guitar legend Tony Rice has recorded it a couple times. In this lesson you’ll learn how he played it on his debut album Guitar. This solo showcases both his melodic playing, which includes a lot of syncopated and crosspicked phrases, and his more improvisatory style, with blues runs and licks that can be played over different chords. Learn the first half of Tony’s solo in this video.
Tony Rice’s “John Hardy,” Part 2 The second half of Tony Rice’s “John Hardy solo shows the more improvisatory side of his playing and includes more pentatonic blues runs and syncopated phrases, ending with one of the classic runs that he plays in the first half.
“John Hardy” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “John Hardy” at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment.
Rocky Road Blues
Rocky Road Blues, Part 1: Bluegrass-Style Solo Learn a couple different ways to play the blues on bluegrass and simple swing tunes, using Bill Monroe’s “Rocky Road Blues.” Both solos use a blues scale that includes both the minor and major thirds and the flatted seventh. Scott starts by teaching you a bluegrass-style solo based on the melody of “Rocky Road Blues.”
Rocky Road Blues, Part 2: Bluegrass Blues Tonality The bluegrass blues scale that consists of 1, b3, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7 is a good thing to become familiar with. Learn the scale in open position for G7, C7, and D7 chords.
Rocky Road Blues, Part 3: Simple Swing-Style Solo The tonality you explored in Part 2 is also used in a lot of swing and jump blues. ILearn a 12-bar swing blues solo that incorporates that tonality in closed-positions around the third to seventh frets.
“Rocky Road Blues” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Rocky Road Blues” or any 12-bar blues in G at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment.
Colleen Malone, Part 1 The great contemporary bluegrass song “Colleen Malone” was popularized by Hot Rize and won the IBMA award for Bluegrass Song of the Year in 1991. In this lesson you’ll learn a solo inspired by Hot Rize mandolinist Tim O’Brien’s crosspicking and guitarist Charles Sawtelle’s bluesy Clarence White-inspired playing.
Colleen Malone, Part 2 The ending line to the “Colleen Malone” solo is not really based on the melody, so it’s a good place to come up with some variations. Scott shows you three variations on the ending line to “Colleen Malone,” showing you how he moves up and down the neck through three-note F and G shapes.
“Colleen Malone” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Colleen Malone” at slow and medium tempos with guitar accompaniment.
Blue Railroad Train
Blue Railroad Train, Part 1: Delmore Brothers Version The Delmore Brothers song “Blue Railroad Train” has been recorded by numerous people, but for guitar players Doc Watson’s and Tony Rice’s versions have become classics. In this lesson, you’ll learn the basic form of the song, with some variations, as well as the Delmore Brothers guitar line and Tony Rice’s solo from his album Manzanita. Scott starts by explaining the different ways Doc, Tony, and the Delmores played what is basically an eight-bar blues. Then he shows you the guitar lick from the Delmore Brothers version.
Blue Railroad Train, Part 2: Tony Rice’s Solo On Manzanita Tony Rice kicked off the recording of “Blue Railroad Train” with a great bluesy melodic solo that went twice through the form, repeating his first eight bars pretty closely with just a couple minor variations. In this lesson you’ll learn Tony’s first eight bars and the filler line into the next eight bars, as well as a variation on the solo he played later in the recording.
“Blue Railroad Train” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Blue Railroad Train” at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment.
Swing Soloing: “Panhandle Rag,” Part 1 The classic Western swing tune “Panhandle Rag” makes a good vehicle for demonstrating swing-style phrasing. Scott starts by playing the melody and shows you some basic swing-style chords.
Swing Soloing: “Panhandle Rag,” Part 2: The Melody Scott walks you through the melody to his arrangement of “Panhandle Rag,” showing you the fingering and syncopations and explaining how to give the lines a swing feel or provide some variation in the phrasing.
Swing Soloing: “Panhandle Rag,” Part 3: Melodic Variations Scott shows you a few ways to take each melodic fragment and syncopate it or elaborate on it.
“Panhandle Rag” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing the melody or improvising on “Panhandle Rag” at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment.
Django’s “Minor Swing”
Django’s “Minor Swing,” Part 1: Melody and Chords Django Reinhardt’s tune “Minor Swing” has become a popular jam favorite among Gypsy jazz musicians as well as bluegrass and string band players of various instruments. In this lesson, you’ll learn the melody and chords from Django’s recordings as well as a solo from his classic 1937 recording. Scott starts by showing you the melody, which is different when it’s played at the beginning of the tune than it is at the end.
Django’s “Minor Swing,” Part 2: 1937 Solo, First Chorus Django’s 1937 recording of “Minor Swing” is considered by many to be one of his greatest recordings. His solo also illustrates many aspects of his approach to improvising. Scott walks you through the first chorus of the solo and points out some of the essential elements of Django’s approach.
Django’s “Minor Swing,” Part 3: 1937 Solo, More Choruses If your appetite has been whetted by learning one chorus of Django’s solo on “Minor Swing” Scott shows you the next two choruses of this famous solo, walking you through each one phrase by phrase.
Django’s “Minor Swing,” Part 4: Play-Along Track for Melody Use this video to practice playing the melody (both the intro and outro) or the chords for “Minor Swing” at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment.
Django’s “Minor Swing,” Part 5: Play-Along Track for Solos Use this video to practice playing solos on “Minor Swing” (either Django’s solo or your own) at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment.
Improvising, Part 1: General Concepts In this lesson, Scott talks about improvising, starting with general concepts like practicing improvising just like you would practice anything else, getting comfortable making mistakes, and internalizing the form and rhythm of the music you’re playing. Scott gives advice on practice tools and playing with other people to learn to internalize the music, as well as learning the vocabulary of the specific kind of music you’re playing.
Improvising, Part 2: General Exercises Scott gives you some general exercises and things to work on to improve your improvising, like learning simple melodies on the guitar; noodling with no harmonic or rhythmic structure; thinking of a tonality as a group of notes, not a specific sequence; hardwiring scales into muscle memory; thinking of tunes or solos as groups of short phrases you can use in your improvising; and composing your own solos to tunes you play.
Improvising, Part 3: Specific Exercises In this video, Scott gives you some specific things to work on: learning the building blocks (scales, arpeggios, chords) of each tune you’re going to improvise on; finding the melodic signposts of a tune; and practicing one-measure, two-measure, four-measure phrases that lead into the sign posts. He also talks about targeting chord tones in the chord progression you’re playing and gives you specific exercises to work on; thinking about the notes that chords have in common so you can sustain a melody or phrase while the chords are changing; and varying phrases of tunes you know, with six variation ideas.
LEARNING THE FINGERBOARD
Moving Up the Neck: Key of G
Moving Up the Neck, Part 1: Key of G Scale Exercises In this lesson you’ll work on some up-the-neck scale positions in the key of G. Scott shows you a common position at the seventh fret and an intermediary position at the fifth fret, which may seem familiar as it’s also the position for the A minor pentatonic blues box. Scott shows you how to move between positions using open strings and slides and gives you some exercises to practice moving between the fifth-fret and seventh-fret positions.
Moving Up the Neck, Part 2: “Blackberry Blossom” The fiddle tune “Blackberry Blossom” is a great tune for working on up-the-neck scale positions because of its regular stream of scalar lines. You can play most of it in the seventh-fret position but Scott shows you a version that moves between the seventh-fret and fifth-fret positions with a few different options for moving between positions.
“Blackberry Blossom”Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Blackberry Blossom” at slow and medium tempos with guitar accompaniment.
Moving Up the Neck: Keys of C and D
Moving Up the Neck, Part 3: Keys of C and D In this lesson on playing up the neck, you’ll learn some scale positions in the keys of C and D, and how to move from position to position using open strings and slides. Scott starts with a position in C at the third fret, with some ideas about how to move there from open position, and then shows you how to move up to positions at the fifth and tenth frets. You’ll also learn up-the-neck positions for the key of D, which are only two frets higher than the C positions.
Moving Up the Neck, Part 4: “Forked Deer” A Part In this lesson, you’ll learn an arrangement of the fiddle tune “Forked Deer” in the key of D using multiple positions. Scott walks you through his arrangement phrase by phrase, showing you how and where he changes position. The A part starts in open position and moves up the neck for the third phrase. The second A part is almost entirely in positions at or above the fifth fret, using the same melody as the first A part. It also finishes up the neck, moving the final phrase up an octave.
Moving Up the Neck, Part 5: “Forked Deer” B Part The first B part of Scott’s arrangement of “Forked Deer” is mostly played in open position, while the second B moves up an octave and uses a few up-the-neck positions. Scott walks you through each part phrase by phrase, showing you his fingering and how to move between positions smoothly.
“Forked Deer” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Forked Deer” at slow and medium tempos with guitar accompaniment.
CREATING BLUEGRASS SOLOS
Bluegrass Licks in G
Bluegrass Licksapalooza in G, Part 1 Using the melody as a basis for improvising or composing solos is a great approach, but it’s also important to have a bunch of bluegrass guitar licks at your disposal. Learning some standard licks will also help you immerse yourself in the bluegrass blues language. In this lesson, Scott shows you 18 licks, borrowed from great guitarists like Tony Rice, Clarence White, David Grier, Kenny Smith and others, that you can use over a G chord when you are playing any bluesy bluegrass song. He walks you through each one, note by note, with ideas on how and when to use them.
Bluegrass Licksapalooza in G, Part 2 The first lick you’ll learn in the second part of this lesson begins with Tony Rice’s kickoff to his recording of “Old Home Place” with JD Crowe and the New South. You’ll also learn a couple of syncopated Clarence White licks, Don Reno’s influential kickoff to “Country Boy Rock ‘n’ Roll,” a couple more classic Tony Rice blues lines, and more.
Worried Man Blues
Creating Bluegrass Solos: “Worried Man Blues,” Part 1: Melody and Articulation Scott has a three-step method for creating bluegrass solos to songs, which you’ll learn in this lesson, using Ralph Stanley’s version of the folk classic “Worried Man Blues.” Step One is to learn the melody, and Scott walks you through the basic melody before showing you some easy ways to embellish and articulate the melody on the guitar.
Creating Bluegrass Solos: “Worried Man Blues,” Part 2: Adding Lead-In Runs Step Two in Scott’s method of creating bluegrass solos is adding short runs or intro licks into the melody notes, and Scott shows you how he’s done this in one version of a solo to “Worried Man Blues.” The idea here is to always be thinking about where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.
Creating Bluegrass Solos: “Worried Man Blues,” Part 3: Crosspicking, Strums, and Place-Holder Licks Step Three is what you do once you’ve gotten to where you’re going, which involves using cross-picking, strums, and place-holder licks to fill out the melody notes. Scott walks you through a version of “Worried Man Blues” that includes examples of all these approaches and finishes with an improvised solo that combines melodic embellishment, lead-in runs, crosspicking, and place-holder licks.
“Worried Man Blues” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Worried Man Blues” at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment.
Rose of Old Kentucky
Rose of Old Kentucky, Part 1: Bill Monroe’s Mandolin Solo In another lesson on creating solos to bluegrass songs, Scott looks at Bill Monroe’s recording of “Rose of Old Kentucky.” You’ll learn the sung melody and Monroe’s mandolin solo and look at how the two compare. This is a really great illustration of how Monroe based his solos on the melody, sometimes using the same notes as the melody and sometimes just using the melody’s rhythmic phrasing but with different notes, or notes of the underlying chord. Scott walks you through the vocal melody, pointing out how some of Monroe’s note choices create tension by using blue notes or notes outside the chord and then resolving to a chord tone. Next you’ll learn Monroe’s mandolin solo, or at least as close as you can get it on the guitar, leaving out Monroe’s tremolo on held melody notes. Scott plays it through and then breaks it down, phrase by phrase, pointing out how it differs from (or is similar to) the vocal melody.
Rose of Old Kentucky, Part 2: Guitar Solo In this video, you’ll see how Scott used Bill Monroe’s mandolin solo on “Rose of Old Kentucky” to create a guitar solo to the song. He combines guitaristic versions of Monroe’s melodic lead-in lines with crosspicking, fills, and placeholder licks in place of the tremolo that Monroe played on long melody notes. Scott plays the solo through and then takes it apart, phrase by phrase, showing you how he’s adapted Monroe’s licks to the guitar and varied what he plays in the long spaces in the melody with a variety of different techniques.
“Rose of Old Kentucky” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Rose of Old Kentucky” at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment.
Clarence White’s “Footprints in the Snow”
Clarence White’s “Footprints in the Snow,” Part 1: First Solo Bill Monroe’s song “Footprints in the Snow” was a favorite of Clarence White’s: you can hear early recordings of Clarence playing it on 33 Acoustic Guitar Instrumentals and The Kentucky Colonels’ Long Journey Home (a live recording with Doc Watson). And he played a couple of classic melody-based solos on the 1973 Muleskinner recording, which also featured David Grisman, Richard Greene, Bill Keith, and Peter Rowan. In this lesson, you’ll learn those 1973 solos and look at how Clarence based his solos on the melody of the song, using variations on some of his favorite licks. Scott starts by showing you the basic melody of the verse of “Footprints in the Snow,” so you can see how Clarence’s solo matches the song’s melody, and then takes apart his first solo.
Clarence White’s “Footprints in the Snow,” Part 2: Second Solo You’ll learn Clarence White’s second solo from the Muleskinner recording of “Footprints in the Snow” in this video. Scott plays it through slowly and then takes it apart, phrase by phrase, pointing out the differences and similarities to his first solo and walking you through some of the odder syncopations.
“Footprints in the Snow” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing the solo to “Footprints in the Snow” at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment.
Flatpicking Source Material
Check out these flatpicking classics from Doc Watson, Clarence White, Norman Blake, Tony Rice, David Grier, Russ Barenberg, and Dan Crary.