Instructors: Scott Nygaard

Welcome Roots and Bluegrass Rhythm Guitarists

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This is the place to ask questions, request songs, and interact with your fellow rhythm guitarists.

by Scott Nygaard
September 28, 2015

Welcome to Peghead Nation's Roots and Bluegrass Rhythm Guitar course. Whether or not you aspire to play fast and flashy bluegrass solos or sing your favorite songs, becoming a good rhythm guitar player is essential. You can use this page to let me know how the course is going, if there are songs or styles you want to learn, and post any questions you have about specific lessons, general guitar technique, or the course in general. Hope to hear from you as you make your journey to rhythm mastery. 


Category: Course Discussions

Comments and Discussion

Posted by jim39j@yahoo.com on
Hey Scott, enjoying the course but it seems to be moving a little slow. Is there a chance that you could do a lesson on the different positions and scales of the fret board. I know this is rhythm guitar course but it would help me understand chord voicing better.
Posted by Scottnyg on
Hi Jim,
We're mostly going to be concentrating on open-position chords and runs in this course, since that's where most bluegrass and roots rhythm guitar is played. I will get into some movable chords in an upcoming lesson, and I will talk about open-position scales in future lessons, since it is helpful to know those as you're working on bass runs. If you're interested in more chord theory, you might check out Mark Goldenberg's Guitar Theory course.
Best,
Scott Nygaard
Co-Founder and Editor
Peghead Nation
Posted by jim39j@yahoo.com on
Thanks Scoot for the reply can you tell how many people are taking this course? I think I will take a look at Marks course thank you so much.
Posted by grtandem89@gmail.com on
Hi, enjoying the course. Any chance of making tabs available for the play along tracks? My 61 year old eyes have trouble seeing what you're doing. Thanks
Posted by Scottnyg on
Hi Randy,
I'm mostly playing straightforward boom-chuck rhythm on the Play-Along Tracks. I could put up chord charts for some (or all) of them. Are there any you're particularly wondering about?
Glad you're enjoying the course,
Scott
Posted by grtandem89@gmail.com on
Hi, A cord chart for Bluegrass Stomp would be nice. Thanks.
Posted by Jimcycles@aol.com on
Scott,
I just enrolled last week and love your teaching. On "Some Old Day" I had been jamming with the straight boom-chuck pattern. I love the strum pattern you teach but would like to have a slower tempo (MP3) to learn it. I feel as though I'm trying to pat my head & rub my belly at the same time on the tempo you sing it. Is there a way to slow it down by using riffststion?
Jim Wilson
Posted by Scottnyg on
Hi Jim,
Glad you're enjoying the course. We don't have MP3s for the lessons, but I've used a program called Transcribe! to slow things down -- and it allows you to record directly into the program from your computer's speakers. I'm not sure whether you can do this with Riffstation. If you're having trouble getting the upstrokes, my guess is that you're probably using the "bounce stroke" for your downstrokes (the "boom"). Check out my lesson on downstrokes for some advice about this. But the basic issue is that if you're using a "bounce stroke" on bass notes, then your pick is automatically bouncing back up in the air after playing the downstroke. Which means it's impossible to play an upstroke afterward - your pick has already made the upward motion. So you have to move your pick through the bass note and across the strings so that you can play the upstroke back up across the strings afterward. If you're having trouble with this, you can also try leaving out every other bass note for a boom-chuck __ a-chuck pattern. Hope that helps.
Scott
Posted by grtandem89@gmail.com on
Thanks so much for making chord charts available for the play along tracks. And I am having so much fun with this course especially learning "If No News Is Good News".
Posted by jeff@simdocs.net on
Love this course, Scott! My wife is also taking Joe Walsh's "Advancing Mandolinist". Watching you accompany Joe on several of the pieces with a relatively straight approach made us wonder whether you would consider producing a 'duets' set of lessons that would include more elaborate guitar and mandolin parts together. Just my $0.02. We are really enjoying this site!!!
Posted by Scottnyg on
Hey Jeff,
Glad you're enjoying the courses. A duets course is an interesting idea. We'll think about it. And maybe the next time we're in the studio together Joe and I will do a duets lesson. We'll see.
Thanks,
Scott Nygaard
Posted by Merri.best63@hotmail.com on
I am learning a lot from this course. I love it! I will be playing music for a wedding ceremony this summer along with another guitarist Could you suggest a couple uncomplicated tunes that would be nice for the ceremony? One song I am considering is The Water is Wide, however it's a little melancholic. I thought something a little brighter would be nice.
Thanks, Merri
Posted by JJGoold@gmail.com on
The best part of these courses is the insight into playing in front of others. I can learn complete G-runs all I want from a book, but I don't have the experience to know when / where to use abbreviated runs, especially during someone else soloing or while I'm trying to sing.

BTW - What strings are you using on your bluegrass guitars, Scott?
Posted by Scottnyg on
Glad you're enjoying the course. I use D'Addario phosphor bronze mediums on my Martin D-28 and mostly light gauge (with mediums on the top two strings) on my Gibson J-45.
Best,
Scott
Posted by mayowalker55@gmail.com on
Dear Scott,
I would like to see some lessons on "walking bass" rhythm techniques used in backing up old time (contest style) fiddle tunes. I'm not sure which course I would need to enroll in to find such lessons.
Thanks,
Mayo
Posted by Scottnyg on
Hi Mayo,
In my Roots and Bluegrass Rhythm Guitar course I have a couple lessons on swing chords. The lesson on Trouble in Mind has all the basic chord shapes you'll need to play contest-style backup, and I'll think about adding a lesson that uses those chords specifically to play fiddle tunes.
Best,
Scott
Posted by cjmorv@gmail.com on
Scott,

Thanks for helping to create Peghead and for this course in particular. It's great to have access to your talent and skill.

Kenny
Posted by krossmj@gmail.com on
Scott,
Really enjoying the class and the site as a whole - great work! I've been taking the rhythm class for about a month and working my way through the lessons. Eventually I'll start taking your flatpicking course as well, and I was wondering if you have lessons in that course that teach how to improvise solos and/or fills over these tunes from the rhythm course? Seems like it'd be a nice way to build on what we're learning here.
Thanks again!
Mike
Posted by Scottnyg on
Hi Mike,
Glad you're enjoying the rhythm course. The Flatpicking Course does have solos and improvising ideas for bluegrass songs, but necessarily for the same songs as the rhythm guitar course. But most of the ideas and licks are applicable to many songs, in the same way that the rhythm lessons are applicable to many songs not just the ones taught in the course. Hope to see you in Flatpicking some day soon.
Best,
Scott
Posted by gd@seasidehighspeed.com on
Hello Scott,
I like your teaching style,your to the point and we get down to business.I have been playing for years but would say i'm about intermediate level ,but noticed my rhythm needed quite a bit of work with both the bluegrass and country,ole-timey etc.I play with my only 3 fingers on the chording hand.I do enjoy flatpicking and learning by ear also.
Thanks,
Glenn
Posted by JJGoold@gmail.com on
Hi Scott:
Appreciated the lesson on "stealth" chords. I find that I forget to add something like a Cadd9 when playing out with others. Any hints how to remember those or is it just practice, practice, practice?
Posted by Scottnyg on
Yeah, probably remembering to "practice" rhythm guitar, to really get those chords in your hands and your muscle memory. And also remembering, when you're playing out with others, to really stay focused on your rhythm playing and not go into autopilot. Sometimes those chords will sound good and sometimes not, and the only way to know is to try them in the moment and see.
Scott
Posted by steveomarine@gmail.com on
Hi Scott: I just started the Roots/Rhythm Course, Rhythm Part 1. I can't tell from the video, but are all your single note down picks, rest strokes? Thanks.

Ralph
Posted by Scottnyg on
Welcome to the course, Ralph. I do tend to use rest strokes on downstroke quarter notes, especially bass notes. The lesson on Pick Technique: Downstrokes and Bass Notes goes into this in more depth.
Best,
Scott
Posted by JJGoold@gmail.com on
Thanks for the song "Someday" by Steve Earle. Good combination of downstrokes/ strumming and a little different than traditional bluegrass. Nice to have the variety. Darn good song, too.
Posted by bobh79@bellsouth.net on
Hi Scott,

Would Neil Young's "Comes a Time" be worth a look as a song to add for this course? It's not bluegrass but possibly could be considered Americana/Roots. Not hard to play at all and it's great practice for walkups and walk downs. It's just such a nice song to play and I've found I'm applying what I learn here to it. Thought you might be interested in considering it. Thanks!
Posted by Scottnyg on
Hey Bob,
Good idea -- great song with an unusual chord progression. FYI, the next few lessons will include a more extensive look at bass runs, so that would probably be a good song to work on, since there are so many different chords to move through. I'll keep it in mind.
Best,
Scott
Posted by bobh79@bellsouth.net on
Hi Scott,

Thanks for considering Comes a Time, I hope you use it as a basis for a lesson in the near future!

To supplement this course, I am also working through Flatpicking Essentials, Volume 1 by Dan Miller which is focused on rhythm, bass runs, and fill licks similar to the material presented in this course. I'm currently working on material in the order as presented for this course on the course web page and at this point I am fine tuning Long Journey Home with some up strokes and trying to get more proficient at rest strokes and I'm hot and heavy on Some Old Day. Should I continue to work through the material in the order it is presented? My guess was that was the case but now it seems like after working the first four videos, the next batch of songs could be taken on in any order (?) followed by fiddle tune backup material. The latest bass runs lessons looks similar to what I have been working on in Flatpicking Essentials so perhaps I could work that material at any time.

Just wanted your thoughts on how to consider the order of progression in the course. I'm really enjoying it. Thanks!
Posted by Scottnyg on
Hi Bob,
I present new material and techniques in each lesson, but following the order isn't essential. However, there are times when I refer to something I've covered in a previous lesson, but that might be something you know already. Everyone moves at their own pace and has their own interests. I always think it's better to happily work on something you're interested in than spend time slogging through something you're not.
Cheers,
Scott
Posted by bobh79@bellsouth.net on
Some Old Day by Springfield Exit on their album That Was Then is a great version to play along to in the key Scott teaches in this lesson series (D). I downloaded the song from iTunes and imported into Amazing Slow Downer for the play along. The female lead in this group has a very pretty voice for this song. Enjoy!
Posted by bobh79@bellsouth.net on
New lesson Comes a Time - Woo Hoo! Thanks Scott.

I watched through the lesson video and your thoughts on handling the G to Bm transition were an Ah Ha moment for me as I have always tried to manage the Bm as a full barre and it just kept tripping me up as far as keeping the song tempo flowing. I'm still early along in this course (just getting into Storms are On the Ocean) but this is one lesson where I am tempted to skip forward and take it on. Really like the sound and the lyrics in this song, makes you feel good.

Non-music footnote (hope this is not out of place) - I'm a cyclist also and heard a podcast where you talked about your love of cycling. Just curious in the Portland area if you were familiar with Jan Heine and Bicycle Quarterly. I love that periodical and I love the kind of riding Jan promotes.

Thanks again!
Posted by bobh79@bellsouth.net on
Hi Scott,

I've really enjoyed re-learning Comes A Time with your new lesson. I'm playing about 85% accurate to your suggestions on chords and the bass notes. I substituted the Bm in the verse with a Bm7 which is a lot easier for me to get to and it actually sounds pretty good.

If you are still interested in Neil Young songs as course lessons, I would suggest/request consideration of Harvest Moon and Old Man.
Posted by dberne@earthlink.net on
Hi Scott
I have begun your Roots and Bluegrass Rhythm course and am thoroughly enjoying it. I have already put a number of new tools in my bag from just the first two song/lessons. One thing I've noticed--in your play-along tracks--is that you play a G major chord fretting both the high E and B strings. I have always played it only fretting the E string (but once heard James Taylor say that you MUST fret the B string and was puzzled then by the dislike for the 3rd here).

In other to 3rd-or-not-to-3rd queries, I wonder if you are fretting or muting the B note on the A string.

Apologies if you discuss this in one of the lessons I haven't gotten to yet, but I would be interested to hear your take on the role of the 3rd in the so-common G chord.

thanks
Debbie
Posted by Scottnyg on
Hi Debbie,
Welcome to the course. I think I covered that in the first Bluegrass Rhythm Basics lesson, but at any rate, the G chord played by fretting the B string at the third fret is often referred to as the "bluegrass G" because it's become standard for bluegrass guitarists. Glad to hear that James likes it too. One reason for using it is that in music where singers may sing bluesy flatted thirds against a major chord, having the major third (the B string) ring out can be dissonant, and constrict the singer (or fiddler) to one specific tonality. Also by fretting that note you get an octave with a fifth in the middle on the top three strings, which has a very specific "chimey" sound that cuts through the sound of a band quite well. I will sometimes play the the other G, which I sometimes refer to as the "folky" G, and I usually point out when I do so in each lesson. Sometimes, it's more convenient to fret the G chord that way, since the fingering is similar to that of a C chord. If I'm playing in C and need a quick G chord, I often use the folky G chord, because it's easier to get to quickly. And yes, when playing the "bluegrass" G, I usually mute the A string by leaning my second finger against it, unless, of course, I'm playing a bass run on that string. I think I cover this in the lesson on rest strokes. At any rate, that string usually just muddies things up in the low end if you want a clear solid single bass note. Of course, if you want a big full strum using all six strings, which is great for some country and rock songs, you'll want to fret the A string as well. Hope that makes sense.
Best,
Scott
Posted by steve.zind@gmail.com on
Hi Scott,
Thanks for all the time and effort you put into the lessons. I've been enjoying working my way through them. One question comes to mind, especially around bass runs. Do you have any suggestions in terms of technique or exercises for improving 'accuracy"? I pretty regularly hit the wrong string when doing those runs and would love to get better at hitting the string I'm aiming for. Thanks.

Best,
Steve
Posted by bobh79@bellsouth.net on
Steve Zind,

In addition to this course I am also working through Flatpicking Essentials Vol. 1 by Dan Miller and you might find the technique discussions and exercises you are looking for to improve bass run accuracy. I find the course work in that book is a great compliment to this course. I usually spend about an hour woodshedding/warming up with exercises from that book and then spend 1-2 hours on Scott's material.

Cheers,

Bob
Posted by Scottnyg on
Hey Steve,
Glad you're enjoying the course. Accuracy, like a lot of things, is mostly a matter of practice and muscle memory, getting your pick to know where the string is through repetition. But here are a few suggestions.

Try watching your pick when you're working on bass runs, or anything that you find difficult to do with the pick. Most people naturally look at the their fretting hand while they're playing.

I've found that the rest stroke is a good stroke to work on for accuracy. If you're not using rest strokes to do bass runs, try working on that. To get a good rest stroke takes control, and that's really what you're after.

If you've gotten to the lesson on bass runs, print out the music that comes with it -- two pages of two-beat downstroke bass runs -- and work on those at a slow tempo (with or without a metronome) until you can play them accurately, then increase the tempo bit by bit. Once you get those down, move on to the 2 pages of bass runs in the Milwaukee Blues lesson, which includes bass runs with some eight notes/upstrokes.

If you're interested in playing melodies as well, you might check out my Intermediate Flatpicking course. I spend a lot of time on pick technique in that course, and it starts with some good pick exercises. Bob mentioned Dan Miller's book. I'm not familiar with that particular one, but Dan has some great stuff. Hope this helps.
Best,
Scott
Posted by steve.zind@gmail.com on
Thanks Bob and Scott!
-Steve
Posted by JJGoold@gmail.com on
Flora, the Lilly of the West is a great song and there's a youtube video of Tim O'Brien playing it that I can match by putting my capo is on the 3rd fret. That 2/4 measure gets me though, every time when I try to match him in the video. Reminds me of trying to play "Take 5" in HS band - you can't mix tempos!!!! Getting my speed up to his is another learning lesson.
Love the title you gave these category of songs: typical western murder song. I should've thought of that title sooner.
Posted by bobh79@bellsouth.net on
If you are working on The Storms are on the Ocean, I found a great version of it to play along to by Richard Shindell off his album South of Delia. I downloaded off of iTunes and exported it into the Amazing Slow Downer app on my iPad for the play along. He adds a couple of chords to the tune in the same key in addition to what Scott shows in the teaching arrangement. I was looking for something that was not quite as "twangy" to play along to and this is a nice one. It's fun to experiment with the strumming arrangements Scott presents. Next step for me will be trying to use the bass runs Scott suggests. Really enjoying this course. My next song to try will be Angel from Montgomery because my wife likes to sing along to it.
Posted by Cranders@yahoo.com on
Hi Scott,
I'm enjoying the course. I'm not familiar with some of these songs. Is there a chance that you could put the melody of songs with words in standard music notation? That would be helpful to me. Thanks.
Best,
Cindy
Posted by Scottnyg on
Hi Cindy,
Glad you're enjoying the course. This music is mostly passed down by ear so the melodies to songs tend to change a bit depending on who's singing them. But I've put up a Spotify playlist on the bottom of the course page with versions of all the songs in the course, which should give you a pretty good indication how they go. If you don't have Spotify, I'm sure there are good versions on YouTube you can listen to. In general, it's much better to try to learn these songs by ear.
Best,
Scott
Posted by Cranders@yahoo.com on
Hi Scott,
I'm a beginning guitarist, just beginning to learn closed chords. I have a couple of questions. 1. For the A7 chord on If No News Is Good News: how do you leave out the 5th string? Is is muted? If so, with which finger? And, why are closed chords called "swing" chords? Are all closed chords "swing" chords, or just added 6 chords? I'd be happy to do some reading about that if you have any urls. I'm a musician and enjoy reading about music history and theory. Also, I would like to hear you talk about muting strings versus not strumming them. In you playing I see you using your thumb maybe to mute some strings but I haven't noticed that you mentioned it. Specifically, on an open chord C chord: do you mute the 6th string or just not strum it? I keep accidentally strumming it and it annoys me. Thanks so much.
Cindy
Posted by Scottnyg on
Hi Cindy,
For that A7 chord you can let your index finger, which is playing the sixth string, just lean against the fifth string to mute it. Not all closed chords are "swing chords." Swing chords refer to the chords played by swing guitarists -- both big band guitarists and Western swing guitarists. They usually consist of a bass note on the sixth or fifth string and three other notes on the second, third, and fourth strings. Sometimes they include the 6 or 7, but there are lots of exceptions. I don't usually use my thumb to mute strings. I mostly use the finger that's on the string above to mute any interior strings, like in the A7 chord that I mentioned where the finger playing the sixth string leans over to mute the fifth string. I'll usually mute the first string in the same way. I try to explain this in most of the lessons, but I may have omitted some explanations on some chords. On an open C chord, you can just start your strum from the fifth string, or mute the sixth string with your thumb. You can also try playing a C chord by adding the low G (third fret of the sixth string) to the C chord. That means you'll play the C note with your pinky and the low G with your third finger. Hope that helps.
Best,
Scott
Posted by davecap1@charter.net on
Hey Scott, I'm currently taking the "Roots & Bluegrass Rhythm" course and it's been very helpful. Would you address a topic that doesn't get a lot of discussion? That topic is PRACTICE. For example, what were/are your practice habits? This can be fairly athletic music and I suspect you have some helpful advice. Thanks and keep up the great work.
Dave
Posted by cold.frosty.morning@gmail.com on
Hi Scott, Thanks for putting together this terrific Roots and Rhythm class. I'm new to old-time guitar (coming from fiddle), and have been getting some tips from your lessons -- which are helpful (even those that are not specifically geared towards OT), and fun. I find the ability to adjust the speed of the video (to 0.50) super helpful when I play along. I too though, like a couple others have mentioned, would benefit from having more tab (or tab for the complete tunes)-- even for tunes that are primarily simple boom-chuck (like you provided for "Long Journey Home"), but especially for tunes like "Milwaukee Blues." All-in-all though, I love the class and am thankful for it :) Best regards
Posted by cold.frosty.morning@gmail.com on
RE: my request for more tab 'especially for tunes like "Milwaukee Blues".' I see now that what's included for MW is perfect, as is -- with "(bass run 1)" and "(bass run 2)" indicated in the chords-and-lyrics page. Thanks :)
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