Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #9804  by abspatz
 Mon Oct 23, 2006 9:21 pm
I've been taking lessons for the past month or so on country-blues style fingerpicking. (Mississippi John Hurt, RL Burnside, Tommy Johnson, etc.) I'm picking it up, but having a difficult time figuring out how to coordinate the bass strums with everything all my other fingers are doing. My teacher says practice....but has no specific techniques for me to practice. any advice out there??

 #9810  by LazyLightnin
 Tue Oct 24, 2006 12:17 am
im not so hot with it either, one i can do is "been all around this world" with the alternating c and g. 8)

 #9817  by Billbbill
 Tue Oct 24, 2006 7:06 am
I'd say aside from your teachers advice of practice, try to get the bass line, alternating or otherwise down to the point where you really don't think about it. When I first tackled this I would just play the bass line by itself until I was about to go insane. And then I'd gradually work in the melody/harmony. I'd slow it down considerably until my fingers got the hang of what my brain wanted them to do.

I think ultimately you want to be able to improv, even with this style, but its best to forget that until you're able to memorize some basic stuff from which to build from.

If you haven't already, check out my Stagger Lee vid as I think it's a pretty good study in that it ranges from the very basic (the F-Bb-C-F-Bb part) to middle of the road (G to A part) to the somewhat more complicated (D7-D etc. part). I'm also planning to redo the vid - one of these days - to be a little more user friendly as my vid setup has improved.

 #9818  by Billbbill
 Tue Oct 24, 2006 7:09 am
btw - I realize this is may be a somewhat different style but the concept is pretty much the same - doing 2 different things at once.

 #9847  by abspatz
 Wed Oct 25, 2006 8:15 am
thanks for the tips. bill, i've been doing exactly what you suggested--i sit there and just do the bass strum over and over again. when i'm about to go nuts, i try to add in some melody with it. so i guess time and practice will eventually payoff. it just seems like a long process!


 #9857  by Billbbill
 Thu Oct 26, 2006 8:07 am
I guess to some extent it depends on whether one has the 'head' for it. I know it took me quite a while but as long as I could see even a tiny bit of progress I'd keep trudging along.

I'm sure it comes easier to some, but not me.

Also once you start to get it going it does seem to get a little easier. Sort of getting over the hump I'd say.

Once you get your fingers and hands to get use to the whole two things at once deal, what they're actually doing seems to get a little easier.

For any beginners, please don't let the 'having a head for it' thing discourage you. Keep at it if it's a slow go. When I say that, I mean it comes more easily to some.

You should definitely work on a pattern before venturing into a bass line with a varied melody.



The notes on the D, A and E strings should be played with either the thumb or the flat pick (the alternating bass) and then the index, middle and ring fingers for the rest depending on whether you're using your thumb or flat picking.

I flat pick the alternating bass line and use my middle and ring fingers for the rest.

The above is pretty much what I use for the intro to Peggy-O