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Flatpicking Guitar Magazine - Flatpicking Essentials, Volume 5: Improvisation and Style Studies


Current Edition

Flatpicking Essentials, Volume 5: Improvisation and Style Studies
152 Pages, with over 120 minutes of audio.

Improvisation is one of those things that flatpickers always ask about at workshops and seminars. It is one of those mysterious and elusive concepts that is hard for many people to grasp. In this Volume of the Flatpicking Essentials series authors Dan Miller and Tim May take away the mystery by presenting a step-by-step gradual learning method that will have you improvising immediately and then build your skill slowly and steadily. By the end of this book you will have the confidence and the skill to step out and start improvising at your next jam session.

The method used in this book works off of a two-part approach, the first is from the blues perspective, working with the minor pentatonic scale. The second approach works more with root notes and chord tones as a basis. Many Jazz players work with this structure for learning improvisation. Tim May has developed a similar approach for flatpicking and bluegrass. Flatpicking Essentials Volume 5: Improvisation and Style Studies presents both the blues approach and the root note/chord tone method, and the many exercises and examples associated with both, as vehicles to get you very comfortable with improvisation. Also included are many practice tracks that will help you build your improvisational skills. This book presents a very accessible and systematic approach to learning how to improvise.

In the Flatpicking Essentials series, the approach to teaching anything is to build gradually and move step-by-step so that the student can achieve success at each step, and each step builds upon the previous one. The approach to teaching improvisation in Volume 5 of the Flatpicking Essentials series will build your improvisational skills gradually, without frustration.

In addition to the extensive improvisation section, part 2 of this book includes "Style Studies" that are focused on the "founding fathers" of flatpicking: Doc Watson, Norman Blake, Clarence White, Tony Rice, and Dan Crary. This section of the book profiles elements of each of these player's flatpicking styles, and then teaches you how to work those style elements into your own solos by giving you many song and fiddle tune examples.

Table of Contents:

Part 1, Section 1: Blues Improvisation
Minor Scales
   Natural Minor
   Harmonic Minor
   Melodic Minor
   Dorian Mode
G Minor Pnetatonic Scale
The Blues Improvisation Exercise
   Stage 1: Three Notes and a G Chord Shuffle
   Stage 2: Five Notes and a G Chord Shuffle
   Stage 3: Five Notes and a I, IV, V Shuffle
   Stage 4: Note Targeting
   Stage 5: Bluegrass Rhythm
   Stage 6: Same Notes, New Octave
   Stage 7: Two Octaves
   Stage 8: The G “Blues” Scale
   Stage 9: The Closed G “Blues” Scale
   Stage 10: Combining Patterns
   Stage 11: Blues All Over the Neck
   Stage 12: Connecting the Boxes
   Stage 13: Licks and Bends
   Stage 14: Learn to Say Something
   Stage 15: Working with New I, IV, V Progressions
      Carter's Blues
      I Am A Pilgrim
   Stage 16: Exploring Other Keys
Blues Section Conclusion

Part 1, Section 2: Improvisation: Finding Root Notes and Chord Tones
Stage 1: Finding the Root Notes
Stage 2: Filling in the Spaces in G
Stage 3: Root Notes and the I, IV, V Progression
Stage 4: Leading Tones
Stage 5: Filling in the Spaces in a I, IV, V Progression
Stage 6: Using Repeating Patterns
   Durham's Reel
   She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain
Stage 7: Finding the Chord Tones
   She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain (Improv 2)
Stage 8: Working with the Major Pentatonic Scale
Stage 9: Working with New I, IV, V Progressions
Stage 10: Exploring Other Keys
Stage 11: Song Analysis and Practice
Improvisation Conclusion

Part 2: Style Studies
Doc Watson
   Combining Scales and Folding Scales
   Lonesome Road Blues
   Wabash Cannonball
Norman Blake
   Strumming Exercises
   Lead Pattern Examples
   Arkansas Traveler
   Blackberry Blossom
Clarence White
   Clarence White Licks
   Shuckin' The Corn
   Farewell Blues
Tony Rice
   The Riceolian Mode
   The Mode's The Thing
   Tony Rice Licks
Dan Crary
   Dan Crary Licks

The Tunes
Billy In The Lowground
Banks of the Ohio
Blackberry Blossom
Jimmy Brown the Newsboy
East Tennessee Blues
Salt Creek
Long Journey Home
More Pretty Girls Than One
The Road Ahead


About the Flatpicking Essentials Series:
The Flatpicking Essentials instructional series is designed to teach you the art of flatpicking the acoustic guitar in a sequential, step-by-step method that will gradually build your flatpicking skill in a way that leaves no "gaps" or "holes." While this method will be extremely beneficial to beginners, this series will also be of great value to those guitar players who have been working to learn how to flatpick for quite some time, yet can't seem to get beyond a certain plateau. If you are having trouble moving beyond memorized solos, adding interest and variety to your rhythm playing, learning how to play up-the-neck, learning how to come up with your own arrangements to songs, learning how to play by ear, or learning how to improvise, then this series is for you! Too many flatpickers are learning how to play by simply memorizing transcribed fiddle tune solos from tab books and video tapes. In doing that they are learning ineffectively and inefficiently. They are skipping over many vital elements in the learning process and thus they have a weak foundation. In this series my goal is to help you build a strong foundation so that you can easily maintain consistent forward progress in your study of flatpicking. Each volume of this series presents material that provides the foundation for the next volume. In this first volume "Rhythm, Bass Runs, and Fill Licks" you learn how to develop all of the basic skills you will need in order to become a solid rhythm player. This book is designed to teach you rhythm skills in a way that will thoroughly prepare you for Volume 2, which is titled, "Learning How To Solo: Carter Style and Beyond". Volume 3 will start to build your fiddle tune repertoire by providing you with melody-based versions of the most popular jam session tunes. Volume 4 will teach you how to become familiar with the entire fingerboard and understand how to use it to your advantage in creating interesting solos. Volume 5 "Improvisation and Style Studies" will explore improvisation and the styles and contributions of the flatpicking legends: Doc Watson, Clarence White, Tony Rice, Dan Crary, Norman Blake, and others. Volume 6 will provide you with advance arrangements of songs and tunes (arranged by Tim May). From there, future volumes will explore other genres such as Celtic, Western Swing, and Gypsy Jazz. As you will learn in the first section of Volume 1, the flatpicking guitar style developed chronologically along a very clear line of sequential technical skills. In order to learn how to flatpick fiddle tunes like Doc Watson, the student needs to build a foundation similar to the foundation Doc built for himself before he started picking lead solos on fiddle tunes. The first two volumes of this course present the techniques and skills that were developed on the acoustic guitar during the 30s, 40s, and 50s "the pre-Doc Watson skills" the skills Doc acquired as part of building his own musical foundation. The remaining volume then continue to follow the chronological development of the style.