Free Flatpicking Lesson
Arranged for FGM by Mickey Abraham
Hello and welcome once again to Flatpicking
Guitar Magazine’s free lesson portion of our monthly newsletter. This
month’s tune is an epic version of the “St. Anne’s Reel.” I had a lot
of fun exploring cool variations on this one and I’m certain that even
if you already play this one you will find hip ideas and phrases in my
Once I started coming up with fresh
ideas for this tune I had no choice but to include two complete
variations — it’s not that the third version is more complicated, it’s
more that I had too many ideas to cram into one
As always, version one is a
straight ahead rendition of the tune’s beautiful melody. I
find it fun, interesting, and at times challenging to come up with one
version of a tune, as a tune’s actual melody is often played and taught
in so many different ways.
As I stated before, I really
enjoyed composing the variations for this lesson. I tried to
pay attention to my use of open position in a way that is almost
therapeutic. In lue of clouding up the beautiful tune with
random hot licks in the key of D, I tried to weave in and out of the
melody using ideas that are melodic, easy, and relevant.
These ideas, to me, are the antithesis of riffing away using pentatonic
blues scales. For other songs like “Salt Creek” or “Big Mon”
I would choose to take on a more bluesy approach.
The trick to keeping a tune free of
blues licks is to base your solos on major scales and chord
arpeggios. I did use a couple flat 3rds and a
couple chromatic lines to add some harmonic interest and catch your
ear, but then went right back to the straight major scale.
When working with my private students I try to teach them how to
construct lines like these using chord shapes, arpeggios, and scale
ideas. It is fun and challenging to try and come up with your
own lines that fit over the chord changes of a tune. This is
one way to never get tired of playing the same song. If you
are constantly coming up with your own melodic variations, a tune can
be reinvented all the time.
When some folks begin to improvise
their flatpicking solos they often ignore the melodic contour of the
tune’s original melody. I like to study what notes are
integral to the sound of the melody and build my variations off
that. One musically artistic aspect of coming up with a
variation is to sometimes go where your ear expects but then go where
your human ear does not expect it to go — like going higher when your
ear expects it to go lower and vice versa.
Check out the lesson mp3 to
hear these ideas in action.
I know you will enjoy going through
this epic flatpicking rendition of “St. Anne‘s Reel.” You may even find
these types of lines relaxing to play. If you have any
questions or comments on this e-lesson don't hesitate to drop me a line at