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May 2012 Free Flatpicking Lesson
from 
Flatpicking Guitar Magazine

"Dusty Miller"

Arranged for FGM by Mickey Abraham

     

         Hello and welcome once again to Flatpicking Guitar Magazine’s free lesson portion of our monthly newsletter.  I’d like to begin this month by saying thank you to all the folks who look forward to clicking here each month. If you enjoy these lessons please make sure that you continue to subscribe to either the hard copy or digital version of Flatpicking Guitar Magazine. Each issue is stocked full of interviews, tunes, album reviews, and so much more. You will be improving your guitar playing while at the same time helping support the art of flatpicking. 
        This month’s flatpicking tune is an old-time melody called “Dusty Miller.” My first exposure to this tune was on David Grisman’s Bluegrass Mandolin Extravaganza double disc CD. This tune was played by the great Ronnie McCoury.  I later became familiar with a Tony Rice rendition that has a completely different feel.  My lesson version is not a McCoury transcription but it is heavily based on his awesome invention of this tune.
       One interesting aspect of “Dusty Miller” is how it blurs the lines between major, minor, and blues. Take a listen to the lesson mp3. If I were to ask you what flavor the melody is; major, minor, or blues, you may have a tough time coming up with a definitive answer. What is going on is a minor flavored melody being played over a “major-ish” chord. I say “major-ish” because most bluegrass guitarists choose to play a chord with no major 3rd in tunes like this. Try experimenting with using an Am chord for the a section (this will really bring out the minor quality of the melody).  Then, try using an A major (this should start to bring out the blues quality in the melody.)  Next, try using an Asus2 (just lift off the fretted note on the second fret of the b string while playing an open A chord to play an Asus2).  The open b string added to the chord will achieve an A chord that is not major or minor.  This cool suspended chord will fit the melody quite well and make the major/ minor/ blues hybrid more ambiguous and mysterious.
       When picking the melody to the A section I suggest to keep your hand in first position, but when picking the B section you will have to play out of second position (index used on second fret, middle on third, ring finger on fourth fret, and pinky up on the fifth).  Most of the traditional flatpicking tunes were written on the fiddle which has all these notes in their first position.  When we begin to play these tunes on the guitar we often find the notes spanning two or three positions.  For example, the high ‘a’ note on the skinny e string is played with your pinky on the guitar, while this note, on the fiddle, is still in first position. 
      I hope you enjoy working on this cool melody and adding it to your constantly growing list.  The traditional AABB form and hip vibe of “Dusty Miller” make it perfect for a bluegrass jam tune.  To me, “Dusty Miller” almost has a heavy metal aesthetic to it -- in that old beat-up Martin sort of way!
     If you have any questions on this e-lesson or any great ideas for tunes you’d like to see here just drop me a line at michabraham@comcast.net.
      










"Dusty Miller"

Dusty Miller

Dusty Miller

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