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August 2015

Hippodrome Reel

Arranged by Mickey Abraham

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Hello and welcome once again to Flatpicking Guitar Magazine’s free lesson portion of our monthly newsletter. This month I feel I have chosen one of the coolest flatpicking tunes around, the “Hippodrome Reel.” Even the title has the word “hip” in it. “Hippodrome Reel” was a popular guitar tune in the 80’s and 90’s but is not played as much these days. I enjoyed working out this arrangement for this month’s e-lesson and I hope you enjoy being exposed to this flatpicking gem. Let’s get this tune back to the status it deserves.
One challenging aspect of mastering the “Hippodrome Reel” is playing simple bar chords. In the tune’s B section you will encounter the chords Ab, Db, and Eb. This is simply the I, IV, and V chords in the key of Ab. These chord shapes are shown under the tab on the next page. All these grips are based on your typical “E” and “A” shape bar chords. Don’t worry if you find bar chords challenging. It’s okay if they buzz a little bit. Keep working on them every day and I promise they will get better. Experiment with different finger angles and hand placements to use the least amount of muscle to do the most work.
My first exposure to the “Hippodrome Reel” was out of D position (When playing the tune in the key of D the B section still encounters bar chords). For this e-lessen I enjoyed working out the tune’s predictable yet bizarre melody in open C position. The melody is full of fiddle tune cliches while at the same time taking sharp left turns at the most satisfying moments. I love being able to flatpick the B section in the key of Ab while still staying in my trusty open flatpicking world. I tried to avoid awkward fingerings to let the melody flow. Work through measures 9-17 and you will see and feel what I mean. Make sure to click on the included e-lesson mp3 to hear the chords and melody in action.
With so many fiddle tunes that sound similar “Hippodrome Reel” certainly stands out. I hope you enjoy working on this quirky little melody and adding it to your list of traditional flatpicking tunes. As always, should you have any comments or questions on this month’s e-lesson, or any great ideas for tunes you’d like to see here in the future, just drop me a line at michabraham@comcast.net


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