Hello and welcome once again to Flatpicking
Guitar Magazine’s free lesson portion of our monthly newsletter. After
four years of offering great traditional tunes ranging from old-time to
bluegrass and klezmer to Irish, I have finally decided to offer
one of my own original flatpicking tunes entitled the “Watson
Hornpipe.” The “Watson Hornpipe” was actually one of the first
flatpicking tunes I ever wrote and I recorded on the Panhandle
String Band release “Hanglider’s Lullaby” back in 2004.
When I was beginning to learn how to solo over
fiddle tunes my improvisations often turned into melodic ideas that, to
me, could stand alone as the framework for new tunes. I came up with
the ideas in the “Watson Hornpipe” after studying melodies like
“Cotton Patch Rag” and “Black Mt. Rag.” My goal was to follow the chord
changes using melodic ideas combined with the cool flatpicking
licks I was working on at the time.
I was always fascinated by the way flatpickers use
notes that are not in the major scale to give their lines a hip
chromatic sound. Notice in measure 1 where I play the first fret of the
G string -- this is usually a really “weird” note when played over a C
chord, but when used as a passing tone it gives the line great feel and
flavor. I tried to base the melody around these cool passing tones in a
way that does not sound too jarring, while at the same time
adding interest to the song.
In the B section you will encounter a
couple cool arpeggio shapes that go up the neck. Take a look at measure
13. The technique used here involves striking the open g string which
allows your hand a second to shift up to the 7th position. This is one
of a flatpickers favorite ways of getting up the neck with ease. The
result is a clean shift without hearing all the string noise.
These arpeggios are not too hard to play and they really give the tune
a wide tonal range.
conclusion of the B section is your typical “rag turnaround” (measures
23-26). The lick I play over this sequence is particularly
interesting as it follows the chord changes directly. The result is a
hip line that sounds like you know what you’re doing!
Finally, The C section or “Bridge” enters into a
cool Dm passage which was inspired by the bridge of David Grisman’s
“Cedar Hill.” I felt the addition of a third part really gave the tune
a sense of completion and closer. Check out the lesson mp3 to
hear all the licks in action and to absorb the form of the tune. I see
the form as follows:
C (which concludes with the A section once)
of the licks in this tune are, in a sense, designed for you to steal
and use in other places. The use of chromatic passing tones will add
movement and interest into your lines and make you sound more fluid.
Furthermore, the overall chord structure and form of the tune is fairly
common which will make it easy for your bluegrass friends to play along
with and jam over.
hope you enjoy working on the “Watson Hornpipe” and find the tune
challenging and exciting to play. If you have any questions or comments
on the “Watson Hornpipe” or if you have any great ideas for lessons you
would like to see here in the future just drop me a line at