July 2011 Free Flatpicking Lesson
Flatpicking Guitar Magazine
"Cotton Patch Rag"
Arranged for FGM by Mickey Abraham
and welcome once again to Flatpicking Guitar
Magazine’s free lesson portion of our monthly
newsletter. Assuming that I post the lesson in time, each
month when you click here, you will find a great new tune to expand
your flatpicking knowledge. This month I’d like to share “Cotton Patch
Rag,” a great tune from the Texas fiddling tradition.
Patch Rag” is the perfect tune for jamming on. Its simple
chord structure and form make it great for beginners and intermediate
players to pick, but also intrigues advanced players to come up with
complex licks over the simple chords. If you are a
flatpicking guitarist who enjoys improvising or coming up with your own
arrangements of tunes, this tune will keep you busy for
years! In fact, “Cotton Patch” often shows up at flatpicking
me, this tune has an AABB structure. The “A” section is based
on a single note melody and the “B” section is the cross-picking
part. Some arrangements of this tune have more than two
sections, but they have always seemed more like variations to me. Also,
In the fiddling tradition, the soloist will often take more than one
solo in row -- so when a Texas fiddler’s version is transcribed, it
would appear to have many sections.
this lesson I have presented two versions of each section and a swing
variation over the chords that incorporates some interesting
licks. Check out the lesson mp3 to hear the ideas in action!
“Cotton Patch Rag” chord
C C F F
G G G C
*the chords stay the same for
picking the “A” section, I like to keep a good pulse to my eighth
notes. This is accomplished by accenting beats one and three of each
measure and carefully articulating each note. Practice slowly to make
sure your left hand fingers and right hand pick are synchronized, i.e.
you are fretting the notes at the same time as you are picking them.
The “B” section’s cross-picking
picking idea is indeed a classic. It’s based on the
syncopated pattern of a fiddle “shuffle.” I use strict alternate
picking for this pattern. This way, my cross-picking is using
the same picking technique as my regular eighth notes. The tricky part,
of course, is that every time you return to the same string, your pick
is on the opposite stroke it was the last time you picked that
string. Again, practice slowly to ensure your hands are
working together to accomplish this goal.
if you are familiar with this piece and already play it, I encourage
you to check out my swing variations. You just might find a
lick worth stealing. Feel free to take any of the ideas you like and
employ them where you can. I based the intervalic lick at measures
38-40 on a typical “thirds” exercise, but I tried to incorporate
half-step connectors to make the line sound more interesting and more
like a real Texas fiddler. One other phrase of interest is
the descending lick played over the G at measures 46 and 47.
This line is based on the G half/whole diminished scale, and really
brings out the sound of “organized tension” when resolving to
C. I know you want to try to play these licks!
hope you enjoy adding this amazing tune to your list. I am
sure your picking buddies will either know it, want to learn it, or
will have something to play over it. In closing, “Cotton
Patch Rag” is a tune that due to it’s simple structure is appealing to
learn at any level, but at the same time it unleashes a myriad of
possible variations to keep even the most advanced soloist intrigued.
As always, if you have
questions or comments
on this e-lesson, or any ideas you’d like to see here in the future,
just drop me aline at firstname.lastname@example.org.