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October 2009 Free Flatpicking Lesson
Flatpicking Guitar Magazine

"Eighth of January" (twin)
Arranged by Mickey Abraham

Hello and welcome once again to FGM’s free lesson portion of our monthly newsletter. This month’s FGM issue is focused around flatpicking harmonies with two guitars. I have decided to keep within this month’s theme and offer a little taste of how great it sounds when two guitars play a great fiddle tune in harmony. Learn this harmony with your picking buddy, show up to a jam, and let her rip!

Some books or teachers will explain how harmony works and even add the idea of playing the melody “a third higher.” For the most part, the best harmony is created by moving up a third, but it is important to note that creating a harmony line is not an exact science. If one were to play straight thirds there may be harmonies that sound wrong. In most cases, the musician must alter notes to fit the chord progression. This is especially true when trying to harmonize a melody that has blue notes or chromatic passages.

I have done just this to create the harmony for the Eighth of January. I began a third higher and then started altering notes to obtain a smooth sound to the harmony line. One may find it interesting that some notes are repeated in the harmony line to make the line sound smooth. I feel this harmony helps portray the upbeat and joyous quality that this wonderful melody naturally conveys.

Playing music with other people is a very important aspect of learning to play guitar and harmony playing is one of the best ways to feel like a team. Even more than the usual rhythm/lead teammate situation, the harmony/melody teammates suggest a different mastery. Both players must stick to the arrangement to make it work and this shows musical dedication!

Playing harmonies in fiddle tunes is something that has been going on for a long time. Back in the days of Bill Monroe it was fairly common to hear twin fiddles, but way less common to hear twin guitars (probably because the guitarist never took any leads…haha). Let’s try to change this one fiddle tune at a time!

I hope you find working on this harmony arrangement of the Eight of January rewarding. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding this e-lesson, past e-lessons, or ideas that you would like to see featured hear, just drop me a line at michabraham@comcast.net .