Hello and welcome once again to Flatpicking Guitar Magazine’s free lesson portion of our monthly newsletter. This month’s tune, “Fisher’s Creek,” was written by my friend and virtuoso flatpicker, Gabe Valla.
Gabe is a Florida native who grew up learning how to play bluegrass from his father, Ray Valla (who has several poplar instructional books from the 1980’s). Gabe won the Merlefest guitar competition when hew was just sixteen years old. After playing big festivals, recording records with Tony Rice, and establishing himself as one of Florida’s best acoustic musicians, Gabe chose to focus more on his family and career outside of music. Today, he continues to play regionally with the Gatorbone Band. Gabe is a perfect example of someone who schools most people with timing, tone, and taste on the acoustic guitar but whom you probably have never heard of. His playing is not even well documented on YouTube. I recommend seeking out the album “Valla, Turner, Williamson” he recorded in 2002. It is available on Spotify and iTunes.
“Fisher’s Creek” was written back in 2000. It was inspired by the sound of many traditional fiddle tunes and follows fiddle tune form and style. The A section has eight measures. When interpreting the A section I suggest going for an open flowing feel rather than a strict bluegrass rhythm. Note how the chords are sometimes not changing at the beginning of a measure but rather half way through a measure.
The pulse to the first four measures can be felt like this:
1 2 3 3 5 6 7 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
D G Bm A
On the B section, Gabe was very influenced by tunes like “Cherokee
Shuffle” that have ten measures. He explains that these extra two measures really makes the song flow and sound authentic.
I agree — and would just suggest not using this tune to accompany a
contra dance. The back-up to the B section feels much more like a
typical fiddle tune. The contrast of these two distinct feels gives the
tune a unique flavor and is typical of Gabe’s writing and playing.
If one were to take an improvised solo over the chords to “Fisher’s
Creek,” Gabe suggests using the D major scale over the A section. In other words, try not to play “blues” over the A section. In the B section however, one can employ more of a D blues tonality. This is due to the introduction of the F chord. Learning what scales work (sound good) over what chords can be an intimidating process but one that will enable you to play over any song you hear.
Remember to click on the lesson mp3 to hear the chords and melody in action. I hope you enjoy working on “Fisher’s Creek.” I am confident you will find the tune to be quite intriguing and musically satisfying. As always, if you have any questions or comments on this e-lesson just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org