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July 2015

MacArthur’s Road

Arranged by Mickey Abraham


Hello and welcome once again to Flatpicking Guitar Magazine’s free lesson portion of our monthly newsletter. This month’s tune is a cool Irish flavored melody called “MacArthur’s Road.” I first learned this tune in 2001 from Florida fiddler Jane Scott. At that time I was playing guitar with the Florida State Irish Music Ensemble and Jane Scott was the music director. I was immediately attracted to this soaring melody and knew I had to arrange it for guitar. I’m confident you too will find “MacArthur’s Road” fun to learn and exciting to pick.
“MacArthur’s” is an uplifting reel in the key of E. When playing back up you will need the chords E, A, and B7 (the I, IV, and V chords in E). You may choose to use just a regular B instead of B7. I say “B7” because this is more common to the bluegrass/folk guitar tradition than just a plain old regular B. Seeing that “MacArthur’s” is in the key of E, it is great for breaking up the barrage of flatpicking tunes in A, D, and G.
The form is based on your typical AABB fiddle tune form. But, look out for the last four measures of the B section. When playing “MacArthur’s” most folks tag the second B section with last four measures of the A section. If this sounds confusing just consult the sheet music below or click the included lesson mp3. I’m not sure the exact reason for this but it certainly makes the form unique and turns the whole thing around quite well.
When picking the melody you will have to venture up to the seventh and ninth frets of the high E string. At measure 11 place your first finger on the fourth fret. Then, use your second finger for fret five. Finally, use your fourth finger (pinky) on fret seven. At this point you will notice all the open E strings. This open E string gives your left hand plenty of time to grab the ninth fret and get back down the neck. I like tunes that sound tricky but are actually quite simple. Try it!
I hope you enjoy working on “MacArthur’s Road” and adding to your constantly growing list of tunes. As always, if you have any questions or comments just email me at michabraham@comcast.net