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Flatpicking Guitar Magazine

Free On Line Lesson — March 2018

“Smith’s Reel”

Arranged by Korey Brodsky

Transcribed by Mickey Abraham

Download PDF | Download mp3

Hello and welcome once again to Flatpicking Guitar Magazine’s free lesson portion of our monthly newsletter. This month’s tune is a classic Texas style fiddle tune called “Smith’s Reel.” I learned “Smith’s Reel” from Berklee flatpicker Korey Brodsky. Korey and I met on Facebook. He is a young talented player with diverse influences. I’d like to thank Korey for offering this great arrangement for our newsletter lesson.

“Smith’s Reel” is a perfect fiddle tune — it has an infectious melody, traditional AABB form, and easy chords. One might wonder why it’s not played at picking sessions more frequently.

The most noted recording is by the great Bob Wills. Korey comments “I learned this tune from Bruce Molsky who showed me the Bob Wills recording and plays a very similar version.” It is fascinating how fiddle tunes are passed down like classic stories.

The back-up for “Smith’s Reel” can be played with only three chords — C, F, and G, and the A and B sections can have the same identical chord sequence as follows:

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As with any fiddle tune melody there are countless chord options that will fit a given melody. In fact, many Texas style rhythm players will use complex moving chord patterns to accompany a fiddle melody like “Smith’s Reel.” I couldn’t help throw in a quick C, Am, Dm, G sequence in the B part — it seemed to fit the melody but it’s not necessary. I was tempted to use several different chord sequences but perhaps the C, F, G version is the best!

I find the simple C, F, G chords especially interesting for this tune because some of the melody notes are not strong chord tones like the root, third, and fifth. Over the first F chord, for example, the downbeat emphasizes the major 7th. Likewise, over the G (measure 5) the melody downbeat is the 6th. This gives the tune a strong diatonic/modal flavor instead of outlining the changes with stock licks like a blues run over each chord. You don’t have to know anything about music theory to hear how these notes react to the chords. Make sure to click on the included lesson mp3 to hear the melody and chords in action.

As always, should you have any questions or comments on this e-lesson just drop me a line at michabraham@comcast.net. Thanks again to the talented Korey Brodsky for sharing this great tune with all of us!