Folk guitar pieces will often apply fingerstyle patterns combined with underlying bass runs. This creates a beautiful effect across chord changes by highlighting chord tones in the upper register while imposing bass lines in the lower. Follow along with this easy to understand lesson plan and learn how you can begin performing bass string patterns for folk ballads…
Q: I am a 50+ year old guitar enthusiast just getting back into the swing of things with playing the instrument seriously once again. And, I wanted to know if there was a chance to get you to teach a lesson covering Folk Guitar Ballads? I love those interesting bass patterns that get harmonized with sung melodies. Can you cover the thumb in the bass finger picking techniques found in classic Folk Ballads.
– Kurt, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
A: Thanks for writing in Kurt. In this video I will break down one of my favorite ways of picking a slow ballad. I will focus on the use of a swing feel, and apply a repeating treble line with index & middle finger plucking.
To enhance the flow of the part, I will add an accompanied bass-line by using the thumb to perform different low-register patterns.
I will also explain how the bass-line patterns can be adjusted to match the melody.
INITIATING BASS STRING PATTERNS:
Picking patterns on guitar are best developed from out of a simple plucking structure.
To begin practice of this technique, use the first example (example #1.a) of the handout as a way to establish basic picking structure.
Afterward, move on to the second example (example #1b.) to learn how the bass-note can begin producing a simple movement.
ENHANCED BASS-NOTE (VERTICAL):
The bass pattern of any finger-picked line can flow in a linear manner, (following a scale), or it can flow with a more vertical structure.
In example 2 of the handout, a bass-line pattern operates vertical through tones associated to the notes of a “C Major” open position chord.
Learn the pattern first. Then, when the pattern becomes more familiar, turn on a metronome and build your precision and speed.
LONGER PHRASES (MULTI-CHORD):
Adding chord changes will always present new opportunities for how patterns of bass-note lines can operate musically. In example 3, the chord changes move through; “C, Am, Dm and G7.”
This chord progression (in the 3rd example), creates a number of bass-tone shifts between the 6th to the 4th guitar strings.
Study each phrase on its own, and then develop the piece as a whole. Use a metronome or drum machine to build your speed and accuracy once the phrase becomes well antiquated to you.
The final study of this lesson explores phrases that involve a number of blended finger-picked patterns that are combined with fairly involved bass-tone movement.
An “arpeggiated” approach is used throughout the example piece (performed at the start of the video lesson), to highlight open and 1st-position chord tones.
The chord changes flow across the various chord movements on a per measure basis. They work to cover busy vertical bass pattern phrasing. This style of chord phrasing will tend to occur in many different folk songs.
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