Welcome to Guitar Noises, the twice a month newsletter about learning guitar online. This edition features a challenging beginner lesson that will keep you practising until the next issue at least. Bear in mind, there’s no such thing as an easy beginner or hard beginner lesson. Everything is beginner if you’re trying it for the first time.
Greetings to our new subscribers and thank you to everyone for reading Guitar Noises. An extra special thanks to everyone who emailed me after the last issue. Your ideas help shape this newsletter so please keep sharing your feedback with me.
I received a few emails asking about David Hodge and what he’s up to. For the total strangers among us, David Hodge used to write a newsletter for Guitar Noise and churned out more than 250 issues. It’s no surprise that many of you miss his cheerful correspondences and wise words on guitar and music.
While we aren’t working on anything together right now, I can assure you that David is still alive and picking. Since last March he has moved all of his guitar lessons from in-person to online. Having spent nearly all of the past year teaching guitar on Zoom he’s really gotten the hang out of it. He offers both private and group lessons which are available to to you wherever you live in the world. Everyone taking his classes has been learning and improving. David also gets together with his students for an online jam session once a week.
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, you’ll find everything you need to know on David Hodge’s blog. If you just want to say hi, email David at email@example.com.
Our last newsletter featured a beginner lesson on Travis Picking by Lauren Bateman. Don’t forget to check out Lauren’s YouTube channel and subscribe if the lesson helped in any way. Lauren posts new lessons every week.
If you want to spend more time working on Travis Picking, check out the two part introduction to Travis Picking on Guitar Noise. If you’re wondering what songs you can play with Travis Picking, some famous ones include Dust in the Wind, Blackbird, Landslide, Blowin’ in the Wind, Can’t Find My Way Home and Sound of Silence. Did I leave out any essential songs? I’m sure you’ll let me know.
If you want to try something with a slightly easier finger picking pattern, I recommend this tutorial on Scarborough Fair.
Today we’ll busy our fingers on both hands by learning how crosspick. This is a good technique to learn in addition to fingerstyle because it also reminds us how both hands are equally important when playing guitar. Beginners sometimes need reminding to slow down and pay attention to one hand or the other. Remember, the hands need to be working together. Finger picking and flatpicking both keep that goal right in front of us.
What is crosspicking?
Crosspicking is a style that uses a pick to plays patterns across three or more strings. It is often used to recreate the sound of a banjo roll in bluegrass. Don’t worry if country or bluegrass is not your style. This is a technique that will have your acoustic guitar ringing out with catchy melodic lines sounding full enough that you won’t even have to worry about singing.
Now this particular lesson might seem a little difficult on first pass. Try not to think of beginner lessons as easy lessons. Just because something is challenging doesn’t mean you can’t work through it at your own pace. I think with the right amount of time and focus any patient learner can get through this lesson to the end. And the rewards should bring a smile to your face.
The lesson we’re looking at today is a crosspicking arrangement of “Wildwood Flower.” The teacher is Molly Tuttle and you’ll find all the tabs and video on the Guitar World site. You can also get the video on YouTube, which is useful if you like to favorite videos or add them to your own personal “guitar lesson playlist.”
If you’re not familiar with Molly Tuttle’s music, you should know she is more than just your teacher. Check out her 2019 debut album When You’re Ready to hear what modern bluegrass and Americana sounds like. If that impresses you, it won't come as a surprise that Molly received The International Blue Grass Association’s Guitar Player of the Year award. As great a player as she is, the superb technical aspects never overshadow the simple emotion that the songs call for.
Don’t let yourself be intimidated because your instructor is famous for her skill. In her series of lessons for Guitar World, Molly proves herself an excellent teacher as well. The above lesson is a concise introduction to crosspicking. Assuming you don’t know how to crosspick, this lesson takes you from zero to up to speed with ten examples to work on.
When it’s all pieced together in the final lesson examples you will have your work cut out for you. But that is where you are supposed to disappear to your woodshed for however many days or hours you need. Start slow.
When you can play the first 8 or 9 examples in your sleep, I suggest working on the more difficult final example for about 20 minutes at a time. If 20 minutes a day is all you have time for that is fine. Twenty minutes a day, or maybe twice a day, focusing intently on a short piece is enough to surprise yourself with what you can do.
Build up your speed slowly and you will emerge able to crosspick the cheery sounding Wildwood Flower. You’ll be glad you did.
A more advanced trial
I’m hoping when I return with another newsletter in two weeks we will have a few more novice crosspickers among us. If something takes you longer to learn then that’s okay. It’s not a race and trust me, you will enjoy crosspicking more and more as it starts to click for you.
What are you listening to?
I’ve been listening to Neil Young pretty much all week. Earlier this month I decided it was time to listen to the massive Neil Young Archives Volume II: 1972–1976. I consider myself a Rustie but even I can’t just listen to a compilation this size from start to finish. It really does take a whole week
Neil Young’s Archives Volume 1 was released in 2009 and I’ve heard those 137 songs many times. My copy of Archives Volume 2 has 139 songs on it (I think). It is taking a little while to listen to it all.
So far I think I like the first volume better. The Buffalo Springfield stuff and material around Neil’s first two solo albums is some of my favorite.
I think maybe only Bob Dylan puts out releases with more songs than Neil Young. What’s the biggest box set of music you own? And what amount of Neil Young is too much for you?
In the last newsletter I shared the opening lines from “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. What a song. And from their first album too!
Who remembers the annoying joke where someone shouts “Free Bird” at a concert? Doesn’t matter what concert. Someone thinks it’s funny to demand “Free Bird” from any band.
Lynyrd Skynyrd has a a really good live album from 1976 called One More from the Road. On the Deluxe Edition you get to hear the audience yelling out for “Free Bird” during the encore. Singer Ronnie Van Zant asks the crowd what they want to hear. He pretends he can’t hear what they’re screaming for. And then they finally play “Free Bird” at last. It’s a good live album captured over three nights in Atlanta that feels like listening to a complete concert.
Some of the albums I’ve listened to over and over since my youth still stay fresh in my mind. This week I wanted to share the lyrics from one of my favorite bands. “Us and Them” by Pink Floyd has been on my playlist as long as I can remember. I always thought of it as a guitar song with a lovely saxophone solo. However, you can listen to Richard Wright’s original piano demo on The Dark Side of the Moon Immersion Box Set which came out in 2011. It’s just Richard Wright playing the chords on piano which highlights how unusual the chord choices and progression is for what turns out to be a really great song.
I always get lost in the lyrics which have a timeless quality to them:
Down and out
It can't be helped, but there's a lot of it about
And who'll deny it's what the fighting's all about
Us and Them, Pink Floyd 1973
Guitar of the Week
Not playable, but some people save their smashed guitars. I promise the next guitar of the week will be a beautiful well cared for instrument.
And, that’s all for now.
Remember, you can help shape this newsletter by sending me your ideas and stories about what lessons have worked for you. You can reply to this email or leave a comment below to get a discussion going.
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Until next time.