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from Muriel Anderson’s Innovations for Acoustic Guitar
Working on phrasing and connecting notes together is a key chapter in the fingerstyle handbook. These ideas allow the player to add emotion and develop their own personality in the way they interpret the melody using these ideas. The following lists the five biggest concepts behind playing expressively:
1. Timing – This is the ability to play right on the beat, or slightly ahead of or behind it, while being aware of the beat at all times.
2. Tone – The ability to get the very best tone out of the instrument, as well as being able to vary tones to keep the listener’s interest.
3. Dynamics – Playing with varying volumes, again to create expressiveness and listener interest.
4. Connecting and Detaching Notes – Determining when notes should flow together or stand apart.
5. Listening – Be an active listener and enjoy and shape the music as it is being played.
Today’s lesson, “Mister Chester,” is a tune that was written as a response to meeting, being able to hang out and pick with the man himself, Chet Atkins. I learned a lot from Chet – not only about music, but also in the way he respected other players and was always finding new things that inspired him.
To get a crisp alternating bass line throughout “Mister Chester,” I use a Leo Kottke-derived technique of physically stopping the bass note from ringing out too long by muting it with either the side of the right thumb or down closer to the palm, although anchoring the pinky side of the palm down near the bridge a la Merle Travis (and Chet Atkins) would work here too.
The remainder of “Mister Chester” is a tip of the hat to Chet’s style, and plays on many of his signature moves, beginning with the chromatic move up to the A6, starting in measure nine. Also, starting at the 12th measure, there is a chromatic run using diminished chords, which should sound familiar to Chet devotees. Take your time working through this tune, always being aware of the five concepts listed above. Make sure to put your own stamp on this month’s tune and have fun!
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