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Joe Gore's Subversive Guitarist

This series has run its course. But its methods can last a lifetime.

Well, that didn’t feel like two years, did it?

When I proposed the Subversive Guitarist column to my Premier Guitar pals in 2018, we figured on 20 or so installments, to be followed by a book version of the series. For once, things went precisely as planned: This is the final column in the series, and PG will issue a book version (with lots of extra material!) later this year. Meanwhile, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll continue to float around the PG universe, and I’ll be part of a cool new ongoing project to be announced soon.

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Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!

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It’s a complicated calculus, with no hard-and-fast rules.

Is it good to able to read music fluently? Yup! (End of article.)

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A funky fingerstyle challenge that starts with Travis picking and then warps it beyond recognition.

This month’s lesson is an exercise in fingerpicking, syncopation, and groove. We’ll start with a familiar idea: the folk fingerpicking style commonly called Travis picking. (Even though it’s not really how Merle Travis played, as explained at the end of this column.) Then we’ll warp it beyond recognition.

There are countless variations on this basic picking concept, but they all share one trait: The thumb’s accented bass notes always fall squarely on the beat. That’s perfect for country ballads and coffeehouse folk rock. But with some sly rhythmic displacement, you can generate a vast collection of funky patterns evocative of Latin and African music. This video demonstrates the premise. If you find the idea worth pursuing, try working through the exercises that follow.

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Let’s consult J.S. Bach! Don’t know a partita from a fajita? No worries.

We’re back to Johann Sebastian Bach for this lesson. We’ll focus on an 18-measure passage from one of his violin partitas with two goals in mind: First, it’s a fabulous finger exercise that will challenge both your hands. It’s also a case study in just how much you can communicate with a single-note line.

Don’t know a partita from a fajita? No worries. The lessons here are relevant for any type of composition or improvisation. (But in case you were wondering, a partita is just another name for a suite: a group of compositions that work together as a set.)

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