Twelve golden nuances gleaned from flatpicking giants Norman Blake, Tony Rice, David Grier, and Bryan Sutton.


Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Beginner
Lesson Overview:
• Understand how to embellish traditional bluegrass melodies.
• Learn how to phrase with double-stop motifs.
• Strengthen your alternate-picking technique.


Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.

We all have favorite guitarists who inspire us. One way to learn from these artists is to transcribe their playing, whether it’s a short lick or an entire solo. This process is a key part of developing and expanding our own vocabulary. In this lesson, I want to add another way to use reference recordings. Instead of an exact transcription of the material, try capturing the essence of what you are hearing and create your own take on the idea. This doesn’t replace note-for-note transcription, but rather it’s an additional strategy designed to expand your practice routine.

To demonstrate the concept, I’ve selected the classic bluegrass instrumental “Salt Creek.” Easy to pick up, this is a jam session favorite that provides ample material to mine for variation development. I’ll reference four YouTube videos that feature master flatpickers Norman Blake, Tony Rice, David Grier, and Bryan Sutton. Instead of a note-for-note breakdown, I’ll highlight a larger element or phrase that jumps out from the selected breaks, and then create something inspired by it. To avoid overwhelming you, I’ll only focus on the tune’s A section for development ideas.

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