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Flatpicking Essentials


Flatpicking Essentials

This group is for members who are working with the 8-Volume Flatpicking Essentials course written by Dan Miller and Tim May. This is the place to meet others who are working with the course and share your arrangements.

Members: 119
Latest Activity: Apr 2, 2019

The Flatpicking Essentials Story

About the Flatpicking Essentials Course:

I’m very excited to announce a new instructional book/CD series that I’ve been writing, compiling, and editing with the help of my good friend Tim May. A couple of years ago the editor of Mel Bay’s on-line guitar magazine (Stephen Rekas) asked me to write a series of articles for their publication about the history of flatpicking. Working on that article series, tracing acoustic guitar playing back to its earliest roots in country and old-time music, I realized that the easiest and most complete way for someone to study flatpicking was to go back to the early days of the style and follow its development chronologically. I expressed this viewpoint when we published the “Pioneers” issue of Flatpicking Guitar Magazine and I received a lot of positive feedback from subscribers. Stephen Rekas at Mel Bay even suggested that I put together a flatpicking instructional method, or series, based on the articles that I had written for him. So that is what I have done, or I should say, that is what I am now in the middle of doing.

The first two volumes of the Flatpicking Essentials series are now available and we plan a total of eight volumes. In the Volume 1 students learn to focus on solid rhythm playing and adding flavor to that rhythm playing by learning how to use bass runs, fill licks, and a variety of strums. The majority of examples are based on the playing of the early acoustic guitar pioneers in old-time, country, and bluegrass music. Once a solid foundation in rhythm and bass runs is established in Volume 1, Volume 2 moves on in a natural progression to study the Carter style. However, before presenting the Carter style I first show how to find chord changes and melodies by ear. Then how to apply basic Carter style lead to the melody, and then we move on from there to learn how to apply a variety of techniques—including the use tremolo, double stops, neighboring notes, scale runs, and crosspicking—to embellish the melody and “super-charge” the Carter arrangements. Volume 2 focuses on vocal songs.

Volume 3 then moves on to fiddle tunes, and adds to the vocabulary of runs and techniques. Again, the student learns how to find the chords, find the melody, and then build an arrangement based on the melody. The goal here is to develop the student’s ability to come up with their own arrangements to tunes, and then learn how to improvise. There are many examples, practice exercises, and “homework problems” in each volume. We want to “teach you how to fish”, not catch fish the for you.
Once the student has a good foundation in rhythm, finding chords progressions and melodies, and arranging solos for both vocal and instrumental tunes, Volume 4 moves on to present information about how to play up-the-neck and how to learn to use the entire fingerboard of the guitar.

Volume 5 then explores the playing styles and contributions of flatpicking’s heroes dating back to the early days and moving up to modern players. The student studies the important contributions of all of flatpicking guitar’s most prominent players. In Volume 6 the student is presented with advanced arrangements of the songs and tunes that were presented in Volumes 2 and 3, based on using the material that was presented in Volumes 4 and 5, and more. Volumes 7 and 8 then take flatpicking beyond the traditional bluegrass and fiddle tune boundaries and explore various other genres such as jazz, Gypsy jazz, Celtic music, and Western swing. Our goal is to provide flatpickers with a very complete flatpicking study method.

I’m very proud of the first two volume, which are now available, and I’m extremely pleased with the feedback I’ve been getting from students who have ordered these two volumes. If you are interested in this series and have questions, feel free to contact me at: dan@flatpick.com.

Dan Miller
Flatpicking Guitar Magazine

Discussion Forum

Starting Over - With Essentials 18 Replies

Started by Jim Samuel. Last reply by Making Sawdust Feb 22, 2015.

Have Any Questions? 44 Replies

Started by Dan Miller. Last reply by Michael Johns Aug 20, 2012.

Rhythm players to hear 11 Replies

Started by Peter Lucas. Last reply by Michael Johns Jul 26, 2012.

Comment Wall

Comment by Dan Miller on March 21, 2009 at 8:21am
Hello Everyone!
I've created this group for those of you who are working with the Flatpicking Essentials Course. It can be a discussion forum where you can ask questions of me or Tim May, but more importantly it can be a place where you can easily communicate with other people who are also working with the Flatpickng Essentials course. Since you are all working with the same songs, the same lessons, and the same homework problems, this group provides you the opportunity to share the arrangements you are creating with others who are working with the same songs and rhythm runs.
I hope you enjoy this group and that you form new friendships with other flatpickers around the world as a result of being a member!
Comment by Nanessence on March 21, 2009 at 12:15pm
I am loving working with this course! It's bringing me a new understanding of music. Since I started working on Flatpicking Essentials Vol 1, I have been downloading popular fiddle tunes and playing the rhythm tracks behind them, trying to fit the various walk-ups, walk-downs, and other ornamentations into my accompaniment. Recently I have found a couple of old time fiddlers' groups in my area and am planning to attend some of their jams. ( I also found an Irish Tune group through Meetup.com - yay! A place to play my pennywhistle!) Thanks, Dan, for all the hard work you put into this FE course.
Comment by Joe Dodson on March 22, 2009 at 12:32pm
Hi Dan - Thanks for setting up this group. Enjoying working my way through book 1 and looking forward to digging into book 2.
Comment by Mark Thatcher on March 22, 2009 at 3:52pm
Same here Dan. I think this whole series is going to be great.
Comment by Peter Lucas on March 22, 2009 at 6:26pm
Dan --

This might be water flowing under the bridge, but I sometimes wish that when I first picked up a guitar in earnest that I had the sense to follow the advice of you gave in FGM "The Pioneers of Flatpicking." I would have taken one or at the most 3 CDs (say Carter Family, Skillet Lickers, and perhaps something of Doc's) out to the woodshed with my guitar and not come out until I had them down, lock, stock and barrel!

Thanks for the FG Essentials. Whenever I'm stuck I know it's time to get back to the foundation of what it's all about.

Comment by Cindy Gray on March 23, 2009 at 5:57pm
I teach a guitar class where I teach one tune a month in detail. After receiving Essentials 1, I shamelessly stole some materials (and augmented it with some other stuff I use) and devoted my last class session to "going back" to some of the Pioneers and the techniques that they used.

I gave students a hand-out with pictures of Charlie Patton, Leadbelly, Riley Puckett, Jimmie Rodgers and Maybelle Carter. I downloaded historical recordings and played them for the class. I gave them a list of YouTube references to watch videos of some of these historical characters. Then, we played some bass runs and melodic fills. I can say without a doubt, that it was the most well-received class I've ever taught!

And another benefit---in the contra dance band I play in (led by a fiddler who is a REEL traditionalist---pun intended!), at our dance last Saturday (after I'd spent a whole day listening to and running Riley Puckett-style bass runs), the fiddler complimented me that I was finally "starting to sound like an old time guitarist" (ultimate compliment coming from this guy!).

So, Dan---I just ordered Essentials 2!! Thanks!
Comment by Paul on May 24, 2009 at 7:06pm
I have been in the first book for only about a week. I have been playing for about 2 years and never really progressed past just playing chords and straight rhythm with no runs but the infamous g runs. The first volume has helped me more, in the sense that now I can lead myself into where I want to go as I am playing. It also has helpmed me pay more attention to the overall count and where I should be in the song. I also have been able to develop some lead patterns based off the material.

Even though I have not completed all of the first volume yet I got over anxious and ordered volume 2!!!
Comment by Stefan Jadefjord on June 3, 2009 at 1:29am
Almost finished with Vol. 1 now. Great stuff! I am glad to find that I didn´t have too many holes in my rhythmplaying. Many of the bassruns and fill-licks I allready found through the years by trial and error. I wish I had this book back when I started playing bluegrass. Next week I´ll move on to Vol. 2! Thank you Dan for a great series!
Comment by Stefan Jadefjord on June 29, 2009 at 11:42pm
I ordered my copy of vol. 4 today. I can´t wait to get it! It seems like a really good book. I haven´t ordered vol.3 yet since I have so much fiddletune material allready from other books. Do I really need to study vol. 3 to move one to vol. 4?
Comment by Bryon Carr on October 1, 2009 at 9:04am
I like Dan’s concept of this series. However, I'm not very disciplined and will need structure. Is there a lesson plan that accompanies Vol.1?


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