Chet Atkins Style (Guitar Lesson)

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Jim Deeming

Chet Atkins Style

Jim explains key components of Chet Atkins' guitar style.

Taught by Jim Deeming in Fingerstyle Guitar seriesLength: 18:12Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (00:19) Musical Introduction Jim kicks off Fingerstyle Lesson 7 by playing a segment from Chet Atkins' arrangement of "Windy and Warm." This song was composed by John Loudermilk. A full lesson pertaining to this arrangement can be found in JamPlay's Phase 3 area.
Chapter 2: (09:11) Chet Atkins Style Chet Atkins is easily one of the most influential guitarists of all time. He absorbed the guitar styles of Merle Travis, Les Paul, and Django Reinhardt and transformed them into a unique style of his own. With the help of Owen Bradley, Chet Atkins devised a smooth style of country music referred to as the "Nashville" sound. His influence has far outstretched the bounds of the country genre. Atkins has inspired the work of countless guitarists such as Tommy Emanuel, Jerry Reed, Doyle Dykes, and rock players such as John Lowery aka John 5, Eric Johnson, and Mark Knopfler.

This lesson is used as a precursor to the Phase 3 lesson pertaining to Chet Atkins' arrangement of "Windy and Warm." Jim explains the key guitar techniques necessary to playing this arrangement.

Review of Past Lesson Materials

In the past several lessons, Jim has explained numerous thumb independence techniques. He has demonstrated how to apply an alternating bass line to basic chord progressions. Jim has also explained how syncopated and non-syncopated chordal accompaniments can be added to the alternating bass line. In Lesson 5, you learned some arpeggio figures that can be used to accompany a melody line.

Within the most basic chordal accompaniment pattern, blocked chords are plucked on beats 2 and 4 of each measure while an alternating bass line maintains a steady quarter note rhythm. Many bluegrass players and country players refer to this as the "boom chick" or "boom tick" rhythm. These onomatopoeias refer to the sound of this accompaniment figure.

In the current lesson, Jim relates these techniques to the guitar style of Chet Atkins. He introduces this style through a few basic exercises.

Am Exercise

A three string alternating bass pattern is applied to an "open" Am chord. The bass line is played in a steady quarter note rhythm. In addition to this bass line, a five note segment from the A natural minor scale is played on the treble strings. This scale segment is played in quarter notes. The segment begins with the tonic A note played at the 2nd fret of the third string. This pattern ascends to the open E note played on the first string. Once this note is reached in the scale pattern, the pattern descends back down to the tonic A note.

Left Hand Fingering

The second and third fingers remain planted on the third and fourth strings throughout the exercise. The first and pinkie fingers must move to accommodate the scale segment that occurs on the second string.

Right Rand Fingering

Jim uses the index finger for all melody notes played on the third string. The middle finger plays all notes on the second string. All first string notes are plucked by the ring finger. The thumb plays the bass line only. Remember to apply light palm muting to the bass line so that the melody line stands out.

As you begin to practice the exercise, do not get frustrated if you cannot make it through the entire scale segment. If this is the case, work your way through the bass line by playing just a few of the melody notes. Jim demonstrates this mini exercise at 05:10 in the lesson video. He plays up to the third note in the scale segment, C. Then, he gradually incorporates the remaining scale notes into the exercise.

Metronome Practice

Practice this exercise slowly and in time with a metronome. However, remember not to practice at too slow of a tempo. Fingerstyle exercises that require a great deal of mental and physical coordination become even more difficult at extremely slow metronome markings. Begin with the metronome set to roughly 60 beats per minute. Then, gradually increase the tempo.

Guitar Type

All of the techniques discussed in this lesson can also be played on a classical or electric guitar. Chet Atkins performed "Windy and Warm" on both of these guitar types. When performing an alternating bass line on classical guitar, a lighter palm muting technique must be applied in order for the bass notes to ring clearly.
Chapter 3: (02:50) Bass Run Within the arrangement of "Windy and Warm" the alternating bass pattern is frequently broken. The song would sound rather boring and monotonous if the bass line remained the same throughout the song. For example, a scalar bass line is played within the chord progression to create some variety and interest. This bass run is played between the V chord, E major and the tonic chord Am. This same bass line is used in countless other fingerstyle arrangements when the V chord resolves to the i chord.

Remember that the V dominant chord in minor keys is typically a major chord. The leading tone within this chord creates a strong half step resolution to the root note of the tonic chord. If a minor v chord is substituted, a distinct Aeolian modal sound is produced.

E Major Exercise

Begin the exercise with an "open" E major chord. Apply a three string bass pattern to this chord. The right hand pattern must change to accommodate this chord shape. In contrast with Am, the bass pattern for E major follows a 6, 4, 5, 4 string pattern. Play the bass line along with the "boom chick" rhythm.
Chapter 4: (05:52) Timing, Bass Runs, and Finger Positioning E to Am Exercise

Begin by applying the boom chick rhythm and an alternating bass line to an "open" E major chord. This figure lasts for a measure and a half. The chords and alternating bass line are suspended for the final two beats of the second measure. Instead, two notes from the A melodic minor scale are used in the bass line leading up to the tonic Am chord. These notes are F# and G#. Your second finger must lift from the E chord to fret F# at the 2nd fret of the sixth string. G# is played by the pinkie finger at the 4th fret of this string. The boom chick and alternating bass line return when the tonic Am chord is reached in measure 3 of the exercise.

Am to E Exercise

The descending version of the A melodic minor scale is used when moving from Am to E. The melodic minor scale utilizes a different series of notes when ascending and descending. The ascending pattern of the A melodic minor scale is spelled as follows: A, B, C, D, E, F#, G#, A. The descending form is identical to the natural minor scale. This scale is spelled A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A.

Once again, the boom chick rhythm and alternating bass line are played during the first measure and the first two beats of the second measure. This accompaniment is suspended on beats two and four of the second measure. On beat 3 of the second measure, a G bass note is played at the 3rd fret of the sixth string with the pinkie finger. The first finger must release from the second string of the Am chord to play an F bass note on beat 4 of this measure.

Combining the Exercises

Practice switching back and forth between these chords using the bass lines and accompaniment figures listed above. Start at a slow tempo and gradually work your way up to 165 beats per minute. This is the goal tempo for Chet Atkins' arrangement of "Windy and Warm."

Chord Progression to "Windy and Warm"

The bulk of the song is played in the key of Am. However, the second half of the tune modulates to the key of A major. When playing an A chord in the Chet Atkins style, always use a voicing that will accommodate the melody line. Typically a barred version of the A chord is used. Barre the notes on the fourth, third, and second strings with the first finger. This leaves the other three fingers available to fret melody notes. Every note in the A major scale can be played out of this chord grip. Jim demonstrates this scale within an A chord at 03:20 in the lesson video.

It should be noted that the F# note played at the 2nd fret of the first string is not part of an A major chord. Do not add this note when strumming the chord or using it in an accompaniment figure. Either omit the first string or fret the note A with the pinkie finger at the 5th fret of the first string.

Phase 3 Lesson

After you have mastered the concepts presented in this lesson, you are ready to tackle the Phase 3 "Windy and Warm" lesson.

Video Subtitles / Captions

Supplemental Learning Material


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

JWEjamJWEjam replied on July 7th, 2015

Where is the full lesson for Windy& Warm? thanks

JWEjamJWEjam replied on July 7th, 2015

Jim. Thank you for the ideal finger picking lessons. I have been searching for the best teacher (for me) to learn/master finger picking, for Chet Atkins, Doyle Dykes, Tommy Emanuel style, and tried Totally Guitars, Lick& Riff, Riff Ninja sites, but you are the best teacher. I have been playing since 1963 but need refresher courses and new learning. I joined last week for the year membership during JamPlay live and thankful I did. Thanks

cutchincutchin replied on January 31st, 2015

Where do I find the replies to these comments?

tasmanian deviltasmanian devil replied on July 18th, 2013

Jim, thank you for your great lessons. I can't believe how much they have helped me. Never thought I would ever be able to play "windy and warm" but with your help I am well on my way! wouldn't have been able to do it without the exercises taught in this lesson.

dfarneydfarney replied on March 16th, 2013

To Jim Deeming, Hello, my name is Dr. Darrell Farney. I am a 66 year old man who is trying to learn how to play guitar in the Chet Atkins style. I have purchased a year long subscription to JamPlay. However, I don't think I am getting the most out of your lessons that I could if I knew better how to use your lessons. I need your help to know how to better use my time and yours. Is it possible for us to have a conversation on the phone? I live in Chicago, IL and my phone number is 847-270-0701.

tonigreertonigreer replied on October 1st, 2012

are we going somewhere with this? bits and pieces, Im thinking I would like to learn the whole song it would help me to get it into my head better

geoffmanninggeoffmanning replied on January 21st, 2011

holy crap where is your beard?

mysteriousmtmysteriousmt replied on December 24th, 2010

where is the lesson you show the song windy and warm?

larry1larry1 replied on March 15th, 2010

jim great lessons - i have learned so much-- i wondered if you could teach trambone in a phase 3 lesson thx lar

akman1akman1 replied on September 1st, 2009

All through your lessons you mention the tablature, but I cant seem to locate these elusive tabs on this site. Where are these rascals?

jboothjbooth replied on September 8th, 2009

It's under the supplemental content tab titled "lesson exercises."

gorbaggorbag replied on September 7th, 2009

supplemental content...

jessehjesseh replied on March 13th, 2009

Jim you are the greatest

jboothjbooth replied on August 13th, 2008

Please note the tablature will be done shortly.

jessehjesseh replied on March 13th, 2009


Fingerstyle Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Fingerstyle guitar allows you to play the bass, harmony, and melody of a song all within the context of a single guitar part.

Lesson 1

Intro to Fingerstyle

This lesson serves as an introduction for Fingerstyle Guitar with Jim Deeming. Come on in and get started!

Length: 24:32 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Basic Fingerstyle

Jim demonstrates a basic fingerstyle exercise that you can use with any of the chords you know.

Length: 16:05 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 3

More Picking Patterns

Jim expands on lesson 2 and teaches several different picking patterns. He also covers the basics of muting.

Length: 14:23 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Using Syncopation

Jim Deeming explains how to integrate basic syncopation into your rhythm playing.

Length: 17:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

Picking Melody Notes

This lesson is all about picking melody notes. Fingerstyle guitar really gets interesting when you combine bass, harmony, and melody.

Length: 33:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Aura Lee

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle version of the classic Civil War era song "Aura Lee."

Length: 43:23 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

Chet Atkins Style

Jim explains key components of Chet Atkins' guitar style.

Length: 18:12 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 8

3/4 Time and a Song

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle arrangement of "Bicycle Built for Two." He uses this piece as an example of 3/4 or waltz timing.

Length: 37:34 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Two Songs at Once

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle arrangement of "Yankee Doodle" and "Dixie." Both songs are played simultaneously!

Length: 30:03 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Open G Tuning

Jim Deeming teaches the basics of open G tuning. He also teaches a song entitled "Spanish Fandango" to show how the tuning can be used.

Length: 39:58 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 11

Carter Family Style

Jim Deeming introduces a playing style called "Carter Family Style." The technique is also referred to as "Frailing" or "Clawhammer" style.

Length: 13:07 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 12


Jim Deeming teaches the many wonders of DADGAD tuning.

Length: 32:25 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 13

Thumb Independence

Jim Deeming tackles the topic of thumb independence.

Length: 31:51 Difficulty: 1.5 FREE
Lesson 14

The JamPlay Song

Jim Deeming teaches a more advanced version of the aptly named "JamPlay Song."

Length: 7:24 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 15

The Wayfaring Stranger

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle version of the classic song "The Wayfaring Stranger."

Length: 31:27 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 16

The Official Thumbpick Guide

Jim Deeming answers one of the most common fingerstyle questions, "which thumbpick should I use?"

Length: 13:03 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
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Fingernail Guide

Jim Deeming presents his thoughts on how to properly grow and groom your fingernails.

Length: 7:07 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 18

The Entertainer

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle arrangement of "The Entertainer," a classic piano song ported over to the guitar.

Length: 20:40 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 19

Arranging Fingerstyle Songs

Jim Deeming teaches the skills necessary to transform any song into a solo fingerstyle masterpiece.

Length: 37:04 Difficulty: 4.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Arranging Fingerstyle Songs Pt. 2

Jim talks more about arranging fingerstyle songs. This time around he discusses harmonization and chord inversions.

Length: 13:35 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 21

Arranging Fingerstyle Songs Pt. 3

Jim Deeming demonstrates alternate ways to play the CAGED chords that can be very useful when playing melody and accompaniment simultaneously.

Length: 30:38 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 22

Arranging Fingerstyle Songs Pt. 4

In this lesson Jim Deeming talks about a simple way to add harmony notes to the melody section of fingerstyle songs. This technique is quite simple and can add a whole new dimension to your playing.

Length: 5:51 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only

About Jim Deeming View Full Biography Jim Deeming got his first guitar when he was only six years old. His Dad was taking fingerpicking lessons, and Jim wanted to be just like him. The Mel Bay books didn't last very long before he strapped on a thumb pick and added the Chet part to Red River Valley so it sounded better.

Most of Jim's early learning was by ear. With unlimited access to his Dad's collection of Chet Atkins albums, he spent countless hours decoding his favorite songs. They were never "right" until they sounded just like Chet. Around the age of 12, Jim heard Jerry Reed for the first time and just knew he had to be able to make that "Alabama Wild Man" sound. The styles of Chet & Jerry always have been a big influence on his playing.

More recently he has pursued arrangements by Tommy Emmanuel and Doyle Dykes, in addition to creating some of his own and writing originals.

Jim has performed in front of a variety of audiences, including concerts, competitions, weddings and the like, but playing at church has always been a mainstay. Whether playing in worship bands or guitar solos, gospel music is deep in his roots and is also the driving theme behind his debut CD release, titled "First Fruits".

Jim has been playing for about 38 years. He also has taught private lessons in the past but believes is an exciting and better venue with many advantages over the traditional method of weekly 30 minute sessions.

Jim lives in Berthoud, Colorado with his wife, Linda, and their four children. Although he still has a "day job", he is actively performing and is already back in the studio working on the next CD. If you wonder how he finds time, look no further than the back seat of his truck where he keeps a "travel guitar" to take advantage of any practice or song-writing opportunities he can get.

The opening song you hear in Jim's introductory JamPlay video is called, "A Pick In My Pocket". It's an original tune, written in memory of Jim's father who told him early on he should always keep a pick in his pocket in case he ever met Chet Atkins and got the chance to play for him. That song is slated to be the title track for his next CD, which will feature several more originals plus some of his favorite covers of Chet and Jerry arrangements.

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