Arranging Songs (Guitar Lesson)

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Mary Flower

Arranging Songs

Mary talks a little bit about arranging songs and uses the song "John Henry" as an example.

Taught by Mary Flower in Fingerstyle Blues seriesLength: 9:00Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (09:00) Arranging songs Arranging songs is a skill that every musician should develop. Developing this skill will help you fit the song you are working with to your vocal range and help you create songs that will fit the range of your instrument. Guitar players often use the keys of C and G, because these two keys offer some nice fingerings. In this lesson however, Mary develops ideas in the key of E Major.

The tune arranged in this lesson is the classic "John Henry." There are only two chords in this song: E and B7. As it is often the case in this style of music, we'll use our thumb to carry the bass. The melody is played with the index and middle fingers.

Start by memorizing the melody before adding the bass. Once you are able to combine both parts, focus on a clean and solid technique. Rhythmic placement is quite important here. Start with the E chord and move into the B7 chord. You'll notice that Mary adds an F# to the B7 chord. This note enables her to produce a nice swinging rhythm. Keep in mind that the note F# functions as the fifth of the B7 chord.

Once you feel comfortable with this song, try to add some syncopation to its rhythm. Don't get discouraged if you can't play all of the lesson materials right away! Take your time! Have fun and apply the concepts from this lesson to your own musical ideas.

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


revcarevca replied

I like the key of E, too, perhaps because it is an easy key for me to sing in. I wish this lesson included tab for the speeded up version that included some syncopation. Nice easy lesson but having to figure out where the syncopation is happening will likely be a vexing challenge for me.

gone workingone workin replied

I particularly loved the finale where you snapped it up. It showed the high value of such things. I've seen similar master strokes in watching painting demonstrations of a wine bottle or something where the colors are all blocked in, and then the artist pops in a few virtuoso highlights and magically the surface reads perfectly as glass. similar thing happened here with this tune. Wonderful, Mary.

iukaiuka replied

Thanks for breaking this down and making all the comments along the way. Playing John Henry in the key of E gives it a more bluesy flair. I love the simplicity of this style which says so much more with less. Perfect for playing along with someone on a harmonica.

victory1victory1 replied

another great lesson. thankyou! mary.

Fingerstyle Blues

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

The blues is a distinctly American style of music. Many popular genres such as jazz, rock, and country music draw upon basic blues concepts. Consequently, it is advantageous for any guitarist to study the blues.



Series IntroductionLesson 1

Series Introduction

In this lesson, Mary Flower introduces herself and her playing style. She also discusses essential blues listening.

Length: 11:14 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Blues in Drop DLesson 2

Blues in Drop D

In this lesson, Mary Flower talks about playing the blues in drop D tuning. She teaches two amazing song examples to get you started.

Length: 21:50 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Playing in the Key of ALesson 3

Playing in the Key of A

In this lesson, Mary plays in the key of A major in drop D tuning.

Length: 8:36 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Eight Bar BluesLesson 4

Eight Bar Blues

In this lesson, Mary Flower talks about the eight bar blues. She demonstrates it in a couple different keys.

Length: 14:29 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
8 Bar Blues ProgressionsLesson 5

8 Bar Blues Progressions

Mary Flower shows several songs that demonstrate the 8 bar blues.

Length: 11:40 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
How Long and Statesboro BluesLesson 6

How Long and Statesboro Blues

Mary Flower demonstrates two classic songs that feature an 8 bar blues structure. The songs are "How Long" and "Statesboro Blues."

Length: 14:36 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Sounding Like a PianoLesson 7

Sounding Like a Piano

Mary Flower discusses various blues guitar techniques that can give your guitar a wonderful piano sound.

Length: 13:41 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Twelve Bar BluesLesson 8

Twelve Bar Blues

Mary uses the songs "CC Rider" and "When I Lost My Baby" as examples in her discussion of the 12 bar blues.

Length: 16:31 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Blues DuetLesson 9

Blues Duet

In this lesson, you will learn a blues duet that you can play with someone else. Or, you can record yourself playing one part and play the second part over it.

Length: 16:53 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Blues in the Key of ELesson 10

Blues in the Key of E

Mary is back with another lesson filled with tips on playing the blues in the key of E.

Length: 6:07 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Midnight Hour BluesLesson 11

Midnight Hour Blues

Mary talks about the song "Midnight Hour Blues" and gives some great tips on how to play this beautiful tune.

Length: 9:36 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Movable Chord in the Key of ELesson 12

Movable Chord in the Key of E

Mary Flower dives into more blues in the key of E by teaching a movable chord.

Length: 4:30 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Arranging SongsLesson 13

Arranging Songs

Mary talks a little bit about arranging songs and uses the song "John Henry" as an example.

Length: 9:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Spike Driver BluesLesson 14

Spike Driver Blues

Mary teaches and discusses the history behind Mississippi John Hurt's song "Spike Driver Blues."

Length: 15:47 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Diminished ChordsLesson 15

Diminished Chords

Mary talks about diminished chords and looks at various different shapes. You will learn the song "Walking Across the Country" as an example.

Length: 16:35 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Buck RagLesson 16

Buck Rag

Mary teaches the classic song "Rag Time" by Rev. Gary Davis in this fun Blues lesson.

Length: 23:16 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Mississippi BluesLesson 17

Mississippi Blues

Mary teaches a song called "Mississippi Blues" by Willie Brown.

Length: 32:03 Difficulty: 4.0 Members Only
Saturday Night RubLesson 18

Saturday Night Rub

Mary Flower teaches the fun and catchy song "Saturday Night Rub" by Big Bill Broonzy.

Length: 25:52 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Key of FLesson 19

Key of F

Mary talks about the key of F in this fantastic lesson.

Length: 8:20 Difficulty: 3.0 FREE
South Carolina RagLesson 20

South Carolina Rag

Mary teaches the song "South Carolina Rag" by Willie Walker.

Length: 12:35 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Open D TuningLesson 21

Open D Tuning

Mary Flower talks about the advantages of open D tuning.

Length: 12:44 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Boogie Woogie DanceLesson 22

Boogie Woogie Dance

Mary Flower shares her interpretation of a classic blues slide tune called "Boogie Woogie Dance."

Length: 16:44 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Alabama BoundLesson 23

Alabama Bound

Mary Flower shares some thoughts on the bass notes found within the song "Alabama Bound" in this lesson.

Length: 6:31 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Blues in ALesson 24

Blues in A

Mary Flower talks about improvising a blues in A.

Length: 13:05 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Sugar BabeLesson 25

Sugar Babe

Mary Flower teaches her rendition of "Sugar Babe," a Mance Lipscomb tune.

Length: 9:49 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Michigan WaterLesson 26

Michigan Water

Mary Flower teaches her rendition of "Michigan Water," a Jelly Roll Morton tune.

Length: 13:18 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Bye Bye Baby BluesLesson 27

Bye Bye Baby Blues

Mary Flower teaches her rendition of "Bye Bye Baby Blues" by Little Hat Jones.

Length: 12:47 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Just a Closer Walk with TheeLesson 28

Just a Closer Walk with Thee

Mary Flower shares her rendition of the spiritual song "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" in this lesson.

Length: 10:33 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
River of JoyLesson 29

River of Joy

Mary Flower shares an original song called "River of Joy."

Length: 16:43 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Open D Tuning Song ExerciseLesson 30

Open D Tuning Song Exercise

Mary Flower shares a song played in open D tuning that features alternating bass and syncopation.

Length: 12:34 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
M & O BluesLesson 31

M & O Blues

Mary Flower teaches her rendition of "M & O Blues," a Willie Brown song.

Length: 15:44 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Colored AristocracyLesson 32

Colored Aristocracy

Mary Flower teaches her rendition of the song "Colored Aristocracy."

Length: 13:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Turkey in the StrawLesson 33

Turkey in the Straw

Mary Flower shares her modern rendition of "Turkey in the Straw."

Length: 10:24 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Trouble in MindLesson 34

Trouble in Mind

Mary Flower shares her rendition of the catchy blues tune "Trouble in Mind."

Length: 8:22 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Crow JaneLesson 35

Crow Jane

Mary Flower demonstrates Carl Martin's arrangement of the song "Crow Jane."

Length: 15:52 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Oh Babe It Ain't No LieLesson 36

Oh Babe It Ain't No Lie

Mary Flower teaches her rendition of the song "Oh Babe It Ain't No Lie" by Elizabeth Cotten.

Length: 11:02 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Mary Flower

About Mary Flower View Full Biography Working in both the intricately syncopated Piedmont fingerpicking style and her own deeply bluesy lap-slide guitar, Mary has earned rave reviews from critics and audiences alike for her springwater-clear vocals and mastery of multiple guitar styles as well as her own compositions. Though she can create prewar blues and ragtime with the best of them, Mary draws on traditional, contemporary and original material to create something new: a sound uniquely her own that remains true to the timeless power of the blues.

Flower's elegant, funky and inventive playing on vintage guitars makes her one of a mere handful of women guitarists admired for their instrumental prowess. In 2000 and 2003 respectively, Mary placed in the top three at the National Fingerpicking Championship. Her career as an internationally known performer and teacher has spanned more than three decades.

A recent transplant to the Northwest, Mary cut her teeth on the Colorado music scene where she played with the likes of Katy Moffatt, Pat Donohue, the Mother Folkers and more. Mary took a detour in the 80s to raise a family, all the time woodshedding and performing locally.

Mary's CD Bywater Dance, recorded pre-Katrina in New Orleans for Yellow Dog Records, has garnered widespread acclaim. An award-winning player with seven solo cds and 5 instructional DVDs to her credit, Flower is in demand for festivals, concerts and guitar workshops on both sides of the Atlantic.

"Unassuming blues heroine Mary Flower proves one again that she's one of the nation's premier fingerstyle blues guitarists-- her technique is exceptional throughout, and in the end, serves the highest purpose, the music--unfailingly sweet, hot and sassy--every track on this album has something about it that will give you the shivers... This is one of the most satisfying albums of the year."
  - All Music Guide to Blues

"Her crisp, fluid fingerpicking sounds deceptively effortless, with flawlessly executed syncopation, the hallmark of a bouncing, upbeat Piedmont style. From casual listeners to devoted blues fans, Flower's music is accessible to everyone"
  - Blues Review

"With her immaculate guitar playing and warm contralto, Mary Flower finds the sweet spot between modern and rootsy in twelve tunes bred of back porches, parlors, street corners, juke joints and country churches...one of the best blues based singer songwriters working today."
  - Acoustic Guitar Magazine

"Mary is one of those rare artists who manages to create a tincture of the aged authentic with the freshly original."
  - Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine

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