Spike Driver Blues (Guitar Lesson)

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Mary Flower

Spike Driver Blues

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

Taught by Mary Flower in Fingerstyle Blues seriesLength: 15:47Difficulty: 3.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (15:47) Spike Driver Blues In this lesson, Mary Flower takes us through "Spike Driver Blues" by Mississippi John Hurt. This song is quite unusual as it is based on a single G chord. Mary recommends that you use the ring, middle and pinky as you play the open G chord.

This song is played in the Piedmont style, which is a classic way of performing old time blues tunes. Use your thumb to alternate bass notes while maintaining a steady rhythmic flow. Your remaining right hand fingers will take care of the melody.

Mary recommends that you start by memorizing the left hand changes. Once you are comfortable with the left hand movements, start working on your right hand. Keep everything synchronized. Do not get discouraged as you work slowly through the measures. The difficulty here is maintain solid hand coordination as both of your hands are playing independently from each other. A good look at the tabs should help you in this matter.

You'll notice the presence of a "blue note." In relation to the tonal center of a song, the b5 and b3 are considered to be "blue notes." In this case, the b3, Bb, is used. Although this note clashes a bit with the chord, it is used as a passing note and adds that wonderful color that we love. Make sure that all the notes you play sound clean!

If you enjoyed this tune by John Hurt, check out "Creole Bell" and "Monday Morning Blues." These tunes should be a great inspiration to you! Practice well and have fun!

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


JPKJPK replied

Great teacher and great song.

floorshakerfloorshaker replied

Hi Mary. I have already learned Oh Papa and Shake That Thing and this is another John Hurt to add to the repertoire. Thanks. Chris

clifford wrightclifford wright replied

I looked up John Hurt on youtube. He does a great job on 'You got to walk that lonesome valley.' Since then I have been trying to play it the way he does! I would love Mary to show us how. It would be an extension of this lesson - here's hoping!

kathykathy replied

It took a few months to re-program hand and head to play the G chord this way but now it comes automatically. My incentive for sticking with it was learning how to play this beautiful tune. It's great to have Mary's guidance on it now. Thanks. Here is Mississippi John Hurt himself having a go at it (isn't video a wonderful thing?): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvRxA8gR7bw

iukaiuka replied

Many years ago I was taught to play the G chord in the way Mary suggested. The person who taught me said the same thing about keeping the index finger free to play G7 or other notes. The next thing I was taught was the 'Long A' that Mary also illustrated earlier. Her lessons are filled with these 'goodies'. You will appreciate them more and more as years go by.

fbitanfbitan replied

where is the tab she is talking about?

kevinacekevinace replied

We apologize for the delays. It should be up very, very soon. We are soon implementing a new system that will require tabs/notation to be up with the lesson before we post it. I know things like this are sometimes annoying!

mattbrownmattbrown replied

I'll hopefully have this done by Monday. Thanks!

mritalian55mritalian55 replied

I was looking for the music/tabs for this lesson, but not there? Help.

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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