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Blues in Drop D (Guitar Lesson)


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Mary Flower

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.

Taught by Mary Flower in Fingerstyle Blues seriesLength: 21:50Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (03:33) Lesson Introduction In this lesson, Mary takes a progressive look at playing fingerstyle blues in "Drop D" tuning. She starts with the basics and works toward playing traditional blues tunes.

First, Mary discusses how to tune to "Drop D" tuning. Though, before you get there she wants to be sure that you know the names of the open strings in standard tuning. She uses the mnemonic device "Every Acid Dealer Gets Busted Eventually" to reference the standard tuning pitches of the open strings (E, A, D, G, B, E) from low to high.

She then demonstrates how to tune your guitar to "Drop D" by lowering the pitch of her sixth string one whole step (From E down to D) and matching the pitch to the open fourth string (they should be one octave apart). Mary suggests using your ear to match the pitches instead of using a tuner every time, because ear training is crucial to every musician.

Mary demonstrates another way of checking your tuning by using harmonics. When in "Drop D" the 7th fret harmonic on the sixth string should match the 12th fret harmonic on the fourth string perfectly.
Chapter 2: (04:20) Basic Blues in Drop D In this scene, Mary demonstrates a simple 12 bar blues in the key of D using the chords D, D7, G7, and A7.

With the thumb of her right hand, Mary plays what she refers to as the "monotonic bass." This technique keeps a steady rhythmic pulse throughout the example by playing the low D (open 6th) string on each beat. Mary palm mutes the string to give it a percussive sound a la Chet Atkins or Merle Travis. She suggests tapping your foot to "keep your thumb honest" while doing this. It also helps your thumb to avoid losing the beat while playing more syncopated rhythms with your fingers.

Mary then demonstrates various turnarounds to use with this example.
Chapter 3: (03:12) Make It Interesting Mary shows how to make your 12 bar blues in D a little more interesting in this scene.

First, during the sections where the I chord (D) is being played Mary takes the D chord form and moves it up to the 5th fret (making it F/D or a Dm7), and alternates between the two positions.
She then demonstrates a "walk-up" to the IV (G7) chord by leading into the bass note (B) playing the notes preceding it (A, Bb).

She also uses the "long" A chord form, in which you barre the second fret (from the 4th string down) and add your 4th finger at the 5th fret on the 1st string.
Chapter 4: (01:19) Alternate Shapes Here Mary demonstrates an alternate fingering for the first chordal embellishment in scene 3. She calls this "the train sound," and demonstrates how it is derived from a D chord.
Chapter 5: (00:55) Old Country Rock In Scene 5 Mary discusses the techniques necessary to play the traditional song "Old Country Rock." You'll have to brush up on your alternating thumb technique, because it is used continually throughout the tune. She also utilizes banjo rolls to interesting effect.
Chapter 6: (06:37) Learning Old Country Rock Here, Mary takes you through "Old Country Rock" measure by measure. Once you make it to Scene 6, open up the tab in the supplemental content and have at it!
Chapter 7: (01:51) Finishing Up the Lesson In this scene, Mary takes you through "Old Country Rock" once more at a slow tempo. She encourages students to take the skills from this lesson and incorporate them into their own style and playing.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

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


mpiechowiczmpiechowicz replied on July 13th, 2016

I really like this lady but 'hit some more notes' or 'play with more feeling' doesn't really help me when I don't have a clue what your doing....

daltonrooneydaltonrooney replied on September 28th, 2016

I agree, I love this lesson but the subtlety of her playing eludes me. The basic chords and rhythm are easy enough., but she throws in a lot of little embellishments that I don't know how to do.

mpiechowiczmpiechowicz replied on July 12th, 2016

This lovely lady along with Eric M. & Hawkeye are actually teaching me the blues!!!!! It's soooo exiting!!! Thankyou :)

mpiechowiczmpiechowicz replied on July 10th, 2016

Ha, wasn't expecting 'Every Acid Dealer Gets Busted Eventually' - Never heard anyone else really use that apart from me! You surprised me and made me smile love :)

alancomstockalancomstock replied on June 19th, 2014

this is not a beginer finger styler teaching lesson set, it is much more of an advanced set of lessons

mpiechowiczmpiechowicz replied on July 10th, 2016

All the lessons in Phases 2 are a bit more advanced than beginner level. I've found. Just either push through, try another teacher or have a look at Phase 1 again.

amazieamazie replied on April 13th, 2014

I love this but there's nothing about the turnaround in scene three, no tab or instruction that I can see. Mary please add this. Does anyone else know hoe to do this or where we can find this turnaround?

strat6296strat6296 replied on December 2nd, 2013

Awesome! Great lesson and a great sense of humor.

dcampbell55dcampbell55 replied on October 22nd, 2013

That was great.....really opening some new doors for me... awesome!!! Thank You :)

antya777antya777 replied on May 22nd, 2013

wow thank you so much!!! great lesson great teaching great licks! this is awesome teaching i am learning so much!

funkmaster48funkmaster48 replied on June 5th, 2013

Good job Mary, but there weren't any tabs on the turnaround or the train whistle. Could you post those?

antya777antya777 replied on May 22nd, 2013

Enter your comment here.

gijoe442gijoe442 replied on March 8th, 2013

This is an excellent guitar lesson, my favorite thus far. Thank you Mary!

lmreedlmreed replied on December 24th, 2012

Fantastic! I just joined and picked Mary first for the heck of it, and WOW fingerstyle blues- absolutely my favorite. I can't stop! Thank you so much.

ashleydsaashleydsa replied on July 22nd, 2012

I have a question...what are the best plectrums I can buy for this lesson set...abought acouple and dont really like them. Mary, what plectrums do you use?

revcarevca replied on July 12th, 2012

Mary plays and sings beautifully and she has an excellent teaching style. I wonder about not using the ring finger on the right hand. Mary comments that she is a two finger picker and I notice that a lot of blues players use just the two fingers. Another instructor discusses this point (can't remember his name at the moment, Eric maybe and he teaches the rolling E blues) and he suggests that you won't be able to play the blues well if you use your ring finger. However, it just doesn't make sense to me that if you are able to use the ring finger fairly well to quit using it. Why move your hand around to get the three treble strings when you can assign the three strings to your three fingers??? I would love to hear others thoughts on this topic. Perhaps, I should get into the forums.

mpiechowiczmpiechowicz replied on July 13th, 2016

I just feel it out, I often use my ring finger for rolling e blues and blind willie blues but I'm just learning. As you say just seems silly not to when it's there

theleesthelees replied on November 29th, 2011

Where are the tabs for country rock? I only have lesson excercises 1 thru 4. Thanks...

buster56buster56 replied on June 29th, 2011

mary, you and these lessons are awesome. thank you so much. learning so much..........WOW!!!

emmersemmers replied on January 9th, 2011

Wow Mary you are awesome love your sound, and really inspiring to a fellow woman who loves the blues :)

nash24nash24 replied on November 27th, 2010

Yes I agree, Mary Flower is worth the price of admission!!!! This is awesome! And thank you Ms. Flower, love the lessons!

yellowkidyellowkid replied on November 18th, 2010

I'm lost. this seems to presuppose knowledge I don't have. I went over to Steve's fingerpicking section and it is very clear, and uses things I have learned in the intro. maybe I'll try this at another time.

dcasseresdcasseres replied on October 18th, 2010

Great stuff, Mary. But at the end of Scene 7 (Old Country Rock) you say to look at the tab, and the only tab I see is just for a few exercises.

jerry228jerry228 replied on September 3rd, 2010

Mary, I wasn't familiar with the type of music you play until today. It's blues alright, but more haunting somehow. My left hand can pretty much do it, but my right needs lots of practice. Lesson 2 was Fab.

drfwernerdrfwerner replied on July 20th, 2010

That 12-bar blues in scence 3 sounds just great. I am prepared to practice this till my fingers go numb.

floorshakerfloorshaker replied on July 8th, 2010

Lots of vids on YouTube of various guitarists playing Old Country Rock. Also, the original Willie Moore recording from 1928 to listen to. Intereating!

blaster55blaster55 replied on May 8th, 2010

Great lesson, Mary. Into the Country Rock section now. Finally starting to realize that I'm a much better finger picker than I am a flat picker. Love the way you teach, too. Thanks.

ozblokeozbloke replied on February 23rd, 2010

Mary, this lesson is incredible, it's taken me a bit of practise to get that new G shape chord, but the sound of this is amazing. I'm also studying Hawkeye Hermans acoustic blues, you both truly are masters of your trade, but not only that, fantastic instructors too......more...more....more....OB

acousticnookacousticnook replied on December 30th, 2009

Mary, thank you for being here, I'm really loving these lessons. ~Cheryl

brimc76brimc76 replied on September 6th, 2009

Thanks Mary these lessons are really hitting home with with me. I look forward to practicing now.

rockaboohrockabooh replied on August 19th, 2009

so much stuff in a single lesson, I feel that after mastering this one I'll be a much better blues player... I'm starting at point 0, but still ;)

janetajaneta replied on July 1st, 2009

Thank you Mary. Loved this lesson. Please keep them coming.

gone workingone workin replied on June 7th, 2009

Flower Power!!!!! You threw in some really juicy sounding bluesy chords that played nicely off the bass. Do you only use thumb and two fingers?

harryjharryj replied on June 5th, 2009

Hi Mary, welcone and thanks for great lesson. looking forward to more.

skaterstuskaterstu replied on June 5th, 2009

Love 'Old Country Rock'. Seems very simple to play and sounds great... when will more lessons be posted, as I'll have this song down in the next day or two??

nessanessa replied on June 5th, 2009

Early next week we'll have a couple more for you. :)

Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied on June 4th, 2009

Hi Mary, just wanted to welcome you aboard as well. We needed a feminine touch here! Take care, Mark

rjoossrjooss replied on June 4th, 2009

This is wonderful. Mary really has the sound down. She sounds like the Reverend. Are you going to post tab?

mattbrownmattbrown replied on June 4th, 2009

Hi everybody! I'll have the tabs up for this lesson later today (6/4).

skaterstuskaterstu replied on June 4th, 2009

A woman teaching guitar!? Whatever next!! Just kidding, this is a nice surprise.. not just because its the first woman but because its fingerstyle blues... can't get enough fingerstyle at the moment. Welcome Mary, I look forward to your lessons.

octoberkingoctoberking replied on June 3rd, 2009

Mary Flower? Now thats worth the price of admission. Looks like I'll be hanging around awhile! Wonderful.

mariemusicmariemusic replied on June 3rd, 2009

Welcome Mary! I like to see a great woman playing!!

CarolLBCarolLB replied on June 3rd, 2009

Wow, what a great surprise! Welcome Mary, can't wait to follow your lessons. Not only do we get a woman, but a woman playin' the blues! Fantatic!

SylviaSylvia replied on June 3rd, 2009

I am so excited to see a women teaching us guitar! Gigantic welcome to ya Ms. Mary!

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on June 3rd, 2009

Mary...welcome to Jamplay!..You have a great teaching style, and you play beautifully...a great addition to the staff! Mark Brennan

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.



Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 5

8 Bar Blues Progressions

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

Length: 11:40 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 17

Mississippi Blues

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

Length: 32:03 Difficulty: 4.0 Members Only
Lesson 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
Lesson 19

Key of F

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

Length: 8:20 Difficulty: 3.0 FREE
Lesson 20

South Carolina Rag

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

Length: 12:35 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

Open D Tuning

Mary Flower talks about the advantages of open D tuning.

Length: 12:44 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 24

Blues in A

Mary Flower talks about improvising a blues in A.

Length: 13:05 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 25

Sugar Babe

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

Length: 9:49 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 26

Michigan Water

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

Length: 13:18 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 29

River of Joy

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

Length: 16:43 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 32

Colored Aristocracy

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

Length: 13:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 33

Turkey in the Straw

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

Length: 10:24 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 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
Lesson 35

Crow Jane

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

Length: 15:52 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 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

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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