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Alternate Picking (Guitar Lesson)


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Orville Johnson

Alternate Picking

Orville Johnson starts out his Bluegrass Flatpicking Series with a lesson on alternate picking, a technique that is absolutely essential to almost all guitar styles.

Taught by Orville Johnson in Bluegrass Flatpicking seriesLength: 25:21Difficulty: 1.0 of 5


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Member Comments about this Lesson

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georgieboylespaulgeorgieboylespaul replied on July 3rd, 2017

Great stuff just to start with!! Thank you.

noisystemsnoisystems replied on December 30th, 2013

Hi Orville, I can not feel the number of the tone, I can not feel the name of the tone during the exercise of “1-2-3-1[G-A-B-C], 2-3-4-2, ---” in G scale.?I can feel only the melody/the continuous sequence of the tones. Is it OK??Your explanation is easy-to-understand for me, Japanese, but my question may not easy-to understand for you. thanks

Orville.JohnsonOrville.Johnson replied on January 2nd, 2014

You're not required to think of the melodic sequence in terms of the numbers or the letters, but if you can train yourself to relate the sounds to those identifiers, it can help your ear training. Being able to the identify the sound that goes from one note to, say, a note that's a third above it will help your ear. hope this addresses your question.

philw1philw1 replied on December 20th, 2013

Hi Orville, why don't you use the fourth finger on the d string for the f#, I noticed that you shift your whole hand. Is this something you want us to do or an option.

Orville.JohnsonOrville.Johnson replied on December 25th, 2013

That is just the way I do it. If it's easier for you another way, go for it.

rarebird0rarebird0 replied on September 6th, 2013

Oye, another video instruction using a guitar with no fret markers visible to the client.

rarebird0rarebird0 replied on September 6th, 2013

oops. sorry. They are just so small you can't see them until in the slit screen panels. My mistake. Still. Gutars for video instruction should have visible fret markers so they can be referenced at any time. Sorry for nit picking but it it in Jamplay's busines interest.

johnrl63johnrl63 replied on June 2nd, 2013

when you play in thirds could you please name the notes you play...i caught the G A B but then you lost me..if you could name the notes in the pattern as you play them it would really help me ..tks..you are a good teacher

steve irwinsteve irwin replied on December 15th, 2012

Hi Orville,excellent lesson! I am a retired high school band director now doing what I love..learning acoustic guitar. I appreciate your clear & concise lesson style. Thanks! Steve

mclancy99mclancy99 replied on November 10th, 2012

In the G Major scale in thirds, shouldn't the second measure begin with a B? Maybe I'm not getting something.

Orville.JohnsonOrville.Johnson replied on November 14th, 2012

No, the second phrase starts on an A note. You're going up the scale with your 4 note phrases. The first 3 phrases would go GABG-ABCA-BCDB etc.

karlmmmkarlmmm replied on August 11th, 2012

what does the n and v under the tab mean in the exercise 1 and 2?

karlmmmkarlmmm replied on August 11th, 2012

it means down up

XazoolaXazoola replied on February 27th, 2012

I wonder if a note in the Lessons Materials/Supplemental Content is in the wrong place. In the section, G Major Scale Sequence (Ascending with Alternate Picking). Shouldn't the 4th note played in the sequence be a G on the 6th string?

soundofsulfursoundofsulfur replied on March 24th, 2012

I'm assuming you're talking about the part that begins at measure 13, and if so then no because if you look at the notes on the staff it is ascending in groups of four notes. After the fourth note in each group the next group starts two notes (of the scale, in this case G) behind that fourth note. The first group ends on a C so the second group begins on the A. Hope this helps.

ltaylor3188ltaylor3188 replied on April 13th, 2011

Hi Orville, I believe you might know my dad, Tut Taylor... :)

ThersaThersa replied on February 24th, 2011

Awesome lesson .... Could you explain the value of the 'playing in thirds' exercise? I can't wait for the next lesson.

Orville.JohnsonOrville.Johnson replied on February 24th, 2011

The value of the "playing in thirds" scales is in how they will help you develop the co-ordination between your picking hand and your fretting hand. When we start learning the tunes that kind of co-ordination will be very important and this exercise will help you prepare for that.

joe1950joe1950 replied on February 23rd, 2011

Nice lesson Orville. You explain things very well. I'm glad you are doing a Bluegrass Series.

Bluegrass Flatpicking

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

A sub-genre of country music which blends improvising with folk-like melodies. Pioneered by Bill Monroe in the 1930s in the "bluegrass" state. Learning to flatpick properly is absolutely crucial to the Bluegrass style.



Lesson 1

Alternate Picking

Orville Johnson starts out his Bluegrass Flatpicking Series with a lesson on alternate picking, a technique that is absolutely essential to almost all guitar styles.

Length: 25:21 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 2

John Hardy

Orville teaches a classic song called "John Hardy" in the style of Mother Maybelle Carter.

Length: 15:54 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 3

Bill Cheatum

Orville teaches the classic song "Bill Cheatum" in the bluegrass flatpicking style.

Length: 23:20 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 4

Blackberry Blossom

Orville Johnson explains how to play the classic song "Blackberry Blossom" in the bluegrass flatpicking style.

Length: 26:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

Whiskey Before Breakfast

Orville Johnson shows how the classic bluegrass fiddle tune "Whiskey Before Breakfast" can be adapted to the guitar.

Length: 24:05 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 6

Billy in the Lowground

Orville Johnson teaches how "Billy in the Lowground," a classic fiddle tune, can be adapted to bluegrass style guitar.

Length: 20:40 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 7

Salt Creek

Orville Johnson teaches the classic bluegrass song "Salt Creek."

Length: 19:56 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

Midnight on the Water

Orville Johnson teaches the classic buegrass song "Midnight on the Water."

Length: 39:42 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

The Wayfaring Stranger

Orville Johnson teaches a solo guitar version of the classic song "The Wayfaring Stranger."

Length: 21:12 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

The Eighth of January

Orville Johnson demonstrates the classic bluegrass song "The Eighth of January."

Length: 20:32 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 11

Over the Waterfall

Orville Johnson teaches "Over the Waterfall."

Length: 21:40 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

Lester Flatt G Lick

Orville Johnson demonstrates one of the most widely used bluegrass licks. This lick is named after "Lester Flatt" and simply called the "Lester Flatt G Lick."

Length: 15:14 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

June Apple

Orville Johnson explains how to play the classic song "June Apple."

Length: 21:27 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

Soldier's Joy

Orville Johnson teaches a bluegrass guitar version of the classic song "Soldier's Joy."

Length: 13:22 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 15

The Arkansas Traveler

Orville Johnson teaches the "The Arkansas Traveler" in the key of D.

Length: 26:06 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 16

I Don't Love Nobody

Orville Johnson teaches his version of "I Don't Love Nobody."

Length: 19:14 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

Old Joe Clark

Orville Johnson covers the classic tune "Old Joe Clark."

Length: 19:27 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 18

The Red-Haired Boy

Orville Johnson continues building your bluegrass fiddle tune repertoire with another great song called "The Red-Haired Boy."

Length: 27:49 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 19

Black Mountain Rag: Key of E

Orville Johnson teaches "Black Mountain Rag" in the key of E.

Length: 26:25 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 20

Black Mountain Rag: Key of A

In continuation of his previous lesson, Orville Johnson teaches "Black Mountain Rag" in the key of A.

Length: 23:31 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 21

St. Anne's Reel

Orville Johnson takes a look at the bluegrass standard "St. Anne's Reel".

Length: 20:43 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 22

Glory in the Meeting House

In this lesson, Orville Johnson teaches a fantastic new tune called "Glory in the Meeting House".

Length: 19:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 23

Under the Double Eagle

In his latest Flatpicking Bluegrass lesson, Orville Johnson teaches a tune called "Under the Double Eagle".

Length: 31:50 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 24

Crossing The Big Sandy River

Orville Johnson continues building your bluegrass flatpicking repertoire with another great tune called "Crossing The Big Sandy River".

Length: 11:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 25

When He Calls Me

Orville Johnson teaches another great bluegrass flatpicking tune called "When He Calls Me".

Length: 12:45 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 26

Ragtime Annie

Orville Johnson teaches "Ragtime Annie," another bluegrass tune to add to your repertoire.

Length: 15:13 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 27

Bonaparte's Retreat

Orville Johnson continues to build your bluegrass fiddle tune repertoire with a fun tune called "Bonaparte's Retreat".

Length: 20:13 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 28

Reuben's Train

Orville Johnson takes a look at another fiddle tune called "Reuben's Train" in this lesson.

Length: 13:57 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 29

Turkey in the Straw

Orville Johnson takes a look at a fun song called "Turkey in the Straw" in this lesson.

Length: 9:54 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 30

Flatpicking Exercise: The Mirror Technique

In this lesson, Orville introduces an exercise called "The Mirror Technique." This is a technique that will improve the communication between your picking hand and fretting hand.

Length: 21:09 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 31

Flatpicking Exercise: Double & Triple Picking

Welcome to yet another lesson on picking exercises! Orville demonstrates how to achieve double picking and triplet picking techniques that are common in all musical styles.

Length: 23:25 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 32

The Devil's Dream

This traditional song offers the standard A and B parts and is another essential song to add to your repertoire of tunes that can be played with friends.

Length: 18:15 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 33

Blues Swing Lead Techniques

Orville teaches a blues melody in G major and also explains how to "comp" or accompany/compliment the melody with the Freddie Green rhythm.

Length: 19:54 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 34

Blues Lead Techniques #2

Orville reopens the subject of lead techniques. He presents ideas on how to successfully build a solo and understand how to leave space to be most effective when playing with others.

Length: 14:33 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 35

Blues Lead Techniques #3

Time to design a solo! Orville breaks down the techniques needed to build a successful solo while both explaining space and scale theory.

Length: 19:49 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 36

Blues Lead Techniques #4

This lesson is all about harmonic structure. Orville uses the theory taught in the previous lesson to help you choose the correct notes when building a solo.

Length: 23:03 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 37

Bully of the Town

How about another classic bluegrass tune? "Bully of the Town" offers up a chance to use a capo and apply key change techniques.

Length: 25:23 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 38

The Beaumont Rag

Orville Johnson is back to his bluegrass flatpicking series. In this lesson, he discusses and teaches "The Beaumont Rag". This tune serves as a great picking exercise and is also a ton of fun to play!

Length: 23:28 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 39

Cherokee Shuffle

Orville Johnson shows how to play a classic Bluegrass tune entitled "Cherokee Shuffle." It's fun, slightly challenging and sounds great.

Length: 35:05 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 40

Banks of the Ohio

Orville Johnson travels back in time to teach a classic song called "Banks of the Ohio." Though this tune features a rather sordid narrative lyrically, the music is still quick, upbeat and fun to play.

Length: 42:50 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only

About Orville Johnson View Full Biography Orville Johnson was born in 1953 in Edwardsville, Illinois and came up on the St. Louis, Missouri music scene, where he was exposed to and participated in a variety of blues, bluegrass and American roots music. He began singing in his Pentecostal church as a young boy, in rock bands in middle school, then took up the guitar at 17,with early influences from Doc Watson, Rev. Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, and Chuck Berry. In the early 1970's, Orville spent several seasons playing bluegrass on the SS Julia Belle Swain, a period-piece Mississippi river steamboat plying the inland waterways, with his group the Steamboat Ramblers.

Orville moved to Seattle, Washington in 1978, where he was a founding member of the much-loved and well-remembered folk/rock group, the Dynamic Logs. Other musical associates include Laura Love, Ranch Romance, File' Gumbo Zydeco Band, Scott Law, and the Twirling Mickeys. Johnson, known for his dobro and slide guitar stylings and vocal acrobatics, has played on over 100 albums. He has appeared on Garrison Keilor's Prairie Home Companion, Jay Leno's Tonight Show and was featured in the 1997 film Georgia with Mare Winningham. His musical expertise can also be heard on the Microsoft CD-ROMs, Musical Instruments of the World and the Complete Encyclopedia of Baseball. He teaches as well at the International Guitar Seminar, Pt. Townsend Country Blues Week and Puget Sound Guitar Workshop.

Orville released 4 recordings in the 1990's: The World According to Orville (1990) Blueprint for the Blues (1998) Slide & Joy (1999) an all-instrumental dobro tour de force and Kings of Mongrel Folk (1997) with Mark Graham. He also appeared on 4 discs with the File' Gumbo Zydeco Band and produced Whose World Is This (1997) for Jim Page and Inner Life (1999) for Mark Graham. In the 21st century, he has released Freehand, a new Kings of Mongrel Folk disc, Still Goin' Strong, and been featured in the soundtracks of PBS' Frontier House and the Peter Fonda flick The Wooly Boys as well as the compilation cd Legends of the Incredible Lap Steel Guitar.

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