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Bluegrass Licks (Guitar Lesson)

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Steve Eulberg

Bluegrass Licks

An important component of the bluegrass sound is playing melodic licks. Steve teaches 3 licks that can be applied to countless bluegrass tunes.

Taught by Steve Eulberg in Bluegrass Guitar with Steve Eulberg seriesLength: 22:34Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (1:24) Introduction An important component of mastering lead guitar in any genre is building a large vocabulary of memorized licks. Building a large vocabulary takes time, patience, and commitment. There are a variety of sources available that licks can be learned from.

Learning licks by ear from your favorite records is the best method. This method is an effective learning tool for several reasons. This process develops your ear training and audiation skills. Also, going through this process ensures that you will remember the lick once you have learned it. This is because you are using multiple brain functions in the process of transcribing the lick. When more areas of the brain are involved in completing a task, it is much easier to remember what you have learned from the task.

Printed publications are another excellent source to steal licks from. Magazines such as Guitar World Magazine and Guitar Player are just two of such sources. Also, many books such as Bebop Licks for Guitar are excellent places to steal from. Don’t feel bad about copying a lick directly from another player. Everybody does it. Hendrix stole countless licks from guitarists such as Albert King. Now, guitarists across the globe steal licks from both of these legends. However, it is highly recommended that you experiment with altering licks to create some of your own original material.

Websites are also a fine source to steal licks from. Sites such as You Tube and our very own Jamplay enable users to see and hear licks as they are performed.

In this lesson, Steve will demonstrate a classic Bluegrass licks and show you how to transpose it to different keys.
Chapter 2: (2:50) Lick in G Major Before you pick up the guitar to learn the lick, listen to Steve perform it a few times to get the sound of it engrained in your ears. You might have noticed that a note outside of the G Major Scale was added to the lick. When a note is added to a melodic line that is not a part of the key signature, it is referred to as an accidental. Chromaticism is another common term that refers to adding notes outside of the key signature. The chromatic note in this lick is Bb-the minor third of the scale. Adding the minor third to the major scale is a very popular technique in jazz, blues, blugrass, and rock. When played in the context of a major scale, the minor third creates a blues-y sonority. Consequently, this note is referred to as a “blue note.”

Now, let’s take a look at the rhythm. This lick spans two measures. The first measure is comprised of a quarter note followed by six eighth notes. If you remember the pneumonic devices Steve discussed in the last lesson, the rhythm consists of a “stop pony” followed by a “Mississippi.” The tempo at which Steve performs this lick is quite fast. This is the tempo at which the lick is typically performed. When you first learn the lick, set your metronome to a slow tempo. Rhythmic clarity is always the most important aspect to focus on when practicing or performing.

Breaking the lick up into smaller, more manageable segments will make it much easier to learn. Begin by practicing the hammer-ons on the A string. Pick the open string, then hammer onto the 1st fret. Then, hammer onto the 2nd fret with the second finger.

Next, add the quarter note on G before the hammer-on segment. Pause the video and practice this portion of the lick until it is comfortable.
Chapter 3: (3:21) Second Half of the Lick Steve breaks down the second half of the lick in this scene. Begin by picking the open D string. Then, hammer onto the 2nd fret with the second finger. Then, pull off back to the open string. Finally, the lick ends with a plucked open G string. Chances are, the second part of the lick will give you more troubles then the first half. Be patient, and devote some extra practice time to this section. Also, Steve gives you an opportunity to play this segment along with him. This is great practice to ensure that you are playing slurs clearly and in time. Once again, pause the video and practice this segment until you are comfortable with it.
Chapter 4: (4:11) Whole Lick Now it’s time to put the entire lick together. Notice how each open string is only plucked once. The rest of the notes sound as a result of hammer-ons and pull-offs. Once you are able to play the entire lick perfectly in time, begin to speed up the tempo. The tempo ceiling at which this lick is played is quarter note=230. Bluegrass tunes rarely exceed this speed limit.

Note: Click the “Supplemental Content” tab for tablature to this lick. Remember the rhythm Steve taught you in the first scene!

This lick works great over a G chord or a G7 chord. In the following scenes, Steve will show you how to transpose this lick to a few other keys.
Chapter 5: (4:13) Lick in C Major When transposing any lick, do not pay attention to the individual note names that comprise the lick. Rather, use the scale degrees corresponding to the note names to transfer the lick to another key. For example, the lick in this lesson moves through the following scale degrees: 1, 2, b3, 3, 5, 6, 5, 1. Now, let’s transpose this lick to the key of C. To do this, we must first determine which notes these scale degrees correspond to in the C scale.

By reading the Circle of Fifths, we know that the key of C has no sharps or flats in its key signature. Here is a list of the scale degrees in the lick and the notes that each degree corresponds to in the C Major scale:
Finally, find the location of these notes on the neck on first position. When played in C, the lick uses the exact same fingering moved up a string. The only exception is the final note. The last C is played on the 1st fret of the B string. Memorize the lick in this key and practice it until you become comfortable.
Chapter 6: (6:54) Lick in D Major Steve demonstrates how to transpose the lick to D major in this scene. Simply repeat the same process used with the key of C. Determine the notes in the D major scale that correspond with each scale degree. Here is a quick breakdown:
Remember that the key of D has two sharps in its key signature: F# and C#.

When played in D, this lick works great over both D and D7 chords. The fingering for this lick will change quite a bit.

Note: Click the “Supplemental Content” tab for tablature to this lick.

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.

BethGBethG replied

Great addition to the toolbox, as you say. :) Thanks, Steve.

ripley21ripley21 replied

Oops, when I try to play part 4 "Putting it together", I get an error message "Error Loading Media: File Not Found"

buster56buster56 replied

steve, you're kicking my butt man

JellyrollJellyroll replied

easy for you to say........Ha gona need lots of practice on this one

noisystemsnoisystems replied

I am picking down "E" string till my pick stopping on "A" string. is it OK?, Ito from Tokyo

joseefjoseef replied

Totally awesome lesson great style to the song...this will really improve my guitar playing...just loving learning guitar with you guys...all of you!!!

adjohns3adjohns3 replied

D lick printed material really would help! You lost a lot of us slow learners on that lick without the aid.

MonetMonet replied

Hi Steve,,,the hay is all in the barn, the crops all in, now I can get back to studying with you and this great site..... I just LOVE Bluegrass..., I also had my "other" music teacher drop the saddle a bit in my Martin, so much easier to play, but still have that great sound for Bluegrass...... Monet.

jascriberjascriber replied

Steve, great lick. I have a little problem with getting sound out of my pull-offs. Am I just not plucking the strings hard enough? Thanks.

rymsharymsha replied

I love this lick!

jcaustin8jcaustin8 replied

Starting to really sound like bluegrass. Great job building up to this fun lesson. Thanks Steve!!

rj surfsrj surfs replied

OMG... I'm starting to really like bluegrass !!! Great Lesson Set... Thanks Steve!

electrosaveelectrosave replied

My pick keeps slipping from its original place between my finger and thumb.

jboothadminjboothadmin replied

We will have more Bluegrass lessons coming in the future that you will be able to take. You might also want to check out some of our other lesson sets. Many of them have great information that can help you become a better player even if they are not your genre of choice.

boergoatboergoat replied

Hello, I'm not really lost, just missplaced, where do I go from lesson six, Bluegrass Licks? Howard

Bluegrass Guitar with Steve Eulberg

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Bluegrass is one of the most recognizable styles of guitar. Some refer to bluegrass as a celebration of the simple things in life. Dive into this series to learn the essential components of the bluegrass guitar style.

Intro to BluegrassLesson 1

Intro to Bluegrass

Steve demonstrates basic, essential bluegrass techniques. In this lesson, you will learn the bass/chop technique.

Length: 16:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Building the SongLesson 2

Building the Song

Now that you have the bass/chop down, Steve demonstrates additional bluegrass techniques.

Length: 21:06 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Walking Between ChordsLesson 3

Walking Between Chords

Steve takes our bluegrass song one step further in this lesson. He demonstrates how to play a walking bass line between chords.

Length: 21:07 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Accenting Your PlayLesson 4

Accenting Your Play

In this lesson, Steve discusses hammer-ons and pull-offs and how they are used in the bluegrass genre.

Length: 33:34 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Double Picking and ScalesLesson 5

Double Picking and Scales

Steve explains double picking, also known as alternate picking. He teaches a scale that enables you to play an awesome bluegrass lick.

Length: 30:04 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Bluegrass LicksLesson 6

Bluegrass Licks

Steve teaches a widely used bluegrass lick.

Length: 22:34 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Descending LickLesson 7

Descending Lick

In this lesson Steve teaches a descending bluegrass lick.

Length: 34:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Bluegrass MelodyLesson 8

Bluegrass Melody

Steve gives tips on playing a melody line in the bluegrass genre.

Length: 37:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Raising the OctaveLesson 9

Raising the Octave

Steve demonstrates how you can use "closed chord" voicings in order to raise the octave of the melody. Great lesson!

Length: 38:00 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Fun Bluegrass LicksLesson 10

Fun Bluegrass Licks

Steve demonstrates some bluegrass licks that serve as introductions, endings, and transitions within a song.

Length: 23:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
I Am a PilgrimLesson 11

I Am a Pilgrim

Steve Eulberg teaches a classic bluegrass song entitled "I Am a Pilgrim." He covers strumming, the melody, and walking bass lines.

Length: 28:57 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Angel BandLesson 12

Angel Band

Steve teaches a bluegrass waltz titled "Angel Band."

Length: 28:09 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Catchy Bluegrass LickLesson 13

Catchy Bluegrass Lick

Steve dives deep into another classic Bluegrass lick that you can use to flare up a jam session or song.

Length: 20:46 Difficulty: 2.0 FREE
Wabash Cannonball Part 1Lesson 14

Wabash Cannonball Part 1

Steve Eulberg teaches the first part of the bluegrass classic, "Wabash Cannonball."

Length: 18:52 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Wabash Cannonball Part 2Lesson 15

Wabash Cannonball Part 2

Steve continues his two part "Wabash Cannonball" series by teaching how to develop the basic rhythm and melody into unique solo sections.

Length: 23:53 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Ballad of Jesse James Part 1Lesson 16

Ballad of Jesse James Part 1

Steve Eulberg teaches this old tune as if it were being played back in the old days. Here, Steve demonstrates the verse, chorus, and melody. Enjoy the story behind this one!

Length: 15:26 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Ballad of Jesse James Part 2Lesson 17

Ballad of Jesse James Part 2

In his second lesson of "The Ballad of Jesse James," Steve Eulberg demonstrates a more in depth look at how to play the song in a bluegrass form. This lesson is all about double stops, and when combined...

Length: 21:53 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Steve Eulberg

About Steve Eulberg View Full Biography An Award-winning multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, Steve Eulberg weaves mountain and hammered dulcimers with a variety of unusual instruments to create thought-provoking, smile-inducing, toe-tapping acoustic experiences.

He has sung and composed for religious communities, union halls, picket lines, inter-faith retreats, mountain-top youth camps, as well as the more familiar venues: clubs, coffeehouses, bookstores, festivals, charity benefits and showcase concerts.

Born and raised in the German-heritage town of Pemberville, Ohio, Steve was exposed to a variety of music in his home. Early piano lessons were followed by trumpet in school band, and he became self-taught on ukelele and guitar and harmonica. Mandolin was added at Capital University where, while majoring in History, he studied Ear Training, Voice and took Arranging lessons from the Conservatory of Music.

While at college, he first heard hammered and mountain dulcimers, building his first mountain dulcimer just before his final year. Seminary training took him the west side of Denver where he built his first hammered dulcimer. With these instruments, he was able to give voice to the Scottish, English and Irish traditions to which he is also heir.

Following marriage in 1985 to Connie Winter-Eulberg he settled in Kansas City, Missouri. There he worked cross-culturally in a church of African-Americans, Latinos and European Americans, with music being a primary organizing tool. He moved with his family in 1997 to be nestled beside the Rocky Mountains in Fort Coillins, Colorado.

Founder of Owl Mountain Music, Inc. he teaches and performs extensively in Colorado and Wyoming with tours across the US and the UK. He delights in introducing the “sweet music” of dulcimers to people in diverse settings and in addition to his own recordings, has included dulcimers in a variety of session work for other musicians.

In 2000 he was commissioned to create a choral composition featuring dulcimers for the Rainbow Chorus in Fort Collins. It was recorded in the same year (BEGINNINGS). He is currently at work on a commissioned symphony that will feature hammered dulcimer and Australian didjeridu.

Eulberg passionately believes that music crosses cultural and language barriers because music builds community. Influenced by a variety of ethnic styles, his music weaves vital lyric with rap, rock, folk, gospel and blues. Audiences of all ages respond well to his presentation and to his warm sense of humor.

Steve is a member of Local 1000 (AFM), The Folk Alliance, BMI and BWAAG (Better World Artists and Activist's Guild).

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