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Fun Bluegrass Licks (Guitar Lesson)


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Steve Eulberg

Fun Bluegrass Licks

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

Taught by Steve Eulberg in Bluegrass Guitar with Steve Eulberg seriesLength: 23:00Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (0:33) Intro Music Steve exhibits some fancy bluegrass pickin’ to start things off. This lesson features a clear and concise explanation of several great bluegrass licks. In the scenes that follow, Steve demonstrates how these licks are incorporated into the context of a bluegrass song.
Chapter 2: (0:24) About the Lesson The licks presented in this lesson are primarily used to begin or end a song. Steve isolates each lick individually. Upon the conclusion of this lesson, you will be able to insert these licks into any bluegrass song.
Chapter 3: (4:08) The First Lick A. Music Theory
The first lick is best described as an effective introduction chord riff. The static rhythm of this riff builds tension and anticipation. It grabs the listeners’ attention and pulls them into the bulk of the song.

This particular lick is in the key of G. From a theoretical perspective, the lick begins with a Dsus4 sound. The sus4 is created by the F# (3rd of the D chord) hammering onto G at the fifth fret. G is the 4th scale degree of D. The sound of suspended chords tend to leave a listener “hanging” or literally suspended.

In the key of G, D is the dominant chord. Dominant chords create tension that requires resolution. These chords typically return to tonic or home base. In this case, the tonic chord is G.
B. Playing the Lick
The fingering of the first chord closely resembles that of the open A minor shape. The second and third fingers fret the two low strings at the 5th fret. Although the second finger is fretting the lowest string, the low E string should not be played. This finger is planted here to create ease of motion into the second half of the lick. The first finger plays the F# at the 4th fret. This note is hammered onto the fifth fret G with the pinky. Drill this awkward hammer-on until it feels relaxed. Be careful not to mute the open G string below. It must ring throughout the duration of this chord. Only the A, D, and G strings are strummed in this chord.
C. Rhythm of the Lick
The strumming rhythm of the lick moves along quite rapidly. Like always, start slowly and gradually work up the tempo. The rhythm features of a group of four sixteenth notes followed by two sixteenths and an eighth note. This can be counted as 1 e and ah 2 e and or Mississippi, Monkey Run if you remember Steve’s pneumonic devices from earlier lessons. The hammer-on occurs between the first two sixteenth notes of the pattern.

Play this pattern for a measure and a half. Then, walk down the scale in eighth notes starting with D.
Note: Click the “Supplemental Content” tab for tablature to this lick.
Chapter 4: (7:02) Another Bluegrass Lick A. Music Theory
This lick is quite reminiscent of the melody to Thelonius Monk’s jazz standard, “Blue Monk.” The lick features a chromatic pattern of ascending then descending major thirds. Essentially, the lick is a harmonization of the G Major scale with the blues note (b3) added.
B. Playing the Lick
Begin by playing the open B and G strings together simultaneously. This begins a harmonization of the G Major scale in thirds. Then, continue to slide this shape up until your first finger is playing at the 3rd fret. Remember that the “blues note,” or b3 is frequently added to the Major scale in bluegrass licks. Pay careful attention to where Steve adds slides into the lick. Finally, descend the pattern back down.

Note: Click the “Supplemental Content” tab for tablature to this lick.
C. Rhythm of the Lick
If you play the full lick as described above, it should be played as a measure of eighth notes. Steve also demonstrates the lick by playing the second half of the lick by itself. He begins with a major third shape at the 3rd and 4th fret. He then slides this shape down chromatically in eighth notes. The rhythm of this segmented is counted as +4+. Practice this lick with Steve at 3:20.
D. Variation on This Lick
The lick can also extend further up the neck. The pattern slides up to the notes C and E. These are the most important notes in a C chord. Notice how the fingering changes to accommodate this variation.
E. Where Can This Lick Be Used?
This particular lick is extremely versatile. It can be used as an excellent intro to a tune as well as brief interlude. Closing with this lick is a strong way to end a tune or long improvised jam. Watch how Steve incorporates the lick in the context of each section of the song. This lick can also be combined with the descending lick from a previous lesson. You’re guaranteed to drop jaws if you end a tune with a combination of these two great licks!
Chapter 5: (5:32) High Descending Lick This lick expands upon concepts learned in the previous Bluegrass Licks lesson. Steve simply takes the descending lick and moves it up one octave. Remember the G chord shape from last lesson? Almost the entire lick can be played within the context of this chord. The pinky must cover the notes that are played at the 5th fret however. The lick finishes with a position shift as the first finger slides down to play A.

Note: Click the “Supplemental Content” tab for tablature to this lick.
Chapter 6: (5:10) Using the Licks in Songs Using the High Descending Lick
The high descending lick provides just one great example of how to end “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain.” Instead of ending the tune by strumming a boring open G chord, replace this chord with the G shape from the last lesson. Then proceed to play the descending lick.

Remember the variation of the descending lick? This pattern can also shift up an octave. Instead of walking down the G Major scale, skip the C note and play B-Bb-A. The first finger must slide out of position to play the A note on the G string. This lick adds a bluesy flavor to the end of the song. Pause the video, and practice this lick several times on your own. At 3:22, Steve gives you an opportunity to play this lick along with him. Hold the final strummed G chord for a full measure. Then loop the lick for extra practice.

At the end of this scene, Steve adds all of the licks learned in this lesson into “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain. Make a careful note of when Steve chooses to play each lick.


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.


bcgaraybcgaray replied on August 26th, 2014

I agree with requests for a strumming lesson. It seems to be the area we are all struggling with. Thanks Steve for a great lesson!!

triadbluetriadblue replied on February 27th, 2012

I'm enjoying every minute of your powerful lessons.Thank You

happystrummerhappystrummer replied on December 12th, 2011

Where is lesson 11?

steveeulbergsteveeulberg replied on December 14th, 2011

Lesson 11 is right after lesson 10: I am a Pilgrim

adjohns3adjohns3 replied on December 2nd, 2010

Nice lesson...great teacher...but please MORE SLOWLY!

wapowapo replied on January 20th, 2008

Steve's a great teacher but didn't he forget to break down the rhythm on the "opening lick" in lesson 10 (scene 3)? I mean just the rhythm (everything else he breaks down): it never gets slow enough for me to figure out what he's doing. It's a long way from boom-chuck. Can anyone explain it?

pdedeckerpdedecker replied on September 20th, 2010

I second that request. Perhaps Steve could do a lesson on bluegrass strumming patterns?

zsleftwichzsleftwich replied on December 29th, 2007

great lesson! when is 11 coming?

kevinacekevinace replied on December 29th, 2007

It'll be a few weeks at least. Jeff is the guy that films Steve and he's out of the country for a few weeks. In the mean time, you'll be getting some Matt Brown lessons from me!

nessanessa replied on October 16th, 2007

Very nice lesson!

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.



Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 6

Bluegrass Licks

Steve teaches a widely used bluegrass lick.

Length: 22:34 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 7

Descending Lick

In this lesson Steve teaches a descending bluegrass lick.

Length: 34:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

Bluegrass Melody

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

Length: 37:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 12

Angel Band

Steve teaches a bluegrass waltz titled "Angel Band."

Length: 28:09 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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

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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