Building the Song (Guitar Lesson)


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Steve Eulberg

Building the Song

After learning the bass/chop rhythm, you are most likely craving a new sound. In this lesson, Steve explains the alternating bass line.

Taught by Steve Eulberg in Bluegrass Guitar with Steve Eulberg seriesLength: 21:06Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (0:34) Introduction This lesson expands upon the bass/chop technique that you learned in Lesson 1. Therefore, you should not proceed to this lesson until you have mastered all of the exercises in the previous lesson.
Chapter 2: (4:27) Alternating Bassline As you might have noticed, most bluegrass players play a more complicated version of the bass/ chop technique learned in the previous lesson. One very common and relatively simple way to spice up the bass/chop rhythm is called an “alternating bassline.” An alternating bassline is a type of bassline that continuously moves back and forth between the root and fifth of a chord. Before you attempt to play the alternating bassline, take some time to review basic music theory.

As Steve discussed in his Phase 1 lesson series, all triads (major, minor, augmented, and diminished chords) are comprised of three notes. These notes are labeled as numbers, or scale degrees in relation to the key that they are derived from. A major chord consists of the notes 1, 3, and 5 from the parent major scale.

For example, let’s take a look at the first chord Steve demonstrates. The first chord in “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain” is a G chord. To determine what notes make up a G chord, we must first take a look at the G major scale. By looking at the circle of fifths, we can deduce that the key of G contains only one sharp. From the order of sharps, we know that this sharp is F#. As a result, the G major scale is spelled G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, and G. Now, let’s find the root and fifth of this chord. The root is the first note of a scale. In this case, the root is G. Now count up to the fifth note. The fifth of a G chord is D. Consequently, G and D are the notes that you will alternate between when playing an alternating bassline. Steve’s “finger” method is a great way to rapidly determine the root and fifth of any chord. Just be sure to remember the key signature!

To practice this technique, set the metronome at a slow tempo. Start by playing quarter notes. Once you have mastered this, change the rhythm to eighth notes. Here is a beat-by-beat breakdown of one measure:
Beat 1: G bass note
Beat 2: Chop
Beat 3: D bass note
Beat 4: Chop
When this exercise is played using eighth notes, the bass note will occur on the first eighth note of the beat. The chop will occur on the second eighth note.

Note: Do not anchor your right-hand fingers to the pick guard! This will greatly reduce accuracy of the right hand. Playing with this poor technique limits the range of motion of the wrist. It may also cause unnecessary strain in the fingers, potentially leading to tendinitis.
Chapter 3: (12:53) Alternating Bass with Other Chords Once you have the hang of playing an alternating bassline with a G chord, apply this technique to the other chords in “She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain.”

Remember that you are the timekeeper in the bluegrass band. If you make a mistake and accidentally strike a wrong note, don’t worry about it. Keeping the rhythm going is always the most important aspect of any musical performance.

Start practicing the C chord with the alternating bassline first. Obviously, the root of this chord is C. Now count up five notes to G. The fifth of the chord is G. The easiest way to play this bassline is to play the C on the third fret of the A string. The fifth is the open G string. However, the G can also be played with the third finger on the 3rd fret of the sixth string. Using this option will add some variety to your playing. Once you feel comfortable with the C chord, repeat the same process with the D chord. Once again, you have two options for playing the fifth of the chord. The open A string and the A on the G string are both valid options.

It’s time to put all of these chords back into the context of the “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain.” Practice this song a measure at a time. It is always easiest and most efficient to break up any piece that you are currently working on into smaller, more manageable segments. Begin to connect measures together, as you feel more comfortable. Your attention should primarily be devoted towards keeping a solid, steady rhythm. If you accidentally hit a wrong bass note, don’t let it phase you. As long as the rhythm remains steady, the music will be effective.
Chapter 4: (1:16) Faster Now Previous to this scene, you were playing the alternating bass line using quarter notes. Playing the alternating bassline in eighth notes is the next appropriate step to take. Once again, this requires slowing your metronome down to a manageable tempo. Gradually push the tempo as you become more comfortable. You must be able to play the song flawlessly with perfect rhythm before you even think about increasing the tempo. It is best to set the metronome a few notches below your speed limit to ensure accuracy and clarity at all times.

The majority of bluegrass music is played at a quick tempo. Gradually working the tempo up at a rate of a notch per day may seem like a tedious, time-consuming process. However, this is ALWAYS the fastest way to learn any piece of music regardless of its final goal tempo. Many beginners set the metronome at a tempo that is too quick. These beginners are simply rehearsing their mistakes. They may be able to play a piece at a quick tempo, but it most likely does not sound like music.
Chapter 5: (1:58) Entire Song In this scene, you have an opportunity to play along with Steve. Steve performs the song at the tempo that it is typically played. If you are struggling to keep up with him, simply pause the lesson and return to practicing with your metronome. It may take a few weeks to work up to the tempo that Steve has chosen. Be patient! Learning a brand new song or piece always takes this long--even for professionals!

At the end of the song, Steve effectively demonstrates the topic of his next bluegrass lesson. In the following lesson, you will learn how to add scale lines to the alternating bassline. This will move you one step closer to the bluegrass guitar sounds that you hear on your favorite records.

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.


danonwheelsdanonwheels replied on August 22nd, 2015

Awesome this has really helped Steve thank you

richnotesrichnotes replied on May 24th, 2014

great work -Steve, I been working with Gibson's Learn & Master ,but his focus is on Jazz that is it gets a bit over my head-also working with Flatpicking Essentials by Dan Miller , a great resource for bluegrass - happy I came to Jamplay as you work is begins to tie things together for me after reviewing phase 1 and into phase 2 . thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.

nanselmusnanselmus replied on February 12th, 2014

yeah, the tab on the opening G chord is wrong, it should be open D not open A, like the lesson though, need to move slowly and make things perfect, usually go to fast make mistakes and say oh well, thanks

southerncannucksoutherncannuck replied on January 31st, 2014

I would like to use a metronome with this drill. I find it to be a merciless taskmaster. What would you recommend as a speed for a beginner?

wolliwolli replied on September 27th, 2013

hi steve you a great guitar teacher! i do your complete phase one. but i have do train. now by bass chop in C. Can i also change the 3rd finger. between C and Low G. Is more comfortable for me. greatings from germany

caddy_1caddy_1 replied on March 1st, 2013

Steve, I purchased Gibson's Learn & Master Lessons and while Steve Krenz is an excellent teacher, I'm having a lot more fun with your style. I signed up for a year, so I'll be working with you for at least that long. I'm 80 yrs young, and still having fun. Take care, Jack

caddy_1caddy_1 replied on March 1st, 2013

Steve, I purchased Gibson's Learn & Master Lessons and while Steve is an excellent teacher, I'm hacing a lot more fun with your

gypsy2323gypsy2323 replied on November 27th, 2012

these lessons keep freezing!

geophluffgeophluff replied on May 24th, 2012

Wow, I am impressed. I have been trying to work through Steve Kaufman DVDs for a bit. Recently got a capo with a Kyser trial offer to jamplay. I immediately went for these bluegrass lessons and I am very pleased with the quality, instruction and with Steve's ability to break this down for the student. I will likely purchase an annual subscription based on my satisfaction with the online vids, quality of instruction from Steve. Thanks, this is going to accelerate my learning.

geophluffgeophluff replied on May 24th, 2012

And I should metion Steve Eulberg's instruction vs. Kaufman's approach. Jamplay is better!

CThielsCThiels replied on February 23rd, 2012

Steve finished Phase 1, want to learn some basics of bluegrass, plus like your teaching style. With the C chord I also alternate the third finger between c & g. It seems to work fine, any reason for trying to learn your style using fingers 3 & 4?

jamesckelljamesckell replied on February 16th, 2012

Great,fun lesson.One Question-On the C chord I've seen lessons showing alternating bass line with the 3 finger doing all the work,going back and forth from C to G.Is it better to learn it your way as a four fingered chord in the long run ,or does it make a hoot of a difference?

critter421critter421 replied on August 16th, 2010

Thanks alot for a good lessson! Im not sure here, but I think the tab listed at the end of each video segment is a bit off.... you have the bass line on the g chord alternating between G and A.

steveeulbergsteveeulberg replied on August 10th, 2011

Not sure I understand your obersvation??

pdedeckerpdedecker replied on August 24th, 2010

Scene 3 wrongly claims at 12:48 that the title of the song is "She'll be comin around the mountain till she comes". If you ever have to re-render the video to correct a major mistake, you might wanna correct this minor mistake too. :-)

steveeulbergsteveeulberg replied on August 10th, 2011

Thanks for your eagle eye!

airportstoamsterdamairportstoamsterdam replied on January 12th, 2011

steve, you are a truly amazing guitar teacher. i love a lot of teachers on this site, but you were my first with phase 1, and still my favorite. i'm really enjoying this lesson series right now, even though bluegrass isn't my type of music. great lesson!

steveeulbergsteveeulberg replied on August 10th, 2011

Good for you, exploring a genre that isn't your most favorite--my explorations like that have always helped me with my favorite genres!

joseefjoseef replied on January 18th, 2011

Thanks Steve great lesson, reminds me of fingerstyle I'm doing as well with Jim ...discovering Bluegrass is great, it will open many songs to me...thank you, you're a great Teacher regards Josée from Canada.

steveeulbergsteveeulberg replied on August 10th, 2011

Jose, Bluegrass has done the same for me--keep having fun on this journey! Steve

jnc51jnc51 replied on August 9th, 2011

Steve, these lessons are awesome as were your beginner series. You have an excellent way of explaining things and give a "can do" atmosphere. I recently joined a very active local Bluegrass club, Desert Bluegrass, here in Tucson. We have great workshops and work on learning 3 songs a month. These lessons that you are teaching are giving me great basics in the rhythm parts of our bluegrass songs. I'm anxious to move ahead with your lessons as I see you teach licks also but I'm going to keep at a good pace and get the basics down first. thanks for your great lessons!

steveeulbergsteveeulberg replied on August 10th, 2011

Thanks for the feedback! I'm glad to hear about your progress, keep picking and have fun in that Desert BG club!

suzieqsuzieq replied on February 5th, 2010

This site needs to have a link where you can pull up the song lesson you are working on. It would include the words and tabs for that song. This would be very helpful with the chord changes.

rockingchicagorockingchicago replied on October 25th, 2009

thank you steve this will help me with the mexican music style that i like

jackloganbilljackloganbill replied on October 11th, 2009

Steve, you're a great teacher. Being a teacher myself, I greatly appreciate your teaching style, clarity, lesson progression, and so forth. Look forward to learning more!

guitarbugguitarbug replied on March 14th, 2009

Steve, I am a new member & am loving all of your lessons. I can't seem to get enough. Beginning lessons were great & so is Bluegrass & everything else that I've "peeked" at that you have done. You are a great teacher!

dallendouglasdallendouglas replied on February 8th, 2009

Hi Steve, I raelly enjoy your lessons and are a little hard for me to follow,but it has nothging to do with you. I just go back over them. I decided to pick up my Guitar after many years and begin playing. I have many great Muscian friends n Ca. who are happy I started again. I want to be bale to play for the Kids at Church. I also have a Dystrophy whic efffcts mymuscles and I hoped the Guitar may help keep my hand limber,(Which it has). Just love Bluegrass and since my family's from Kentucky thought I had better learn it. Thanks Dennis. Oregon

sendbahtsendbaht replied on January 16th, 2009

Hello Steve, I bet I am your only student living in Thailand. Retired and thought the guitar would be perfect to learn along with the Thai language Good for the brain they say.:) Enjoying the bluegrass lessons. Thanks, Don

steveeulbergsteveeulberg replied on October 10th, 2007

maybe it is an unfortunate gift, Jeff. (I really don't like those kinds of gifts, myself!) Steve

steveeulbergsteveeulberg replied on October 17th, 2007

I personally am a huge fan.

jboothjbooth replied on October 15th, 2007

I have corrected the TAB in the supplemental content section, but it will be a bit before the image in the video gets corrected as it requires a rerender. I may just strip out the in video images for that reason, as they are all in the supplemental content anyway so having in video images seems a bit redundant, and makes corrections much harder.

jboothjbooth replied on October 10th, 2007

Dagnabbit, I will look into this tab today. Sometimes I think I must be special managing to make errors even after triple checking everything !

steveeulbergsteveeulberg replied on October 10th, 2007

lksifton, thanks for letting us know. I'll pass the info on to our tabmeister, Jeff. Steve

lksiftonlksifton replied on October 5th, 2007

This is a great lesson. Very clear and easy to follow along. However, I think the tab at the end of Scene 3 is wrong. Its showing an open A as the alternate bass note rather than the open D during the G chord. Also, in the 2nd C chord section, the last bass note is shown as an open G. Is this just a different progression? Anywhoo...off to finish the rest of the lesson. Thanks heaps!

steveeulbergsteveeulberg replied on September 25th, 2007

Hi Johnny, always glad to hear that the lessons are providing good guidance for your musical journey! Thanks for the feedback! Steve

john oconnor59john oconnor59 replied on September 24th, 2007

hi steve i am into your second phase and into your bluegrass i have just completed lesson 2.... its great..so far i am with you all the way with the bass,chop.alternating..its begining to come together...i start lesson 3 . tomorrow...great teacher you are, really enjoying the course so far.. thanks man !!! kind regards johnny (IRELAND)

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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