Down by the Riverside (Guitar Lesson)

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Matt Brown

Down by the Riverside

Matt teaches the melody to "Down by the Riverside". This tune is used as preparation for learning accompaniment techniques.

Taught by Matt Brown in Reading Music and Rhythm seriesLength: 15:02Difficulty: 1.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (02:18) Introduction Welcome back to the Reading Music and Rhythm Series! Lesson 19 begins a two part lesson detailing a duet arrangement of "Down by the Riverside."

In past lessons, you have doubled Matt while playing a melody line or scale exercise. Now, you must perform a part that is totally independent from what Matt plays. Playing an independent part will force you to improve your rhythm and counting skills. You can no longer rely on his example to ensure that you are playing in time. You must build the confidence to be able to count and play on your own. In the current lesson, Matt plays an accompaniment part while you play the melody. In the next lesson, the roles are reversed. You will play accompaniment while he performs the melody.

Melody Demonstration

Watch and listen carefully as Matt performs the melody to "Down by the Riverside" at 01:32 in the lesson video. The melody is demonstrated in second position.
Chapter 2: (04:35) Down by the Riverside Key Features of the Melody

A. Cut Time

Cut time is indicated with an uppercase letter "C." A vertical line is written through the "C" to differentiate this meter from "common time" or 4/4.

Note: A cut time symbol can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

Similar to 4/4 time, cut time can be written two different ways. 2/2 also indicates a cut time signature. Remember the guidelines that Matt discussed in lesson 3 concerning time signatures.

Top Number

The top number in a time signature indicates how many beats are in a measure. There are a total of two beats in each measure.

Bottom Number

The bottom number indicates which note is counted as the beat. 2 on bottom = Half note gets the beat. Thus, a measure of 2/2 time contains a total of 2 half notes. Unlike 4/4 time, the half note now receives the beat instead of the quarter note. Another way to think of 2/2 is that it is a version of 4/4 in which the notes receive half their normal value. As a result, a quarter note in 2/2 receives the value of an eighth note. By the same principal, an eighth note now receives the value of a sixteenth note.

B. Accidentals

Quite a few accidentals occur in the melody. Many D# notes occur in "Down by the Riverside." This note is played at the 4th fret of the second string.Sharps, flats, as well as double sharps and double flats are all examples of accidentals. When an accidental is used, it carries on through the rest of the measure. A natural symbol must be used to indicate that a note is no longer sharp or flat.

C. Staccato

Staccato is a musical style in which a note is played short and detached from the note that follows. The duration of the note is cut slightly short. Staccato is the opposite of legato. A dot written above or below a note indicates the staccato feel.

Watch Matt in the lesson video as he plays the C major scale in a staccato style. To produce a staccato note, lightly lift some of the let hand pressure from the string. Do not completely remove the finger from the string. When adding staccato to an open string note, the left hand must mute the string after it is struck.
Chapter 3: (03:02) Identifying Song Phrases Unlike past lessons, Matt does not explain how to play each of the individual phrases. At this point in the series, you should be able to play the melody from the musical score on your own. If you are confused about how a certain section should be played, refer to Matt' s performance example provided in the first scene. If you still have questions, feel free to write in for help.


When learning a new piece, remember to identify the phrases. You must highlight the phrases by playing them like a vocalist would sing them.

To determine the phrase structure of a piece, study the guidelines and tips listed below.

-A phrase must contain a logical, complete thought.

-Often, rhythmic features such as long sustained notes or rests occur at the end of a phrase.

-The lyrics to the song provide a strong indication of phrase breaks.

-Important cadences such as the V to I authentic cadence usually happen at the end of phrases.

-Play through the piece to hear how it sounds. This will give you the best idea of where the phrase breaks are.

Print out the melody to "Down by the Riverside." Using a pencil, indicate where each phrase break occurs with a comma.

Practice Time

Before proceeding to the next scene, learn the melody. Return to the lesson video when you can play the melody in time with a metronome set to a moderate tempo.
Chapter 4: (05:05) Playing Along Counting in 2/2

Remember that there are only two beats per measure in cut time. Consequently, the count in that Matt uses is different from the count in that he uses in 4/4. He uses two measures for the count in. However, each measure now consists of two beats.

Play Along Example 1

Play the melody along with Matt at 00:52. If you make a mistake, simply keep going. Address any errors after the conclusion of the performance.

Play Along Example 2

This time around, Matt plays the accompaniment while you play the melody line. The same count in is used for this example. Remember to come in with the pickup notes before Matt enters with his accompaniment on the downbeat.


Matt's accompaniment remains quite simple throughout the song. On beat 1, he plays the root of each chord. The chord is then strummed on beat 2.

Additional Practice

Check out Jim Deeming's Phase 2 Music Reading lessons as well as the "Let's Play" style lessons in his Phase 1 series for more practice of this kind.

Preview of Next Lesson

Matt demonstrates how to play the rhythm accompaniment to "Down by the Riverside." You will practice your accompaniment skills while he plays the melody line.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

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waldo48waldo48 replied

Mat In the melody there is G note that moves to an A note a couple of times. Should we play the G as an open string or use the G note at the 5th fret of the D string?

mattbrownmattbrown replied

I used this melody as a reading/playing exercise in 2nd position, so play the G notes on the 4th string. In a real world application though, you might choose to play the melody in a different position, or combine various positions. Always base your decision on what sounds best.

telboytelboy replied

Thanks. My electronic metronome offers 2/4 and not 2/2 time. I think that may be the case with I'll practice with an internet metronome offering 2/2 for that "different feel".

telboytelboy replied

Can cut time also be written as 2/4?

mattbrownmattbrown replied

Cut time is the same as 2/2...In cut time, the half note is counted as the beat. In 2/4, the quarter note is counted as the beat. As you learn more music in 2/4 and 2/2 (cut time), I think you'll begin to understand why a composer may write a piece in 2/2 instead of 2/4 or vice versa. Sure, both time signatures have 2 beats in each measure. However, the overall "feel" of these time signatures is quite a bit different.

kierkier replied

I'm screwing up on the whole notes and rests. Each whole note I hit I count C(1)-2-3-4 with the metronome. Likewise with the two rests, I count 1-2. So in 2/2 should I be halfing the whole notes and rests? In 2/2 a whole note is 2 beats on the metronome and 2 rests is one beat on the metronome? If so, this would explain the difference between 2/2 and 4/4 which I didn't really understand up until this point. Still having a hard wrapping my brain around it … Thanks Matt.

kierkier replied

Ahh.. just re-watched the lesson from the beginning and 2/2 is explained as such. I've been working on this piece so long I forget the initial info. Think I got it now. Tricky!

mattbrownmattbrown replied

Well, besides the difference between how 4/4 and cut time (same as 2/2) are notated, the only real difference is how the rhythm feels. If you can, record yourself playing the song along with a metronome in 2/2. Then, change the time signature over to 4/4 just as an experiment. Set the metronome so that it clicks twice as fast now. In this scenario, all of the notes will be held for the same amount of time from the 2/2 version to the 4/4 version. However, the "feel" of the rhythm has changed. In my opinion, 2/2 has sort of a more relaxed, half-time feel compared to 4/4. It's pretty hard to explain in writing...hopefully I'm making some sense here, though. :)

kierkier replied

So how do you half a dotted quarter note? It's getting trickier by the moment!

mattbrownmattbrown replied

Good question! With dotted notes, I don't actually do the math in my head. In 2/2, a dotted quarter is usually followed by an eighth. It helps me to compare this rhythm figure to its equivalent in 4/4, which is basically a dotted eighth followed by a sixteenth. So, when I'm counting the dotted quarter - eighth note pattern in 2/2, I count "1 e and ah" in my head sort of like I'm counting sixteenth notes in 4/4. The dotted quarter hits on "1." The eighth note hits on "ah."

kierkier replied

I've been working on this one for a couple of days now, hours at a time. I can almost play along with you perfectly but when I switch back to the metronome I just can't grasp it yet. 4/4 just wants to take over. Gonna take a break from it and try again tomorrow. Will get it eventually!

kierkier replied

Damn finally got it! Had 3 days off and did nothing but this song. My strings are black at B&G 5th frets and I just changed them last Thursday! Little bit scared to move on, though I think it was the cut time that gave me the most problems, don't think the 3/4 of Fur Elise will be as hard for me. Cheers.

mattbrownmattbrown replied

That's great news! Glad to hear it! I remember cut time taking forever for me to master too. Yep, most people find 3/4 a little bit easier to feel out. Don't be afraid to head to the next lesson! The more often you face your fears in music/guitar, the more fearless and confident you will become. That's when things really start to get fun!

danielscdanielsc replied

nice melody to play 2/2

ronin808ronin808 replied

yep i will be on this one a while,but I like the change thanks man!

Reading Music and Rhythm

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

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Intro to Reading Music

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Length: 15:07 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Reading MusicLesson 2

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Rhythm and Time SignaturesLesson 3

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3/4 Time SignaturesLesson 4

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Reading Music PracticeLesson 5

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Amazing GraceLesson 8

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RhythmLesson 14


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On Top of Old Smokey ReviewLesson 15

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Matt Brown reviews "On Top of Old Smokey". This time around, the melody is played in second position.

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Reviewing Angels We Have Heard On High Lesson 16

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Shoo, Fly ReviewLesson 17

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Rhythm StrummingLesson 18

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This lesson covers right hand rhythm technique. Matt introduces syncopated strumming patterns.

Length: 25:38 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Down by the RiversideLesson 19

Down by the Riverside

Matt teaches the melody to "Down by the Riverside". This tune is used as preparation for learning accompaniment techniques.

Length: 15:02 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
AccompanimentLesson 20


Matt uses the song "Down by the Riverside" to teach accompaniment techniques for rhythm backing.

Length: 12:31 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Fur Elise Pt. 1Lesson 21

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Fur Elise Pt. 2Lesson 22

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The Entertainer Pt. 2Lesson 24

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Sea to Sea Pt. 2Lesson 26

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Stars and Stripes Forever Pt. 2Lesson 28

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Matt Brown

About Matt Brown View Full Biography Matt Brown began playing the guitar at the age of 11. "It was a rule in my family to learn and play an instrument for at least two years. I had been introduced to a lot of great music at the time by friends and their older siblings. I was really into bands like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Smashing Pumpkins, so the decision to pick up the guitar came pretty easily."

Matt's musical training has always followed a very structured path. He began studying the guitar with Dayton, Ohio guitar great Danny Voris. I began learning scales, chords, and basic songs like any other guitarist. After breaking his left wrist after playing for only a year, Matt began to study music theory in great detail. I wanted to keep going with my lessons, but I obviously couldn't play at all. Danny basically gave me the equivalent of a freshman year music theory course in the span of two months. These months proved to have a huge impact on Brown's approach to the instrument.

Brown continued his music education at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. He completed a degree in Classical Guitar Performance in 2002. While at Capital, he also studied jazz guitar and recording techniques in great detail. "I've never had any desire to perform jazz music. Its lack of relevance to modern culture has always turned me off. However, nothing will improve your chops more than studying this music."

Matt Brown currently resides in Dayton, Ohio. He teaches lessons locally as well as at Capital University's Community Music School. Matt's recent projects include writing and recording with his new, as of yet nameless band as well as the formation of a cover band called The Dirty Cunnies.

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