Help playing Chet Atkins

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by somecafone, Jun 13, 2006.


  1. somecafone

    somecafone Member

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    I bought a Chet Atkins transcription book, and I can't get past the first four measures of "Mr. Sandman."

    Any suggestions?
     
  2. clothwiring

    clothwiring Supporting Member

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    Slow down and take time, do a little each day. You'll get it. I work with a guy who's great at Atkins style...while I'm a novice at it...I just work the lines over and over that I need to learn for our songs. Once I'm there I'm golden.
     
  3. Kappy

    Kappy Member

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    I think beginner to intermediate travis picking and classical exercises/etudes will help you to approach Chet's fingerstyle playing. Otherwise, just look for somewhat repetetive picking patterns b/c he's probably doing something out of a travis style picking approach during most of that song.
     
  4. shigihara

    shigihara Member

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  5. rgsss14

    rgsss14 Gold Supporting Member

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    This may seem unorthodox -

    Some people say practice the bass separately and the melody line separately, then splice the two together.

    I always viewed the two as being integrated - take it measure by measure and play the two parts together, using your ear to guide the way....
     
  6. rhp52

    rhp52 Supporting Member

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    Pay close attention to the feel Chet gets (to all his playing). The rock steady bass line against the syncopation of the other notes in the pattern.This is the difference between just playing the notes and having a bouncy, syncopated and dynamic result. IMHO this applies to all chord/melody-fingerpicking except where uncalled for. I found this very subtle and was somewhat difficult to achieve the desired effect. Chets right hand is equal to his left. Hope this helps!
     
  7. gennation

    gennation Member

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    Are you also listening to the tune? Depending on what level you read music at you may just need some direction. If don't read music and are only reading the tab or something, then definitely include the recording while learning it.
     
  8. clothwiring

    clothwiring Supporting Member

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    The dude I work with said the exact same thing, said he used to sit and practice the basslines in his head at lunch and would "thumb" them out then separately practice the melody/chord part of the song. I personally like to go real slow and work up to speed, that works better for me usually. From there I'll just run through the "concept" of playing it and that'll help me memorize the song and patterns.
     
  9. Stephen Landry

    Stephen Landry Member

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    I also tend to take this kind of stuff (well really all fingerstyle, not just Chet stuff) measure by measure, very slowly. Practicing the parts separately never really worked for me.
     
  10. jspax7

    jspax7 Member

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    +1. Exactly the way I teach Travis Picking. Start with a simple tune like Freight Train. The bass (thumb) is always on the downbeat. If you tap your foot, (which I highly recommend) you will feel this. Then the melody notes can be played on the beat or against the beat. (upbeat) It really is simple if you break it down and walk through it.

    1. One beat at a time
    2. One measure at a time
    3. Two measures at a time

    IMHO, practicing a 2 measure phrase is the best way to become familiar with a tune. And, always, always, count. Knowing when to play is at least as important as knowing what to play.
     
  11. jspax7

    jspax7 Member

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    If you have the first 4 measures down, practice the next 4 first. Then go back and combine them.

    If you have the CD, put it in your computer and slow it down. Listen only to the new phrase. (avoid information overload)

    BTW, If you have Windows media player, rip the song to a play list, then do this;

    Click View
    Click View Enhancements
    Click Play Speed Control

    Click on the green line graph to set the desired speed. Hope that helps.
     
  12. somecafone

    somecafone Member

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    Too many quotes to quote.....

    Playing bass and melody independent of each other never worked for me either. Glad to hear I'm not the only one.

    Thanks for the Windows tips. :dude
     
  13. jspax7

    jspax7 Member

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    If bass and melody separately doesn't work, try 1 beat at a time. I've found that isolating the beat where you're having trouble can help. This is especially true if you play up to a certain point, (beat) and hit the wall.

    The problem is usually where you make the mistake, so practice that beat.

    Rhythm is an essential element in Travis Picking, as it is in all music. When I began to think in terms of beats, rather than notes, it made all the difference.

    BTW, if you feel like you can't play the bass line separately, I still suggest trying it. With time you'll improve, and your sense of rhythm will too. If there is a pattern to be found, it is usually in the bass. I don't recommend playing the melody separately. Get the bass for 1 chord, then play the melody with the bass. Hope this helps.
     
  14. daddyo

    daddyo Guest

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    The concept of independant bass and melody lines never worked for me either. I started out on classical and there, with sheet music, you learn the concept of conterpoint. Sometimes the bass and treble voices are simultaneous, other times they are not. Look at vertical slices of time and which notes occur in any vertical slice. Time is the horizontal staff, the slices are via 1/8 or 1/16 notes, or maybe even 1/32. Of course many times there is a swing beat but the concept is the same. Adrian Legg did a pretty good job explaining this in an interview I read.
     
  15. B Bent

    B Bent Supporting Member

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    Like others have said take it slow and be patient.

    The only advice that I have is take the chet/Travis picking in peices. I sat down and alternated picking the alternating bass lines with my thumb. After i got really good at the basslines I started incorporating chords and different melodies. But for me the bass lines were the hardest thing to coordinate for me.
     
  16. Matt F

    Matt F Member

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    +1 on that

    That is how I cut my teeth on the "Chet Style". Played lots of country blues as well & simpler songs like Freight Train and learned the style. Now when i pick up my acoustic guitar almost everything I play has the Travis pickin' vibe. It's like the brain has been trained that way.lol. It's become automatic.

    I love Mr. Atkins style of music and did have to opportunity to meet him once. He influenced my playing so much. I am sad he has passed on.
     
  17. somecafone

    somecafone Member

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    What are the "simpler" songs in addition to "Freight Train"?
    Is that Atkins or Travis?

    What other songs are good starters?
     
  18. jspax7

    jspax7 Member

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    Freight Train is Elizabeth Cotten. I'm sure Merle Travis and Chet covered it too.

    I've transcribed several easy Travis style tunes. Chet did "Blowin' in the Wind" back in the 60's. I have several simpler tunes in this style.

    Do you read notation, tab, or both?
    How long have you been playing?

    If you're just getting started in this style, I have some exercises and tunes I can send you.

    BTW, when I transcribe I usually write the bass line first. And I write tab with stems, so you can see the rhythm.

    Feel free to PM me.
     
  19. gennation

    gennation Member

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    When I was younger I worked through the Teenville album and the other was Guitar Workshop or something like that.

    Between them they had Sleepwalk, Night Train, and many others.

    Teenville was an upbeat, more boogie woogie than your typical Chet stuff. Workshop was more melodic, like Sleepwalk you know :)

    Personally, I picked it out any way I could, IOW there is NO one-way to learn anything I guess. Although, in the early 80's there was no tab, so I did it all by ear.

    Somethings would come together all at once, other things I had to break down individually then try like hell to fuse together, and then of course there were somethings I just flat out had to pass on...I could get the notes but in no way could I actually pull it off. It was a GREAT learning experience though.

    There are still things I play 20 years later that I can attribute back to learning those albums.

    Funny story is my brother and sister in-law passed those records on to me stating "this is a guitar player you should listen to". After about a month with those albums I invited them both over and sat and played along to pretty much both of them. My sister in[law couldn't believe it, had tears in her eyes actually...probably because this long hair 6 night a week rocker was playing these beautiful tunes and something that she grew up with.

    Haven't really played much Chet since, except the influence that I probably play/use everyday.

    True story.
     
  20. derek_32999

    derek_32999 Member

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    What helped me the MOST when learning some Travis pickin' was to do it when watching TV commercials. Kinda puts ya in a semi-mindless state where ya aren't paying TOO much attention to what you are doing. Also allows you to do it in little increments via commercial. In fact the moment you realize you've got it, you will lose it LOL. Takes some time, but is worth it.
     

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