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Church Street Blues


Tony Rice's Version (a Study in the Right Hand)

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Church Street Blues > Tony Rice's Version (a Study in the Right Hand)

This week we are going to dive into the deep end with Tony Rice's version of Church Street Blues. It's dizzying with it's syncopations and unexpected runs, but it's somehow supremely elegant and powerful at the same time. To me, the secret to that lies in Tony's unorthodox right hand approach, which is the focus of this week's lesson.

Enjoy and good luck!

Chris

p.s. This lesson is very advanced so don't lose hope if it feels really hard. It is really hard, but, in my opinion, worth studying for the perspective gained on how to manipulate shading and color with a flatpick.

 

 

 

Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:
Bluegrass
Chris Eldridge
Church Street Blues
Tony Rice
Norman Blake

Print Print Chords & Tab

Loop 0:00 Run-Through of Norman Blake Style Church Street Blues

 

Download the Sheet Music PDF

 

Loop 1:12 Breakdown A Section

Loop 11:55 Slow Practice Loop of A Section

Loop 12:31 Breakdown B Section

Loop 24:04 Closing Thoughts and Outro

 

 

 

 

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Torgeir Jorem
Torgeir Jorem Oct 09, 2018

Hey again !

Posting a new video on this one, with Norman Blake-version between verses. I could see on my other version that Tony rice-picking after strumming is for now too difficult. I have some of the same problems if I have to change between flatpcking and strumming (my right hand struggles with the transition). Is that a common problem for beginners by the way?

Cheers!

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Oct 29, 2018

Hello Torgeir! I'm so pleased to see this - your guitar playing is really getting better and better all the time! The thing I think you should pay the most attention to is actually making sure that you're singing is in the groove rhythmically. You're developing a nice flow with your guitar playing but what pulls me out more often is the timing of the singing. I know that English isn't your first language so this might be tricky, but think more about the actual rhythm and groove of the words coming out of your mouth and make sure that they are working together with your guitar playing to create a groove and pocket. 

Regarding the guitar playing, you've made so much progress. Your Tony Rice-style intro here sounds good. You might try paying a bit of extra attention to the dynamics. Allow the phrases to get soft and loud to create a touch more drama. All in all though I thing you're sounding great. Bravo!

Torgeir Jorem
Torgeir Jorem Sep 27, 2018

Thanks for the reply on mississipi valley, I wasn't really aware that I always used the third when playing alternate bass!

I have practized this picking style for about three weeks now, and it's cool, but so hard to control. I listened to the church street blues album also, full of so many good tunes! Any advices om my video is much appreciated.

 

Torgeir

Tim
Tim Jul 27, 2018

Thanks Chris,

That's actually exactly what Tony Rice said one time at a festival - someone asked him how to work up to those insane speeds he sometimes plays at...

His response was "learn the tune, how you're going to play it, then play it fast - your hands will eventually catch up"...

Hmmm...I've been playing "fast" for about 40 years now and my hands haven't caught up to the speed he plays some tunes at!  Lol...

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Jul 27, 2018

There you go!

Tim
Tim Jul 27, 2018

Thanks Chris!

Yes, it is MOST highly unusual!  Very cool way to pick though - I'll definately inject a little of this into other tunes!

And you're right about the timbre/texture - I just now attempted to do it with alternating picking.  It changes the whole "feel"

of the tune.  Seem to lose some power nuances to the notes as well...

Any suggestions for speed, or is it just "work at it"?  I've worked it up to about 165bpm, but after that the timing starts to fall apart

fairly quickly & substantually!  Ha!

 

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Jul 27, 2018

As far as getting it up to speed, I don’t think there’s any substitute for putting in the hours. It can be good to play beyond the speed at which you can do it cleanly with a focus on staying relaxed and plowing forward rather than playing every note perfectly. Even if you can’t execute playing it at that speed cleanly you want to develop the sensation of what it feels like to play at that speed. The cleanliness and notes will come.

Tim
Tim Jul 22, 2018

Hey Chris,

This is slightly different from the way you are playing - my own interpretation of the Youtube vid with most of yours added...

Think I got the pickstrokes in the right direction, and I think I'm at least getting the flavour of it.

Man, it's tough to pick this way and keep the timing right!!!

 

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Jul 27, 2018

Hey Tim, that sounds great! And yes, it looks like the right pick direction throughout. Great job of working on it. It is indeed very tricky to keep the timing accurate and flowing this way, especially if you’ve been alternate picking all of your life! But the timbral reward is worth it, IMHO. It also provides a great look inside TR’s highly unusual right hand approach. I think he just figured out how to flatpick that way when he was a little boy because nobody told him not to, and he built a beautiful style around it.

I use those types of sweeps in my playing now when I want to give extra texture and color to the notes I was going to play anyway. It’s a great tool to have in the toolbox.

Tim
Tim Jul 18, 2018

My God Chris, are you kidding me?!

How did TR every figure out those pick strokes???  Almost alien when you've played alternating picking

strictly...

Can you please take a look at the pick strokes in the pic ('specially the second to last note of measure 2, the C).

Are these the correct pick strokes?  If I do it as a down, 4 down strokes doesn't seem to flow...

Darren
Darren May 21, 2018

hey Chris. Not sure if you saw this video. Mike got it up and running for me. Any thoughts?

 

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge May 24, 2018

Hey Darren, you sound really good on here! Lovely playing and singing. This performance feels very musical and settled. There is one immediate thing to point out though: there are beats missing consistently between the A and B sections. On the first instrumental at around 0:23 it jumps ahead by 3 beats. At that same spot when you are singing (0:55) it jumps ahead by 1 beat. It jumps ahead there a bit in the last instrumental as well. So I’d listen again and count while you’re listening and make sure you know which beats the downbeats of the measures are occurring on. It’s confusing with this song. For years when I was younger I thought that the downbeat of *Tony Rice’s* version (but not Norman’s) was the very first note of the song - but the first two notes are actually pickups and the downbeat is the 3rd note. All of that to say, this song is a little squirrelly. 

The other note that I would make is that there’s an opportunity in the Norman version (the first instrumental you play) to get really, really groovy. You might try playing that one as if you were trying to get people to dance. I take it to a kind of calypso-y place, which you don’t have to do, but I do think that it’s inherently groovy so see if you can squeeze a little more of that out of it. That said, it sounds really nice and calm as is!

Chris

Darren
Darren May 07, 2018

This is just like playing guitar, keep practicing till you get it right lol. Did this work? 

Once again just trying to get the song down, not going for thr TR picking. Any tips? 

Mike Caren
Mike Caren May 11, 2018

Beautiful.  Love your playing.

Darren
Darren May 11, 2018

thanks for the help Mike, and the compliments. 

Darren
Darren Apr 28, 2018

There used to be a video recorder tab on the page, I've been gone a while so just wondering if that has changed or I'm just not seeing it. 

 

Mike Caren
Mike Caren Apr 30, 2018

Hi Darren - good question.  We found that most people were either pre-recording and then uploadeing their videos or using the YouTube link for videos -- so we removed the in page recorder.  The in page recorder also had lower quality. 

Darren
Darren May 04, 2018

I tried doing a video in QuickTime but it wouldn't play here. What youtube link do yoou speak of? Any help would be awesome.

 

Mike Caren
Mike Caren May 04, 2018

Hi Darren -- sorry for the troubles.  For YouTube videos -- in the top menu of the comment box you can find a " + YouTube " button.  If you click it, you can paste in a YouTube video URL that will then add the video to your comment.  Please let me know how it works.

Darren
Darren May 11, 2018

mike I keep having trouble with video upload. is it because I have private enabled on youtube? I just want to share the video here. 

Darren
Darren May 11, 2018

i just pressed the little clock looking thing on the screen  and now my video is back??? Any help??

 

Mike Caren
Mike Caren May 11, 2018

Yes -- the video needs to be public on YouTube in order for it to be shared here.  Sorry -- it's just the way YouTube is setup.

Darren
Darren Apr 28, 2018

Damn!!! everytime I hear you play this I smile, it's sooo good.

 

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge May 07, 2018

Aww, thanks Darren!

Rémy
Rémy Oct 06, 2017

Hi Chris, 

Sorry for soliciting you again. I've started playing this tune and your Nine Pound Hammer intro with the right hand resting on the saddle/bridge. I just read that it's not a good idea, especially for the sound (it reduce vibrations). Some players (Carl Miner for example) play with pinkie finger on the pickguard as a "guide" (not sure of the word, "to know where you are"). What do you use to guide yourself ? It seem that you play "on the fly/air" /without guide. Does your hand skim the strings to guide yourself ? How do you stay accurate on strokes without pinkie on the pickguard nor hand resting on the saddle ? (when playing fast single notes)
I've watched you're first fundamentals videos but it seem not to mention that. A short video showing your right hand from the side would be a great thing ! :) 
At the opposite, if you watch Molly Tuttle playing very fast faltpicking on vintage Martins on the "Carter Vintage Guitars" YT'channel, her hand/wrist seem to be really stuck to the saddle/bridge. Do you think she loses in sound projection/quality (because the hand restrict saddle vibration) ?


Thank you very much :)

Rémy

Rémy
Rémy Oct 23, 2017

Any advices/tips from members ?

John D.
John D. Oct 25, 2017

Hi Rémy, 

It seems to me that actually resting the hand on the bridge would limit vertical movement of the wrist/hand and impede your ability to pick as quickly on different strings. I have a feeling that players like Molly are not actually resting their hand there even if it looks close, judging by the vertical movement of the wrist.

Anyways, at the end of the day the key is removing tension form the entire arm. I find lately that relaxing my upper arm onto the top of the guitar helps me a lot in this regard. It seems that Chris may do this as well, while I've noticed plenty of others players do not, so clearly it comes down to personal preference/your anatomy/your guitar. When I'm most relaxed I find that my up/down movements are smaller and picking is simply more accurate.

John

 

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Oct 29, 2017

Hi Remy,

Sorry, it seems I missed this comment from you a couple of weeks ago! I definitely think that it is not good to have your hand/wrist resting on the saddle and/or bridge pins. It really does literally rob vibrational energy from the guitar and will make it sound weaker and less dynamic. 

You are right in assuming that my right hand does brush against the strings, acting as a "guide" to use your words. Often I will be brushing lightly against the strings with the side of my thumb and the muscle-y part of my hand below the thumb. I also sometimes let my ring and pinky fingers touch the pickguard, also acting as a guide. So, I'm almost never floating completely freely.

I suspect that John D. is correct in saying that Molly isn't actually resting her hand on the bridge pins, although I'm not positive. Whatever Molly does is most certainly working though! She's one of my very favorite of the younger guitar players. Her IBMA award this year was very well deserved!

Rémy
Rémy Oct 30, 2017

Hi Chris and John (sorry for the response time John). Thank you to both of you, your answers help a lot and thank you Chris for taking the time to detail your technique. It confort me in the way I modified my right hand technique, thank you :)

Since I posted my question, I studied a little the Molly's case . I found a video on YT ( "Molly Tuttle's White Freightliner Warmup") that focus on her right hand technique (filmed from the side) and it appear that Molly rests her wrist on the bridge/nut for solos, muting strings that aren't stroked. But as you sayed Chris, "Whatever Molly does is most certainly working though" :-)  She's really an amazing guitar player !!!
Thank you very much :-)

Rémy
Rémy Sep 27, 2017

Edit/ Since I can't post my entire comment because it's too long, I just post here the question and posted the entire comment on your forum page http://www.sonicjunction.com/forums/5-announcements/topics/433-chris-critter-eldridge

Here just the question part on this video : at 7’04, the pull-off part (A G C notes) , you say that it’s down stroke -down stroke but it seem that in the beginning (4'30) you play down stroke and up stroke, and in the homespun instructional video it seem that tony Rice did too. Is it an error from you or was it done on purpose ? It seem easier when it’s down-up.

Thank you Chris for that great lesson of such a great tune ! (the rest of the comment is on the forum)

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Oct 02, 2017

Hi Rémy, you are absolutely correct - I misspoke at 7:04. Should be down - up right there. Thanks for catching that! I will head over to the forum to check out the rest of your comment and respond there as necessary.

Cheers,

Chris

Rémy
Rémy Oct 06, 2017

Thank you for your answer Chris :)

Ian Steinberg
Ian Steinberg Jun 21, 2017

Hey Chris, thank you so much for this lesson, it really lays out what Tony does in a easily understandable way.  There are quite a few mistakes in my video but I'm really proud of the work that got me to this point.  What could I focus on going forward to make the solo more smooth and get the rhythm to be a bit punchier?  

Also, love your work with Julian Lage.  If you ever did a lesson on Rygar I would be eternally grateful.  Thanks for all your hard work and beautiful music.

Best,

Ian

Kip Marchetti
Kip Marchetti Jun 22, 2017

Cool picking ... I'm still having post traumatic stress symptoms from trying this way to early in my evolution. I agree completly about Chris and Julian ... so lucky to have seen them here when they passed through earlier this year. 

Ian Steinberg
Ian Steinberg Jun 22, 2017

Thanks Kip! Yeah, this one is really a bender on the right hand, just gotta keep at it low and slow and build it up!  And I saw them play with Aoife O'Donovan in Berkeley, CA and it was one of the greatest shows I've seen in a while.

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Jul 18, 2017

Hi Ian, you sound really good! I think you just need to keep playing it to get it smoother and punchier. Your second time playing the melody was both smooth and punchy, which means you not only do you know how to do it - you can already do it. Sometimes, when I was working on this I would just push the tempo beyond where I knew I could be in control and then try to have it feel either relaxed, or attain the punchy rhythm. Usually when one would come into focus the other would quickly follow. You're on the path. Keep at it!

Ian Steinberg
Ian Steinberg Jul 18, 2017

Thanks Chris, really appreciate the feedback!  I'll give your advice a go and hopefully get to where I need to be. :-D

Darren
Darren May 12, 2018

Sounds good Ian. The only thing I noticed is your left wrist. If you go up and look at Chris play his wrist is straight while he plays the tune. It might be because you are sitting down and you're dropping your elbow too much. Try standing up and see where your arms and hands sit on the guitar, could be a posture thing when your sitting. Or try dropping the guitar neck so it is parallel to the floor. I only mention this because it could cause tension in your forearm moving forward. Keep pickin buddy!!!

Marty Kerner
Marty Kerner Feb 24, 2017

Thanks, Chris, for a terrific lesson.  I've been trying to play this for years, with little progress until now.  (As you said, Tony plays the song on his Homespun Tape, but doesn't really teach it.)  

phil fernbach
phil fernbach Dec 12, 2016

Chris, thanks for the feedback on the tension in my right hand. I've been messing with my technique based on your comment. Does this look more on point? 

thanks!

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Dec 12, 2016

Yes, that looks better, especially on the second solo. There is a grace that wasn't there before. How doesn't it feel?

phil fernbach
phil fernbach Dec 03, 2016

Killer lesson. Thanks Chris. 

phil fernbach
phil fernbach Dec 03, 2016

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Dec 07, 2016

This sounds great! I love that you got that passing Bb chord in there under the sung verse. One thing that might help: try opening up your right hand slightly so that you are not making a fist. I see some tension in your right hand and wrist and that may be where it's originating. If you watch Tony you will see that his middle and ring fingers are extended out from his hand ever so slightly, acting almost like a depth guage. In my experience, opening my fingers up in my right hand can help my wrist relax. That said, YMMV.

Great job though! Keep going with it!

Kip Marchetti
Kip Marchetti Aug 13, 2016

I'm trying to reel this one in ... heres my run through 3 or 4 times ... not used to sweeps

 

lewis
lewis Aug 14, 2016

Good work Kip! The sweeps are a killer aren't they? I find trying to control them introduces a ton of tension in my wrist at the moment, which I'll need to work on. 

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Aug 15, 2016

Hi Kip,

thanks for posting! The main issue here is honoring the rests and the overal beat structure of the song. This is the most consistent issue for you. Everything else is sounding really good! Try doing the counting on my video. It might be educational to then do the counting on yours to see where things are getting off. Way to go tackling this beast though!

And yeah, the sweeps are really hard! I get very tense when I do them as well. These days I just try to practice staying loose and I have faith that that accuracy will come with time.

Chris

lewis
lewis Aug 09, 2016

 

 

Well, after about 20 takes and quite a few expletives, I got this far! 

Chris this lesson is amazing - I've been trying to get to grips with this version of the tune forever. I have the Tony Rice instruction video that the youtbe clip is from and must have watched it hundreds of times and still not got close. This lesson has got me closer in just a couple of views and whilst I'm still light years away, at least I can see what I'm shooting for now! thanks a million.

Lewis

Kip Marchetti
Kip Marchetti Aug 10, 2016

Lewis - I have no idea what Chris will say but from my view point your run at it is awesome. I'm light years from where you are but I agree what a great lesson dealing with a very tricky song. All the best to you!

Bryn Cunningham
Bryn Cunningham Aug 10, 2016

Yep. I'll second Kip's comments here: awesome job on a tricky tune! 

lewis
lewis Aug 12, 2016

Thank you Kip & Bryn. I appreciate that.

L

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Aug 15, 2016

Lewis, KILLER JOB! You've definitely got the essence of this very difficult tune down! As a guitar player I feel that playing TR's version of Church Street Blues is like a violinist playing the Chaccone from Bach's Violin Partida in D minor. It's a mountain that you'll be climbing forever. But it's so rewarding.

The next step for you will be to make those consecutive (read: swept) down and upstrokes rest strokes. In other words, you don't want the pick to come off of the string so much. Play those sweeps as rest strokes and you'll get a much richer tone. Your timing will become snappier too. It's harder to control with the rest strokes but you get increased depth of tone and ultimately timing. Good job and good luck!

Chris

lewis
lewis Aug 17, 2016

Chris thank you for that feedback. Much appreciated.

I'm working on the rest stroke piece - I've found a couple of things that are making it a bit easier and I wanted to see what you thought about them - in particular because they're a departure from how I normally play and might even be considered "bad habits" in other contexts...

1) Pick depth - I'm finding my success rate on playing the sweeps with rest strokes increases if I use less pick in the strings. I don't know if it's less pick, or the fact that it brings my hand closer to the strings, but it seems to work. The fact that it's rest strokes and thus stronger and clearer seems to compensate for the loss of tone in having less pick in the strings

2) Right arm positioning - normally (and you can see from my video) my picking arm comes down over the top at about 45 degrees. I'm finding that by moving my arm further round the butt of the guitar so my arm is more like 35 degrees from the horizonatal, it sets my hand up better to play these rest stroke sweeps. It feels more like I'm pulling the pick through the sweep rather than pushing it and it feels like I have more control

3) Ordinarily if I'm going from playing on the high strings to the low, I move my whole hand. I'm finding that it's easier to play this tune by "basing" my hand physically lower (so it feels like it's centres around the G and B strings) and then "reaching" up to play the lower strings, using the elasticity of my hand rather than picking hand motion to drive the sweep back down.

Hopefully those desctiptions make sense - I guess I'd really value your opinion about whether it's a step too far to apply quite so much adaptive technique in the pursuit of playing one piece, or if any of the specific things I'm doing are a particualrly bad idea.

Many thanks!

Lewis

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Aug 17, 2016

Lewis,

I think all of your observations make perfect sense. If you watch videos of Tony, his arm is also coming from closer to 30 degrees than 45. Also, as far as reaching up and pulling down, that's kind of how I do it, I think. When playing in this style, I usually have my ring and pinky fingers wrapped around (or at least) touching the first string. The motion of opening and closing those fingers is actually what is driving the motion of the rest of my hand. When I'm not doing the Rice-style sweep picking I try to let my hand and arm be more free.

Ultimately, everyone is different and everybody is going to work out the fine details their own way. But everything you've observed makes perfect sense, and tracks with how I approach playing this as well.

C

lewis
lewis Aug 17, 2016

Awesome, thanks again Chris

David Brookes
David Brookes Aug 05, 2016

Hey Chris.... 

New kid here and just getting both back into playing my guitar and discovering Bluegrass which is kind of a revelation for a Kiwi living in Australia, so firstly thank you for the great lessons and thanks also to the owners of this site which is a great resource and is inspiring me to keep improving.

Is there any particular order I should be attacking your lessons?.... obviously not this one first! Obviously I'm starting at the fundamentals with the White Dove lessons but have been dabbling with Wildwood Flower, With Body & Soul & Church Street Blues also. Any tips on a solid practise routine would also be appreciated.

On another note, I'm looking forward to see you with The Punch Brothers at the Adelaide Guitar Festival in Australia next month. I'm a wine journalist writing for a number of magazines around the world and I live in a wine region called the Barossa about an hour North of Adelaide where the festival is being held. If you and the guys get any down time in the days before or after the gig and would like to come and visit some wineries, let me know and I'll take you around some producers and show you behind the scenes.

Thanks again for the great lessons

 

Dave

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Aug 15, 2016

Hi David,

sorry I've been slow to respond! We were (as you know) on a crazy trip for the last couple of weeks. Just got back to the States and reliable internet last night. Thank you for your kind offer to take us to the Barossa. We were flying pretty much every day on that trip so needless to say no time for a trip to the Barossa. But we went to Australia 4 years ago and had a wonderful time with Christian Caunte of Rusden who is a friend of a friend. He took us around his winery and to a few others. It was great. One of the best days we've ever had on tour.

To answer your question, yes - in terms of difficulty, this lesson would be the last one I would recommend! I arranged them to be received in roughly chronological order. The information was designed to be cumulative. The first 3 or 4 months in particular set the stage for much of the later material we've covered.

Regarding a practice routine, I would suggest cultivating a habit of playing every day. Pick a time that you can do it with consistency. Even for just 20 mins if that's all you can spare, although more is obviously better. But getting in the habit of picking up your guitar and working at it is the most important part. The content of your practice is less important than the habit.

Having not heard you play it's hard for me to prescribe a routine. In general, I would encourage you to have the goal in mind of working up some new music to play. And ultimately you want to get everything to a place where you feel like you could play it for other people. And make sure that you are enjoying your practice. It truly should be a fun, joyous, fascinating exploration. Let those goals guide the way you practice.

Cheers,

Chris

David Brookes
David Brookes Aug 16, 2016

Hi Chris,

No problem mate and I hope the tour went was a success..... I know Christian well... you were lucky to get out of his place in one piece.

Thanks for the detailed advice. I am indeed approaching the lessons as they are laid out and when I get my act together and get back home (I'm actually in your neck of the woods later in the week) I'll start to post some videos.

As mentioned I'm getting back into guitar after a long lay off and I'm really enjoying practice so finding time for it each day is not a problem. Again... thanks for the advice and the great lessons... I'm getting a lot out of them.

Cheers

Dave

 
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