Chris Eldridge

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Fundamentals


Left Hand Technique

This week we're going to focus on the fundamentals of left hand technique. By paying a little attention to your technique you can really make life easier. We'll talk about flying fingers, where to depress the string relative to the fret (it makes a difference!), using your thumb so that the rest of your left hand can relax, and slurs including hammer ons, pull offs and trills.

Using all of these techniques I'll show you how you can play the melody of White Dove in a more "vocal" way than you might usually hear it.

Cheers,

Chris

 

 

Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:
Bluegrass
White Dove
Chris Eldridge
Left Hand Technique

Print Print Chords & Tab

Loop 0:31 Relaxed and Efficient Movement of the Left Hand

Loop 2:46 Fretting the Notes

Loop 6:08 Thumb Position

Loop 10:37 Hammer-Ons, Pull-Offs and Trills

Loop 15:28 Using Hammer-Ons, Pull-Offs and Trills to Make a Melody More Vocal

Loop 18:07 White-Dove Melody Using Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs

 

Download the Sheet Music PDF

 

 

 

 

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Joe Wilson
Joe Wilson Jul 24, 2019

Joe Wilson
Joe Wilson Jul 24, 2019

I hope you enjoy the dramatic walk in! 

 

I’m new to bluegrass style flatpicking and am wondering if you have any tips to improve my fluidity in lead runs. I’m just getting started with your lessons and I’m really enjoying the, so far!

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Aug 13, 2019

Hi Joe, I like the walk-in! 

First of all, you sound great. You have a really lovely singing voice and you're obviously a fine musician. The main thing I think you should work on is the development of your right hand mechanism so that your pick *direction* is tied to the beat that your playing. You did a good job of rendering the music here, including the solo. So for this song your technique isn't getting in the way much, but as you start to play harder, more notey material I think you might encounter more hiccups.

Check out the lessons on Soldier's Joy, particularly the first one in the series. They address the topic of pick stroke theory. I think that when you can establish a super solid physical mechanism and integrate it into your musicianship the results will be really strong. 

Cheers!

Chris

Joe Wilson
Joe Wilson Aug 13, 2019

Thanks Chris! 

 

I just started working on soldiers joy over the past week and learned a lot. I trained myself to alternate pick as often as possible because for some reason I thought it would be more efficient! I’m trying to unlearn that and actually pay attention to the 16th notes if I can. Up until now I’ve handled rhythm 100% by feel without counting. Thanks for the feedback!

Sarah H
Sarah H Jan 24, 2019

Hey Chris,

So this is...left hand related. There's a song I've been playing...probably since I was, like 16. But I've never really found a comfortable way to switch between two of the chords. At one point it happens pretty quickly. For some reason my mind never had the thought of barring with more than one finger, but I think that's what I need to do?

It's going between a B and C#m. So from (picture) to (picture). Should/could I be playing the B differently to make it smoother to switch between the two? How would you play it?

Thanks,

~Sarah~

Edit: It goes back and forth between the two a few times.

Sarah H
Sarah H Jan 24, 2019

Torgeir Jorem
Torgeir Jorem Jan 25, 2019

I don't know if this is relevant, but do you notice that your index finger is all the way up on your sixht string? Maybe if you place your index on your bass notes (b and c# instead of f# and g#), the strecht becomes easier? Maybe this is wrong, but it's a suggestion :)

Torgeir

Sarah H
Sarah H Jan 25, 2019

Hi Torgeir,

You know – I just always bar everything when I do bar chords. I don't really know why. I think I've picked up a lot of bad habits over the years. I'll give it a try and let you know how it feels NOT pressing down as hard as I can, lol. Granted – I do want the high E (string) to play..... So I think that's part of the thought process.

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Mar 03, 2019

Hi Sarah,

I think Torgeir’s advice here is good. The less work your first finger has to do, the better. Because you’re fretting strings 4, 3 and 2 with your other fingers, you only need to actually bar strings 1 and 5, which is much easier than pressing down all 5 strings. Because your finger is curved, this is actually much easier than feeling like you need to press down on all 5 strings. You can use the tip of your index finger to gently mute the 6th string. This should relieve the amount of work (read: tension) required of your first finger and should make the change much easier. 

Also, for what it’s worth, I almost never play the first string when I’ll playing those particular chord shapes unless for some reason I feel like those notes have an important voice leading or melodic function. I’ll tend to play strings 5, 4, 3 and 2 and use the underside of my fingers to mute the first string. This can *really* make the physicality of playing those chords much easier. 

Let me know if those suggestions help!

Chris

Torgeir Jorem
Torgeir Jorem Feb 19, 2018

Such a nice song! Pleasing to play and sing. Struggling a bit with timing and triplets, but working on it. Any more advices? Torgeir

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Feb 22, 2018

Torgeir, beautiful playing. Truly. You’re doing the triplets a bit differently than I did, but what you did is better. I wish I had phrased them that way. Really nice. The one issue I hear is that occasionally you are jumping ahead on the beat. This happens at 0:33 and again at 0:47. Make sure you can keep the beat straight in those sections where the melody syncopates and you’ll be in good shape. 

Also, the timing between the solo and rhythm playing is very consistent. 👍

Weeksy
Weeksy Jul 21, 2016

Hi Chris

I recently joined the site and I love your playing. You have a lot of focus on bluesy notes and slightly dissonant notes that I have always found very interesting. I am new to flatpicking (about 6 months) and am absolutely hooked. Just working through the fundamentals on white dove and was wondering where to next. Is there an order that you recommend to work through the information for techniques in the different songs or just pick a song and get into it? It feels like a massive jump from fundamentals into Honey you don't know my mind, which is brilliant by the way.

Any guidance you can offer on how best to proceed would be greatly appreciated.

All the best

Weeks

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Jul 21, 2016

Hi Weeks, welcome to the site!

I've mostly laid things out so that different concepts and techniques tend to build on each other, so I'd recommend going in chronological order. Banks of the Ohio is probably one of the more accessible songs, but I'd encourage you to browse your way through the whole catalog. Also, there will often be lots of more advanced content in the musical example at the beginning of a lesson series that we will explore over the course of the 4 or 5 lessons. Don't let the first lesson scare you!

Looking forward to seeing you on here,

Chris

Maurizio
Maurizio Apr 04, 2016

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Apr 11, 2016

Hi Maurizio,

Nice job playing the tune. 2 things I notice:

1. Your ring finger is coming much further off the fingerboard than it needs to. Try paying attention to keeping it closer down so that it's ready to pounce, but doesn't have so far to travel.

2. Your entire and and wrist seem to be rotating when you play an upstroke. Maybe this is because you are aiming to use rest strokes on your upstrokes? If so, you don't need to do that. Either way, you might have an easier time if you don't use so much rotation. Not that your wrist should be tight, but try limiting the rotation and instead focusing on a more consistent up and down motion.

John Dunn
John Dunn Nov 29, 2015

Thanks for the feedback on this one Chris (again)!

Sounds like I should be working with a metronome or something, if only someone had told me that two or three times before I submitted this... Thanks for your patience and the fast specific eedback!

John Dunn
John Dunn Nov 27, 2015

 Hey Chris, thanks for all the feedback, definitely feeling better consistently working with the metronome! Gotta start capturing some of that H/O P/O dynamic range. Thanks again for all the feedback!

 

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Nov 28, 2015

Hey Jack,

You're playing it well as far as the sound you're getting but there's an issue: you're adding an extra beat into each measure and playing the song in 4/4 (straight time) as opposed to 3/4 (waltz time). So what we need to do is make sure that you're really feeling the three meter. Practice counting along to my orignal melody where you simply count aloud: "ONE - two - three - ONE - two - three - ONE - two - three - ONE - two - three", etc. Don't play while you do this - just speak the count and accent the ONE of each measure. Once that feels familiar and you really feel like you've got the three internalized, then go back and play along with me in the original video some more. Once you feel like you've got that comfortable and you're still feeling the 3 meter, then go back to the metronome. The most important thing here is that you're really feeling that 3 meter.

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!

Chris

John Dunn
John Dunn Nov 14, 2015

 Thanks for the fast feedback Chirs! Spent some time wtih the metronome (And for others working on this it was really helpful to loop and actually play along with the video multiple times) think I ironed out some of the timing, and having mostly gotten that down started to really notice the more subtle dynamic stuff your talking about with the hammer ons/ pull offs, i can't do it but at least i can hear it/ recognize it! thanks again

 

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Nov 14, 2015

John, that's great! The last thing I'd say as you work on it more is be sure that you can do it without the video, but with the metronome. The metronome in this instance is less about working on time and more about keeping you on track as far as knowing the phrasing. Don't shy away from accenting the 1st beat of the 3/4 measure.

John Dunn
John Dunn Nov 14, 2015

Hey Chris, really enjoying the lessons, thanks for doing this! this is a work in progress I definitely slip the timing a little on the back half but not sure where. Still working on 'Living in the MS valley' that tunes remains harder than it sounds! Jack

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Nov 14, 2015

Hey John,

First of all, great job. You've totally got the idea and all of the notes. The missing piece is the timing of the phrases.You're very close so I think you can figure it out on your own with a little help from the metronome.

My suggestion is that you get a metronome where you can highlight the first beat of every measure. If you have an iphone or android you can download a metronome app. I would highly encourage doing this. There is a really great, basic one called Tempo. It costs $3 and is rock solid; strongly recommended. One feature of this app is that you can easily set it so that the first beat of each measure is spelled out. Practice White Dove again with the metronome going in 3/4 and see if you can iron out the spots that are giving you trouble.

Let me know how it goes!

Chris

Terry
Terry Oct 04, 2015

Hi Chris,

I have greatly enjoyed and benefitted from your approach - the way you go gently & deeply into the basics, we so often gloss over.  Your playing in these first few lessons brings out the beauty and nuances in the simple old songs like 'White Dove'.  Excellent teaching - thanks!  Eager for future lessons.

Terry

 
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