Chris Eldridge

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Soldier's Joy

Flatpicking Melody and Pick Stroke

Chris Eldridge Lesson >

Soldier's Joy > Flatpicking Melody and Pick Stroke

This week we're going to dive into flatpicking on one of the most classic flatpicking tunes there is: Soldier's Joy. Flatpicking is bizarrely fun. Part of that is due to the perpetual motion machine aspect of it. A hugely important part of making that work is employing proper Pick Stroke Theory. Maintaining a relaxed and regular alternating pick stroke will help you maintain an engaging flow as you flatpick a tune.




Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:
Chris Eldridge
Soldier's Joy
Fiddle Tunes
Pick Stroke Theory

Print Print Chords & Tab

Loop 0:00 Performance of Soldier's Joy

Loop 1:58 Pick Stroke Theory and Right Hand Mechanics 

Loop 10:54 Breakdown of A Section of Soldier's Joy

Loop 13:35 Practice Loop of Soldier's Joy


Download the Sheet Music PDF


Loop 18:09 Breakdown of B Section of Soldier's Joy

Loop 20:33 Soldier's Joy Chords

Loop 22:27 The Importance of Singing the Melody





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Paul Lawler
Paul Lawler Aug 20, 2018

I'm trying to un-learn some bad habits that I've picked up over the years by tapping eighth notes w/ my foot and making sure a down pick happens on a foot tap, and the up picks on an off beat.  I think this is a right way to ensure my pick pattern is correct.

Another question I have w/ respects to flatpicking is how do you relax and get into the zone or flow?  Any recommedations or books?  I saw an interview where Bryan Sutton said Julian Lage recommended a book from Abby Whiteside and he reads a lot of sports psychology type stuff.

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Aug 20, 2018

Paul, that is a great thing to practice because it will give you some perspective on what you are actually doing. As soon as you feel that you are able, stop tapping your foot and see if the new habit that you have been ingraining is sticking. 

I actually just started reading a GREAT book on this very subject that Bryan Sutton told me about 12 years ago and that I’m just now getting around to: The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey. There is a similar book called the Inner Game of Music that is based on the tennis book, but I would skip it.

Paul Lawler
Paul Lawler Aug 20, 2018

Thanks Chris!  If you come across any more books/articles about the mental side of playing, please do share.  

Paul Lawler
Paul Lawler Sep 07, 2018

I'm finishing up The Inner Game of Tennis now and I'm seeing a lot of the connections w/ playing guitar.  What do you tend to use as a concentration technique when you're soloing?  For me, it's a total catch 22 cause the moment I tell myself to focus and relax it all goes out the window. Gallwey suggested getting tennis players to say "bounce" or "hit" as a type of focusing the mind during play and not letting yourself get too hyper-critical.  So I guess I'm interested if there are any tips you could share or you've heard from guys like Sutton, TR, or Norman.

Thanks, Chris!

PS: my wife and I are catching the KC show on Sunday.  My work (a high school) does a cool think where they give you a little money to do something that'll re-charge your batteries, so we got a babysitter, got some tix for Sunday, then checking out some cool guitars at Mass Street Music in Lawrence before heading home.  Have a great show!

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Sep 20, 2018

Hi Paul, 

Sorry we didn't get to say hi in KC, now that the tour is over I'm getting caught up on my Sonic Junctions and I'm only just seeing this! 

I have a few concentration techniques that I tend to use. The first one is making sure that I'm remembering to breathe. There's nothing more foundational than that and yet we sometimes hold our breath and it causes tension. So I have gotten in the habit of taking a calm breath and closing my eyes - even for just a brief moment - before I have to play a solo or a difficult technical passage. I might also check in with my feet's connection to the earth (the connection is always solid) and register if my pelvis feels balanced and neutral (it always does). Basically, I focus by checking in with my body to make sure that all of these foundational elements are ok. Unless something is really wrong, they're reliably always going to be ok. This serves to ground me and bring me to the present.

John Jan 22, 2017

Hi Chris, first off I'm new to the site and love it and your approach to teaching.  In my quest of musicianship away from finger gymnastics and tabaholisim I was wondering if it would be possible to have a sound file of basic melodies or the performance part of the tunes to download and listen to repeatedly in order to ingraine them to memory before finding them on the guitar?  Thanks and keep up the great work 

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Jan 22, 2017

Hey John, welcome! That's a great idea. Let me ask Mike (the gentleman who runs the ship around here).




Pamela Nov 10, 2015

2nd question:  If possible can music notation be shown?

Music notation would help me with practicing the intervals and hearing them. And it shows the beats.

I leave this to your guidance.

Thanks for the lessons

Pamela Nov 10, 2015

Thank you Chris

First Question (1 of 2):

My understanding is in “normal” music notation, 4/4  the quarter notes get the strong beat and the eight notes get the up and down beat (one and) 

So for Bluegrass, it is played in “cut time, 2/4”; therefore, the eighth notes are counted as two down strokes (the strong beats) from what you are saying, and the sixteenth notes get the up and down beat.

Is that correct?


Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Nov 11, 2015


1) That's exactly correct.

2) I too would love to have regular notation included. I will look into that with Mike.



Alex B
Alex B Nov 09, 2015

Hey Chris,

Great lesson--lots of things to work on and think about. Two quick questions. First, how should we be thinking about the placement of the heel of our palm when flatpicking single notes? Obviously, we don't want to anchor it onto the bridge, but do we want to avoid all contact? If so, how far from the bridge should we aim to keep our palm? And second, where do you typically like to set the action on your guitar? Thanks so much! 

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Nov 11, 2015

Hey Alex,

1) I do think it's very important that your hand not rest on the bridge or bridge pins. That is the essential transfer point of energy from the strings to the top. Your hand will absorb some of that mechanical energy and you'll essentially be siphoning off some power. That said, if the heel of your hand lightly brushes the pins, it's ok. I think it's OK to let my hand rest on any strings that I'm not playing. So if I'm playing on the 1st string, the heel of my hand may be brushing or even resting on the low strings. That doesn't affect the resonance of the guitar so no harm, no foul.

2) I don't have numbers unfortunately, but I'd say I keep my action just barely below what would be considered medium action. I don't mind a little bit of buzz at times - Tony Rice even told me once that it was important to have a little buzz in your sound - but I try to strike a balance between comfort and sonic practicality. And I'll only get some buzzing if I'm really driving the guitar hard. It really depends on what kind of music you're mostly playing.



Ben Smith
Ben Smith Nov 08, 2015

Hey Chris--

In bluegrass, from the little I've seen, it seems like pretty much all the major pickers play with larger body guitars (I'm not great with model types, but from what I have seen, things along the dreadnought lines) and seem to prop there arms up on the body of their instrument. I own/play a smaller body instrument (OM, etc.) which I can't really, so far as I can figure out, prop my arm upon in the same way. It seems like in bluegrass that propping is pretty essential to picking technique. What is there to do? How do I modify my technique to fit this? Should I up and burn the smaller body and swich to a bigger guitar? 

I love (and marvel at) the speed and accuracy (not to mention the less technical, more musical/inventive things) you achieve on your instrument. Is all of that possible on a smaller body guitar in the bluegrass style? If so, how do you adjust the technique?

This entire line of questioning may be entirely off base, but any help is appreciated.

Thanks for the great lessons,


Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Nov 11, 2015

Hey Ben,

Good question. To me, the main reason that bluegrass players play drednaughts rather than smaller body guitars has to do with rhythm playing. If you're playing rhythm in a bluegrass band there's a certian ammount of headroom that's important to have. Smaller body guitars can be every bit as loud as drednaughts, particularly in single note playing, but they don't seem to stand up as well to the, at times, more agressive strumming. I think it has a lot to do with the combination of scale length and body size. OMs have a long scale, but I still wouldn't feel comfortable playing one in a proper bluegrass band for fear that it would peter out on the rhythm front.

As for flatpicking technique, I do rely somewhat on resting my arm on the lower bout on a drednaught, and I do feel temporarily adrift when I first pick up a small body guitar, but I think it's just a matter of what I'm used to. In other words, I don't think that propping the arm up is a essential part of the technique. For instance, mandolin players, who employ a pretty similar RH technique get by just fine without a body to prop against. If it helps you to anchor your right hand against the top in some way (being careful to not induce tension while doing so!) I would encourage to you explore that.

A good small bodied guitar is a beautiful, glorious thing. Flatpick on yours with pride!



Jeff Caldwell
Jeff Caldwell Nov 07, 2015

Great job, as usual, Chris--if you ever play consecutive triplets, would you do down-up-down/down-up-down or down-up-down/up-down-up ?  Do you find either way easier to keep rhythm together?



Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Nov 09, 2015

Hi Jeff,

When playing triplets I will almost always have either a hammer on or pull off embedded inside so that I don't have to do two really fast downstrokes in a row. I'll go deep in triplets and picking in a future lesson. 

good luck!


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