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Soldier's Joy

Fiddle Tunes as Connect the Dots

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Soldier's Joy > Fiddle Tunes as Connect the Dots

There are as many different versions of a given tune as there are people playing the tune. That's right and proper because fiddle tunes are part of an oral tradition. These tunes weren't learned from a book and there is no one "correct" version of a tune. They are passed down from person to person, and through that process everyone involved puts their stamp on the tune, and the tune continues to evolve. So while the bones of the tune may be recognizable if you hear someone else play it, odds are they play it differently than you do. I want to encourage you to do that eventually, but to help get you there I'll show you some fun tricks. This week we're going to look at some of the chromaticism that Clarence White employed in his version.




Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:
Chris Eldridge
Soldier's Joy
Fiddle Tunes
Clarence White

Print Print Chords & Tab

Loop 0:00 Performance of Soldier's Joy

Loop 0:46 Fiddle Tunes as Connect the Dots

Loop 4:38 Breakdown of Clarence White Inspired Soldier's Joy

Loop 9:55 Practice Loop of Soldier's Joy

$1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. | $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $3.0 $3.2 |


A Section

$3.0 $1. $4.2 $1. $3.0 $1. $4.2 $1. $3.0 $3.1 $3.2 $2.0 $2.1 $2.3 $2.1 $3.2 | $3.0 $3.2 $3.0 $4.2 $4.0 $5.3 $4.2 $4.3 $3.0 $3.2 $3.0 $4.2 $4.0 $3.0 $3.0 $3.2 |
$3.0 $4.2 $4.0 $5.2 $5.3 $4.0 $4.1 $4.2 $3.0 $3.1 $3.2 $2.0 $2.1 $3.0 $2.1 $2.3 | $1.0 $2.3 $2.1 $1.0 $2.3 $2.1 $2.0 $2.3 $3.0.$2.0 $3.0.$2.h1 $3.0.$2.1 $3.0.$2.1 $3.0.$2.1 $3.0 $3.0 $3.2 |


A Section II

$3.0 $1. $4.2 $1. $3.0 $1. $4.2 $1. $3.0 $2.1 $2.1 $3.0 $2.1 $1. $3.0 $3.2 | $3.0 $4.2 $4.0 $5.2 $5.3 $4.0 $4.2 $4.3 $3.0 $3.2 $3.0 $4.2 $4.0 $1. $3.0 $3.2 |
$3.0 $4.2 $4.0 $5.2 $5.3 $4.0 $4.1 $4.2 $3.0 $3.1 $3.2 $2.0 $2.1 $3.0 $2.1 $2.3 | $1.0 $2.3 $2.1 $1.0 $2.3 $2.1 $2.0 $2.3 $3.0.$2.0 $3.0.$2.h1 $3.0.$2.1 $3.0.$2.1 $3.0.$2.1 $1. $5.3.$4.2.$3.0.$2.1 $1. |


B Section - From Breakdown

$2./5.$1.0 $1. $1.1 $1. $1.3 $1. $1. $1.0 $2.3 $2.2 $2.3 $1.0 $1.1 $1. $1. $1.0 | $2.1 $2.3 $1.0 $1.3 $1. $1.5 $1.3 $1.0 $1.1 $1.0 $2.3 $2.1 $2.0 $3.0 $3.2 $2.0 |
$2.1 $1. $1.0 $1. $1.3 $1. $1. $1.0 $2.3 $2.2 $2.3 $1. $1.1 $1. $1.3 $1.1 | $1.0 $2.3 $2.1 $1.0 $2.3 $2.1 $2.0 $2.3 $3.0.$2.0 $3.0.$2.h1 $3.0.$2.1 $3.0.$2.1 $5.3.$4.2.$3.0.$2.1 $5.3.$4.2.$3.0.$2.1 $5.3.$4.2.$3.0.$2.1 $5.3.$4.2.$3.0.$2.1 |


Loop 10:20 Breakdown of B Section





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James Reed
James Reed May 09, 2021

I'm pretty happy with how this one turned out! My own observation is that my dynamics are unstable which I think is affected by me pushing the tempo on this take and struggling to control the 1.3mm primetone pick (I like the depth of the tone this is giving me but I'm really feeling the extra weight compared to an Extra Heavy celluloid).

I think I may be earning myself a trip to the guitar store :-P

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge May 19, 2021

Ooh, I love your chromatic embellishments! Regarding the dynamics, they sound good to me. Sometimes with flatpicking it can be easy to fetishize really even playing - think Tony Rice playing Blackberry Blossom on Manzanita. The guitar playing on that track is INSANE and maybe the most striking element is the cyborg-like precision (in timing, dynamics, touch, etc).

But I actually think it's fun when an entire line has a dynamic contour. So I would actually suggest that you try singing the tune and see where the dynamics, accents and melodic contours are falling naturally. Then, once you have a handle on how you naturally are thinking about the melody, adapt it to the guitar.

Re the flatpick, I got into using a bluechip TP-48 about 4 years ago and I love it. I especially like the way the TP-48 feels in my hands. It's more maneuverable than what I was using before. They're expensive at $35 per pick, but if you're not someone who loses/misplaces your picks, I think they're worth the money (I can use the same pick for almost a year). Of course, your mileage may vary!

James Reed
James Reed May 24, 2021

I missed your comment here. I was back-and-forth on the dissonant chromatic line between 0:36-0:38 for a while as it's a bit... outside... haha.

Thanks for you thoughts regarding dynamics; I've never heard someone flatpick in person which makes it tricky to imagine what things 'really' sound like with all of the nuance that mics don't capture. Catching Punch Brothers in London a couple of times is my only live reference at all!

I've spent £25 trying different picks over the last couple of months as I've never really deviated from a heavy 351 style; I can only buy primetones in packs of 3 which did get a bit expensive with a few styles and shipping. I'll definitely consider a Blue Chip once I've settled on a style/thickness for flatpicking in general :-)

Markus Rapke
Markus Rapke Nov 02, 2018

Hello Chris,

I am Markus from Germany and new to yoursite. I spent some time in Bluegrass already, loving it!!! It made me playing guitar again. I started with the fundamentals and noticed that I obviously do have some bad habbits as you explain! For an example and for your advice I recorded Soldiers Joy (Missed some of the notes) with my handycam for you. 

- My left hand thumb: I can't put it on the backside of the neck while playing with open strings. In higher regions and playing closed positions I can, but not on the first three frets.... If I try it feels uncomfortable to me although I notice that I loose some of the good tone.

- Watching my video and your videos... My right hand looks kind of blocked? Stiff? If I concentrate on moving my wrist more, I get good tone but I loose speed.... 


Keep up your great work! 





Torgeir Jorem
Torgeir Jorem Nov 02, 2018

Wow, that sounds really good!

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Nov 21, 2018

Hi Markus, 

Nice job here! I appreciate that you've got some of your own licks going on. To answer your questions:

- It is only important to have your thumb on the back of the neck when you move up the neck and out of open position. So for me, as soon as move up the neck to play more than a few notes my thumb will drop down and I will have a much easier time playing. Your leverage gets better, but also your reach and ability to access more notes improves drastically. In open position, however, this doesn't matter at all. You'll notice that in the intro video for this lesson my thumb is hanging over the side of the neck. 

- I agree that your wrist does look very stiff. Despite that, there's a "bounce" in your sound which is good! Often a stiff looking wrist also sounds stiff. Not so here. However, I think it would worth it for you to invest some energy into exploring a more loose wrist. I'm going to reshare some advice I gave to another student here: 

Try giving yourself permission to be really sloppy and then actually inhabit a caraciture of looseness in your wrist. Like, make it really loose and let your notes sound sloppy to a ridiculuous degree. You're giving yourself a free pass on cleanliness so that you can start discovering a new way to play. What you want to do is feel how loose your wrist could be. Take a mental snapshot of this and reference it whenever you're feeling tight. If you practice being loose you'll be sloppy in the short term, but as time goes on your body will figure out how to be both loose and accurate.

Keep up the good work!


lewis Apr 28, 2016

Hey Chris,

Thanks for this lesson - I've been having a lot of fun working on this tune. I'd appreciate any general feedback you have, and also specifically around whether you think I'm over-using hammers and pulls (which so far I'm pretty reliant on to get round the tune at something apporaching a picking-session-ready tempo).



Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Apr 28, 2016

Lewis, GREAT job! You've pulled off the difficult balancing act of playing with a propulsive forward motion and sounding (and looking) super relaxed. There is a real flow to your performance that is wonderful. However you are doing that, keep doing it! So I don't Really have any input on how to play that better, but I would ask the question: can you maintain that sense of relaxation and flow while you're improvising/playing without the safety net of knowing what's coming next?

Darren Mar 01, 2016

 Hey Chris. I'm getting a thumping sound while I pick this song would that be a technique thing or would that just be the acoustic I'm playing. Anything else you can see to work on?

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Mar 27, 2016

Darren, you sound really good flatpicking this. I'm not hearing the thumping that you describe, but that might be a limitation of either the microphone or my speakers. But visually speaking your technique looks good - I can't see anything that you're doing that would create that kind of sound. Most likely it's the guitar. A lot of acoustics just have a woofy resonant frequency within that can be activated by anything.

The next step for refining this would be to get your ryhthm to have the propulsive, relentless yet still swinging thing that the flatpicking greats have. Listen to Doc Watson, Norman Blake, Tony Rice, Clarence White. There is a sense of forward movement with all of these guys that is very intoxicating. You're clearly an excellent musician so I think with a little bit of careful listening you'll hear what I'm talking about and then you can start to integrate it into your playing.

Alex B
Alex B Dec 07, 2015


Howdy Chris,

I realize this lesson is from a few weeks ago but I wanted to share how I've been doing with this tune. This run through is far from perfect but I think its good enough to get your feedback. I tried to accentuate the downbeat nature of the A part with the up-beat feel of the B part to enhance the contrast between the parts. Hoping this doesn't come off as too dramatic.

Are there any tips you have for improving fluency between notes? Do you endorse playing to a slow metronome? 

Thanks so much! 

Mike Caren
Mike Caren Dec 07, 2015

That is some great picking Alex.  Inspiring.  

Alex B
Alex B Dec 07, 2015

What an incredibly nice thing to say, Mike. Thank you very much! 

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Dec 10, 2015


you sound great! Your accentuation of the downbeats in the A part is working perfectly. It sets up the B part to be a nice relief.

One thought for now: it looks like you're holding a bit of tension in your right forearm. Try giving yourself permission to be really sloppy and then actually inhabit a caraciture of looseness in your right arm. Like, make it really loose and let your notes sound sloppy to a ridiculuous degree. What you want to do is feel how loose your arm could be. Take a mental snapshot of this and reference it whenever you're feeling tight. If you practice being loose you'll be sloppy in the short term, but as time goes on your body will figure out how to be both loose and accurate.

Practicing really slowly is a great thing to do, mostly to make sure that you know exactly what you're doing and there aren't any notes that you're glossing over. Also, imagine the sound that you want to be making. It all starts in your head.

Great job though. I look forward to hearing more!


Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Nov 24, 2015

Hey Bruce, you're doing great! You've got the notes and the timing down.

The first thing to work on is making sure that when you're playing 16th notes your pick direction is staying correct. I'm being a stickler, but this is important because we want to encourage you to find the physical "bounce" and "flow" in your right hand mechanism. Pick direction is the first step to finding that. Your pick direction gets flipped for a couple of soconds at 0:14. Also, immediately following at 0:16 you play the ending phrase (all 16th notes) with all downstrokes but they should be alternating because they're 16th notes. Also, try slowing your metronome down 50% so that it is clicking half as often, but the tempo you are playing at stays the same.



Bruce Dumes
Bruce Dumes Nov 25, 2015

Hey Chris --

Thanks for being a stickler, that's why I asked! ;-) I'll work on that. I have observed as I've been working on it so far how much the physical aspect of picking affects this style of playing, so I understand that you aren't being arbitrary. I've found this piece is forcing me to rethink how I hold the pick. By the way, I was playing along yesterday with Doc Watson on his version of "Tennessee Stud" off "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" and wondered how you would compared Doc's flatpicking style with that of Tony Rice or Clarence White. It still amazes me just how clean Doc could play.

Anyway, thanks a lot for the detailed analysis! I will work on it! 



Bruce Dumes
Bruce Dumes Nov 24, 2015

Hey Chris -

So I'm still working on this and can't play it up to tempo yet, but just wanted to make sure I was getting the right feel. This style of picking is harder than it looks! ;-) Feedback would be most welcome. Thanks! Bruce

Bruce Dumes
Bruce Dumes Nov 13, 2015

Another really great lesson, Chris! Thanks! Looking forward to working on it.

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Nov 14, 2015

Awesome. Looking forward to hearing it!

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