Chris Eldridge

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Soldier's Joy

Norman Blake Inspired Flatpicking

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Soldier's Joy > Norman Blake Inspired Flatpicking

This week I'm going to show you a version of mine of Soldier's Joy that draws its inspiration from Norman Blake. Norman Blake, if you're not familiar with him, is an American treasure. He's a brilliant songwriter (Church Street Blues and Ginseng Sullivan are songs of his), warm, soulful vocalist, and absolutely one of the coolest flatpickers. He has a style that employs lots of brushes and lots of funky percussiveness.

If you want to investigate Norman, check out Whiskey Before Breakfast. It's a classic.





Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:
Chris Eldridge
Soldier's Joy
Norman Blake

Print Print Chords & Tab

Loop 0:00 Run-Through of Norman Blake Inspired Solidier'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.$2.1 $3.2 |


A Section

$3.0 $4.0 $4.2 $3.0.$2.1 $5.3 $3.0.$2.1 $4.0 $4.2 $3.0 $2.1 $1. $3.0 $3.0.$2.1 $1. $3.0.$2.1 $3.2 | $3.0 $4.0 $4.2 $3.0.$2.1 $5.3 $4.0 $4.2 $3.0.$2.1 $6.3.$4.0.$3.0 $1. $6.3.$4.0.$3.0.$2.3.$1.3 $1. $1. $1. $3.0.$2.1 $3.2 |
$3.0 $4.0 $4.2 $3.0.$2.1 $5.3 $3.0.$2.1 $4.0 $4.2 $3.0 $2.1 $1. $3.0 $3.0.$2.1 $1. $4.5.$3.0.$2.5 $1. | $1. $1. $4.2.$3.0.$2.1 $1. $4.3.$3.0.$2.3 $1. $4.3.$3.0.$2.0 $1. $4.2.$3.0.$2.1 $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $3.0.$2.1 $3.2 |


A Section II

$3.0 $4.0 $4.2 $3.0.$2.1 $5.3 $3.0.$2.1 $4.0 $4.2 $3.0 $2.1 $1. $3.0 $3.0.$2.1 $1. $3.0.$2.1 $3.2 | $3.0 $4.0 $4.2 $3.0.$2.1 $5.3 $4.0 $4.2 $3.0.$2.1 $6.3.$4.0.$3.0 $1. $6.3.$4.0.$3.0.$2.3.$1.3 $1. $1. $1. $3.0.$2.1 $3.2 |
$3.0 $4.0 $4.2 $3.0.$2.1 $5.3 $3.0.$2.1 $4.0 $4.2 $3.0 $2.1 $1. $3.0 $3.0.$2.1 $1. $4.5.$3.0.$2.5 $1. | $1. $1. $4.2.$3.0.$2.1 $1. $4.3.$3.0.$2.3 $1. $4.3.$3.0.$2.0 $1. $4.2.$3.0.$2.1 $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. |


B Section

$4.2.$3.0 $1. $4.3 $1. $3.0.$2.1 $1. $1. $1. $4.0.$3.0.$2.1 $1. $4.2 $1. $4.3 $3.0.$2.1 $4.2 $4.0 | $5.3 $3.0.$2.1 $4.2 $1. $3.0.$2.1 $1. $4.0 $4.2 $4.0 $5.2 $5.0 $6.2 $6.3 $3.0.$2.1 $4.0 $4.2 |
$1. $3.0.$2.1 $4.3 $1. $3.0.$2.1 $1. $1. $4.2 $4.0.$3.0 $1. $4.2 $1. $4.3 $1. $3.0 $4.3 | $4.2 $4.0 $5.3 $4.2 $4.0 $5.3 $5.0 $5.2 $5.3 $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $4.2.$3.0 $1. |


B Section II

$1. $1. $4.3 $1. $3.0.$2.1 $1. $1. $1. $4.0.$3.0.$2.1 $1. $4.2 $1. $4.3 $3.0.$2.1 $4.2 $4.0 | $5.3 $3.0.$2.1 $4.2 $1. $3.0.$2.1 $1. $4.0 $4.2 $4.0 $5.2 $5.0 $6.2 $6.3 $3.0.$2.1 $4.0 $4.2 |
$1. $3.0.$2.1 $4.3 $1. $3.0.$2.1 $1. $1. $4.2 $4.0.$3.0 $1. $4.2 $1. $4.3 $1. $3.0 $4.3 | $4.2 $1. $5.3 $4.2 $4.0 $5.3 $5.0 $5.2 $5.3 $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. $1. |



Loop 1:12 Norman Blake's Style

Loop 3:14 A Section Breakdown

Loop 13:41 B Section Breakdown

Loop 16:37 Closing Thoughts





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James Reed
James Reed May 18, 2021

I had a great time praciticing this one; I really enjoyed the right hand style.

I've acquired 2 new students by playing bits from these lessons in guitar shops while browsing so thank you for making Sonic Junction self sustaining for me! I invested in this Atkin OM37 which I think sounds great :-)

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge May 19, 2021

Hey James,

You sound great here. Very clear, nice flow and just generally musical. I have a question and two suggestions:

The question is: as you continue to practice this are you able to bring the tempo up closer to where I play it? My guess is that the right hand becomes more difficult as the speed increases because most of the lateral string-to-string picking motion is coming almost exclusively from your wrist. If you shift the guitar slightly to your left so that your forearm can reorient to be slightly more horizontal then you can engage your elbow more meaningfully in the pick stroke. To be clear, a pick stroke ideally is one fully integrated movement that engages your whole arm (and really, actually, your whole body) - not just something happening your elbow or your wrist. So see if shifting the guitar and, accordingly, the angle of your forearm helps the movement to feel more unified.

The other suggestion is to see where hammer-ons and pull offs complement the melody and give your right hand a break. It's important to remember that they can subtely change the contour of a melodic line. Experiment and use those subtle tweaks to your musical advantage. There's not a right or correct way to do this - the slurs will just change the emphases of the notes you're already playing, so see what you like. The melody will become more dynamic and your right hand will thank you - win win!


James Reed
James Reed May 20, 2021

Thanks, Chris.

I've tried to increase the tempo as much as I can in this video for technique feedback but I can't match you yet. As you predicted, it's difficult to hold everything together. I could get quicker but I think that the single note runs would become significantly weaker and lose balance with the rest.

I've adjusted my right arm position here - how's this looking to you? This feels weird at the moment so my playing isn't good here even at the slow speed. I'm happy to persevere for a few weeks but wanted to check that it's off to the right start :-)

I'll have an experiment with the slurs for sure - breaks for the right hand sound great right now haha

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge May 20, 2021

Hey James, this is great - thanks for both videos. 

You're doing a fine job on the quicker video using your normal technique - your wrist is getting quite the workout! 

Even though the technique isn't as assured on the second video, your forearm and mechanism on the whole looks more relaxed. My suggestion is this: try for a forearm position that splits the difference between your old position and the new one. See if you can find a spot that still retains a bit more fundamental familiarity but where you also are engaging your forearm a bit, as in the second video. I'm guessing that the split difference will be the sweet spot where you can encourage a better, more wholistic movement pattern but it doesn't feel like you're starting from scratch. 

James Reed
James Reed May 23, 2021

I think I've found the middle ground - my arm position hasn't really changed but my pick stroke is less wrist-based which is making things easier to control.

This take is at 110bpm with a few fluffs but it's a fair representation of an average runthrough. I'll be tidying it up over the coming weeks but think it's time to start working on something new too :-)

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge May 23, 2021

Yes! This looks much more relaxed and flowing to me. Keep working on it of course, but you're on a good path here!

Jono Mar 29, 2020

Hey Chris,

This is my first upload!
Love your teaching methods,


Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Apr 12, 2020

bryan Apr 02, 2017

Hey Chris,

That looks like a bluechip pick. What thickness do you like? I'm new to flatpicking but I feel like if I get a heavier pick I lose some of the 'connected' feeling of the string. Just trying to find the right balance. 



Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Apr 03, 2017

Hey Bryan, it is indeed a blueChip. In the video I was either using a CT 55 or TAD 60, but lately I've been using a TAD 50. Bluechips are great as long as you don't lose them! :-)

Allen StJohn
Allen StJohn Apr 03, 2017

I love Blue Chips too and managed to not to lose any of the three I've acquired. (On UMGF and Mandolin Cafe there's a pretty active market where you can trade and buy and sell lightly used Blue Chips for $25 all day long.)
That said, I recently bought a handful of Dunlop Primetones, and while they're not as super slick as a Blue Chip, they're a surprisingly good $1.50 alternative for stuffing in a jeans pocket or wallet, or where you might drop a Blue Chip in the (blue)grass, never to be found again. 

I like the shape of these which are pretty close to a Blue Chip TPR 45, but they make them in a variety of sizes and materials.

Kip Marchetti
Kip Marchetti Mar 07, 2017

Chris, I'm so glad I ventured out tonight to see you and Julian perform at the sold-out Club Cafe Pittsburgh Show. My face is sore from smiling for a solid 90 minutes. Thanks to you both for an incredible performance. The songs from the new record are wonderful and sound great, as well as the tunes from Avalon. Special thanks for performing Ginseng Sullivan.  It's a night and show I'll never forget.


Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Mar 10, 2017

Thanks Kip! It was great to see you out there! Sorry i didn't get to say hi in person.

Kip Marchetti
Kip Marchetti Mar 05, 2017

I'm not sure where to post this rendition but I suppose there is some Norman Blake inspired picking in there midway through. I never got around to learning Soldier's Joy when it was first taught but I've been meaning to ever since, so the last couple of weeks I've been knocking away at it. I know there are some timing issues to deal with (there always are) and when I tried to play along with a metronome it was a disaster.

METRONOME the word itself rattles me. I've been practicing picking exercises and stuff with said metronome for a week or two and although there has been the slightest of improvement I'm starting to wonder how I can chew gum and walk at the same time.

Also, sorry about this video being right in your face, I'm too lazy to dig out my mic and other gadgetry so I have to set the lap top right there and boom ... in your face. I've been meaning to get better control of my gadgetry among other things.


Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Mar 06, 2017

Kip, you're killing me Buddy! Awesome!

Allen StJohn
Allen StJohn Dec 14, 2015

Totally stumbled upon this: Norman (and Friends!) picking Soldier's Joy on Hee Haw. Norman's playing that mystical 12-fret D-28 shade top.
So fun I thought I'd share.
And thanks for the great arrangement, Chris.

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Dec 16, 2015

Awesome! Can you share the link? I couldn't find it!

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Dec 16, 2015

Nevermind, I got it. And John Hartford, Byron Berline, Earl Scruggs, Marty Stewart too!

John Dunn
John Dunn Nov 29, 2015

 Hey Chris, thanks for the fast feedback! got some work with the metronome in on this cleaning up that missing drone and getting the meoldy of the b-part sorted out. Let me know what you hear! thanks again.

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Nov 29, 2015

Great improvement! That sounds really good! My main comment now is make sure you keep the timing steady when you play those bass runs down to the G chord in the B part - they're rushing a little right now. You want to keep that flow groovy and steady. But all in all, great progress and great job!

John Dunn
John Dunn Nov 27, 2015

 Hey Chris, thanks for the awesome lesson, really enjoying working on this, I know I'm muffing some phrasing in this (or maybe emphasis is a better word, (or both)) but between watching the video wtih the slowdowner and the tab I can't quite pin point it in the B section. Looking forward to your feedback! 


thanks, Jack


Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Nov 28, 2015

Hey Jack,

The A part is really close. I'm just being a stickler here, because what you're playing totally works, but I believe you're leaving out the second "drone" double stop (2nd 16th note of 2nd beat of first full measure--check in the tab). That one missing doublestop shifts everything behind it foreward one 16th note. If you add that back in it'll add a cool extra layer of syncopation and I think it'll actually be easier too!

For the B part, you're right--it does get off the rails a touch from the melody. With any situation like this where you might feel more lost my main advice is make sure that you can sing it. My variation of playing it low is actually quite close to the original way I showed the melody in the earlier lesson, just down an octave. So let that be your guide. It's the melody down an octave with a couple of extra bass runs. Nothing too crazy (unlike the A part which is a little more out). Make sure you can sing it along with me playing it. Then put it on the guitar. Also, try practicing this with the metronome as well. Get the metronome clicking in 4/4 where the first beat of the measure is accentuated. That'll help keep things honest.

Good luck and please, if you would, upload another video once you feel like you've made some progress.


Bruce Dumes
Bruce Dumes Nov 22, 2015

Fascinating contrast between this and the previous fingerpicking version! And really great playing. Thanks for the really inspired lesson, Chris! 

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