Delta Blues Fingerstyle


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04-23-2008, 08:44 AM
I've become mesmerised by the guitar playing of Mississippi John Hurt, John Lee Hooker, Lonnie Johnson, etc. etc. and am wondering if any of you know of good tutorials on how to play with that style.

From talking to a man who plays that style music in a pub every week, it seems like a fairly specific art form that you have to be taught carefully, so I'd like to get it right.



ze monsta
04-23-2008, 12:12 PM
Mississippi John Hurt is incredible.

It's Piedmont Blues, mainly, where that intricate finger picking style is from. I'd love to play in pubs when I'm older, just playing Piedmont and singing. :)

I've never been taught how to play it, but have picked it up from watching videos of people like Mississippi John Hurt, Rev. Gary Davis, Skip James (who is strictly Bentonia School, but uses the same picking technique) and listening to Blind Willie McTell over, and over and over again to work out his songs.

I wouldn't say it's difficult, but it takes time to learn I suppose. I wouldn't say John Lee Hooker is the same though, he played a kind of one chord boogie, or a lick used throughout most of the song, slightly changed (like a motif is classical music).
Is that the kind of thing you want?

Reverend Gary Davis was an incredible guitarist, despite being blind. He was incredibly right handed, and had incredible picking technique.

Try and use your thumb for bass notes on the A string and D string ( I don't tend to use the low E isn't used very often in Piedmont it), and your first and second fingers for the G, B and high E strings.

Piedmont blues incorporates ragtime styling, along with delta and old time blues. It's the greatest mixture imo, it's the ragtime which really give is the more interesting flavour to it, if you will. :liplick:

04-23-2008, 12:31 PM
The most important thing is keeping your thumb rhythm steady. You're going to be constantly hitting notes on just about every beat with your thumb, alternating between the three bottom strings. Then you have to use your other fingers to play the melody on the upper strings. Easier said than done, because you have to separate the two in your head so you don't get mixed up and confused. Just keep that thumb going steady until it becomes automatic and you should be alright.

ze monsta
04-23-2008, 12:36 PM
You mean that as in, making sure it's on beat rather than playing every note. Right Jim?
If so, most definitely.

04-23-2008, 12:43 PM
yes, that's a good point. Much more important to keep a rock steady beat then hit every note for this kind of style.

04-23-2008, 04:54 PM
^ yes, and training the thumb will be very difficult, but worth it, I had to train my thumb for a long time before I could play some folk songs I know, but once you have that skill, the rest will fall into place

you have to sort of, disconnect all of your fingers, your thumb is the bass, your fingers the melody, that is the hard part, especially if the 2 aren't in time with one another.

and youtube is your friend, it's a great resource for lessons.


04-24-2008, 03:51 AM
Thank you guys! Very useful. Ze monsta, that is what I was looking for, yes.

04-24-2008, 03:57 AM
Yes! I recommend deltabluestips on youtube. Great guy and he teaches... well.... delta blues :)

ze monsta
04-24-2008, 11:56 AM
I think an easy place to start with Piedmont blues, song wise is Big Bill Broonzy. Key To The Highway is a simple chord progression and it's not too quick.

You'll find a lot of songs are the same, so to avoid them sounding identical, try capoing the 4 fret and playing it up there or something like that.

04-27-2008, 06:36 AM
Thanks guys! deltabluestips is very useful, but having spent the last three or four years trying to not anchor anything, it's going to be hard to rest my palm on the bridge, but I suppose it's necessary to separate bass from treble notes.

I'm learning Key To The Highway, I always liked that song anyway, so it's useful that it's a good one to learn! It's very hard to learn, but I'm taking it slowly and I suppose I'll get there!

ze monsta
04-27-2008, 07:30 AM
Don't anchor your palm.
You'll get more tone, and it will sound better towards the neck.
I don't anchor my palm, I balance my 3rd and 4th finger just below the sound hole. It allows you more movement of the hand, meaning you can play much quicker, and it's easier. It also means you can drop your palm down to mute when you need to instead of killing all the sound.

04-27-2008, 09:44 AM
Ah right, thank you. I'll give that a try then. Do most guitarists not mute the bass notes then? From the sounds of Mississippi John Hurt etc., it does sound as if they're muted.

ze monsta
04-27-2008, 10:15 AM
Here's a perfect example of what I'm saying you should do, from the man himself, Mississippi John Hurt.