Play Guitar In 7 Days!
Lesson Three: “About Time”
In the days before digital sampling and looping, if someone wanted to quote a piece of music they had to learn how to play it on a musical instrument. Quoting musical passages can be an effective weapon in your musical arsenal, as long as it isn’t overused: people like hearing catchy, familiar-sounding tunes and you may win them over by sneaking one in unexpectedly. “About Time” contains a traditional Appalachian melody entitled “Old Joe Clark”; it was originally played on a fiddle (which is a violin that doesn’t play classical music). Practicing scales will help you achieve the speed needed to play passages like this at a fast tempo. (More on “scales” in a later lesson!)
The above example is written in what is called tablature (“tab” for short), a system of reading music that doesn’t require reading music! Finally, guitarists can enjoy the same literacy skills as other musicians (minus a few details, such as tempo, dynamics, accents, etc., but did you want to learn to play guitar just so someone could tell you what to do all the time?).
Each line in tablature corresponds to a string on the guitar: the bottom line is the low (6th) string; the top line is the high (1st) string. The numbers on the lines are the frets where each note is played; read in sequence, from left to right. If two numbers are on top of each other, those two notes would be played together at the same time.
For this excerpt, you would want to spread your fingers out into a position: in this case, 3rd position, which means 1st finger is placed at the 3rd fret, with the remaining fingers each assigned to their own adjacent fret. Yes, that includes the pinky (baby) finger on the 6th fret! You really want to use all four fretting fingers – using less than four may trip you up (and don’t use the thumb, contrary to advice in Lessons 1 and 2).
Practice in an even eighth-note rhythm, slowly at first, enjoying the mechanical down-up motion of the pick (“plectrum” for our friends in the U.K.). Do not attempt to go too fast at first! Patience is a virtue. When you can play the excerpt evenly at a slow tempo while saying the alphabet backwards, you are ready to start cranking up the metronome. If you don’t have a metronome, you can use the second hand of an analog clock, but you won’t be able to increase the speed: it will always be 60 beats per minute. Another plan is to download a metronome app. Good luck!