Learn one of the most recognizable Bluegrass rhythmic elements. The G run is a very versitile lick with several variations and ways to integrate it into your playing.
- We've discussed lots of ways to embellish basic rhythm patterns. One key technique that you can't leave out when you're talking about bluegrass rhythm and what makes bluegrass rhythm specific is the G run. It sort goes all the way back. Again, we talked about sort of days of county music and bluegrass before there was big ensembles and big bass and all this kind of stuff and how rhythm guitar was really the main rhythm element of an ensemble and so we've talk about alternate bass notes and roots and fifths.
(guitar strums rhythmically) You know, different techniques that you can apply within a bar to kind of enhance the overall picture and again, we're breaking things down to kind of key elements and working towards putting all this together in some tunes later on. Here's one more technique that I want to isolate and it's the G run. It sort of goes back, I think one of the first recorded versions that I'm aware of, you hear it a lot in old country music, but as far as bluegrass specifically, Bill Monroe actually played a version of it when he was on the Grand Ole Opry in 1939.
He recorded a version of Mule Skinner Blues and that's one of the earliest versions you can actually hear the G run applied in bluegrass. And another player that kind of put it on the map, if you will, for bluegrass rhythm playing was Lester Flatt. And it's good to start with him because he had one of the more basic forms of it. You might see if you're aware of it, you'll see all different kind of ways to do it. The Lester Flatt version, if you create, again, we've got our alternate bass G boom chuck strum and strum and all kinds, everything we've talked about 'til now working.
(rhythmic guitar strumming) Lester would just play. You know, so at the end of two bars. (rhythmic guitar strumming) And so he sort of builds to the second fret of the D string, the E, into the open G. And what it does, it defines the end of this phrase. So, a way to practice the Lester Flatt version we're gonna apply this to all these other ones is to imagine we're at the end of a verse or a chorus so we play a G.
Walk to a D. So that's a big component of bluegrass rhythm. (rhythmic guitar strumming) And it kind of defines the next, we've talked about how good musical flat picking and bluegrass rhythm, that you know, you try to make the rhythm as obvious as possible and to do things with a guitar to really dictate where the time is and the feel of the thing.
That's the purpose of the G run, really, is to sort of mark the end of phrases. Let a listener, let other people in the band know, it sort of further solidifies the time. So, that's the basic Lester version. Lester Flatt. An expanded version of that is isolated, it started on the open A and it uses some of our picking techniques that we've used up 'til now. (rhythmic guitar strumming) Is the lick there and so that's done by sliding and playing the open A string, sliding in from the first fret to the second fret.
And then you've got an upstroke on the D. And then a pull off from fretted E to open D again. And then a rest stroke into G. So it's a way, in bluegrass rhythm, suddenly employs a lot the single note flat picking stuff we've been talking about, so. (mythic guitar playing) So there's that one. If you listen to Del McCoury, he came along, and we've talked about voicings and how this chord sort of sounds a certain way, big and full, you know, more happy kind of sounding thing as opposed to this version.
Little more, a little meaner. A little more to the point. What Del McCoury did, and other guys around that time, you know, in the 50s and 60s when bluegrass was kind of moving on, instead of using the E note, Del McCoury played an F note which added a whole blues elements to the G run. You know, you can hear the difference.
One of the things we're trying to build here a sense about how to use different, these ascpects in rhythm guitar and we're gonna put 'em all into use here in a minute. Soon as you break things down, that's the difference in sound though. (rhythmic guitar plays) And that's all based out of that major and pentatonic ideas with G. Sort of, basically, the G run is sort of built out of a pentatonic scale that we've already talked about. If you don't want to do the pull off you don't have to.
And so the F note, you know, you can hear the difference when you isolate both of 'em together and how the just one note difference sort of changes the whole character of that kind of lick. But again, the why you use 'em doesn't change. It's to mark the end of, if you've got a four bar line, you've got a one, five, and then two bars of one. (rhythmic guitar strumming) And the point is to try to make them strong.
They need to cut through the band. And so that's, we're building technique and trying to build strength here. But you don't want to overplay 'em, but-- (rhythmic guitar strumming) You know, isolating these movements, when you go back and forth like that, you want to feel, if you practice this this way you want to feel like the G run has it's own sort of internal rhythm. (rhythmic guitar strumming) You know, because it's sort of leading to home.
You know, a lot of this stuff we're gonna get into later talks about leading back to our concept of where the root is. You know, all those ascending notes lead to that final big pop of G at the end of the phrase. And that's really what, especially when you see Jimmy Martin and some of the classic bluegrass rhythm players, they really had an attitude behind it. I encourage you to go listen and try to be aware of all the different sounds of that. Another way we'll get it to a couple more little things.
There are ways, if you're playing in the key of D. You know, we talked about just the basic pentatonic idea of a G run. In D, you have one built in right there. (guitar strumming) The same basic form with your left hand it's just everything is moved a string lower. So, using that same four bar idea.
Or there's different ways, here's another way. (guitar strumming) Or then the Del McCoury attitude with the adding the blues note. You know, taking the-- (guitar strums) Playing a C. (guitar strums) You can make choices, you can choose, you know, I'll give you the freedom to use those pull offs or not. (guitar strums) Or-- (guitar strums) So, there's different ways to do it.
And, you know, as we grow into this and we find different ways, to me, it's kind of neat to discover different ways to kind of do things like this because ultimately it kind of strengthens your sense of how rhythm can be used and how it can really enhance wherever you're playing. But the G run is probably the most important element to define bluegrass rhythm as a style.
Note: This course was recorded and produced by ArtistWorks. We are honored to host this training in our library.
- Intermediate bluegrass guitar techniques
- Intermediate fretting
- Hammer-ons and pull-offs in G, C, and D
- Intermediate rhythm exercises
- Playing intermediate bluegrass tunes
- Opening up the fretboard with expanded scales and chord exercises