Bryan teaches the melody to this basic version of the popular fiddle tune Blackberry Blossom, one of the most commonly played tune in the Flatpick style. The melody of this tune is major scale based in the key of G. Note consistency and note quality are a
- "Blackberry Blossom" is one of the most played tunes in the flatpick guitar style. Most everybody has recorded a version of this, most of the players that we look to as, you know, stalwarts of this sound and purveyors and some of the innovators of this guitar style have played this tune. So it ranks high in the, in the sort of canon of tunes that most flatpickers already know. If you've been playing for a while, you've probably got a version of this already. Here in the basic curriculum, I wanna look at sort of a stripped-down version of the melody, kind of the essential melody notes here that we need to be able to play and understand kind of how to play them, especially here at the basic level, to ensure good tone, good phrasing, and achieve the most, and the deepest musicality.
One of the good things I like about this site is that we can look at basic versions of tunes. Like I said, there's a lot of recorded versions of this tune, lot of embellishment, lot of fanciful kind of unique expression in different recordings of this tune. And here's a look at just what we need to make "Blackberry Blossom" and discover the essence of the tune. If we continue to sort of unpack here, one of the things we notice about this melody, this is one of the things I love about fiddle tunes, is that most of these melodies are major scale based. Here we have a G major scale, and the notes of the G major scale make up the melody of "Blackberry Blossom" and we'll use that later on when we look at embellishing this melody.
But here at the basic curriculum, we start out with most available notes here in the G major scale. (guitar strumming) So that gets us up to bar six here, notice that we break from that G scale for the A cord. (hums) C sharp. And then back to F sharp through the D that sets us back up in the G scale.
So that only one note there that's not exactly in the G major scale. With the A cord, sort of spell that with a C sharp. Then basically what we have here, the theme that is established, is this sort of scalar kind of move. (strumming) Which means, basically we're sort of stair stepping literally one note after the other. In that kind of fashion. Especially on that descending line. (strumming) And that's essentially the A section.
A couple other things to think about here, the fingering for this. If we look at our four fingers on the fourth fret component, where we try to insure that we're in a good fretting arm position, where these fingertips are supported, that can show us where to put our fingers here, over the F sharp here in the first bar. We have the option of playing that with a pinky if we stick to that fourth fret on the four fingers, that's the concept. Sort of not be so rigid with rules around here. Sometimes I notice when I play things faster that I will still keep with that basic idea, but start with my hand in more of a second position where I'm playing the A for instance, with the index finger, and the F sharp with the ring finger.
(strumming) It kind of works through basically all of this A section to treat it that way. So either way, we're still using that four fingers on four frets span, and still looking at the supportive fretting arm that supports those fingers, gets them in the right place, makes these notes consistent and we really want that connected quality here. Part of that scalar stair step kinda nature to this melody.
It's evident here, so the way to make notes not just sound like one note after the other, but really turn them into phrases that are smooth, and we really get an arc to this melody and an ebb and flow that's beautiful. That's one of the reasons why we're always playing this tune in flatpick guitar, because it does have that literal flow to the melody, and the rises and the falls, and it's just a great tune. (strumming) So we have this first position version of the way to finger these notes here, essentially getting that pinky on the F sharp.
Also looking at where the F sharp is the ring finger, all the notes on the second fret are with the index finger. I'll stick with that for a second here. (strumming) One tricky thing, and something to work on, especially here in basic flatpicking, is this idea of sustain when we have open strings.
If we look at bar eight. I can allow all that to ring through three and four, the B note, open four strings, and open third, really sort of spells out that G cord in a really lovely kind of way. (strumming) And the more I can get ringing, and one of the things, because we're mainly dealing with G major scale notes, they all kind of sound nice ringing against each other, we don't get a lot of tension and a lot of sort of angular kind of notes fighting each other.
Everything kinda works together in a good sort of happy fashion here. (strumming) So that's the basic eight A part of "Blackberry Blossom" if we move into the B section, we go to E minor. And so we'll also have some other fingering options here. We get a little more of a specific melody, where the A part kinda just, as we talked about, just sort of floats along like a leaf, kinda falling from a tree down to the ground, in a very sort of stair step, floating kind of fashion.
A little more jump in the B section. A little more variation with the E minor. (strumming) The key thing here is the E note at the downbeat of each bar here, especially 11, 12, and 13. (strumming) And the key thing is to kinda use this option and see the advantage in these consistent downbeats.
(humming) Okay? Try not to rush through those quarter notes that are beat three and four of that first bar. Okay, and one of the things that's sort of underpinning this the churn, the engine of the plane here, is indeed that eighth note pattern. (hums) If I stay in that rhythmic group with my whole picking arm, it's informed by that.
I have a better chance of keeping those longer notes in time and not rushing through that. (strumming) Back to some scale. Now here, for the final phrase, a little challenging for the fingering here. I'm gonna be basically in first position at this point, using my middle finger for the second fret, E, A, and then when it gets to the D, notice that we have a D followed by a G.
I'm gonna try to get to a bar of those two notes here. Okay, so when I hit that D, I know that the G is coming up. A tendency for most people will be to (strumming) kind of lift and replace the ring finger for that G. Try to create this expectation for sustain and connectedness of these notes. So we get more ring, the bar will help us achieve both of those notes with one basic fingering.
Okay, so just especially for the descending phrases, that descending phrase where everything sort of steps its way up in a nice sort of connected fashion. (hums) Where we sort of feel more of a hill than one note after the other, we just feel the climb right there. And the fact that I have this little bit of a challenge here, I try to absorb that into that rhythmic feel of that expectation as the phrase climbs.
Easier said than done, but I think, again, at the basic level, if we start committing to these sounds, and we pay attention to how we can lose tone when we don't do those kind of things. As soon as any of those notes are broken, we kinda lose that sense of the connected nature and the potential for these connected phrases. (strumming) You know, to keep all that sort of sounding and feeling like one thing, that's the goal for practice here. So, a classic fiddle tune here, happy to have this on the site, love knowing that we can have a tune like this on the site, and some of the other just classic flatpicking tunes.
Like I said, if you've been playing this a while, here's more of a basic version. If you're new to this style, you're gonna hear this tune for the rest of your life, if you got to jam sessions and play at festivals and things like this. So I'm happy to present it here.
Watch at your own pace; start and stop where and when you need. Everything that Bryan breaks down he puts back together in chapters 4 and 5, where he shows how to apply what you've learned to a selection of popular bluegrass tunes that are important for the repertoire of any bluegrass guitarist.
Note: This course was recorded and produced by ArtistWorks. We are honored to host this training in our library.
- Chord theory
- The major and pentatonic scales
- Walking bass technique
- Reading tablature
- Beginning hammer-ons and pull-offs
- Beginning slide guitar
- Using a capo
- Playing traditional bluegrass tunes