Bluegrass Players Welcome & Technique Discussion

Howdy from Nashville TN! I hope everyone is doing well. I recently stumbled across this site and just love the level of detail in this content and I am excited to dive into it to break plateaus in my own playing. I am primarily a bluegrass player from North Carolina but studied jazz for a bit in college, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have toured for two years as a lead guitarist for #1 hit country artist, Chris Janson. I’m glad to see that Andy Wood has covered a lot of material here. He is truly a wunderkind and I saw him play multiple times when we were out on the road with LoCash.

I am no longer touring as my main source of income but I am still a very active player. Not having to be dependent on my music to eat has allowed me to really get back to my roots as a guitarist and focus on the types of music that I really enjoy.

With that said, I want to open up a discussion for people who specifically play bluegrass guitar and talk about various hurdles we have in our technique as well as our own approaches to fast, clean, and accurate picking.

Many of you may be familiar with Jake Workman (Lead Guitar for Ricky Skaggs) I’ve been able to take a few lessons from him as I am desperately wanting to overcome a speed plateau that I haven’t been able to overcome even with endless effort over the years. I felt that he was the right guy because I saw him play when we were playing the opry a couple years back and he was absolutely ripping “Rawhide” with blistering speed, accuracy, and a huge tone. It looked like he was relaxed but he was also using the arm almost entirely without his wrist being locked.

See a video here:

As a player, I have never been able to alternate my wrist back and forth rapidly. I don’t understand why my anatomy is that way but the only way I can get speed is by using the forearm and Jake’s playing appealed to me because of that.

With that said, I’ve never been able to be accurate using my arm until recently. I feel like I am beginning to unlock the door to a whole new level of tone, speed, and accuracy but this is early in the growth stage. I am really interested in trying different combinations of supinated or pronated grip with upslanted and downslanted angles. Changing strings confidently at speeds of 140+ is a challenge for me. Discipline is not the problem but there is a mechanical issue that I am hoping to overcome as I continue with Jake and dive into the material here.

Has anyone else found themselves in this scenario regarding plateau and how did you overcome it? What works and what doesn’t work?

Thanks so much and look forward to hearing from you guys.

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Yes, I have also taken a couple Skype lessons from Jake( he’s the best) and have similar issues with my right hand. I’ve pretty much given up on trying to play with any amount of speed, using only wrist motion. Like you, it seems I can’t physically move my wrist fast enough. So, as a result, I’ve adopted a mostly elbow motion, which works at even high speeds but causes some other problems, because of my USX, like switching strings after a downstroke. But I’m improving(slowly)…it seems to be my only option!

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Thanks so much for chiming in! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one with the speed cap on the wrist! It’s very interesting to me how certain people gravitate towards elbow/arm use or wrist for speed. I will say that I practiced for a few hours last night really analyzing what was happening when I sped up. My tone and the speed is definitely there but I’ve always lacked control. I tried incorporating some pick slanting. Almost instantly, my control was SO much better and I think it finally clicked what Jake says about “twisting” for the control. I feel that it is only a matter of practice now to truly work up to those blazing fast speeds.

I feel like an idiot for practicing endlessly and hoping for a different result but the analysis of movement is really where it all needs to start!

Good luck picking!

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That’s been probably one of the best pieces of insight I’ve taken from Troy and the work of everyone here at CtC. If you don’t notice an immediate improvement in at LEAST the facility of an aspect of playing, maybe don’t kill yourself trying to make it happen.

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Hi, I don’t suppose you could recommend a good source of bluegrass guitar repertoire with decent tabs that are neither too simplified nor quite as advanced as David Grier’s tunes that are tabbed out on CtC?

I’ve got Lieberson’s “Old-Time Fiddle Tunes for Guitar” and the Brady “Guitar Pickers Fakebook” but they both suffer from tab that is hard to read, plus an overwhelming volume of tunes so I don’t really know where to start.

edit: Perhaps “arrangements for solo/unaccompanied guitar” might have been the best way to put it

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I’d also be very interested in bluegrass resources and what people recommend to start with.

I personally found Brandon Johnson’s youtube channel helpful - I first learned this:

It doesn’t have rolls so it was more approachable for me.

Then I tackled Bryan Sutton’s Beaumont rag with the classic roll:

But I was too lazy to follow along and used this guy’s tab:

I haven’t decided where to go next but I think I’ll try something by Billy Strings.
These channels have a lot of transcriptions, not sure how good:


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welcome to my literal entire life

the best way to dive in and learn bluegrass vocab is to transcribe your favorite players’ solos yourself. Find the songs on youtube, and you can slow it down. Thats what i did. I can solo like sutton, or grier, or doc, only problem is i can’t play faster than 110 bpm lol.

I checked into Brandon’s channel as well, lots of good stuff there. Although I wanted something specific (Wheel Hoss) that I didn’t see a lesson for on his channel and ended up here.

That got me in the ballpark for what I wanted and for where I’m at skill wise, it’s got juuuuust the right amount of rolls and crosspicking where I can get through it but also don’t feel overwhelmed.

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For basic crosspicking practice I’m playing daily through all the heads at http://www.bluegrassguitar.com/leadtabs.html

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That site is a GOLDMINE, thanks for sharing!

ah now this

http://www.bluegrassguitar.com/studytune2.html#tpm1_1

that’s what I’m talking about