Known as Mr. Guitar, Chet Atkins is the most recorded solo instrumentalist in music history. As a studio musician, his string-tickling work has gilded the records of Elvis Presley, Kitty Wells, The Everly Brothers, Hank Williams and dozens of other Nashville legends.
Chet’s style influenced such pop greats as Mark Knopfler, Duane Eddy, George Harrison, The Ventures, George Benson and Eddie Cochran, as well as thousands of country pickers. Chet has won nine CMA Awards as Musician of the Year, four Playboy jazz poll honors and thirteen Grammies, more than any other artist in the history of country music.
In this Chet Atkins Style edition of Essentials, Muriel Anderson presents 10 performance studies, all of which have been crafted to impart the key techniques and creative approaches of the Chet Atkins’ signature and very influential style of fingerstyle guitar.
“I was one of many musicians privileged to have learned many tunes directly from Chet — sometimes even as he was composing them. Chet was so open and sharing of his techniques and likewise, I’m now happy to share them with you. Maybe you’d like to learn some “Chet” tunes, but they just seem too daunting. Here’s a way to start. In this course, we’ll take some little exercises and tunes that have techniques that are used a lot in his music. I hope working through these are fun for you, and should at the same time make it much easier to learn his style and to learn whatever you like!”
Muriel will first demonstrate the performance study and then break it down for you, measure-by-measure, emphasizing the key concepts, techniques and creative approaches used in the study.
Maybellish – One of the most approachable of Chet’s tunes is Maybelle, written for Mother Maybelle Carter. We’ll take some of the techniques and structure and create an easy tune called Maybellish that starts with a simple bass-chord accompaniment.
Nashville Hammer – This easy tune is based on Merle Travis’ famous Nine Pound Hammer and has techniques also used in Nashtownville by Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed. It has a more detached feel than the last tune, and uses block chords played together with an alternating bass
Love to Pick – Based on the feel of the song Lover Come Back to Me, this tune is also an exercise in playing the notes of the chord in between the bass notes while keeping the alternating bass going. For most of the tune, you can think of the fingers as doing a simple arpeggio while the thumb is moving back and forth at a regular tempo.
Dontcha Know – In Nashville Hammer we played the chords together with the bass, and in Love to Pick we arpeggiated the chords between the bass notes. With this tune, we’ll mix both techniques to create a charming melody. In the first ending we’ll introduce two typical voicings for the D7 chord, and in the second ending we’ll give you a cross-string fingering lick typical of Chet’s more fancy arrangements.
Waiting on the Weather – Waiting on the Weather is another tune in Am, based on both Windy and Warm and Waiting for the Times to Get Better. We’ll introduce playing a pull-off while keeping the alternating bass going, and also playing around a 4-string bar on the 5th fret. There is an open-voicing descending pattern for the last variation.
Jo Bangles – Jo Bangles is a very short tune in 3/4 time, named after Chet’s nickname for his popular arrangement Mr. Bojangles. The same bass-brush-brush pattern with the thumb can be used for many tunes in 3/4 time.
Rolling Hills – You can think of these right hand patterns as three-finger banjo rolls, a technique used in bluegrass banjo playing. It’s really just two arpeggios put together. The right hand plays thumb, index, middle, and then moves to adjacent strings with the same pattern: thumb, index, middle.
Chet’s Train – Freight Train is one of Chet Atkins’ most popular arrangements. This tune, Chet’s Train, is much easier, and still covers most of the moves you’ll find when working through Freight Train.
Mr Chester – We’re taking a leap here in difficulty, so this one is extra credit! I include it because it’s an excerpt of a tune I wrote based on what Chet Atkins might have played. I used the alternating bass, sounds and chord inversions that reminded me of his playing and put them into a new tune.
A Fine Pickle – This is an excerpt of A Fine Pickle, a tune in Chet Atkins’s style that I wrote recently to go along with a black-and-white silent film that my grandparents took in 1929, during Prohibition, when they did what many Americans did – took friends and family on vacation to Canada!
All of the performances are tabbed and notated for your practice, reference and study purposes. You’ll also get Guitar Pro files so that you can play, loop and/or slow down any section of the tab and notation as you work through the lessons.
Grab your guitar and let’s get Chet picking with Muriel Anderson!