Tuesday, June 02, 2009

When The Saints Come Diddley Bowed

One of the most natural things for a beginning guitarist to do is to learn to play melodies on one string. Playing this way, it is easy to 'visualize' the music along the string. Higher frets, higher note. Lower frets, lower note. Playing along one string makes the left hand movement directly analogous to the melodic movement. It can thereby also serve as a mnemonic aid for learning melody.

There is an instrument called a 'Diddley Bow' that is played exactly in this way. In some ways, rock guitar playing, particularly lead guitar playing, owes a great debt to diddley bows and to playing on one string.

Check out Diddley Bow Virtuoso Lonnie Pitchford:



Jazz players of the highest caliber also have a heavy respect for the practice of finding and improvising melodies on one string. Mick Goodrick devotes an entire chapter of his book, The Advancing Guitarist, to one string playing. Jim Hall once also told me that he took off every string but the D string on one of his guitars when he was studying one string playing.

Maybe it's the jazz connection, or perhaps it's because I simply never get tired of hearning this classic melody. I'm not sure. But here it is: have a go at playing 'When The Saints Come Marching In' on one string on your guitar.



I've included the solfege syllables so you can sing along using another favorite mnemonic device of music teachers.

Enjoy this song and these practice techniques. What other songs can you figure out using this one string method? What songs can you solfege?

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