I’ve been drawn in lately to the fact that so many interesting licks are played around basic chords. The premise being that you don’t need to move around too quickly when all the notes you need are already part of a chord you have down.
For instance, I’m working on a classic folk bluegrass tune called “Wildwood Flower.” I wasn’t familiar with it until my teacher suggested I learn it, but I quickly gathered it’s a pretty well known tune. Some claiming it to be the unofficial anthem of country and folk music Shit, the song has its own wikipedia page after all, so there ya go…
Anyway, this song has a fairly simple chord progression. It only uses C, F, G chords, and basically goes like this: C – G – C – G – C – F – C – G – C.
What makes it so fun and cool is the way you play the transition notes as one chord moves to the next. Although your hand is forming the chord shape, your fingers are doing some interesting things… lifting up and down, move back-and-forth between strings, hammer-ons, pull-offs, etc. This gives the tune more depth and makes a simple song feel more complex.
But while the song is fairly easy to learn and play, it takes a lot of dexterity to get clean tones. You fingers are moving quick, but they need to press the string properly in order to produce a good sound.
I’ve written about hand strength and finger stretching before, but usually when you follow lessons related to improving finger dexterity, it has to do with speed exercises or honing metal chops or something like that. I understand that approach, since scale runs and screaming solos needs to be played quickly and cleanly. But there’s a ton I’m learning about getting a nicely placed chord layed down and THEN having enough finger strength and dexterity to move individual ones around at will.
So I’ve been working on Wildwood Flower for three days now. I actually learned how to play the whole thing in about 45 minutes, but three days later and I’m still trying to get it to sounds smooth and clean. Chord dexterity required.