Julian Lage on How to Play His Position-Shifting Guitar-Bass Duet “Double Southpaw”

With its "quirky rhythmic and harmonic twists and turns," this piece moves all around the fretboard.

Julian Lage has a list of potential song titles—he estimates there are easily more than a thousand of them—that he has been gathering for the last 15 years. One of those names, “Double Southpaw,” recently found its music when the guitarist-composer recorded the composition as a duet with bassist Jorge Roeder for his latest album, The Layers. Lage says, “‘Double Southpaw’ was just a combination of two words that sounded funny enough, and it felt appropriate for a song with these quirky rhythmic and harmonic twists and turns.”

The transcription of “Double Southpaw” in the July/August 2023 issue comes from the album, a different version than the video on Lage’s YouTube channel. The composition starts off in B major, the A section based on a I–bII (B–Cmaj13) progression that calls to mind a common harmonic device in flamenco music, and the B section moves to the parallel key of B minor. The inspiration for the piece, though, wasn’t so much the Spanish guitar tradition as the rhythmic sensibilities of jazz drummer Elvin Jones. “Even though there are no drums on it—that’s the irony—the real sensibility that the piece speaks to is a particular tempo of Jones’ swing feel, like on ‘Mr. Syms,’ from Coltrane Plays the Blues,” Lage says. “It’s slow, but it has forward motion and a really wide beat. The song is really just about celebrating that feel. 


“I’ve learned so much from how Jorge effortlessly solos on it,” he continues. “We only recently started doing the song live—and I’m still learning how to play it!”

Lage says that he also sees “Double Southpaw” as a study in shifting positions, as it moves all around the fretboard—from the seventh position in bar 5 to the first in the following measure, for instance. “Move the forearm and the hand will follow,” Lage recommends. “That’s the best way to change positions, versus reaching with your fingers from one position to another and then letting your arm catch up to you.”

Due to copyright restrictions, we are unable to post notation or tablature for this musical work. If you have a digital or physical copy of the July/August 2023 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine, you will find the music on page 56.

Acoustic Guitar magazine cover for issue 341

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2023 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

Adam Perlmutter
Adam Perlmutter

Adam Perlmutter holds a bachelor of music degree from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and a master's degree in Contemporary Improvisation from the New England Conservatory. He is the editor of Acoustic Guitar.