Learn Nathan Salsburg’s “B.B.”: A Melodic Instrumental with an Unusual Origin

Having accidentally overindulged on a giant bowl of rice and beans, Nathan Salsburg sat down uncomfortably with his guitar one night and got to work. Despite his dyspepsia, a new composition soon announced itself: “Bean Bloat.” By the time Salsburg recorded the tune for his most recent album, Third, he hadn’t found a name he liked better. But he did give it the polite acronym of “B.B.”

Salsburg plays “B.B.” in a nonstandard tuning—D A D E A E (down a half step)—an accidental discovery on his part. The guitarist says, “I’d written a song [“Dog at Bay”] on my last record in DADEAD and was trying to relearn it, but neglected to tune the high E down to D. I didn’t end up relearning the song, as I got carried away with writing this one instead.”

When Salsburg composed the opening bars of “B.B.,” he was thinking about the guitar work of the Scottish singer-songwriter Dick Gaughan. “I really love his record Coppers & Brass—instrumental settings of traditional Scottish and Irish tunes—all the double stops, hammer-ons, and pull-offs,” Salsburg says. “Not that ‘B.B’ sounds anything like Dick Gaughan.”


This transcription is based on Salsburg’s studio version of “B.B.” The many hammer-ons and pull-offs are just as important as the notes themselves, so take good care to play them as cleanly as possible. This is especially important in spots like measure 6, where things can get tricky. Begin the bar with your second, third, and first fingers fretting strings 4, 3, and 2, respectively. Keep those fingers in place as you individually pick strings 5–2 and then pull off to the open third string, followed by the open fourth and then the second. After that, hammer on the fifth-fret G with your second finger, without picking the note.

At first it might feel clumsy to play moves like these, but as with anything new, they’ll soon be in your muscle memory if you approach things slowly and systematically


Copyright © 2018 Root Hog or Die (BMI). All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

This article originally appeared in the November 2018 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *