In his four-decade career in the bluegrass world and through his work with groups like Psychograss, David Grier has earned a reputation as a top-shelf flatpicker. His full brilliance is perhaps best witnessed, however, in his solo guitar work. “Sometime Next Summer,” from his 2014 album Fly on the Wall, reveals the guitarist’s melodic inventiveness, as he establishes a theme and then improvises a series of clever variations on it.
“Sometime Next Summer” has a simple two-part structure: an 18-bar A section and a 16-bar B section. The form on the studio recording is AABABAB. Grier plays the piece in C major, with a capo at the second fret causing it to sound a major second higher than fingered, in the key of D.
The tune is pretty straightforward to play: In the first 35 bars, Grier uses basic first- position chord grips—in order of appearance, F, C, G7, Am, and so on—decorating them with hammer-ons and pull-offs throughout. But while these chords fall easily under the fingers, and the hammer-ons and pull-offs relieve some of the burden on the picking hand, it’s no small feat to play the piece with the kind of burnished, singing tone that Grier consistently achieves. As with learning any flatpicking piece, practice it slowly at first, using a metronome to ensure precise timing, and listen closely to make sure your picking attack is smooth and flowing.
In the last A and B sections, starting at bar 36, Grier introduces double-stops—a move that lends textural and harmonic interest to the proceedings. The fretting-hand fingerings should be fairly intuitive, but I’ve provided a few suggestions in the standard notation of bars 36 and 39 that should help get you through the section.
If you compare what Grier plays on the repeated sections on the studio recording to a recent performance on AG’s website, you’ll get the best sense of all the new nooks and crannies Grier finds each time he plays the A and B sections. Once “Sometime Next Summer” is firmly under your fingers as presented here, ditch the notation to discover your own variations on this bright instrumental theme.
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.