World Premiere: Learn a Tune by Chris Eldridge

Chris Eldridge, the Punch Brothers member and house guitarist on NPR’s Live From Here, has in recent years been having conversations with Collings Guitars about making the ultimate dreadnought. “One of my main goals was to come up with something that was less of a cannon and something more nuanced and complex, but still with plenty of power in reserve,” he says.

On a recent Collings video, Eldridge plays an original composition in Austin’s Springdale Station, a historic train station repurposed as an event venue. He demonstrates the company’s latest dread, the D2HA T S, with a new satin finish option (similar to that on the OM1 JL, reviewed in the April 2018 issue). “The room we recorded in was nice and reverberant. It was easy to luxuriate in the sound coming back. ‘Fair to Partly Cloudy’ seemed like a good tune to show off the guitar because it covers the entire range of the guitar from low to high, employs single notes and chords, and has a wide dynamic range,” he says,

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“This tune was initially born of a fascination with how nice it sounds to fret up high on the neck on lower, thicker strings, while letting higher strings ring open,” he continues. “In this case I was fooling around in the key of E, letting the B and E strings ring open and playing notes in E on the G string. There’s a lovely voicing if you play a G# on the third string at the 13th fret and let the B and E strings ring open. So I was just in the musical sandbox playing around with that and I wondered what it might sound like if I started cross-picking those three strings.”

To learn the tune, Eldridge recommends starting slowly with the cross-picking rolls in measures 1 and 3. There are a number of different combinations of pick strokes you could use here, but for a crisp and even sound, try playing things exactly as Eldridge does, using the strokes shown in between the standard and tablature staves in the first bar. Isolate this pattern and practice it over and over, gradually increasing the tempo.

Just as important as the picking patterns are the fretting-hand articulations, so make sure to play all the legato slides and pull-offs with careful precision. When you get to bar 16, note the tidy picking pattern that the pull-offs allow for. “That mechanical pattern in your right hand happens every time and will get you through that long sequence of quick phrases,” Eldridge explains.  

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Beginning in bar 23, at the onset of the Dsus2/F# chord, Eldridge plays a slow-moving melody on the bottom strings, offset by strums on the higher strings: an approach that shows off the impressive bass response of his instrument of choice. Be sure to accent these notes, without playing them too forcefully—remember, it’s all about the melody here.  

You might also like to learn “Lion’s Share,” by the duo of Chris Eldridge and Julian Lage, available in the May 2017 issue of AG. And for more flatpicking instruction, check out Flatpicking Guitar Essentials: Complete Edition, culled from the pages of the 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.

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