It wasn’t until I finished my Classical Guitar Studies when I started to get in touch with folk music. I loved how approachable the guitar parts were, giving room to put your soul into the music without overly worrying about the technique. Landslide is one of those timeless songs where you can close your eyes and get lost in the music.
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Let me give you some tips on how to approach the guitar parts in this song so you can experience that feeling too. Let’s assume that you are fairly new to both folk music and finger style. You will need a capo on the third fret.
Here are the steps:
1 – Work both hands separately and then put it together
It is important to have a clear understanding of what each hand is going to do separately. Then when you put them together, it will take a very little time until the finger style patterns become second nature. Your picking hand will be playing a repetitive, almost hypnotic finger style pattern, while your fretting hand will stay on the same position, switching different chord shapes.
2 – Start with the chords
Chords are the foundation of any song. Here’s the chord progression in the intro and verse sections: C – G/B – Am7 – G/B. These three chords together are one most effective teams in Folk songwriting.
Now, we will focus on playing only the four inner strings. That means that we don’t need to fret the notes on the sixth or first string, which simplifies the chord progression even more.
3 – Learn the Fingerstyle pattern
We are going to hold the chord and play a repetitive sequence of notes. When playing finger style, the position, amount of pressure, angle of your fingers, are going to be key elements of your sound. If you are new to finger style check out these videos.
It is really important to always repeat the same exact sequence of strings with the same fingers. Here’s the sequence of strings that you will play over each chord.
There are different combinations of fingers that you could use to play this pattern. In a proper, four finger – classical guitar technique, we would place our thumb on the lowest note and our index, middle and ring finger on the consecutive strings. Then we would use the finger assigned to each string. This is a quite simple approach but Folk players tend to use a different one. Instead, they play the whole sequence with only three fingers, thumb, index and middle, assigning the thumb the two lower notes. But why?
The choice of picking fingers is directly linked to the differences between the roots of classical and folk music. In classical music we look for an even sound coming from the fingers. The thumb, although by nature is a more powerful finger, shouldn’t sound louder than the other fingers. Also, in classical music we use fluctuations of the rhythm, making some parts faster or slower to match the feel of the moment. To the contrary, in folk music we let each finger have it’s own character, which makes the thumb the strongest finger. Also, we need a steady pulse that drives the songs with a firm beat, for which we will assign the lower notes to the thumb.
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This is how to play the Folk Fingerstyle pattern over a C chord:
Step 1: Isolate the notes that are played with the thumb.
Steps 2, 3 and 4: Add the notes on the higher strings. Follow these steps and don’t move to the next one until you are familiar with each pattern.
4 – Put Fingerstyle and Chords together
Now that you are familiar with the role of each hand, try to play the whole chord progression applying the finger style pattern to each chord.
It is ok if you need to add some space in between each bar. Eventually, try to play each chord with no spaces in between and work on playing it faster by using the metronome.
Here’s a video that describes how to play this section.
Keep up the good work and stay in tune!