Folk and Country
In Chapter 16, “Elements of Travis Picking,” you learned one basic folk/country
strum that is used in many playing styles. This chapter expands on that style to
include some other common accompaniment techniques that will enable you to play
thousands of folk and country songs.
Country music inherits an important quality, through its origin in the story
songs with which Southern mountain people and their forebears in England, Scotland,
and Ireland entertained themselves in the days before television. The most important
element is the song. The role of musical instruments is to accompany, not to show
off. You can be as fancy a guitar player in country as in any other kind of music,
but what you really need to sell a country song is a good voice, good lyrics, and
guitar accompaniment that doesn’t get in the way.
We’ll begin with some simple accompaniment patterns, then progress to accompanying
country songs, playing in 3/4 time, and finally crafting a traditional country solo.
A great deal of folk and country guitar playing is based on a simple accompaniment
pattern. It combines picking and strumming by plucking a single bass (low) note
first, followed by a downward brush stroke across the three (or so) highest strings.
Usually you add variety by alternating between at least two different low notes.
This is a starting point from which many more complicated variations can grow. But
no matter how much fancy stuff you learn, you’ll still keep coming back to this
pattern. Because of the alternating high-low sound of this pattern, people often
call it the boom-chick strum.