Chet Atkins Fingerstyle Lesson: Very Basic
So you may be asking, what’s the big deal about Chet Atkins? When I first started becoming obsessed with learning the guitar I kept reading article after article about Chet Atkins and how he pioneered this or influenced that.. and to be honest, when I heard my first Chet Atkins album (my dad’s), I wasn’t immediately blown away. I thought it sounded clean and simple and… well, nice. It wasn’t until I analyzed what was actually going that I began to realize what a genius he was.
Born June 20, 1924 in Luttrell, Tennessee, Chet Atkins was a pioneer that helped reinvent the guitar. Chet worked as a session player and backed up several great acts in his early career before graduating on to a solo artist and then on to a prominent Nashville producer, producing acts such as Waylon Jennings and Elvis Presley. In the late 1950’s as rock n roll became more and more popular, traditional country albums sales were starting to decline. To help increase country album sales, Chet helped create the “Nashville Sound” which was basically a movement to scrap all of the fiddles and pedal steel guitars and “twang” that had been associated with country music up to that point and introduce a more contemporary, “produced” sound with heavy back-up vocals from groups like the Jordanaires and even orchestral string arrangements.
I must admit it’s nice to see that some areas of country music are heading back to their roots and bringing back the “twang” – sorry Chet.Chet is best known for his finger-style technique on his right hand, which always consisted of a walking bass line (his thumb), and a rhythm and melody (his second, third, and fourth fingers). Because so much is going on with his right hand when he plays, it actually sounds like 2 or 3 guitar players. I remember hearing Chet say that he sounded like 2 bad guitar players playing at the same time. Hah! Bad by who’s standards? In every interview I've ever seen with Chet Atkins he seemed like such a humble, down-to-earth guy which is pretty amazing considering how powerful he became in the music industry.
Here’s a list of those who influenced Chet Atkins:
- Merle Travis
- Les Paul
- Django Reinhardt
- Jimmie Rodgers
- Mark Knopfler
- Jerry Reed
Top 10 list of my favorite Chet Atkins songs:
- I'll See You In My Dreams
- Yakety Axe
- There'll Be Some Changes Made
- I Still Can't Say Goodbye
- I'll Say She Does
- Gallopin' Guitar
- Petite Waltz
- Do I Ever Cross Your Mind
Video Lesson:So let’s take a closer look at Chet Atkins’ unique finger style technique (which he stole directly from Merle Travis by the way). In this video, I’ll walk you through a simple Chet-style melody complete with walking bass line and a melody. In the beginning you'll have to do this very slowly ... like REEEAAALLY slowly to get the hang of it. It's kind of like the old patting the top of your head and rubbing your belly at the same time trick.
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