How To Play Blues Guitar - Hesitation Blues by Gary Davis
Deep River Blues Lesson - Doc Watson http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4lMZxM5AFQ
This recent blues guitar lesson I put out is a rendition of Hesitation Blues by Gary Davis. Even though there are many versions based around this piece, there aren't that many that hit it spot on in the same way as Davis.
A characteristic of his technique is picking with just two fingers, which is in common with some other legendary blues guitar players like Hopkins, Broonzy, Mance Lipscombe and of course Doc Watson. When you listen to these guitar players, the music seems to be flowing and yet syncopated . This is what we are looking for as modern guitarists, 'How do we do this then?'
Without a doubt, the sense of solid rhythm heard in this great old music is a definite challenge, as is the amount of physical dexterity needed. It's advisable to play with only one finger in the same way that Davis played.Frequently, using more than one finger affects the feeling, which makes it it too 'nice' sounding. I would say that this is possibly the worst thing we can do to these old techniques, molding them to present day playing style and making it a little too precise and complex.
Saying that, it's quite a task for us, attempting to copy the great blues guitar legends, - they could be either be shouting us on, or turning around in their graves!
Davis wore a thumb pick made of plastic and a steel pick on his fore finger - this is the way I played for some years before I wanted to to play ragtime guitar in the style of Blind Blake. Reverend Davis could play perfectly well without finger picks, but they ‘save the fingers, y’hear' as he said. I can really identify with this after playing on the street with bare fingers, and tried to make a little more sound by playing hard - if you try it, you’ll know what he means.
Finger picks are also a natural amplifier which cuts through the noise of traffic. Happily we now have stuff like battery amps to assist us – in his day it was acoustic style all the time, even when playing in the streets of Harlem, as was his habit.
Hesitation Blues is challenging mostly because of it’s fluid construction and style. The verses aren't identical to each other when I perform it, because I mingle up l the different variations to make sure it's fresh and interesting. It flows along almost on automatic and now and again gives me some surprises. Many of the riffs I use are lifted from his old recordings, with some of my own slid in from time to time.
It's hard for us modern guitarists to do as we are merely attempting to make 'bluesy' sound -
these old fellas LIVED 'the blues'. Let's try to honor them and keep it real.
Take it easy and have fun
Learn blues guitar - Hesitation Blues - Gary Davis