The Ragtime Guitar Of The Singing Reverend

blues guitar of gary davisFrequently it's the small points which guitarists incorporate which create all the difference. A lot of of us have played Candy Man by Gary Davis, for a long time, with varying levels of success. I've played it for years, and then I decided to take a finer look to see what's happening in the picking patterns.

Of course, we perceive that he applied just one finger and his thumb for his right hand finger picking, but this is just the start  of his genius for blues music. Loosen up your fingers and let's go ...

One Of The Last Greatest Guitar Giants  

Reverend Gary Davis was unusual in quite a few respects. The complexity and playful richness of his music is legendary, and we could think ourselves to be quite fortunate because his skills remained undiminished in his later years. Not like a lot of blues men, who stopped playing and restarted once they were 'discovered' again, Gary Davis by no means stopped playing.

It was still his habit to play the blues in the streets around Harlem till he became in vogue once again, after that started to record and play small and large gigs once again. He was additionally really willing to educate virtually anybody that asked him, it would seem, and so the abilities have been passed on to young guitarists like Stephan Grossman and many others.

Before we have a closer look at the Reverend's finger work, watch the online video below and pay attention to a little advice about guitar picking from the Rev Davis himself. Let the Master talk a little about how to learn the blues.

Online video - A Few Suggestion From Reverend Davis

First of all, Reverend Gary Davis used the thumb and index finger of his right hand to create all of these incredibly complex sounds. Of course, his finger may move swiftly and seemed to move independently from his thumb. He also utilized picks, sometimes helps to be far more accurate. As far as I know, he never used dropped D tuning.

He was quite proficient in any key, both major or minor, but it wasn't this fact that exemplified his music (for me.) The timing of his bass rhythm were rock solid, as you may expect, and he could break out of the alternating bass pattern at will, either to double time and create syncopated rhythms, or to generate lightning quick single string runs. For the latter, he would pick a string alternately with his thumb and finger, as though he were employing a plectrum. It was extraordinary enough, but he typically sang at the same time which is a great technique - have a go sometime!

His thumb would also leap across to the high strings when needed, to finish a run or a phrase, giving the impression of more than one finger being applied. The consequence was a unique experience of ragtime guitar performance which has certainly not been equaled.

In the short embedded video clip below, I investigate a couple of of these techniques.

For the last part of the article, we take a close up glimpse at Candy Man. It's a very desirable piece and is additionally one of the Reverend's simplest songs. After closer examination, it's not so straightforward after all! It's best to approach the Reverend's techniques with a similar basic technique, which is, use just your thumb and one finger for picking the strings. That may possibly imply that we need to begin quite slowly, but this is the way you will produce the genuine sound, which is what it's all about.

You'll instantly recognize the standard Candy Man riff, but pay attention to those small jumps made by the thumb and finger. These jumps, collectively with the bass alternating on two strings, define the tune. Get pleasure from it and take it easy.

(There's a mistake in the tab - let me know if you uncover it!)

Author: Jim Bruce 
Date: 2014-07-07
Category: Music

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