Cathy gets you started playing melodies in the bass in this video. She starts by showing you how to play a C major scale with your thumb while your left hand stays in a C chord shape as much as possible. Then she shows you how to alternate melody notes with the thumb and your index finger stirring the chords.
Check out these songs featured in the Maybelle Carter–Style Guitar course.
Cathy talks about what you’ll be learning in the Maybelle Carter–Style Guitar course.
In this lesson, you’ll learn Maybelle Carter’s picking-hand technique, commonly called the “Carter scratch.” Maybelle used a thumbpick and a fingerpick on her index finger, but she turned her fingerpick around so it was opposite to the way fingerpickers wear fingerpicks. This is because the Carter scratch includes a down strum with the finger, not an up pick used in fingerpicking. Maybelle’s daughter Anita said that what her mother did was play the melody notes on the bass (with the thumb) and “stirred the other strings with her fingers.”
The Carter Family repertoire is centered around songs, as opposed to instrumentals, even though this course is focused on Maybelle Carter’s instrumental style. Singers, of course, choose the key that suits their voice the best, but Maybelle’s playing is centered around the C, F, and G7 chord shapes. When she wanted to change keys, instead of using different chord shapes, Maybelle used a capo to play in keys higher than C, and, to play in keys lower than C, she did what she called “running her guitar down.” For example, the Carter Family recorded their classic song “Wildwood Flower” in the key of Bb, so Maybelle tuned her guitar down a whole step, which makes the key-of-C shapes sound in Bb.
The first Carter Family song you’ll learn is “Worried Man Blues”, which the Carter Family recorded in May 1930. Cathy starts by showing you the melody, which is played with the thumb, and then adds strums, showing you a few minor variations as she goes.
The beautiful melody “I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes” was recorded by the Carter Family in 1929 and again in 1935. It’s since become a bluegrass and country music classic, but the melody they used may be a bit different than one you’ve heard. There are a couple of places where you have to do a little “strum magic” worth with the phrasing of the melody.
“Will the Circle Be Unbroken” is one of the most popular traditional songs of all time. You’ll hear it in almost any jam session you go to. The original Carter Family version of the song was called “Can the Circle Be Unbroken” and the timing was a bit unusual, but it’s become straightened out over the years. Cathy shows you the way most people play it these days, but also shows you how to play along with the original recording.
The Carter Family song “Gold Watch and Chain” has a beautiful melody and the two halves of the guitar part are almost identical. On the second half, Cathy shows you an alternate strum part for the G7 chord.
The beautiful song “Wildwood Flower” is one of the most iconic pieces in the Carter Family. Maybelle’s playing on “Wildwood Flower” has influenced generations of guitarists, and every country and bluegrass guitar player plays it.
“Keep on the Sunny Side” is another Carter Family classic and it’s one that has become a favorite in all styles of American roots music. You’ll learn a solo on the verse melody as well as Maybelle’s instrumental tag that uses the last line of the chorus.