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How to Pick St. James Infirmary


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St. James Infirmary

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In this lesson, we'll learn the 4-step fingerpicking pattern that serves as a foundation for playing this song. We will syncopate the rhythm and give it a bluesy feel.

Practice this pattern on all three chords of the song (Am, E7, and Dm), remembering that the bass note will change depending on which chord you are playing, but the rest of the pattern will remain on the highest three strings.

Also, pay close attention to the right hand fingering: thumb, middle, thumb, index. this use of the thumb twice per pattern provides that signature thumping bass groove that helps propel the bluesiness of the piece.

Next up, we'll play through the song, using just this picking pattern. You'll see me play the melody solo as an intro to the song, but you can just play along with the chords and the basic pattern. The melody solo features the exact same chord progression as a verse of the song.

St. James Infirmary

//: Am / E7 / Am / Am /

/ Am / Dm / E7 / E7 /

/ Am / E7 / Am / Am /

/ Dm / E7 / Am / E7 ://

It was (Am) down in (E7) old Joe's (Am) bar-room (Am)

On the (Am) corner (Dm) by the (E7) square (E7)

The (Am) drinks were (E7) served as (Am) usual (Am)

And the (Dm) usual (E7) crowd was (Am) there (E7)

Now on my left stood big Joe McKennedy
His eyes were bloodshot red
And he looked at the gand all around him
These were the very words he said

I went down to the St. James Infirmary
I saw my baby there
Stretched out on a long white table
So cold, so pale and fair

17 coal black horses
Hitched to a rubber tired hack
7 girls going to the graveyard
Only 6 of them coming back

Let her go, let her go, God bless her
Wherever she may be
She can ramble this wide world over
And never find another man like me

Now when I die, please bury me
In my hightop Stetson hat
Put a 20 dollar gold piece on my watch chain
So the Lord will know I died standing pat

I want 6 crap shooters for my pall bearers
And a chorus girl to sing me a song
Put a jazz band on my hearse wagon
Just to raise hell as we roll along

Now that you heard my story
I'll take another shot of booze
If anyone should happen to ask you
Well I've got the gamblers blues

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