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Black Mountain Rag

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In this tutorial you'll learn how to play the classic bluegrass instrumental called "Black Mountain Rag" as made famous by the one and only Doc Watson. This song is classic bluegrass with two guitar parts going full speed ahead the whole time, and they make it sound so easy. In reality it's anything but easy, but in this tutorial we'll dive into all the little details and build up the parts note by note so that you can, with some hard work and discipline, of course, have a chance to pick along with these masters on this classic tune.

The song starts out with a dramatic sounding single note intro played by the rhythm guitar, and quickly thereafter we're into the actual song. From here on out the rhythm guitar plays the classic boom-chick strumming with lots of little embellishments and cool bass movement, and over this the lead guitar picks the main melody, primarily based on the notes in the major pentatonic scale, but also throwing in lots of chromatic and bluesy tension notes.

The lead part can carry the tune on it's own, if you perform it with confidence and tap your foot on the downbeats. In fact, you can find several recorded versions of this song performed like that. I encourage you to try to learn this song at the actual speed, but the good news is that it also sounds great at a lower tempo.

This whole song stays pretty much at the same dynamic level after the intro, and since the song is only about a minute and a half long, it never becomes tiring to listen to. Just give it all you got the whole time!

We're in the key of E-flat for this tune, both guitars with a capo in the 3rd fret, so that you can use a C major shape. We're technically in fast 4/4 time and the quarter would equal somewhere around 250 BPM. Since this is such a fast tempo and we want the rhythm to feel relaxed it's extremely helpful to count it half as fast. Instead of "1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4" we'll count "1 and 2 and 1 and 2 and". This concept is called "cut time" and you'll see why it's super helpful as soon as we start playing the song.

Let's get started!