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Let’s smooth out your moves on Dust My Broom.
First of all, this is what it sounds and looks like. Don’t try playing it yet, just watch and listen. I’ll switch between the A and E chords for this example.
See me lifting my fingers on the and of four? Now I’ll teach you how to turn the first transition in “Dust My Broom,” the move from A to E in the Intro, into a smooth move. Once you’ve gone through the process, you’ll know how to apply the same set of exercises to the other transitions in the song, and you can just work your way through the song until you’ve smoothed out each transition you’ll encounter.
So here’s the smooth move formula I’ve developed for my private students over the years. It works really well.
The first two steps train you how to lift. The first step is to just get used to lifting your fingers, second step is to lift them at the right time. The last two steps teach you how to land--how to place your fingers correctly. In the third step, you place your fingers giving yourself as much time as you need. And the fourth step is to force yourself to lift and place your fingers to a beat, but at a slow tempo.
A → E
Step 1: Learn to Lift
We’re going to start with step one: Lifting. One note before I demonstrate this: We’re not going to lift all three fretting fingers. We’re using our first finger as a lead finger when we move from A to E, right? So it’s just our second and third fingers that we lift.
So we’re going to practice this by grabbing an A chord, giving it a test to make sure it sounds OK, and then lifting the second and third fingers a centimeter or so off the strings, keeping the first finger in place. Replace the fingers you just lifted, and test again to make sure they found their way home. Lift again, replace, and test. Lift, replace, test.
One of your big challenges as a beginning guitarist is to develop finger independence. Without training, our fingers are like sheep in a herd, always wanting to do what their buddies are doing. This exercise helps train your fingers to act less like sheep and more like cats.
Step 2: Lift on Time
The next step is to learn how to lift at the right time. You’ll be lifting right before your last upstrum in the measure. We’re just going to isolate that one skill--you’re not going to move to the E chord yet, that comes next. You don’t want anything to distract you from the task at hand.
This is what you’ll be doing. Just watch and listen.
Let’s do that four times together.
You should keep working on this until you can consistently lift at the right time. Either pause the video and work more on your own, rewind to play along with me, or if you’ve got it, let’s go on to the next step.
Step 3: Learn to Land
Now let’s practice landing on the E chord after you’ve lifted. You’re probably going to have the urge to get to that E chord as fast as you possibly can, so that you don’t break rhythm, which is an admirable impulse, and will serve you well once you’re actually making music. But right now you’ve got too much other stuff to think about to preoccupy your mind with rushing to the E chord. So break rhythm after you’ve lifted and mosey over the E chord easy as you please. Once you think you’ve got all your ducks in a row, test that E chord to confirm. If you hear anything wrong, fix the problem before continuing. Go back to A, and repeat. Once you’ve got five or ten correct repetitions under your belt, you can probably start speeding things up.
This is what it’ll look like. Just watch and listen.
Now try it with me. Let’s do it four times.
Again, keep working on this until you can make the change to the E chord without breaking rhythm. Rewind and play along with me, or pause and do it on your own.
Step 4: Land on Time
Finally, you’ll want to practice the smooth move without breaking rhythm. The key here is to keep the tempo nice and slow. Here’s what it’ll sound like. Just watch and listen.
Now play along with me. If you’re feeling rushed or you get sloppy moving to your E chord when doing this, you should go back to the learn to land exercise.
Keep practicing this until you can consistently land on the E chord correctly. Either rewind and play with me, or pause and do it on your own.
E → A
Now let’s work on the next transition. If you look at your chord chart, in order to go from the intro into the first verse, you’ve got to move from E back to A. You can probably skip the first two steps--the lifting ones--because you’re going to be lifting your second and third fingers again, and you’ve already practiced that movement, while holding an A chord. Doing the same movement while holding an E chord is very similar. So let’s skip straight to the landing steps.
Step 3: Learn to Land
Grab your E chord, and just watch me this first time. I’m going to strum the pattern for one measure, and on the upstrum, I’m going to lift, and taking my time, move back to the A chord. Test the A to confirm you did it right, fix any problems you hear. Then grab the E again and repeat.
Now try it with me. Four repetitions again.
Work on this transition until you can make the change to the A chord cleanly, without having to fix things. Rewind and play along with me, or pause and do it on your own.
Step 4: Land on Time
Finally, we’ll practice landing on that E chord while keeping the beat. We’ll choose a nice, slow tempo. This is what it’ll sound like.
Now try it with me. Four times again.
Keep practicing this until you can consistently land on the A chord correctly. Either rewind and play with me, or pause and do it on your own.
You should have a good idea now how this process works, so I’m just going to mention the other transitions you need to drill and then and send you on your merry rehearsing way here.
A → D
D back to A, and
E → D
All of these transitions involve lifting your second and third fingers while your first finger acts as either an anchor or a lead finger, so you’ll just be going through steps 3 and 4 for each transition.
OK, pause the video now, and practice each of these three transitions.
One last thing I should mention before we finish this lesson is that, when you’re actually playing the song, the last downstrum you do at the end of the Step 4 exercise, when you land on the new chord and strum down, you don’t just stop there and grab a bite to eat, right? That strum is going to be the first downstrum in a new repetition of the strum pattern. So you may want to take a moment to see if you can keep the strumming pattern going as you move from chord to chord. Just grab any chord, A D or E, and start your strumming pattern. When you’re ready, make a transition you’ve practiced--really, the only one you haven’t practiced because it doesn’t happen in the song is the D → E transition--and see if you can keep the strum pattern chugging along. It’ll look something like this:
Give this a go.
If you’ve gone through all the previous exercises, and practiced like I told you (wag finger), you should be ready to strum “Dust My Broom” along with the slow backing track. Since this will still probably be a big challenge, I’ve made a video of me playing along with the backing track, which should be a little easier to play along with than just the audio track. C’mon and check it out.
How's it going?
Are you loving the lesson? Confused? Have a suggestion? I'd love to hear from you.