Easy Guitar

John Henry – #Easy #Guitar #Strumming #Tablature

This is an easy tab arrangement of the old folk song “John Henry.” The melody is on the top line and an easy strum pattern with alternating bass on the bottom line. I haven’t done a recording for this but if you know the tune you shouldn’t have any problem playing it.

Like other “Big Men” such as Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, and Iron John, John Henry served as a mythical representation of a particular group within the melting pot of the 19th-century working class. In the most popular story of his life, Henry is born into the world big and strong. He grows to be one of the greatest “steel-drivers” in the mid-century push to extend the railroads across the mountains to the West. The complication of the story is that, as machine power continued to supplant brute muscle power (both animal and human), the owner of the railroad buys a steam-powered hammer to do the work of his mostly black driving crew. In a bid to save his job and the jobs of his men, John Henry challenges the inventor to a contest: John Henry versus the steam hammer. John Henry wins, but in the process, he suffers a heart attack and dies.

In modern depictions John Henry is usually portrayed as hammering down rail spikes, but older songs instead refer to him driving blasting holes into rock, part of the process of excavating railroad tunnels and cuttings.

Church in the Wildwood – Melody & Accompaniment – Flatpick Guitar

Here are several arrangements I made for Church in the Wildwood. First is Melody (top line) & Accompaniment (bottom line) with alternating bass and strumming.


Here’s an easy flatpick solo with quarter notes only:


The final arrangement builds on the one above, adding more advanced flatpicking techniques:

Camptown Races – Travis Picking and Guitar Strumming

“Camptown Races” is a comic song by Stephen Foster, published in 1850 in Foster’s Plantation Melodies. I’m including three of my own arrangements of this song but I haven’t recorded it. It’s an easy melody and is a great beginner song for learning Travis picking on the guitar.

The first arrangement is Melody & Accompaniment, with alternating bass and strumming in the guitar part (bottom line).

The simplified arrangement below might be best thought of more of an exercise or a demonstration of how Travis picking works. If you go along and just play the notes on the top three strings you will be playing the melody. If you just play the notes on the bottom three strings you are playing alternating bass notes. Playing them both at the same time takes some practice. In this exercise there are only quarter notes so you’ll have less to worry about while getting used to the technique. When you’re ready for a challenge try the more advanced Travis picking arrangement of Camptown Races.

When playing the G chord, be sure to use fingers 2, 3, and 4, with your 4th finger (pinky) holding down the 2nd string most of the time instead of the 1st string (because the melody happens to be on the 2nd string). Remember, any time you see a chord chart it tells you the general position your fingers should be in, but if the tablature tells you to play a different position while holding the chord you should make that change but still hold the chord if possible. In this case much of the melody is on the 2nd string 3rd fret and very little on the 1st string 3rd fret, so it’s easy to hold down the 2nd string with your pinky while still holding down the regular chord position for the G chord on the 5th and 6th strings.

The D chord is also different in this arrangement than you are probably used to. The 1st string and the 6th string are both tuned to E when played open, so played at the 2nd fret they would both be F# notes. Therefore in order to get a better bass sound we’re playing the F# on the 6th string and not worrying about holding down or playing the 1st string unless necessary.


Here’s the standard Travis picking arrangement. It takes the arrangement above and adds in eighth notes, hammer-ons, and pull-offs…


Blue Mountain – Easy Guitar Strumming – 3/4 Time

This is one of my favorite old cowboy tunes. I’m not sure of its origin but I think it’s probably from the early 1900s. The two tablature lines include the melody on top and the simple 3/4 time strumming pattern I played on the recording.


Here are the complete lyrics…

Blue Mountain

My home it was in Texas
My past you must not know
For I seek a refuge from the law
Where the sage and pinion grow

Blue Mountain, you’re azure deep
Blue Mountain with sides so steep
Blue Mountain with a horse head upon your side
You have won my heart to keep

For the brand “LC” I ride
And the sleeper calves on the side
I’ll own the hip side and shoulder when I grow older
Zapitaro, don’t you tan my hide

(Repeat chorus)

I chum with Latigo Gordon
I drink at the Blue Goose Saloon
I dance at night with the Mormon girls
And ride home beneath the moon

(Repeat chorus)

I trade at Muns’s store
With bullet holes in the door
His calico treasure my horse can measure
When I’m drunk and feeling sore

(Repeat chorus)

Yarn Gallus with shortened lope
Doc Few-Clothes without any soap
In the little green valley have made their sally
And for Slicks there’s still some hope

(Repeat chorus)

In the summer time it’s fine
In the winter the wind does whine
But say, dear brother, if you want a mother
There’s Ev on the old chuck line

(Repeat chorus)

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