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Bluegrass Guitar Lessons: “Turkey in the Straw” (Basic)

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We're gonna jump into the tunes here.
The first tune we're gonna work on is
Turkey in the Straw.
This is one of the first tunes I learned,
I learned when I was a kid.
And it's a classic fiddle tune.
And I guess what I'll do is just jump
right in.
I'm gonna play it all the way through.
It's the tune is, and most of these fiddle
tunes are, they have a parts and b parts.
Some tunes have c parts and d parts.
But everything we're gonna work on here
most of the stuff has an a and a b part.
And if you look at the tab, that's the tab
that's downloadable there.
Its an a part that repeats and a b part
that repeats.
And so most of these fiddle tunes will be
aa bb form.
That's what we're gonna call this, so
here's Turkey in the Straw.
And also you'll notice that you have
different backing tracks that are, that
you can download.
And [COUGH] what that is four different
four different beats per minute for
I recorded backing tracks at different, at
different tempos to challenge.
I don't suggest that, you know, someone at
the basic level, jump into the higher,
higher tempos if you're still building
But hopefully this, at 65 beats a minute
is where we're gonna start.
And that's, that's, so that's the goal is
to be able to play,
play Turkey in the Straw here at 65 beats
a minute and
I'll show you what all that will sound
Here we go.
[SOUND] One, two, three.
All right.
That's, that's the whole tune.
65 beats a minute.
And so we'll jump right in here with this
lesson with the A part.
I'm gonna continue to sorta reference my
tab over here.
It's the same, same piece of music that,
that you're looking at hopefully at this
Again, this is the Turkey and the Straw,
basic version.
[COUGH] And so jumping in to the into the
A part one of the reasons
I chose this song not just because it was
one I learned early on.
We worked on all those scale forms, the
major scale and the pentatonic scale.
And this is where all this stuff starts
making sense musically.
And applying itself is that the A part of
Turkey in the Straw is in
a lot of these tunes we're gonna get into
are based out of a G pentatonic scale.
And so, once again, if hopefully you've
practiced those scale forms.
And so it shouldn't, these notes should
fall fairly naturally with,
within within that scale form, if you're
familiar with it.
So, it starts with two two beats of pickup
notes in the eighth notes there, so.
the first phrase which so the challenge
there is.
Is that string change right there
from G to D.
That's probably gonna be the first thing
that you're gonna notice that's
is gonna be tough to get smooth.
And if you've just run scales this is the
next level beyond this of,
of making these forms you know, work
musically is.
Well, we discussed back in the the early
sort of, getting the pick on the strings.
You know, just warming up with you know,
basic pick patterns, different eighth note
You just wanna, that's why I was
encouraging earlier.
Just getting the pick around the strings
and feeling.
You know, just getting used to that having
your pick you know, within that,
within the range of these strings.
A muscle memory sort of thing.
So and one of the concepts that's, that's
always a challenge for flat pickers is,
is string changing.
And, and doing this making those
transitions smoothly.
There's a lot, one of the, a lot within
flatpicking is,
is about smooth transitions, either within
a phrase or within you know,
two different styles rhythmic to lead and
back and forth.
So first transitions we are going to hit
here is string changing and
it's you know it is within the first bar,
we are gonna jump right in.
And as you, as you practice this, you know
I've got the rhythm there 65
beats a minute but you may set your
metronome at 50.
Again I'll encourage you to play a few
bars in rhythm if your hand's loose and
then that's when you dive in.
So I'll just play through the first
through the A part here really slowly.
And one thing I'll point out,
at this point we're halfway through
[NOISE] there's eighth no, eighth notes.
If you follow in the tab you'll see where
to put your fingers and
what string to play and following the no,
standard notation above it shows you the
eighth notes and the quarter notes.
And traditional flat picking is, you know,
generally eighth note patterns.
We talked about the dotted and straighted,
and straight eighths and
the swung eighths and all that, all that
good stuff.
And what that sets up within a four beat
bar one and two and three and four and.
So that's.
this goes back to some of the early
lessons that we had of just,
just getting the pick moving with those
kind of patterns.
And so, you know, playing a tune like this
you notice that there's some quarter notes
and so what happens when we discuss hammer
on's and pull offs,
notice I showed you in that side exercise,
if you can go reference that.
When I played all those notes it sounded
kinda choppy but, but
using using the left hand and, and using
tools to
to sort of smooth out flat picking leads
to more of a rhythmic picking hand.
And so what happens when we hit those, on
third bar, we hit two quarter notes.
Or there's a quarter note there, but.
What I'm, the point I'll make on third bar
Those two in a row right there,
they're all gonna be downstrokes because
the eighth note thing is generally up
down, up down, down up, down up.
Starts with a down up usually, sometimes
it's an up down but
it's an alternate picking thing.
So because there's two quarter notes in
the row, in a row we don't necessarily go.
Down, up, down.
Look, when you see two quarter notes in a
row like that or three you know,
that the concept of the rhythm, rhythmic
right hand is that it stays fairly loose
all the time when your playing.
If you take, if you, if you subconsciously
take effort to try to maintain a certain
picking pattern, even though it breaks
the eighth note the tendency here, that's
when a lot of tensions can creep in.
Because you're breaking the natural sense
of what your right hand wants to do.
This is another reason why I encourage
playing a few bars of rhythm
before you jump into something like this,
cuz you really wanna sort of
be able to be aware of what it feels like
when, when there are changes like that.
So, what we're trying to set up is a,
is a, is a rhythmic sense of how to play
these things.
And, and when you're really communicating
music [COUGH] that's
ultimately what people feel, is, is your,
sort of the sense of groove, and, and
what called the pocket of how you play.
So when you hit those quarter notes, just
make those downstrokes,
which you'll see as I come play the bar
before it.
right hand continues to move in rhythm as
though it's still, you'll,
you shouldn't really notice really much of
a change.
Here we go.
So I've played those two quarter notes but
my right hand kept on, kept on moving
because my, my goal is to stay loose.
I don't wanna.
[SOUND] Just because there's two quarter
notes in a row if, if I suddenly try to
sort of clamp things down I feel all this
tension in my forearm and
if you were to do that you would probably
do the same thing, so.
So anyway, here we go from that third bar.
More quarter notes.
Back into the eighth note thing.
The same phrase as the first one and
then we jump up here.
then three eighth three quarter notes in a
row, which would be three downstrokes.
And then we take the repeat signs, the
same pickup notes first ending and then.
And other than the C note in this which
comes out of the G-major scale.
All these
notes in this A part of Turkey and the
Straw are built around the G pentatonic.
So there's your G pentatonic scale.
Just the way we learned it a little while
And we're taking, what we wanted to do is
create strength and create muscle memory.
To where when we start playing these
tunes, you know, your hands hopefully will
already know where to go or at least have,
have an idea of what the pattern is.
And so there's not a lot of searching
So so that's the A part of Turkey in the
and we'll move on to the B part next.
We're gonna jump into the B part now,
Turkey in the Straw in its basic version.
And hopefully, you've spent some time with
the A part, and
we're gonna start the B part.
It starts with the two eighth notes.
And, we talked before about how when you
hit a quarter note,
you get the eighth note pattern of flat
picking is traditionally down, up,
down, up, the alternating thing.
And so, you'll notice that the first three
notes, it's two notes,
and then it's tied into the third note.
And so, you don't actually strike the
downbeat of beat two.
And so again, the goal here is to keep a
consistent loose feel in our picking hand,
and so that means that second note will be
an upstroke and you'll hold.
You won't hit the downstroke, but see I'll
always, hopefully you know,
if we play a little bit of rhythm before
we launch into that part.
So then we go.
I'm still trying to maintain a loose sense
of the pocket, you know.
So I'm really trying to play rhythmically.
That's the first two bars,
and if you're gonna isolate that, that's
I'm gonna encourage a lot of that as we
Tune here is isolating [COUGH] like a
potential things to work on.
Potential problem parts, and as we get
more videos submitted,
we'll probably see a lot of that.
And we'll all be able to learn from those
But, so the B part I'm looking at the
music here.
Here's the B part slowly starting with the
downstroke straight to an upstroke
that's held.
And again.
Now we're back to quarter notes, so
it'll all be downstrokes because they're
all on beats one, two, three and four.
The ands which are usually the upstrokes
aren't used here.
So, now we're back into alternate holding.
Here's the B part one more time.
One thing I'd like you to work on with the
B part, especially, this is again
talking about foundations of good
flatpicking is our big notes that sustain.
It's one of the beautiful things about the
acoustic guitar is that there's lots of
sustain you can use, and it gives the
sort of this cascade kind of feeling, the
waterfall effect if you will of how these
notes kind of blend in with each other.
And we'll get, as we get into other levels
and talking about cross picking and
lots of other sort of advanced techniques,
a lot of that stuff will really come into
But as we're working on a basic level,
especially in bar three and
four of the B part.
You can get a lot out of that.
So the first two are this
We're working on the same string, so
there's not a lot of room for the sustain
So bar three here.
let that first string ring through all
that stuff and it's gonna make it,
you know, as you play this stuff strong,
hopefully our technique has been built.
We've talked about all this building
technique and building blocks and forms
and muscle memory, that's where musically
all this stuff is gonna start paying off.
And you'll notice my right hand, still got
the good, all the angles,
keeping the pick inside the string.
Here's bar three.
So notice I let that B,
open B ring into the second fret of the G
string A.
See there's two open strings in a row.
You can almost hear how a chord is formed
from the sustain of the guitar
right there.
So that's something important to remember.
And, again, if you start with a few bars
of rhythm,
pay attention to how your hand feels.
It should feel, at this point it should
feel fairly easy to do that.
And we don't want to stress our right hand
too much.
All this, not that, you know, advanced
flat picking is just easy.
And its always gonna feel like a walk in
the park.
But the goal should be to not feel so
tense and so stressed, and
we're gonna try to employ this from here
on out.
This feel of what that is just the basic
boom, boom chuck strum pattern.
As you practice with a metronome, that
should feel pretty, pretty easy to do.
You move to single note, you'll notice my,
if you look overhead my right hand is
pretty even.
And when I move to the single note stuff,
you won't see much change.
I see so
many times in a lot of amateur players
they go from rhythm that looks seems
pretty good to playing single note lead.
this is what you see from overhead.
And what you’ve done mainly is just you’ve
you know, about 65% more tension than what
was there to begin with.
So if you can just slowly practice back
and forth
So that those transitions
are what we're gonna look for as we move
So that's basically the B part.
I'm gonna play it all one more time
through at 65 bpm, and
if you wanna play along, you can.
So, and here we go with that.
One, two, three, go.
That's all of Turkey in the Straw.
The only other thing I'm going to add to
that, I noticed as I was playing,it
down in the B part that the bar that has
all the quarter notes.
You'll see that this,
the third fret of the first string and
third fret of the second string.
And, you know, keeping with our, what we
talked about, our four fret access,
you know, four frets, four fingers a fret,
when you've got two notes like that,,
notes that follow two notes that are a
fret below, it's okay.
What I'm gonna do with fingering here, I
play the first the two G's in a row.
But then I'm gonna bring my middle finger
for these.
But as soon as I hit that open string, I'm
gonna go back to that position.
That's another one of those points
of transition that, you know, we may wanna
isolate at some point.
So that's Turkey In The Straw there.
And we've covered a lot of stuff within
this tune.
Hopefully, you'll see where a lot of the
things that basics and
fundamentals that we've discussed and
broken down,
now we're putting them all together to
make music here.
And good luck with that one.
And we've got a few more to work through.
covered a lot earlier in the lessons
dealing with rhythm.
And playing Bluegrass rhythm and how
important that is, and so here at
the basic level I thought it was a good
idea as, as we're learning some tunes now.
We're gonna put some ideas we've talked
about you know chord.
The, the voi, the, the notes that make up
the chords and, and what key you're in,
how to look at one, four, five and the
walking bass and strumming patterns.
And so for each of these tune to the basic
just going to kinda talk through a little
You've got the rhythm track and you can
actually hear me playing and
once again I'm going to encourage
encourage everyone to tart building,
building an ear for, for what these what
chord changes are.
And how they how they fit but so
to sort of help you along I'm gonna show
you where the chords are.
And how they change in Turkey and
the Straw as you listen to them on those
backing tracks that I've provided.
Basically the the A part of Turkey in the
Straw is two chords.
We're in the key of G and
this is another one of these that's three
chords in the key of G.
And it's one, four, five.
So from what we talked about earlier we
know that's G, C and D.
The way the melody kicks off is from bar
from bar one is this.
This is just a boom, chuck sort of pattern
you'll hear it go to D right there at bar
that's the A part there's a quick change
at the end at the last phrase.
You can choose to do it that way.
A simpler way is just
to go straight to the D chord right there,
so all that again just to show you slowly.
Bar five is the D.
And so those are the chord changes there.
Now we want to employ some of the stuff we
talked about earlier
with the walking bass.
So we'll move straight up to the, where
the D chord happens.
So we've got a bar from the top again, I
So this is a bar, bar four.
Walking straight into,
into the D chord with, within our G scale,
we talked about the walking bass.
It's all, all major scale based at this
And I was walking into the second D chord
of the A part.
And so that's, you know,
just basically showing you again how to
employ some of those ideas.
And you'll hear, on, on some of the, on
rhythm tracks that I've provided there,
you'll hear a lot of those things.
And hopefully that, that can kind of guide
you through some of these kind of things.
And the B part of Turkey in the Straw.
We got two, two measures of G and it, and
it walks into a C chord.
And back to G.
And back to D.
Okay and so
I'll show you that again slowly,
two bars of G to C.
Two bars of C if you want to go back to G.
again we're just staying right within the
So that's,
that's how all that stuff that we talked
about with the rhythm and, and
the chord progressions and walking.
And now we're, you know, applying it to
tunes now, so.
Hopefully that, that helps, helps you
understand some of that.