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Cello Lessons: “Arkansas Traveller”

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Arkansas Traveler is a really famous
fiddle tune, it's one of those tunes
that even non musicians may recognize.
I'm gonna reduce this melody
to its core melodic notes.
And then we're gonna pile a couple
of stylistic things on top of it.
The never ending problem with
teaching Bluegrass tunes,
is that there's no one
version of any tune.
Every musician might play a slightly
different version, but somehow,
even though everybody's playing
slightly different notes,
there's a core essence to a tune,
like these
specific notes that happen in certain
places that make the tune what it is.
So, we're gonna start there, and
then we'll talk about some
stylistic things to expand on that.
This tune is in the key of D.
And I want to teach it
to you phrase by phrase.
In the beginner curriculum I was really
breaking it down, note by note almost, and
I'm gonna move a little quicker
here in the intermediate.
So, but feel free to re-watch
the video if you need,
I'll still break if up for
you phrase by phrase.
So the first phrase goes like this.
So in D major.
O, three, one, O, three.
Let me add to that.
O, three, one,
O, three, three, one, one.
Let's play it together.
We can add a little D there.
Notice that I'm accenting those up bows,
cuz that is our back beat.
Listen one more.
Up, up, up.
Yeah, okay, that's the first phrase.
Second phrase goes like this.
One, one, three, three,
one, three, one, O, three, one.
I'm accenting all these up bows again.
And then there's a one chugga
chugga pattern in there.
See if you can hear
the chugga chugga pattern.
Up, up, chugga, chugga, up.
Let me put these two phrases together.
Three, and.
So some accents are on the down
bow in the chugga chugga, but
most of these accents
are actually on up bow.
But all of them are on the back beat.
Let's play these two phrases together,
One, two,
ready, and
Good, so,
the first half of the A section
are these two phrases.
The second half of the A section, is
the first phrase with a different ending.
And that goes like this.
Okay, so
that little tag is
actually a great tag.
It's a famous tag.
I think I'm playing probably
the famous version of it.
Sounds like this.
I don't know why I just played it
like that.
I want you to play in the chugga
chugga pattern with the back beat.
So it sounds like this.
Sounds much better.
So four, three, four, one, four.
That's the first part.
And then O, four, three, O, one, O.
And I end with
a push there.
The reason for that is to get back ready
to play the next down beat on a down bow.
Let me play that tag one more time.
So we've actually got
the whole A section now.
Let me play all four
of these phrases once.
And why don't we do,
what I like to call, the trifecta.
I want you to listen the first time.
I want you to sing along the second
time while fingering the cello and
then the third time I want
you to play it with me, okay?
I'm gonna play it three times through.
Just listen the first time.
Three, four.
Now with
play with
me and.
That's the whole A section.
Play it maybe a couple times on your own.
This section starts with
a really great sequence.
A sequence, you can think of a sequence,
well, it's a pattern,
it's a repeated pattern.
So it sounds like this.
It's just
that little downward scale starting on A,
G, and then F sharp.
And then ending on E.
[SOUND] Let's play that together.
Three, and.
One more time.
Three, and.
Now, add to that.
I've got this
O, extend four, one, O.
Listen once more.
Let's play that much together.
One, two, three, and.
Now, I'm gonna keep adding to that.
We have another sequence.
The second sequence in the same section.
Except this one, it's going up.
I guess it's an almost
complete sequence.
O, four, O, three, one, O, one, four.
Three, one, O, three, one.
Let's try that.
I'll just loop that one section.
Play it with me.
Three, and.
Again with me.
Last time.
Let me put it all together in the B
section, let's do, the trifecta.
I want you to listen the first time,
sing the second time, play the third time.
From the B section.
Three, four.
Now play.
So, we're gonna
add what are called
connecting notes.
In order to fill in the subdivisions
in between the end of the phrase, and
the beginning of the repeat.
So, right there at the end.
That's gonna get us back to
start it, as we repeat it.
With those filler notes, let's play
it three times through together.
One, two, ready, and.
filler notes.
Same thing.
Filler notes.
Filler notes.
[SOUND] So just like the first,
the A section,
this B section is gonna repeat twice
with the second ending, the second time.
So let me play the whole B section, and
I'll call it out when
the new ending happens.
This part you know.
Filler notes.
New ending.
[SOUND] Coincidentally,
it's the same last phrase
ending from the A section.
This happens a lot in Bluegrass.
Bluegrass is a very
modular style of music.
So the A section ends at the same phrase,
as the B section.
But we're gonna put a couple
of filler notes in,
in order to get us up to that
high note of the ending.
So the second half of the B section.
It stops here.
It stops here.
It doesn't go to the G string, so that we
can immediately do three filler notes.
And land on the D.
O, one, three, four.
So let me show you that in context.
O, one, three, four.
And once we get there,
it's the same ending as the A section.
[SOUND] Let me do the trifecta
with the B section.
Listen the first time,
sing the second time, play the third time.
Three and.
Filler notes.
Filler notes.
Sing with me.
Filler notes.
And filler notes.
Let's play together.
[SOUND] Wait.
The B section, ready, and.
Let's do
it a couple
of times.
Do you remember
the A section,
have we lost it
Let's put the whole tune together.
You can go with my performance track,
and listen to it again, one time.
And maybe sing along while fingering,
and then you can play along with
that performance track,
as many times as you need.
Let's do it once together, right here,
in the middle of this lesson.
[SOUND] The whole thing,
Arkansas Traveller.
[SOUND] One.
[SOUND] A two, and a one, two, ready, and.
A section
B section
Now that we know this core melody,
let's add some things to it, so
it sounds super awesome and stylistic.
The shuffle bowing, Run Jimmy,
can easily be superimposed
onto this melody.
And it would look and sound like this.
A section
So you could go through the whole tune,
with this Run Jimmy violin.
And also our up, down, up, down,
up, that variation can also
be super imposed onto this.
That would look and sound like this.
It may be at first,
hard to coordinate
these other bowings
over the left-hand notes.
Start with Run Jimmy,
cuz that's really the fundamental groove.
And then, you can also work on this up,
down, up, bowing.
And they both have slightly
different feels to it.
And the second time through my
performance version of this tune,
you may have noticed that I would
actually use all of the three options,
Chugga Chugga, Run Jimmy, up, down, up,
and maybe even improvise with the accents,
but that's actually a sort of
the degree of freedom you'll have.
Now let me just demonstrate really clearly
here as well, just the combination of
a few of these bowings, and
when you start to combine them.
You can start to feel really loose and
as if the rhythm is just kind
of conversational in nature.
So, I'll start with Chugga Chugga.
Now, Run Jimmy.
Now, Chugga.
Now, up, down, up.
Run Jimmy.
Run Jimmy, run.
So once you practice these in isolation,
you can start to combine them.
And the D section in particular I find
really satisfying with the Chugga Chugga,
at the beginning when it goes.
An that sequence,
I just like using
the Chugga Chugga pattern.
But you could use any of these, obviously.
That was up,
down, up, down, up.
So practice,
after you get the notes to this tune.
Practice some of these different bowings
cuz they all have different feels.
And eventually, you can start to combine
them in a way that's really satisfying.
The other thing I did in my performance
version is I played it with single line
melody the first time through, and
then I started adding drone
strings the second time through.
So, the single line melody
is what you've learned.
And if I just add a bunch of open D and
A and
even G strings around the melodic notes,
it can make everything
sound much more full.
So let me demonstrate, see if you
can still hear the melodic note,
amidst all of the drone strings.
It starts to sound even more like
a fiddle tune because that's
just a really characteristic
part of fiddle tunes, of Bluegrass.
It's basically the more
strings you have vibrating,
the louder you can sound, and
Bluegrass is all about being loud.
So you wanna add some drone strings,
for some flavor.
And you don't have to add them
as constantly, as I just did.
You can throw them in,
and take them out, and
that's a fun thing to sort
of play around with as well.
There was one thing I did in
the performance track which
is common in bluegrass.
I anticipated the melody on the off-beat
before it was supposed to happen.
So on the A section,
the melody starts on the down beat, right?
But when I repeat it,
when I get to the section change,
I'm gonna end.
I anticipated it just right there.
So that first note comes earlier and
is a little longer.
That's a really fun way to sort
of kick the energy back in
as you're repeating a section.
So you'll hear that in the performance,
as well.
Next up, it's time to learn the chords.
As a cellist in bluegrass,
unfortunately your life is gonna
be spent mostly playing chords
accompanying fiddle players.
Fiddle players are notorious for
not actually being that great at playing
chords to accompany somebody else.
I won't name any names.
But as a cellist, your job in a bluegrass
jam is gonna be very chordal in nature.
So, we need to learn the chorus of
this tune because in a bluegrass jam,
the melodic player alternates.
Like if you're sitting in a circle,
one person will play the melody, and
then the person to the left
will play the melody.
And everybody will get turns.
And they can take,
some improvisation will take turns, too.
But everybody who's not
playing the melody or
taking a solo is just
gonna be playing chords.
So if you're gonna participate
in a bluegrass jam,
you have to know the chords.
The best way to learn
chords are in chunks, okay?
If you try and think of chords one by one,
not only is it gonna take a really
long time to memorize them, but
you're probably gonna mess it up,
and drive yourself crazy.
So I always think of bluegrass
chords in four, four beat chunks.
So for this tune, they go [SOUND].
Well let me,
actually, I should say that you can think
of chords in letters or in numbers, okay?
So, in the key of D, the three chords
we're gonna need are D, G, and A.
These are the one, four, and five chords.
Oftentimes, the bluegrass musicians
will call out the numbers.
And if you learn the chord
progression by the numbers,
that way you can actually
access that memory in any key.
So I'm gonna call out
the numbers that way because
we're gonna get used to those
relationships inherent in those numbers.
So just know and repeat after me
that in the key of D, D is one.
D is one.
G is four, G is four.
A is five, A is five.
Okay, so the chords are.
break this up
into chunks.
So we've got.
One, four, five, one,
say it with me, and one, four, five, one.
That's actually one of our most common
bluegrass chord progressions, and
it's gonna be in this tune.
It's gonna happen a lot.
It'll happen in other tunes as well.
So I'm just doing the chugga
chugga pattern with the bow, and
I'm just doing kind of like barred
fifths for each of these chords.
One, four, five.
So the first cell is.
The next cell is five,
five, five.
Then we have one, four, five, one again.
The ending.
My gosh, it's the same cell again,
one, four, five, one.
We're gonna get to know
this cell very well.
So, the whole A section is one, four,
five, one, five, five, five, five.
One, four, five, one,
one, four, five, one.
Okay, let's play that together.
One, two, ready and.
B section has a different
cell that's also
really common.
It's starts with a.
One, four,
one, five.
Say it with me, one, four, one, five.
D, G, D, A, say that with me, D, G, D, A.
And we're actually gonna do that again.
It's three of
the same cell in a row.
One, four, one, five.
One, four, one, five.
One, four, one, five.
And then, we have the ending
from the A section, which is.
So we just reverse the five and
one at the end.
Okay, let's play the B section chords.
One, four, one, five.
One, four, one, five.
One, four, five, one.
One, two, ready and.
Ready, and.
If you can memorize these chords in
these chunks, and play along with my
performance track or even just the backing
track, just focusing on the chords.
Chords are worth practicing because that's
what you're gonna spend most of your time
doing in the jam.
For now, just do them in the chugga,
chugga pattern.
That will suffice for years to come.
Anything else is just a variation on that.
So that's Arkansas Traveler.
I think we did it.
We learned our first
intermediate bluegrass tune.
Send a video response,
can't wait to hear you.