Chet Atkins’ delusive triplet roll

Why delusive? Because it traps you into thinking that triplets start in a different place. Have a listen at two examples, one by Chet and one by Tommy.

In this video the lick is at 2:31. It contains three triplet groups.


In this video a very similar lick starts at 1:39. It contains four triplet groups.

When I first stumbled upon it seemed obvious that the roll contains triplets played on three strings by repeating thumb, 1st and 2nd finger. Something like this (hold Emaj for this ):


However no matter how long I tried to time above licks in this manner I always finished earlier than the original. It took me some time to find my mistake. And the mistake was the first group. It actually isn’t a group played on three strings. There is a hammer-on there so the first two notes are played on the same string. Here is a rough transcription of those two lick:


Chet’s lick starts on the second quarter note (on two). You play open 6th string with your thumb. Then goes the hammer-on and then the 5th string which is the last sound of the first triplet. It means that you begin second triplet with the fourth string plucked by second finger. The lick is based on C/G chord (C with G as the lowest note). Both 6th and 5th string are covered by third finger but you can use 3rd and 4th.


Tommy’s version is a little longer. It starts on one but the rule is the same. Chord is a bit more complicated. It’s C11 with F in the base and #5. you grab 6th and 5th string with your thumb in this one. Put your capo on 2nd fret if you want to play with the recording.


What fooled me in the beginning was natural grouping imposed by right hand fingering (thumb, 1st, 2nd). If it’d coincided with the triplet groups it would have been easy but at the same time it wouldn’t have finished on the first note of new bar (on the beat). By beginning with two notes per string and only then switching to normal right hand pattern the last note of the right hand group is also the first note of another triplet group or of anything that comes after the lick. Be finishing on the beat it it has more final sound to it.

This pattern is easily applicable to any chord as long as you can put those two notes per string in the beginning. The lick sounds good at the end of a phrase.


As a dessert, for comparison let’s look at very similar lick played by Buster B. Jones (1:56):

This version has normal beginning and so to end on the beat the last note of last triplet is repeated by the thumb.


Beginner fingerstyle song with tabs

This is a video lesson that I published quite some time ago but I guess it would be nice to put it here for anyone not familiar with my youtube account. The song is called Baby Steps and it’s in A maj. While writing it I was avoiding all the beginners dreads like barre, wide fingerings, weird chords or thick texture.

Here you can find tabs in gpx and pdf.

If you need help with some parts of it or want to share your thoughts please leave a comment.

How fast can I learn fingerstyle?

This is the question, so many students asked me in one way or the other. Usually it comes disguised as “How long would I have to learn to be able to play (like) this?”after I play some showstopper like Classical Gas for them.

The answer depends on so many factors (beginning with: are you going to play 0,5 hour or 5 hours a day?) that it’s literally impossible to cover half of it in one post. So leaving those factors for some other post, let’s concentrate on how the learning process looks like from my 10+ years experience perspective.

Birth pains

The road to fingerstyle mastery is long and winding. We start with clumsily plucking strings and grabbing easiest chords with force that squeezes life out of our guitar neck. This stage, depending on your hand size, your coordination, your muscle tonicity and finally your dedication can take anything from a month to a year or two. Especially young students need more time before left hand sort of springs to life and starts working decently. And you still have your right hand to work on. Nevertheless, in first year of playing you should be able to play some of the easiest fingerstyle compositions.

Careless childhood

Once you overcome initial difficulties you start to gain momentum. Each new song is like a piece of jigsaw in what you aim to be. For me, years 2 to 5 of playing were years of rapid repertoire growth. They where also years of really struggling with tension in my hands. My tone was very bad back then.


After couple of years you wake up with considerable amount of songs and with a lot of new found doubt about your skill. This doubt is caused by your growing musical conciousness. You simply notice more and more of your flaws. I guess that many aspiring guitarists stopped at this level as it can be devastating at times (the “I’ll never be able to play like this” mentality).

Growing up

If you overcome this bump you enter the period of polishing your skill. Your repertoire isn’t growing so fast anymore, but, what’s most important, your tone and time keep getting better and better. You simply can’t stand sounding bad anymore. That’s why you might slow down with new songs to work on what you’ve already learned.

Never grow up!

So after few more years you find yourself with nice set of songs and rather good sound. You add more and more really difficult songs (quality over quantity!) which are most rewarding. Maybe you also expand your spectrum of techniques (I started to play with plectrum at that time – so called hybrid picking). For me this stage came after about six years of some serious practice.

This stage is when you sort of regain your confidence. I could already enter a stage and give an hour long concert. I also had a nice feeling that sooner or later I would be able to play anything I wanted. But was it over? Far from it. For every thing you learn or master at this stage there are two new things looming on the horizon. There is so much work ahead of you (me).

So which of those stages is “I can play fingerstyle” moment for you? For me there is no such moment. There is just a continuum of growth which could be ended only by death or hands amputation ;). Please share your thoughts on the topic. How do you see your guitar road?

Greetings fellow guitarists!

With this post I open my blog about fingerstyle guitar.

The main purpose of this blog is to provide educational material to anyone interested in playing this beautiful style. It won’t be a consistent course or educational program however (unless it crystallises with time). Instead I’m going to post educational bits and pieces that will help you in developing yourself musically. You will find short lessons on any topic I can think of here. I will also post most interesting guitar related internet discoveries and anything music related I’ll find relevant to our topic.

Before diving in you might be interested in reading the About Me page.

Have fun!