Eric Thompson took up the guitar as a teenager in Palo Alto, California in the early 1960's, at a time when very few folk guitarists were playing more than basic rhythm guitar. Among his earliest bands were the Black Mountain Boys (with Jerry Garcia and David Nelson) and Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions. He quickly became nationally known as an exceptional lead flatpicker, winning the World Championship Cup at Union Grove, North Carolina with the New York Ramblers (which also included David Grisman and Winnie Winston) and flying to Nashville, Tennessee to record "Beatle Country" with the Charles River Valley Boys (reissued on Rounder).
During the 1970's, Eric continued to play old-time music. He also took up the tenor banjo, organized the Graineog Celidh Band around two master musicians from County Clare, Joe Cooley and Kevin Keegan, and spent six months in the west of Ireland, visiting and learning from older traditional musicians there.
Eric is a knowledgeable and patient teacher, who has been a staff member at Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, Bluff Country Gathering, Augusta Heritage Old-Time and Cajun-Creole Weeks, Port Townsend Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, Ashokan Fiddle & Dance Camp, and Lark In the Morning. His latest writing project is "Playing Bluegrass Guitar", published by Backbeat Publications. Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop distributes Eric’s guitar instructional materials. He is featured in the Mel Bay publication Flatpicking 2000 and has also written instructional columns for Flatpicking Guitar and Acoustic Guitar magazines.
Old-time fiddle tunes are the bedrock upon which acoustic guitar flatpicking is built. Eric Thompson’s strong, melodic picking has set a benchmark for taste and tone for nearly four decades. In this lesson Eric shares soulful arrangements of seven of his favorites, guiding you slowly, line-by-line through classics like Texas Gals, Fish In The Millpond, Scotish-Irish rooted Miller’s Reel and Stony Point, mountain modal Falls of Richmond, swingin’ Kennedy Rag and the bouncy East Tennessee Blues.
You’ll build your repertoire and hone your technique, exploring fingering patterns in six different keys which are all clearly illustrated in split-screen close-ups.
84 minutes • Level 2/3 • Detailed tab/music PDF file on the DVD
Review: These two new flatpicking instructional videos from super-picker Eric Thompson are part of a three-video instructional set which is produced by Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop. Bryan Kimsey reviewed the first tape in this series, Flatpicking Guitar Country Style, in Volume 2, Number 5 of Flatpicking Guitar.
Beginners will probably want to go through the Flatpicking Guitar-Country Style video before they move along to these two new offerings as Thompson discusses fundamental techniques such as how to hold the pick, right and left hand technique, and other important beginner level details in the first video. The Country Style video is really a primer for what is to come since the rudiments of flatpicking are not repeated in the Fiddle Tunes or Crosspicking selections. Intermediate level players could probably start with any one of the three in the set. Although, as Bryan Kimsey points out in his review of the first video, the Country Style video has some outstanding arrangements of some great tunes, so I would not consider it strictly a beginners volume.
The newest two videos Flatpicking Fiddle Tunes Reels, Rags, & Hoedowns and Bluegrass Crosspicking Guitar move on from the first video into two specific areas of flatpicking the fiddle tune and the crosspicking styles. After the beginner feels comfortable with the techniques and tunes taught in the first video of this series, he or she could choose either Flatpicking Fiddle Tunes or Bluegrass Crosspicking as the next step-either would be appropriate and your choice would depend on your interest in the subject matter and/or the tunes that are presented.
The format of these two videos is similar. Thompson first plays through the tune being taught numerous times at full speed with rhythm guitar accompaniment. He is in free-form jam-session mode here. This segment itself is a great study in flatpicking technique. It is quite remarkable to watch Thompson apply his craft, and he gives intermediate and advanced players plenty to chew on. There are opportunities here to steal additional licks and techniques that are not taught during the instructional segment of the video.Next, Thompson breaks down the tune into small digestible segments and discusses each segment in detail. He occasionally goes back and progressively strings the segments together, playing them at a slow pace, so that you can easily piece the whole tune together by the time he gets to the end. The instruction is clear and precise. The production quality is outstanding.
During the instructional segments Thompson also adds valuable commentary on technique and theory. For instance, during the “Beaumont Rag” segment of the crosspicking video he demonstrates both the down-down-up and the alternating pick direction cross picking techniques. He also gives examples of how Doc Watson might play a certain passage versus how Clarence White might play that same passage. During the instructional segment of “Wildwood Flower” he also teaches the viewer how to build a crosspicking break around the melody of a song. In other words, there is much more being taught here than just the specifics of picking a certain tune.
Next, Thompson presents a “play along with me” segment of the tune that has just been taught in detail during the instructional segment. He plays the lead break two times through slowly in order to give the viewer a chance to practice playing rhythm, and then he plays rhythm two times through to give the viewer an opportunity to play the newly learned solo along with the tape. He then repeats both the lead and rhythm parts two more times. During this segment you get a split screen visual presentation of Thompson’s right and left hands. This “play along” segment is a great feature.
Each of the tunes presented on these videos is taught in the same detailed manner. Both videos come with tab booklets, however, I found that Thompson’s steady, step-by-step verbal and visual coverage of each tune was sufficient to learn the tune the first time through and thus the tab booklet really wasn’t necessary to learning the tune. However, it is very nice to have as a reference.
I think one of the nicest things about these videos is Thompson’s comfortable and casual manner. He seems at home in front of the camera and talks to you as if you were sitting with him in your living room getting a private lesson. These videos have something for players at all levels. They are not only great repertoire builders, but also provide valuable insights into important flatpicking techniques and concepts. Highly recommended! – Flatpicking Guitar