John Miller, not only a master guitar player is a fine instructor and as humble and unassuming as they come given that he IS a master and his recordings going back a long time when he was a younger man demonstrate this fully. You can picture him huddled over a turntable, beside a mountain of 78s, guitar in hand, ear set on 'scrutinize', perceptively hoovering up all the little clues which can crack the early masters' code. John recognizes and plays good, interesting and often complex tunes with often delectable melodies and has unveiled the talent and feel of guitarists like Bo Carter, Robert Wilkins, Mississippi John Hurt, Furry Lewis and many of the other country blues legends. John is a clear and patient teacher who explains things well and whose love of the music comes through clearly.
Tablature/music is available as a PDF file for each lesson. Lessons are filmed with multiple cameras and consist of a performance, explanation, and conclude with a slow tempo split screen that follows the tab/music.Back to Singles Catalog Listing
This song has a very infectious signature lick and one of Bo Carter's very best solos, from which you'll learn how to negotiate a host of shapes up the neck. It is one of those songs that teach you about as much as four or five normal songs.
Avalon Blues is the song that led to John Hurt's rediscovery. It has one of the most memorable signature licks of any E blues, and the more you repeat that lick, the deeper you get into the song and the stronger your rhythm gets. Played in the key of E.
This is probably charley Jordan's wildest piece, with exceptionally active thumbwork in the right hand. It's very exciting and fun to play. Played in the key of E.
This one is a real showpiece, mining the key of D for all its possibilities. Slides, playing up the neck, intricate rhythm - it has it all.
This is probably Furry Lewis's most accessible tune to play and a great introduction to his music. It's a lot of fun to sing, too, with that refrain, When you lose your money, learn to lose. Played in the key of C.
This is one of John Hurt's easiest songs to play, with a very pared back, minimalistic approach in the left hand. The sound is wonderfully infectious, though.
This is a real work/out in Spanish tuning, where Clifford Gibson had one of the most sophisticated approaches of any player in the style. It's a challenging, but very rewarding piece to play.
Brown Skin Blues comes from West Virginian Dick Justice. It's a really strong blues in E in standard tuning that sounds as though it was influenced
by Luke Jordan's Church Bells Blues. It has lots of exciting variations.
Memphis Willie B. gave his version of "Brownsville Blues" such a spooky sound, it'll raise the hair on the back of your neck. There is beautiful use of controlled deep bends in the bass on this one.
Teddy Darby came up with an unforgettable signature lick for "Built Right On The Ground", and it's a treat to sing, too. It is not very difficult in the left hand.
John Hurt's version of this song has an epic quality; there's really nothing else like it. It's a challenge to put together, but a challenge well worth taking. Played in the key of A.
This is a difficult tune, and there's no point in down-playing its difficulty. Lemon's imagination was seemingly limitless and he came up with so many great ideas for this tune. Learn it, and you'll really have accomplished something. Played in the key of G.
Cumberland Gap was played in C in standard tuning by Frank Hutchison. Hutchison utilized a thumb lead in his picking hand for most of the song, which is tricky primarily because of his unorthodox timing. It is one of those rare tunes in which the right hand is more difficult than the left hand.
This one has a pretty quiet left hand, and as a result is one of Bo Carter's easier songs to play. It will help get you accustomed to his characteristic thumb-and-three-fingers picking style.
Clifford Gibson combines an unfamiliar tuning with a right hand approach that uses very controlled brush stokes. This is not very tough in the left hand, but quite challenging to achieve the smooth flow the song should have.
A masterpiece, and one of the greatest blues in A ever recorded. This very challenging piece has Willie Reed working through a host of different licks in A, and his long thumb-lead solo is spectacular. Hard work but worth every bit of it.
Dryland Blues is Furry Lewis's take on the commonly-encountered 8-bar blues progression in E. He works in some nifty syncopated thumbwork that makes the song particularly fun and challenging to play.
This is an exceptionally driving piece in A that lays out beautifully in the left hand and is especially fun to play. It makes you realize what a strong player Geeshie Wiley was.
A terrific E blues from the Texas/Oklahoma master, J. T. Smith (Funny Papa Smith), featuring a lot of novel moves, including a little misdirection at the start of the intro that will really catch your ear. A treat to play, and great lyrics.
This has a unique combination of high concept (a 17 - bar form!) and a rough sound. This one utilizes the musical materials of the blues in a completely unique way. Played in the key of A.
This is Frank Stokes' take on an 8-bar blues in E (though he sometimes phrases it as a 12-bar blues). This has a tricky and varied use of the thumb and is a real showpiece.
Frankie is yet another classic from John Hurt, and you couldn't pick a better song to begin to develop your familiarity with Spanish (Open G) tuning. There's lots of intricate, driving picking on Frankie.
Franklin Blues comes from Tennessean Sam McGee and is an instrumental showpiece played in C in standard tuning. After an unusually pretty opening section,
Sam concludes with a fast version of Buck Dancer's Choice
There of been so many versions performed of this fingerpicking classic. Why not learn to play it right, the way Libba Cotten played it? Played in the key of C.
Furry has very free phrasing and a varied right hand in this song, making it a challenging one to learn and memorize. It is more in the style of Rock Island Blues than of Kassie Jones or I Will Turn Your Money Green.
Graveyard Blues is a low-down blues in E in standard tuning from Virginian Hobart Smith. The song has a tremendous driving rhythm and catchy signature lick. It's one of those tunes that is hard to stop playing, once you start. A bonus: it's not very difficult.
This is one of the very strongest riff tunes of the early Delta Blues recordings. Learn to play this piece well, and it will do wonders for your sense of timing. Played in the key of E.
This piece has a lot of neat touches, like intermittent alternation of the bass, brush strokes and a very catchy signature riff. It's a great intro to Tom Dickson's playing. Played in the key of D.
One of the most beautiful of all Country Blues pieces, "Hard Time Blues" perfectly captures the St. Louis sound. It has a very distinctive approach in both the left and right hands. Played in the key of E.
What a terrific tune! This has one of the greatest signature licks in all of the Country Blues, and once you learn it you'll have a hard time stopping yourself from playing it. It also incorporates slide in a fairly simple way. Essential.
This is one of Bo's 'Pop Blues", an exceptionally pretty raggy tune in C. As with all of Bo's pieces, it is put together so intelligently and shows a strong compositional sense.
The left hand on this one is not too challenging. The piece has a distinctive heavy time, and is a good one for working on singing and playing at the same time. Played in the key of G.
I Do Blues is a wonderful introduction to Robert Wilkins' music, with a varied use of the thumb, an unusual sense of phrasing, but a great sense of flow. this song really sticks to your ribs and will come back to haunt you.
One of the greatest tunes ever played in Spanish tuning, Furry Lewis's I will Turn Your Money Green is also a great introduction to that tuning. Learning it will make a host of other songs played in Spanish tuning very accessible.
Yet another song that showcases Robert Wilkins' compositional originality, this is the only 12-bar blues I can think of that is phrased in two 6-bar phrases.
The catchiness of Wilkins' signature lick will draw you right into the tune.
Robert Wilkins' Jailhouse Blues is a beautifully soulful piece, and will build your skills in playing controlled brush strokes with your thumb. The intro alone is worth the price of admission. Played in the key of E.
Johnson City Blues comes from Clarence Greene, better known as a fiddler, and it is a terrific number played in A in standard tuning. It is a level
three tune, mostly due to active thumbwork, with exciting bass runs that sit very naturally in the left hand.
Furry Lewis's version of Casey Jones is unfogettable, with a wonderful use of slides in the left hand that evoke the train. Exceptionally fun to play, it puts you in a wonderful, trance-like state.
There are no chords in this song, just melodic phrasing. It is great tune to work on expression in the way you phrase and inflect melody. The guitar is
in Crossnote tuning.
A haunting melody from Kenny Baker, “Legend of the Whistling Brakeman” goes to some interesting different places, chordally, than any of the other pieces in Spanish tuning//it’s altogether distinctive sounding.
Bo Carter is playing for keeps with this one– it’s mean and nasty, but so bluesy. What he plays behind his singing on the verse is the stuff of genius– challenging, but so rewarding.
One of Robert Wilkins' raggy tunes, this one has the melody taking the bass for a ride, and will have you developing some expertise with thumb brush strokes. Like all of Wilkins€۪ raggy material, it is fun to sing, too. Played in the key of C.
One of John Hurt's prettiest melodies, Louis Collins is a great song to learn to develop your ability to sing along with your playing, for the melody,
as sung, sits right on top of where you phrase it on the guitar. Played in the key of C.
This striking instrumental has a mysterious quality that greatly influenced the late John Fahey, and through him, all of the American Primitive guitarists
that followed him. This tune puts you in a world of its own. Played in the key of G.
Mistreating Mama Blues is a real tour de force, probably Furry Lewis's most challenging piece to play, but it is absolutely worth the work it will take
to get it. It's a real showpiece. Played in the key of E.
John Hurt incorporated slides and playing up the neck a bit on this one. One of his more intense numbers. Played in the key of A.
This is a tremendously catchy raggy number that Bo Carter played in his favorite DGDGBE tuning, in which the top four strings are the same as in standard
tuning. Learning this one will make a host of Bo€۪s best material more accessible to you.
John Hurt's arrangement of this lovely tune is one of his easier ones. It's a great one for beginning to develop familiarity and comfort with the thumb-wrapped
F chord. Played in the key of C.
This is a ripping piece from the spectacular Buddy Moss, and showcases his right hand approach, in which the thumb never keeps straight time, but is always
counter - punching around the beat. Lots of brushed triplets in the treble, too.
This one is so strong, and the left hand is simple, very much like John Hurt's "Spike Driver's Blues". A good piece to learn to come to grips with thumb
brushes in the right hand. Played in the key of G.
“No Time At All” is a great Vestapol instumental with some similarities to Libba Cotten’s “Vestapol”. It is not real challenging in the left hand and is a good introduction to the tuning.
On her old Folkways album, Libba played a variation towards the end of her rendition of this tune in which she inserted a rhythmic hitch which I have never
heard anyone duplicate. Until I heard Libba recount the circumstances in which she wrote this tune, it had never occurred to me that it was a child's
voice singing this song. Played in the key of C.
Another show - stopper from Buddy Moss, this one has very syncopated thumbwork. Especially fun to play, once you get your mind wrapped around the way he
used his right hand. Played in the key of E.
John Byrd gave his “Old Timbrook Blues” a very driving rhythm, with some quickly picked runs and big brush strokes. This one has a splashy sound.
This is one of the strongest performances in Dropped - D tuning ever recorded. An exceptionally exciting piece, it employs controlled double - time strumming,
bends, long bass runs, you name it.
With a beautiful, contemplative melody, Payday draws you into its own world. It's a perfect introduction to Vestapol (Open D) tuning, and utilizes a playing
slide without a slide approach in which you fret only single notes, never fingering any chords.
Robert Wilkins works in a ragtimey style on this number, which is great fun to play. The solo has the wonderful quality of sounding much harder to play than it actually is! Played in the key of C.
Bo Carter's Policy Blues has a tough sound, and if you're drawn to more low-down sounds, you can't do much better than this one. It has a spectacular solo,
Pussy Cat Blues is very fun to play, and sits right under the hand so naturally. This is one of Bo Carter's most accessible numbers and a great introduction
to his music. Played in the key of A.
The left hand is practically still on Reachin' Pete , and makes it a good song to get accustomed playing an alternating bass, since you can really concentrate on the right hand. It sounds harder than it is. Played in the key of G.
Reuben Oh Reuben is Emry Arthur's version of Reuben's Train. It is played out of Vestapol tuning with a thumb lead in the right hand, and the left hand is dirt simple, free-handing everything with not a chord played from beginning to end.
On this sassy number, John Hurt occasionally drops his alternating bass out, and it's great to learn how to keep your rhythmic bearings when that happens.
If you're drawn to raggy material, this song is for you. Played in the key of C.
A haunting melody and a distinctive "stop - and - go" phrasing in the right hand characterize "Rising River Blues". Not difficult in the left hand, the
timing may prove elusive at first.
Furry Lewis really pulls out his bag of tricks on this one. It has a lot of variety and it is a challenge to add the vocal to it.
Mance came up with one of the all-time great signature licks for this song, and his solo is one everybody should learn. An essential Texas blues in E.
Robert Wilkins' Rolling Stone is in many ways a precursor of the Hill Country style of musicians like R. L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. It is minimalistic and trancey in its feel, and will build your skill in doing controlled bends. Played in the key of E.
See See Rider provides a work-out for the right hand, with some intricate picking, and John Hurt's unusual progression on this one makes it a sort of one-off.
Play this one with the kind of rhythmic flow John Hurt had and you'll really have accomplished something. Played in the key of D.
This is John Hurt's take on an 8-bar blues in E, and it sports a fairly simple left hand and driving rhythm.
Libba Cotten's version of this tune has a lovely serenity, and will provide you with an excellent introduction to Spanish (Open G) tuning. It's also in
waltz time, and will show you how to cope with an alternating bass when playing in 3/4.
With a beautiful economy in the left hand, Spike Driver's Blues is a perfect song to develop your ability to play with an alternating bass. A classic played
in the key of G.
Not a very difficult piece in the left hand, "Spoonful Blues" provides an introduction to the raggy VI/II/V/I progression. You'll have it up and running
This one is a challenging level 3, for Mance plays a great variety of moves in dropped-D. The song has a very spooky sond and mood that will draw you in.
A wonderful Robert Wilkins' tune that was covered by the Rolling Stones! This is such a beautiful piece, and utilizes Vestapol tuning in a way that is
simultaneously very expressive, but not very complicated in the left hand. It will build your kills in playing controlled bends and in interspersing
strumming with your picking.
The Cannon Ball comes from Maybelle Carter, and is a beautiful piece in C in standard tuning. The left hand is not difficult at all, but there are a few rhythmic surprises.
A beautiful set piece by Curley Weaver, this one utilizes syncopated thumbwork in a compact 8 bar form. Exceptionally fun to play.
This piece isn't flashy, but oh, so pretty. Peg Leg Howell came up with a unique approach to playing in F, and it's a good introduction to that key.
Clifford Gibson had such a highly evolved style in Spanish tuning, and it makes for complicated, high concept pieces. "Bad Luck Dice " falls squarely in that model, with a varied right hand approach, rapid runs and lots of other technical demands that will keep you off the streets and out of trouble.
This is one of the real classics in Open D tuning and a great introduction to that tuning. It has the additional benefit of being one of Libba Cotten's
less challenging tunes, in the left hand.
This lovely hymn has a fairly simple left hand part, and will build your skills in doing long, controlled slides in the left hand. A wonderful introduction to Spanish tuning.
Mance Lipscomb achieved such a beautiful rolling sort of rhythm on "Willie Poor Boy." Some of the left hand moves are similar to those used in Bluegrass banjo.
Libba Cotten pulls out all the stops in "Wilson Rag," modulating to different keys in surprising ways. You'll learn a lot by memorizing this one, too,
with all of its changes. Played in the key of C.
John Hurt utilized an infectious boogie bass for Worried Blues that is especially fun to play. This is one of his really exciting up-tempo numbers. Played
in the key of A.
This one is a real sleeper, a one-chord song from the obscure Otis Harris, but boy is it fun to play! You won't have a problem practicing this one, you'll
have a problem stopping practicing! Played in the key of A.
In his arrangement of this song played in the key of G, John Hurt utilizes a technique in which the melody takes the bass for a ride , with the movement
on the sixth string following the melody as it moves up the first string. It's a good technique to get a grip on, for you'll encounter it in other
songs from time to time.