Play a Ragtime Blues Thumb Roll

by Orville Johnson

One of Blind Blake’s signature rhythmic ideas was a “thumb roll” in the bass. This quick note before the downbeat of the measure adds a unique bounce to the groove. To pull it off, let your thumb roll off the lower string, come to rest on the next one for a split second, roll off that one, and then pick up the regular alternating-bass line until it’s time to change chords and do it all over again. In Example 4 the thumb roll doesn’t happen on every chord change. It’s the kind of technique that spices up your rhythm but if you put it in too much, it becomes predictable. After you get this little rhythm bump happening, use it to season the groove to your own taste.

Example 4 Ragtime Thumbroll: Acoustic Blues Guitar Basics
Click to enlarge.

Work on this piece for a while and try to get it up to a moderately quick tempo. If you play it too fast, the thumb roll will lose its bouncy quality and the whole thing will get robotic. Think jaunty!

Excerpted from Acoustic Blues Guitar Basics

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