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Flat Picking

Mike Mullins Interviews

Flat Picking



Neil: So Mike I wanna ask you a couple of things just about a Flapicking Guitar in general. Well
everybody as a lot of my totally guitars you know folks, I really specializes in finger style and things like
that and that was something that sort of I went in that direction, you kind of went off in the bluegrass
flapicking direction and stuff…

Mike: Yeah.

Neil: Which is why this is such a perfect guitar for you too because it’s got that sound and it is you know,
not necessarily the best guitar for me for what kind of stuff I played you know. So flatpicking guitar a lot
of techniques are similar to like rock guitar or what we called, tell me about flatpicking guitar, bluegrass
guitar whatever flatpicking its a term kind of technically speaking it means, it’s using a pick rather than
finger to play you hold it kind of loosely. Flatpicking it’s kind of there was not a lot of tension involve
or huge amount of force but alternating pick strokes to articulate the melody, as supposed to doing
alternating pick finger style where your using all the fingers kind of pattern to be at the melody and
flatpicking the pick is generally (Strumming the guitar), alternating between downstrokes and upstrokes.
Now walking into the change strings you’ll find yourself having a two upstrokes in a row or two
downstroke its not strict it’s like having being able to transition from one string to another (Strumming
the guitar), and maintain the pattern smoothly is important…

Neil: So a lot of my lessons, I talked about two really different technique alternating and then

Mike: Right!

Neil: And then alternating picking is more like strumming where you never break the rhythm

Mike: Yeah…

Neil: Down on the bits and then up on the end and then crosspicking you go whatever directions most
efficient to get you to the next strings you might be 3 downs in a row…

Mike: Yeah

Neil: (Strumming the guitar), which is…

Mike: Right…

Neil: And that’s a more difficult technique actually to learn and I don’t want people to learn that as a
first alternating, if you want the alternating to be your baseline first.

Mike: Right…

Neil: Then you work on crosspicking

Mike: Sure…

Neil: Because what the alternating does is to keep you in time you got the metronome going here. As
soon as you go on crosspicking you have to control it better.

Mike: Yeah,

Neil: So, a lot of bluegrass stuff and folk stuff just has simple melody you pick out while you strum
(Strumming the guitar), yeah like you hear some (Strumming the guitar),…whatever you know…quickies

Mike: Well a place something kind of simple relatable here it’s a (Strumming the guitar), I was gonna do
a little teaching in this video too but as briefly going to wildwood flower and this one actually what I’m
gonna do incorporates. The melody will be distinct I’m doing this all with a flat pick,,, about the finger
sometimes I used my middle finger in a sort of kind of boost out sort of fingerpicking style.

Neil: Yeah.

Mike: (Strumming the guitar), see I’m using the flatpicking I’m using this finger and I can sort of

Neil: Finger pick

Mike: I can’t do the kinds of things that you know like I ran out of fingers but I can’t do stuff that’s really
super intriquite but you know, I do that in my playing but I’m digressing here, but wildwood flower is
(Strumming the guitar), its Carter family so its recorded in the late 20s and the melody goes like this
(Strumming the guitar). Now I’m sort of exaggerating perfective theiirs a mostly downstrokes but if I was
to put down enough (Strumming the guitar), so I’m kind of flatpicking their simple melody. So when its
slower you can actually, do one downstroke or more than one downstroke in a row but what I’m gonna
do here, is do the rhythm part here (Strumming the guitar), so that’s (Strumming the guitar), So that’s
the rhythm part of the first part of Wildwood flower. And, when I put them all together with the melody
and strumming.

Neil: So let’s play it all together I’ll strum the chords and you play the melody.

Mike: Ok

Neil: So we can hear what the song sounds like with just a rhythm guitar and a lead guitar…

Mike: Ok

Neil: Take it

Mike: 1, 2, 3

(Strumming the guitar)

Mike: So what was happening there is Neil is doing the rhythm part that I was just playing and I was
playing the melody. Now this is I’m trying to, now I’m gonna do is I’m gonna play I was gonna do this by
myself; I would play it like this with kind of a strumming going on. I’m keeping the strumming going, like
what Neil was doing there (Strumming the guitar), but I’m also kind of intersperse the melody in their
where you will be able to hear it. So here we go…

Neil: Let’s do it.

(Strumming the guitar)

Mike: So that basically…

Neil: Yeah

Mike: That basically I don’t consider flatpicking to be consider you know lightning fast middle tune
or something really pyrotechnical you know, it’s used of a pick to kind of flash out the melody. And
also playing rhythm you know (Strumming the guitar), it’s like and mostly alternating strokes like if I
was gonna do a tune like, I’ll just play a real thing what I mean by alternating would be something like
balckberry blossom this is kind of goes (Strumming the guitar). So that was primarily alternating strokes
you know (Strumming the guitar).

Neil: So that’s a good example of a fiddle tune?

Mike: That’s a fiddle tune I wasn’t really meant into get in today but I know…

Neil: No, that’s a good…actually let’s talk about…

Mike: Might have talking about you know the alternating strokes.

Neil: Yeah.

Mike: And wildwood flower there is some alternation but actually probably a simpler tune for beginner
to play.

Neil: Yeah…

Mike: Because you basically can just play the rhythm (Strumming the guitar), but its not a big stretch to
go (Strumming the guitar),

Neil: Yeah.

Mike: You notice what I was doing their because I’m doing the alternating back and forth strum but I’m
also act setting certain notes, so you can hear the melody (Strumming the guitar), my moves is kind of
exaggerated there, but it kind of gives you idea that using a pick you can actually get you know. It’s not
just rhythm or playing lead you can kind of combined both and get a full sound.

Neil: Yeah.

Mike: Norman Blake does it very successfully his one of my favorite flatpickers. He plays a style were he
can do the fast stuff and he also does the thing where his playing all across the strings and your hearing
that melody.

Neil: Just moving slightly or something in the middle of the mess.

Mike: Right. And wildwood flower is primarily out of C position and then goes to G very briefly
(Strumming the guitar), and that’s very briefly. So everything is in the first position there’s no bar chord,
probably a good one to you know I can break it down.

Neil: Yeah.

Mike: During the actual lesson part

Neil: We’ll get to the lesson I presume

Mike: But go ahead I’m sorry…

Neil: Oh that’s ok, but blackberry blossom now in order to play something like that you have to spend a
lot of time playing scale, because there’s a technical level of speed their…

Mike: Your absolutely right!

Neil: That is important, or that is important to the song and we can play blackberry blossom the same
way we just did with wildwood flower I can be strum the chord and you can be doing it…

Mike: Exactly yeah…

Neil: Because what you have there is just pretty much the lead just the melody…

Mike: Yeah…

Neil: That what you do in the fiddle tunes same thing their generally more duets you want the rhythm
where you play this with the band a mandolin player or maybe a bass player and stuff like that.

Mike: Yeah

Neil: For you to be really full in order to take turns playing the lead and stuff.

(Strumming the guitar)

Mike: Exactly, yeah and that one was the more of the back and forth alternating flatpicking and you
do have a scale that’s very important to at least get your fingers going you know, and also to get an
evenness as far as changing from one string together (Strumming the guitar) you know as you practice,
when you start of you kind of go (Strumming the guitar)

Neil: Just finding the notes kind of yeah…

(Strumming the guitar)

Mike: Yeah…

Neil: Yeah.

(Strumming the guitar)

Mike: Yeah have an alternating

(Strumming the guitar)


Neil: Ok so, it takes years to get to that.

Mike: No I’m sorry.

Neil: No no… that’s ok coz sometimes people are so intent on learning songs that they don’t necessarily
go back to really policy to do and things like that. And this style of playing really requires a lot of
technical skill more than, especially with wildwood flower just because of…

Mike: Well yeah

Neil: So you don’t have to have the quick motion.

Mike: Yeah. But I was trying to explain that flatpicking shouldn’t be you can’t some people think that
flatpicking that’s I’ll never be able to do that it’s just too scary something like…

Neil: Yeah

Mike: You’ll hear something like the Doc Watson

Neil: Yeah.

Mike: Or somebody’s playing Salt Creek really fast but flatpicking maybe simple you know its like
wildwood flower or any song you play. I mean you could take any song, you take a song by Neil Young
and you know and play it using a pick..Basically its flatpicking using a pick and defining a melody or
flatpicking you know. So it can be done be taking into any musical idiom.

Neil: Yeah…all the way to pit towns and windmills

Mike: Oh yeah that’s really fast you have to really…(laughing)

Neil: Yeah you gotta be suicidal

Mike: Yeah I’ll probably beat myself to death.

Neil: I think so yeah…

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