The idea for this type of collection of chord charts began somewhere around 1990 when I became exposed to the wide variety of songs played by participants in the National Old Time Fiddlers’ Contest in Weiser, Idaho.
At that time, as a budding rhythm guitar player, I found myself immensely confused by the equally wide variety of chord progressions played for a given song by the fiddler’s accompanists. My confusion was compounded because the strange progressions they used in songs familiar to me, appeared only remotely related to the simple structures I already knew. To make matters worse, many guitar players and fiddlers from whom I sought help, approached an individual song differently from their colleagues while proclaiming their progression was the only right way of doing it.
Thus the book’s title, “Rhythm Guitar is Boring! Or, There’s Only One Way to Play it, A Musical Absurdity”.
As an example, I had originally learned to play “Billy in the Lowground” as a two part tune with eight measures each:
C C Am Am C C Am G/C
C C F F C C Am G/C
While accompanying former National Adult Champion, Dale Morris, at a jam session in February of 1987, he suggested we play “Billy in the Lowground”. Just before we started he said, “Now don’t go putting that A minor in there. The song never had an A minor in there, it doesn’t belong there, so don’t put it in there”. Dale went on to explain that Eck Robertson had not used the A minor and it was from him that Dale had learned the song. So I played the song:
C C F F C C F G/C
All went well and he seemed happy with the result.
A month later I had occasion to accompany Dale’s younger brother, Terry Morris at another jam session. Like Dale, he suggested we play “Billy in the Lowground” but prefaced the song by telling me, “Now don’t go putting that F chord in there”.
I responded by relating what his older brother had recently told me and asked if that meant I should play the song with all C chords except for the quick G at the end of each part. After some laughter and a certain amount of head-shaking he told me to go ahead and put the A minor in the song. So I played the song.
C C Am Am C C Am G/C
That summer, while in Weiser, I was told by a number of guitar players that I should be going to the G chord earlier in the song than I was, and to play the song:
C C Am Am C C Am/G G/C
It also became apparent that summer, that some of the guitar players used an F chord in the song while others did not.
A few years later, I related my “Billy in the Lowground” story to former National Champion, Dick Barrett He proceeded to tell me that when he first became involved with this music, Major Franklin told him to play the song with only “A” minor chords. Dick did say that Major also indicated there were better ways of playing the song but in a pinch straight “A” minor chords would work.
In any case, I relate all of this to you as a means of suggesting that there are many ways of playing an individual song; all of which are dependent upon individual taste and as is the case with most musical folk art forms, only somewhat dependent upon the established rules of music. With this in mind, I designed this chord book not to provide the definitive chord progression for a given song, but to offer some fairly straight-forward chord progressions for the songs, as well as some of the more common alternatives I have encountered.
Useful from a Slight Distance!
The book is 270 pages long and full-size, meaning spiral bound with a size of 8.5 X 11 inches. It contains chord charts for approximately 300 tunes.
More importantly, I wrote the charts with a large typeface in order for them to be seen from a distance. I wanted to be able to see the chord chart from a standing position even if it was on the ground in front of me.
As such, the book and each chart were useful at all times, even during the jam session itself or on stage during a fiddle contest or performance. I didn’t have to risk messing up by trying to memorize the song just before playing it because the typeface was so small it could only be seen if you held the book in your hands.
While standing or sitting, I could put the book on the floor in front of me and know what to play. Time and again, purchasers have told me they found the large size a major benefit.
By itself, the price for this book is $29.95. The price for my other book about playing rhythm guitar is also $29.95. Purchased together, the price drops to $27.50 or a total of $55.00 for both.