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The G Drone ‘Upstate Rag’ Lick in Open G
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The G Drone ‘Upstate Rag’ Lick in Open G

This is a unique, one-of-a-kind lick that really takes the banjo-like sound and raises it to a special level. I created this lick back in 1969 for my song “Upstate Rag,” which I originally played with my band Steel. We also performed the song in 1970 at the first anniversary of the Woodstock Festival, which was held at the actual site of Woodstock for thousands of campers. The same song also appeared as an acoustic piece on Guitar Harvest, as well as the full-band version on my 2005 CD, Landscape.

As easy as it was for me to find and create this lick, it’s always amazed me how I never hear any other guitar players use it. It’s basically a “drone” position that utilizes a hammer-on that accompanies the open G while a higher G and D ring out on the top strings. It’s a fine exercise in isolating the top four strings, while using very accurate and rapid flat-picking to coordinate the G drones with the higher string’s answers.

Remember that to create something like this in such a fast style, within such a small area, one must really have a relaxed wrist, and you must understand that a pick’s upstroke is really simply the natural “return” of a pick’s downstroke. This is one of my all-time favorite licks, so pay close attention to how I execute it. Good luck, and happy picking!—Arlen Roth

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Arlen Roth
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Instructor Bio
Arlen Roth

Music lesson pioneer Arlen Roth is the quintessential guitarist. An accomplished and brilliant musician — and one of the very few who can honestly say he’s done it all — Roth has, over the course of his celebrated 35-year career, played on the world’s grandest stages, accompanied many of the greatest figures in modern music and revolutionized the concept of teaching guitar. Read More...

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