How do I Play Carter Scratch Guitar

The Carter Family recorded between 1927 and 1956. They laid the foundation for country music, bluegrass and were a major influence on the folk revival in the early 1960s. Maybelle Carter's guitar style was an integral part of the Carter's Family's success. Maybelle created a unique and rhythmically driving guitar style that eventually became known as scratch guitar. Maybelle developed her style by shifting the melody from the treble strings to the bass strings. She would play the melody on the bass string with her thumb while strumming chords on the treble strings with her fingers.

Listen to the Carter Family standards. Careful listening and study is an essential step in learning a musical style and technique. Listen to Carter Family standards such as "Wildwood Flower", "Wabash Cannonball", and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken". Maybelle's scratch guitar style is heavily featured in each of these songs.

Practice major scales with your thumb on the low strings. The low strings on a guitar are the sixth, fifth and fourth strings. Practicing the scales helps to develop your thumb technique and acquaint you with the melody notes on the lower strings. It is not necessary to practice scales in every key. Carter Family songs tend to be in the keys of C major, G major and D major. Other scales to include are A major and E major. Practice each scale with a metronome. Set the metronome at a slow speed. Play each scale using quarter notes. Repeat the scale using eighth notes.

Practice strumming chord patterns in the treble strings with your fingers. The treble strings are the third, second and first strings. Begin by playing in the key of C major. The primary chords are C major, F major, and G major and G7. Form a C major chord in the first position. Play quarter notes on the bass strings with your thumb, and strum the treble strings with your index and middle fingers. The treble strings are typically played on beat two and beat four, and the bass notes are played on beat one and beat two. The rhythmic effect is similar to a drummer.

Find the tabs and sheet music for your favorite Carter Family songs. Music and tabs for Carter Family songs are quite easy to find. Order a Carter Family music book online or at a local music store. Many online sources also provide the tabs for Carter songs online for free. Two online sites that provide Carter Family tabs are and

Practice the songs with a metronome. Practicing with a metronome is the best way to develop speed and accuracy. Always start slow. Learn the basic chord patterns and then concentrate on the melody line on the lower strings.

Approved by Jesse Anderson