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Arlen Roth Lessons
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The “Train Whistle” lick utilizes the technique of half-step bending, producing one of the most unique guitar sounds available to players. The lick has developed into two very distinct styles, or positions: one is the more standard folk-blues style, and the other is the more advanced two-string bend, which produces an almost Hawaiian-style approach.
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The alternating bass has an entirely different feel and stylistic bent compared with the constant bass in the last lesson, yet they are totally related to each other, and can even be interchangeable.
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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.
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This technique, made famous by many great players but most notably Jerry Reed, is usually created by using a thumb pick and fingers, or the hybrid “pick and finger” style. It’s basically a “grabbing” type action of the open positions, hence the “claw” name.
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This position is extremely useful, and of course, it’s not ONLY a turnaround lick. In piano playing circles, however, it is one of the most recognizable licks of all, and so much so that it’s almost become a cliché. Ray Charles was a master of this lick, but you can also hear it in the playing of other piano greats such as Jerry Lee Lewis, and some of the great New Orleans players like Fats Domino and Dr. John.
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