means that the thumb is responsible for laying down an alternating
bassline while the fingers simultaneously add independent melody and
harmony lines. Here’s how we’ll achieve our goal: We’ll start
with a simple alternating bass and we’ll work on it until it becomes
comfortable. Then we’ll add small, successive complications that will
feel uncomfortable at first, but we’ll work them it until they become
comfortable, before moving on to the next.
After some preliminary exercises, we get right into Six Songs You Know, two in each of three keys: “Camptown Races,” “Oh! Susanna,” “Red River Valley,” “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” “House of the Rising Sun” and “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” and much of the rest of book is devoted to revisiting these six songs at increasing levels of complexity (four levels in all). The first level is straightforward: All melody notes land squarely on the beat.
In the second level we
add SYNCOPATION, where melody notes are shifted to the offbeat while
keeping the bass ON the beat, and we tinker with adding a third
alternate bass string. The third level introduces HARMONY in the form
of picking pattern and other chord tones. And the fourth level throws
in the faster eighth notes, walking basslines, slurs and other kinds of
chord substitutions and tricks that will make your mother proud.
Sprinkled throughout the book are arrangements of other songs and song fragments: “Frere Jacque,” “When the Saints Go Marching In,” “Ode to Joy,” “Simple Gifts,” “Buffalo Gals” and “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho,” "Jingle Bells," "Yankee Doodle," "The Caissons Go Rolling Along" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." I know they’re not very exciting, but at least you know how they're supposed to sound.