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Bluegrass Rhythm Guitar Lesson: Learn to Play “Shady Grove” with Chris Eldridge


A traditional Appalachian folk song thought to have originated in eastern Kentucky at the beginning of the 20th century, “Shady Grove” was quickly adopted into the bluegrass repertoire early on and has since become a staple of the genre. As such, it’s a piece that pickers, strummers, and fiddlers of all levels should be familiar with, and is a great tune to call at any jam session.


In this online guitar lesson, Punch Brothers co-founder, Grammy Award-winning guitarist, and ArtistWorks bluegrass guitar instructor, Chris Eldridge, teaches how to play the supporting rhythm guitar part to “Shady Grove” in the key of D minor. He also details some essential introductory music theory concepts that are utilized in this song and can be applied to many others as you continue to progress on the guitar. To explore “Shady Grove” further, learn the melody, and more, dive into Chris’ online bluegrass guitar course here.


LEARN MORE: Want to learn how to play bluegrass guitar from a master musician like Chris Eldridge? Try some free online guitar lessons now!


“‘Shady Grove’ is a really interesting tune,” Chris explains. “It’s a modal tune, meaning that all of the notes in the melody come from the parent key or parent scale of C major, despite the fact that the tune has a very dominating D minor sound. There are a lot of tunes like this in bluegrass, and this is a great one to start with.”


Chris also uses “Shady Grove” as a platform to teach about passing notes and passing chords in the context of bluegrass rhythm guitar playing. Integrating passing notes or chords is a great way to add complexity and unique sonic colorations to any piece. It’s a technique that beginners should begin exploring early on and that intermediate and advanced players should focus on regularly.


“Just for fun, I introduced an A note in that descending bass line below the C major chord,” explains Chris. “Passing notes like this make a nice color and are a great way to spice up your rhythm playing.”


To learn how to play “Shady Grove” on the acoustic guitar and better understand the fundamental music theory behind this classic tune, dive into this online guitar lesson from Chris Eldridge:


Learn to Play “Shady Grove” with Chris Eldridge:




Have you always wanted to learn how to play bluegrass guitar? Through our comprehensive guitar lessons online and Video Exchange Learning platform here at ArtistWorks, you can learn from internationally renowned players, like Chris Eldridge, and get personal feedback on your playing.


Chris’ course starts with the basics and teaches everything from beginner guitar to advanced performance techniques, classic bluegrass tunes, and beyond. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, all levels are welcome and all students will grow and improve their skills as guitarists and musicians.


Try out some free sample music lessons here and see what makes ArtistWorks courses some of the best online music lessons around!



Bluegrass Guitar Lesson: Noticing Tension with Chris Eldridge

ArtistWorks Music Series Podcast—“How to Get Out of a Musical Slump” with Chris Eldridge

Bluegrass Guitar Lesson: The Boom Chuck Style & Sound with Bryan Sutton




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