Play the Fingerstyle arrangement of Happy Traum from “Worried Blues” on the acoustic guitar
Extract from the November / December 2021 issue of Acoustic guitar | By Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers
Last summer, when Happy Traum first received his all new signature Santa Cruz HT / 13 model, he posted a video introducing the instrument and choosing an old favorite song: “Worried Blues”, a song variant. traditional ones like “Chilly Winds” and “Coming down the road, I feel bad.” “
Traum learned “Worried Blues” about 60 years ago from a record called Hally Wood sings Texas folk songs. Wood was a song collector as well as a performer who worked with John and Alan Lomax on transcribing field recordings and sang with Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and others on the New York folk scene for years. 1940. She played the frail banjo on “Worried Blues” and Traum vaguely adapted her interpretation to fingerpicking guitar in D tuning (flipped over to second fret to sound E). Bob Dylan covered “Worried Blues” from the same source; his 1962 recording, also fingerpicked but played with C shapes (capo 3), can be heard on The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3.
Traum recorded “Worried Blues” for his 1976 solo album, Relax your mind (the song also appears on the compilation Bucket of songs). “It’s one of those lonely blues things, but it’s not a standard 12 bar blues,” he says. “It’s more like a folk song.”
This transcription is based on Traum’s recent video (above) and shows the song’s instrumental intro and one of the solos. The thumb directs the arrangement throughout, with an alternating bass varying in only a few places.
In the intro, play the melody on the upper strings while keeping the bass steady on the sixth, fifth and fourth strings. On D, toggle between the fifth position (as in the first two bars) and the open position. On G, fret the sixth string, the fifth fret, with your third finger so that your first can wriggle the D notes on the second string. At the end of the intro, bars 20-22, lightly strum the high strings with your fingers on the quarter notes of the bass before picking up the bass selection pattern alternating with the voice.
Traum’s first solo break is similar to the intro, but in the second solo, transcribed here, it moves further away from the melody and alternation of the bass. In bars 25-26, play a double-set ragtime-y riff, then switch to a monotonous bass (bars 27-28) as you play a fast melodic line on the high strings. In measures 32-34, play a long stroke of bass, alternating thumb and forefinger for selection speed.
In the tag, go back and forth between L and R – two bars each – as in bars 23 to 34, before ending with a final repeat of “I have these worried bruises”.
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Once you have the basics of this arrangement under your belt, try creating your own licks and embellishments. “Because of the dropped D and because it’s so simple at the core,” says Traum, “you can just add fun things to it to do.”