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John Renbourn’s 1976 solo guitar album The Hermit is a masterpiece of instrumental playing that is essential listening for every guitarist. Bicycle Tune is a short, 4-part piece done in lute tuning (E-A-D-F#-B-E).
Each section gets a little more difficult than the previous one so I encourage students to put a lot of time into them individually before moving onto the next.
Section A is simply a 7-beat phrase played a few times but it is very challenging from a sustaining angle, making each note ring as long as possible as voices overlap.
Section B includes a couple unusual fingerings so be sure to check the notation for those. It also introduces a hinge barre in the last measure, which is also used in upcoming sections.
Section C includes quite a few slides, hammer-ons and pull-offs, as well as an unusual technique of adjusting the placement of a finger after you’ve played the note to make room for the following one. It also includes the same hinge barre ending as Section B.
Section D of Bicycle Tune brings in a few more new moves and techniques, and a couple barres that are hard to get clear, before wrapping up with an ending similar to earlier sections.
The last two parts include a walk through of things to think about as you work through the arrangement, as well as a complete play through demonstrating some of the ideas.
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