Playing Guitar for the Dances of Universal Peace

Jay Dancing Bear’s

simple guide to playing open tuned guitar

for the Dances of Universal Peace

Playing open tuned guitar for the dances is as easy as rolling a ball downhill,
when you relax and allow it to be!

Plan of action when learning a new dance:

1) Capo up (place the capo) to the desired key

Play the melody on the 3rd string, perhaps using little bits of the 1st or 4th strings.

2) Try playing that melody using a strum or picking pattern

3) Now try the melody in unisons

4) Now a harmonized scale on the 3rd and 4th strings,

5) with strum or picking pattern

6) with chords or 3 string harmonized scales

########Knowing the third string is the key.#########

I Intro

People learning generally give most of their attention to where to put their fingers on the guitar neck,
in order to play scales and chords.
I advocate a different approach.

Focus on the quality of your tuning, picking technique and rhythm,
then every note and chord you play will sound good.

This is the equivalent of speaking clearly, enunciating well.

What is the use of changing chords and playing scales if it all sounds muddy and unclear?

The role of the guitar is to support the voices.
This means that even if the guitar just plays simple and clear, with some rhythm,

it will provide a good bed for the voices to lay on top of.

NOTE: substantial portions of this guide are adapted from my online web files

The official jay dancing bear guide to guitar

Deep Guitar

Part A

II Tuning

The open tuning used is GGDGGD, from low (deep sounding) string to high strings.
When we number the strings the highest sounding string is the 1st string, lowest is 6th, etc.

Standard tuning is EADGBE. In open tuning the 6th string is raised to G, all other strings are lower.

Learning to tune is about developing the sensitivity of your ear. The way to do this is by osmosis.

Sit and tune and retune your guitar at least 10 minutes a day, and without any great effort on your part,

your ear will just naturally develop.

Just tune and retune, listen carefully, pay attention, let it happen easily, it will happen easily.

III Picking and strumming technique


The pick itself

Very often people just use the first pick which comes into their hands, without thinking much about it, but this is a mistake.
Which pick you use makes a very big difference in your sound. I recommend buying a bunch of different picks and seeing which one you prefer.

The size and shape of a pick mostly have to do with how comfortable it is for you to hold in your hand. Some people prefer the large triangles,
some the small teardrops, most people use the standard size.

The material and thickness of a pick make a very big difference in the sound.
The thicker the pick, the rounder, stronger, louder and more muted the sound, so there is a tradeoff between treble and volume.
However, with technique one can get quite a lot of treble even out of a thick pick.
Beginners tend to like thin picks because they are very forgiving. If you’re not holding it well,
or if you hit the strings at a bad angle, a thin pick will just bend, whereas a thick pick will fly out of your hand.
Using a thick pick requires a lot of accuracy, very good technique. What you get in return is more sound, which is quite important
when you’re playing for a roomful of singers

Different materials have different tones. There are many different blends of plastic, and of course there are non-plastic picks,
such as nylon or wood. I’ve even had stone picks.

Before you even play a note, the strings and pick you use are going to determine a lot of your sound.
I think it’s best to explore your options and make a conscious decision, and of course you can always try something new.


There are a lot of good ways to hold a pick. I’ll describe the one I use.
I lay the pick flat on the meat of my first finger and then bring my thumb to hold it.
Hold the pick firmly, but not in a vise grip. You will develop a feel for this with experience.
Learning how to hold the pick is much better learned from sitting with someone, not from a book,
so don’t stress if reading the above doesn’t translate for you

The amount of pick sticking out from between your fingers is what we call show, as in how much pick is showing.

How much pick to show? This varies, usually a little more for chords than for single notes, but in general, less is better.
Beginners tend to show too much pick, and this causes the pick to get hung up in the strings and sometimes get lost or dropped altogether.
This is very difficult to describe on paper, so I’ll leave it at that.

Angle flat-edge
Where is the motion coming from-
(thumb, wrist, elbow, shoulder)

For flatpickers the pick serves the same function as your tongue, communicating your ideas clearly and with beauty.
The pick controls which strings are voiced, in which combinations, rhythm, volume, and tone. The single best exercise I know is what I call THE GRAVITY EXERCISE, which teaches the most important technical fundamental, getting a good sound from each note. To do it properly takes great attention to detail.
It goes like this.

Lay your pick flat on the 6th string. Now let gravity pull the pick down across the strings. To repeat, let gravity do the work.
Now angle the pick so that the front edge is up. Again let gravity pull the pick down. You can also try angling the back edge up instead.
See how this works for you. Notice the difference between flat and angled.
Your job is to control the rate of descent by providing resistance, which comes from how firmly you hold the pick, keeping the pick firmly
on the strings, and how flat or angled the pick is to the strings.
The idea is a controlled descent, not free fall.

There is a third factor, the tilt of the pick. Again lay the pick flat on the sixth string. This time, with the pick flat,
lean the top of the pick down . You’ll know you’re doing it right because the pick will move across the strings more easily,
especially when you angle the front edge up at the same time. For an upstroke start with your pick on the first string,
and imagine that gravity has reversed. Tilt the top of the pick upwards, also angling the edge up.
Feel the smooth flow of your upstroke as gravity pulls your arm up.

Go very slowly string by string .Be meticulous about getting a good sound from each note.
Don’t let junk notes slide by. Accept only excellence.
Notice the difference between letting gravity do the work and making it happen.
When playing chords you are much better served by having a smooth, flowing stroke. For picking individual notes,
you will probably need to be more in the making it happen mode, although I am still learning more about this topic myself

The gravity exercise is a great way to check your chords because you will be able to hear just how well you are fretting each note. You can and should try it with every chord you know. Just go slowly and carefully.

IV Simple Rhythm

Up and Down strokes to a guitarist are what left and right hands are to a drummer.
If you want to be able to play more than simple rhythms you will need to do a lot of practicing of your upstrokes.
Your efforts will be richly rewarded with the ability to play a lot of really great stuff, and the truth is,
for the dances simple and clear is more than enough to serve the music


BEATS is the music in groups of three beats, four beats, 1234, 123, or whatever

ACCENTS Which beat do you emphasize by making it a little louder. Is it ONE two three four, or one TWO three four, etc. Sometimes there are two accents, one TWO three FOUR. When this happens, often one accent is stronger than the other.

DURATION How long does each note or chord last.

Rhythms can usually be broken down into small chunks of two, three or four strokes, and these can be easily practiced.
It’s like letters building into words building into sentences building into paragraphs, etc.

First we start with just one strum. It’s either Up or Down.

Two strokes: DD, DU, UD, UU

Now add in ACCENTS. For example, two strokes, capitals being the accented beat:

Dd, dD, Uu, uU, Du, dU, Ud, uD.

beginners should stop here and come back to this section later

Three strokes; DDD, DDU, DUD, UDD


Four strokes DDDD, UUUU





Practice these one at a time and it’s a lot simpler than it looks.

There are a lot of possiblities, especially when you start getting to multiple accents. Just practice them one at a time and you’ll be OK.

Part B

Plan of action when learning a new dance:

1) Capo up (place the capo) to the desired key

Play the melody on the 3rd string, perhaps using little bits of the 1st or 4th strings.

2) Try playing that melody using a strum or picking pattern

3) Now try the melody in unisons

4) Now a harmonized scale on the 3rd and 4th strings,

5) with strum or picking pattern

6) with chords or 3 string harmonized scales

########Knowing the third string is the key.#########

V Scales on one string

A scale is just a series of notes derived from a pattern.

Let’s start with the major scale pattern Root, 1,1,1/2,1,1,1,1/2. What does this mean?

Root=starting note. We are going to start on our open 3rd string, so that’s our root.

1=whole step=go up two frets. ½=half step=go up one fret. Up=going towards the bridge.

R,1,1,1/2,1,1,1,1/2=play the open 3rd string, now the 2nd fret of the 3rd (same) string, now up two more frets, etc.

If you are using a capo it’s all relative to your starting point.
If you’re capo’d on the 5th fret, as is the case in many dances, you will be running out of room on the upper frets.

In this case, the thing to do is shift to the 1st string. Play R,1,1,1/2 on the 3rd string. Now, to go up the next whole step,

you can either go up two frets, as we have done, or you can play the note on the open first string which, if your guitar

is in tune, will be exactly the same note. So

3rd string R,1=up two frets,1=up two frets,1/2=up one fret,

shift to first string (the equivalent of 1=going up two frets),

now finish the scale on the 1st string, 1=go up two frets,1=go up two frets,1/2=go up one fret

The minor scale pattern is R,1,1/2,1,1,1/2,1,1. Same process as above. Knowing the major and minor scales will take you a long way.

There are other scales, but it’s not essential right now, and the principles are the same.

Here are three very basic picking patterns to use with your scales:

1) Play the single note, now strum all six strings=pick strum

2) Pick single notes in this order: 3rd string, 1st string =31

3) Now try: 3rd string, 1st string, 2nd string =312

There are umpteen other possibilities. These three patterns demonstrate the basic principles,
which you can now apply to creating your own patterns.

VI Two string Unison scales

In the open tuning the 3rd and 5th strings are tuned to the same note, as are the 4th and 1st.

Play the scales, using two fingers, one on each string (3rd and 5th), on the same fret, going up the neck (or crossing over to 1st and 4th),

strumming all six strings. This will actually sound like chords.

VII Two string Harmonized scales on the 3rd and 4th strings
Reread this at least 4 or 5 times with your guitar in your hands. It will make good sense.
You will need to be confident in playing the single string major and minor scales.
You will need to learn the two scales starting with root on the 4th string, 5th fret.

In the unison scales both notes were the same.
Again we will play two notes at a time, this time two different notes

Place 1st finger, 4th fret, 3rd string. Now place 2nd finger on 5th fret of 4th string. Play all 6 strings.
Remember this finger position. We will call this major shape, and played in this position,
4th and 5th frets, it’s the I(one) major chord.

If we play 1st finger, 3rd fret, 3rd string, 3rd finger, 5th fret, 4th string, which just means we played the note
on the third string one fret lower, we will have the minor shape, in this position the I minor chord.

All the 2 note harmonized scales are just these two finger positions moved up and down the neck.

Either the 3rd or the 4th string can be considered the root, it works both ways.

Starting with I major position, 2nd finger on R on 5th fret, play major, minor, minor, major, major, minor, minor.
In other words, you will be playing the scale on the 4th string, with a higher note on the 3rd string.
In practice, most of the time you won’t get past the first three or four scale degrees (that’s the technical term), so
don’t worry if you’re capoed and run out of neck.

Actually, you can play these scales moving backwards, down the neck, although there are only a couple of positions

Before you hit the capo.

VIII Three string harmonized scales

Exact same as the two string harmonized scales, with the addition of the 1st string.

Remember the unison scales; the 1st string is the same note as the 4th string, so we can play

Both at the same time as we play the third string . The fingering changes slightly.

VIIII Two string chords

X Some typical chord groupings

XI Use of the capo

You will need to use a capo, which means you will need to learn the musical alphabet.

When moving the capo typically the 2nd string will tend to go out of tune, so retune it.

Also, be accurate in placing the capo just above the metal fret, not halfway in between frets.


In the English alphabet there are 26 letters. In the Western musical alphabet there are 12.
You’d think they would just be the first 12 letters of the English alphabet but no, that would be too simple.

Think of a flight of stairs with 12 steps.









C#, Db





#=sharp=the note above, i.e. A# means the note above A

b=flat=the note below, i.e. Bb means the note below B.
There is only one note in between A and B, C and D, etc. For various reasons, sometimes we call it the note above A, sometimes we call it the note below B. It’s the same note, it juat has two names.
Notice the Exceptions. Every two notes have a note in between except BC and EF.
The distance from any note to the next note we call 1/2 step. A to A#=1/2 step, A# to B=1/2 step, B to C=1/2 step

two 1/2 steps=1 (whole) step.

on a guitar: 1/2 step=1 fret, whole step=2 frets

We can also express this scale in a linear fashion;

A# C# D# F# G#

A | BC | D | EF | G | A

Bb Db Eb Gb Ab

or we could just write it out



This is called equal tempered tuning. Strictly speaking A# and Bb are very slightly different, like $1.49 and $1.51, but if the guitar fretboards were laid out exactly we would need a different guitar for every key. Instead they are fudged just a little bit. When this system was put in place in the 1600s the critics screamed that everything was slightly out of tune, but since this is what we all grew up hearing, our ears don’t notice anything wrong, and it’s nice to just have to carry one guitar, instead of twelve.

Still…there is something to be said for perfection.

The Capo

Without a capo open tuned guitar is in the key of G

Capo on
1st fret=Ab/G#
2nd fret=A
3rd fret=Bb/A#
5th fret=key of C, this is the one used by far the most


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