by Adam Levy

This guitar lesson is a preview of what’s to come in Adam Levy‘s 50 Low-Down Rhythm Licks. Stay tuned for more to come and an announcement of the full course soon. Be sure to subscribe to stay tuned!

In this lesson, we’ll take a look at “Julia” by the Beatles. If you’re familiar with the song, you may be wondering—what does this folky acoustic song have to do with rhythm guitar? Everything. See, rhythm guitar doesn’t just mean laying down a heavy funk or rock groove. Rhythm guitar is all about accompanying the singer and propelling the song forward. That can be done in a loud way, or a quiet way, or any way in between. In “Julia,” the rhythm is provided via a steady-rolling fingerpicking pattern that incorporates all six strings. As per the recording, we’ll capo at the 2nd fret. If you don’t own a capo, go out and get one. The capo is an invaluable tool for any guitarist, and you’ll need one to play “Julia.”

The picking pattern is straightforward, and is repeated throughout the song—even as the chords change. The thumb plays the alternating bass pattern, and you can use whichever fingers feel most comfortable for the trebles strings. I use all three fingers—index, middle, and ring—assigning one to each string (strings 3, 2, and 1, respectively). Whatever fingers you choose to pick with, make sure all the notes carry equal weight. Don’t let your picking hand arbitrarily make some notes louder (or softer) than others. The more evenly you can play this song, the more beautiful and tranced-out it sounds. Once you’ve got the hang of the “Julia” picking pattern, try applying it to other songs and chord progressions. Though the Beatles’ original version was played on acoustic guitar, you could certainly play this song on electric.

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Adam LevyA longtime friend of the ‘Fire, Adam Levy has been unlocking the guitar for students of all levels and varied interests for decades. His teaching experience comprises several years with the National Guitar Workshop, the Blue Bear School in San Francisco, and private lessons for New School in New York City. He is also a talented artist and songwriter, having worked with Norah Jones, Amos Lee, and Tracy Chapman. Be sure to check out Adam’s official website, his insightful blog, and his latest album, The Heart Collector.