Bluegrass Flatpicking

Genre and Style Guitar Course from Orville Johnson

A sub-genre of country music which blends improvising with folk-like melodies. Pioneered by Bill Monroe in the 1930s in the "bluegrass" state. Learning to flatpick properly is absolutely crucial to the Bluegrass style.

40 Lessons

Complete course with step-by-step lessons and practice examples.


Course filmed with 6 cameras for the perfect angles.

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Full Course Breakdown

Orville will cover proper Bluegrass flatpicking technique and move on to teach a plethora of classic Bluegrass tunes.


Alternate Picking

Orville Johnson starts out his Bluegrass Flatpicking Series with a lesson on alternate picking, a technique that is absolutely essential to almost all guitar styles.

25:21 Runtime

1.0 Difficulty

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John Hardy

Orville teaches a classic song called "John Hardy" in the style of Mother Maybelle Carter.

15:54 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Bill Cheatum

Orville teaches the classic song "Bill Cheatum" in the bluegrass flatpicking style.

23:20 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Blackberry Blossom

Orville Johnson explains how to play the classic song "Blackberry Blossom" in the bluegrass flatpicking style.

26:00 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Whiskey Before Breakfast

Orville Johnson shows how the classic bluegrass fiddle tune "Whiskey Before Breakfast" can be adapted to the guitar.

24:05 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Billy in the Lowground

Orville Johnson teaches how "Billy in the Lowground," a classic fiddle tune, can be adapted to bluegrass style guitar.

20:40 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Salt Creek

Orville Johnson teaches the classic bluegrass song "Salt Creek."

19:56 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Midnight on the Water

Orville Johnson teaches the classic buegrass song "Midnight on the Water."

39:42 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


The Wayfaring Stranger

Orville Johnson teaches a solo guitar version of the classic song "The Wayfaring Stranger."

21:12 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


The Eighth of January

Orville Johnson demonstrates the classic bluegrass song "The Eighth of January."

20:32 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Over the Waterfall

Orville Johnson teaches "Over the Waterfall."

21:40 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Lester Flatt G Lick

Orville Johnson demonstrates one of the most widely used bluegrass licks. This lick is named after "Lester Flatt" and simply called the "Lester Flatt G Lick."

15:14 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


June Apple

Orville Johnson explains how to play the classic song "June Apple."

21:27 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Soldier's Joy

Orville Johnson teaches a bluegrass guitar version of the classic song "Soldier's Joy."

13:22 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


The Arkansas Traveler

Orville Johnson teaches the "The Arkansas Traveler" in the key of D.

26:06 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


I Don't Love Nobody

Orville Johnson teaches his version of "I Don't Love Nobody."

19:14 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Old Joe Clark

Orville Johnson covers the classic tune "Old Joe Clark."

19:27 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


The Red-Haired Boy

Orville Johnson continues building your bluegrass fiddle tune repertoire with another great song called "The Red-Haired Boy."

27:49 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Black Mountain Rag: Key of E

Orville Johnson teaches "Black Mountain Rag" in the key of E.

26:25 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Black Mountain Rag: Key of A

In continuation of his previous lesson, Orville Johnson teaches "Black Mountain Rag" in the key of A.

23:31 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


St. Anne's Reel

Orville Johnson takes a look at the bluegrass standard "St. Anne's Reel".

20:43 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Glory in the Meeting House

In this lesson, Orville Johnson teaches a fantastic new tune called "Glory in the Meeting House".

19:00 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Under the Double Eagle

In his latest Flatpicking Bluegrass lesson, Orville Johnson teaches a tune called "Under the Double Eagle".

31:50 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Crossing The Big Sandy River

Orville Johnson continues building your bluegrass flatpicking repertoire with another great tune called "Crossing The Big Sandy River".

11:00 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


When He Calls Me

Orville Johnson teaches another great bluegrass flatpicking tune called "When He Calls Me".

12:45 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Ragtime Annie

Orville Johnson teaches "Ragtime Annie," another bluegrass tune to add to your repertoire.

15:13 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Bonaparte's Retreat

Orville Johnson continues to build your bluegrass fiddle tune repertoire with a fun tune called "Bonaparte's Retreat".

20:13 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Reuben's Train

Orville Johnson takes a look at another fiddle tune called "Reuben's Train" in this lesson.

13:57 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Turkey in the Straw

Orville Johnson takes a look at a fun song called "Turkey in the Straw" in this lesson.

9:54 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Flatpicking Exercise: The Mirror Technique

In this lesson, Orville introduces an exercise called "The Mirror Technique." This is a technique that will improve the communication between your picking hand and fretting hand.

21:09 Runtime

1.5 Difficulty


Flatpicking Exercise: Double & Triple Picking

Welcome to yet another lesson on picking exercises! Orville demonstrates how to achieve double picking and triplet picking techniques that are common in all musical styles.

23:25 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


The Devil's Dream

This traditional song offers the standard A and B parts and is another essential song to add to your repertoire of tunes that can be played with friends.

18:15 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Blues Swing Lead Techniques

Orville teaches a blues melody in G major and also explains how to "comp" or accompany/compliment the melody with the Freddie Green rhythm.

19:54 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Blues Lead Techniques #2

Orville reopens the subject of lead techniques. He presents ideas on how to successfully build a solo and understand how to leave space to be most effective when playing with others.

14:33 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Blues Lead Techniques #3

Time to design a solo! Orville breaks down the techniques needed to build a successful solo while both explaining space and scale theory.

19:49 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Blues Lead Techniques #4

This lesson is all about harmonic structure. Orville uses the theory taught in the previous lesson to help you choose the correct notes when building a solo.

23:03 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Bully of the Town

How about another classic bluegrass tune? "Bully of the Town" offers up a chance to use a capo and apply key change techniques.

25:23 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


The Beaumont Rag

Orville Johnson is back to his bluegrass flatpicking series. In this lesson, he discusses and teaches "The Beaumont Rag". This tune serves as a great picking exercise and is also a ton of fun to play!

23:28 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Cherokee Shuffle

Orville Johnson shows how to play a classic Bluegrass tune entitled "Cherokee Shuffle." It's fun, slightly challenging and sounds great.

35:05 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Banks of the Ohio

Orville Johnson travels back in time to teach a classic song called "Banks of the Ohio." Though this tune features a rather sordid narrative lyrically, the music is still quick, upbeat and fun to play.

42:50 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty

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  • Seattle, Washington
  • Playing since 1970
  • 128 lessons at JamPlay

Orville moved to Seattle, Washington in 1978, where he was a founding member of the much-loved and well-remembered folk/rock group, the Dynamic Logs. Other musical associates include Laura Love, Ranch Romance, File' Gumbo Zydeco Band, Scott Law, and the Twirling Mickeys. Johnson, known for his dobro and slide guitar stylings and vocal acrobatics, has played on over 100 albums. He has appeared on Garrison Keilor's Prairie Home Companion, Jay Leno's Tonight Show and was featured in the 1997 film Georgia with Mare Winningham. His musical expertise can also be heard on the Microsoft CD-ROMs, Musical Instruments of the World and the Complete Encyclopedia of Baseball. He teaches as well at the International Guitar Seminar, Pt. Townsend Country Blues Week and Puget Sound Guitar Workshop.

Orville released 4 recordings in the 1990's: The World According to Orville (1990) Blueprint for the Blues (1998) Slide & Joy (1999) an all-instrumental dobro tour de force and Kings of Mongrel Folk (1997) with Mark Graham. He also appeared on 4 discs with the File' Gumbo Zydeco Band and produced Whose World Is This (1997) for Jim Page and Inner Life (1999) for Mark Graham. In the 21st century, he has released Freehand, a new Kings of Mongrel Folk disc, Still Goin' Strong, and been featured in the soundtracks of PBS' Frontier House and the Peter Fonda flick The Wooly Boys as well as the compilation cd Legends of the Incredible Lap Steel Guitar.
Reviews & Feedback 94/100 with 249 ratings

The material is well prepared and presented


All of the above. Thanks!


Thanks especially for all the suggestions in scene 5. You're very good in your lessons at pointing out helpful hints that may seem obvious to a seasoned player but not at all to a beginner.


Good teacher.


Useful exercise


Great lesson and enjoyable/humorous ta boot. Thanks!


Great lesson with catchy tune. Thank you.


great song


Great song explained clearly.


He did a great job and opened some Key of D notes for me.


i like the teacher, he is easy to understand and it is just what i needed to bring my guitar back to life.


I look forward to returning


I really liked the teacher in the way he simplified the song and was detailed. A very good lesson.


I really love the teacher and how he explains each individual phrase! This is exactly what I needed!


I thought the lesson was very straightforward. I did like the teacher very much as well. He came across as a real instructor, something many good players cannot do. The arrangement was simplistic, and very good for many beginning and intermedia


I've had in person classes with Orville at camp. Always paced exactly right.


Im so releived! Ive finally found a style and teacher that agree with me! I love how I can see what he's doing and how he walks me through the song string by string. Thank you sooo much!


Nicely done - my first complete lesson on Jamplay - very good.


Orville is a fantastic musician and teacher. I am 79 and hard of hearing but I hear him perfectly at low volume. This is THE guy I've been looking for...and he doesn't have an ego.


Orville is a good teacher, no question about it...


Orville was great at the recent Reso Summit in Nashville and it would be good if you expanded your lessons to include Lap Steel and Dobro by Orville.


Such a great guitarist, teacher and communicator.


thanks. always enjoyed this tune.


The radio buttons don't allow the option of selecting all three!


This has been a family favorite. Sounded the way my Aunt and Uncle played it on piano. They would bounce off the bench 6" when they played it.


This will be fun!


We're going to get along just fine


What a lovely teacher,perfect pace and easy to understand as an intermediate player looking to learn folk and bluegrass


Yep all is good, easy to understand and do enjoy my time with jamplay