Our next step in studying "Wildwood Flower" is to do some crosspicking on it. This is an excellent tune for learning and exploring the crosspicking technique.
What is Crosspicking?
Crosspicking uses the flatpick to pick a group of strings in a pattern that repeats. Three strings are commonly involved in a crosspicking pattern, and the strings may or may not be adjacent to each other. When played on the guitar, crosspicking sounds very similar to the "rolls" you hear from a banjo player.
The direction you pick the strings when crosspicking is a personal preference. Some players use down-up-down-up (DUDU) pattern and some use down-down-up (DDU). The notes played are the same either way, although there is a subtle difference in the sound. Most players use the DUDU technique.
We've prepared an audio clip of Clarence White crosspicking "Wildwood Flower" to demonstrate how it sounds when done by one of the greats of Bluegrass Guitar. The clip is in mp3 format.
Listening to Clarence, you can hear that there is much more going on when you are crosspicking. At times it might be hard to hear the melody, too. It's there, but it's surrounded by a lot of other notes, and may not be in exactly the same place as in the basic melody you sing.
A Beginning Crosspicking Arrangement
Let's take a look at a simple crosspicking arrangement of "Wildwood Flower." This arrangement contains both standard notation and tablature.
This arrangement illustrates a common crosspicking method: picking three adjacent strings in a repeating pattern. The left-hand fingering is built around simple chord positions, but the fingering changes to create different notes as the same pattern is repeated.
Comparison of Crosspicking Arrangement to Basic Melody
If you look at this TAB file and compare it to the TAB of the basic melody, you can see several things. First, there are a lot more notes in the crosspicking version. When you listen to the midi sound file for this arrangement it sounds like it's being played faster, but the truth is that it is exactly the same tempo as the other arrangements we've looked at. What makes it seem faster is that there are so many more notes being played per measure. Getting all these notes in is one of the things that makes crosspicking challenging to learn!
Another point to look at are where the melody notes occur. In the simple melody arrangement, the notes fall where the vocalist sings them. Now look at where these notes fall in the crosspicking arrangement. These notes are shown with blue background spots. They don't always fall in the same place, do they? There is some syncopation happening here as a result of the crosspicking pattern.
Next: Where to Go from Here
Our next step explores where to go from here in learning how to play Carter-style and crosspicking. We look at resources where you can learn more about the Carter Family.