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Volume 14, Number 4 May/June 2010

Scott Fore
Jack Covell
Aaron McCloskey
Scott Fore
Scott Fore likes to play the “What if” to performing solo on the national folk Scott’s ideas about learning, studying, and
game. When he learns a new tune he is not festival circuit and in local venues in the teaching the flatpicking style of guitar. After
content to simply learn the melody and a few southwestern part of Virginia, Scott has also talking with Scott for several hours one day
variations. He’ll learn the melody and then recently recorded with a bluegrass band from at the Flatpicking Guitar Magazine office in
continuously challenge himself to find new South Carolina and performs regularly with Pulaski, Virginia, I felt like his ideas about
ways to approach and express that melody. a Contra dance band and a Gypsy jazz band. learning how to flatpick would be of great
He’ll think, “What if I play this tune with a His musical tastes and abilities on the guitar value to our readers.
Latin rhythm?,” “What if I threw in some are not limited to contest style flatpicking Years ago I attended a workshop that
bebop scales?,” “What if I re-harmonize?,” tunes, or bluegrass. Additionally, Scott is a was given by one of flatpicking guitar’s
“What if I threw in a bunch of double stops, talented guitar teacher and soundman. “founding fathers,” Dan Crary. Part of
or crosspicking, or harmonics?,” etc. His We first featured Scott in the January/ Dan’s presentation that day addressed
seemingly endless stream of “What if” ideas February 2002 issue of Flatpicking Guitar individuals who are perceived as being
has led to some very creative approaches to Magazine. At that time he was busy on “gifted,” or having “natural talent.” Dan’s
flatpicking fiddle tunes, and has served him the contest circuit (he won the National observation was that if you analyze the
well in the studio, during performances, and Championship later that year) and he way all of these individuals approach
on the contest circuit. was finishing up a flatpicking book that their instrument you will find that they
Radford, Virginia, native Scott Fore presented a number of his contest winning all have certain common traits. A few of
came to prominence in the flatpicking world arrangements for fiddle tunes. That book, those traits include determination, focus,
during the early-to-mid part of the past titled Flatpicking Solos, is published by and a willingness to constantly challenge
decade due to a string of prominent contest Cherry Lane Music and distributed by themselves to learn new material and push
wins, including the National Flatpicking Hal Leonard Publications. Since we have beyond their current capabilities. Another
Championship in 2002. Although he is already presented Scott’s background in the common trait is their willingness to explore
known nationally as a talented contest player, previous article, this article will focus on and create beyond what they have heard,
Scott’s guitar playing skills encompass a been shown, or read. These individuals
much wider and deeper scope. In addition by Dan Miller are always taking the initiative to discover
6 Flatpicking Guitar Magazine May/June 2010
new ways to build upon what they’ve been are not content to just learn to play that technique by trying to get the same tone and
shown and constantly push forward in an one arrangement of the song. They have a volume out of an upstroke that they get out
effort to create something new. natural curiosity and desire to dig deeper. It of a down stroke. I’ll have them work on
During my interview with Scott Fore, I is when they start to dig deeper that the real pushing the pick through the strings­—like
discovered that Scott’s relationship with the learning begins. pulling a bow—instead of slapping at the
guitar has been very much in line with the Looking beyond the surface of a song string. And I’ll have them do all of this
traits that Dan Crary observed in all “gifted” involves diving in and exploring every with a metronome. Once they have created
individuals. As Scott was teaching himself aspect of that song. You analyze the chord an improvised song using only one note,
how to play his instrument, he didn’t only progression and melody. You ask, “What then I’ll have them do the same thing with
listen to Doc Watson and Tony Rice, he also are the most important melody notes?” two notes, then three notes. As the number
listened to rock and roll players, folk music “Which melody notes are chord tones, and of notes increases, they will continue to
performers, jazz players, and blues players. which are passing tones?” You strip the focus on the same aspects—varying the
And he didn’t only listen to the guitar. He song down to its bare essentials and then same musical components as they did
listened to, and was influenced by, every you build it back up. You explore playing with the one note song—but they will also
instrument in the band. He also didn’t just the melody all over the neck, you change add in elements like left and right hand
listen to guitar-oriented music. Scott said, “I the phrasing and dynamics, you change the coordination.”
try to listen to the sounds of the World with note articulation and timing, you modify In teaching his students how to explore
big ears.” While the music on his iPod does the rhythms, you work to come up with an just one note on their instrument, Scott is
include music that has been born and bred arrangement that flows seamlessly from exposing them to many elements of music
in the United States, it also includes music one phrase to another, and all the while that are typically overlooked. Most students
from all cultures and traditions spanning you are working on efficient right and left are only concerned with finding the notes
the globe—from Europe, South America, hand technique to insure that you have good so that they can play the song, scale, lick,
Africa, and Asia. timing, good tone, clean notes, and a fluid phrase, or arpeggio. If they can play all
While Scott’s exploration of music in expression of the tune. And then you work of the notes to a song or exercise in the
general has opened him up to rhythms, on variation after variation with all of these right sequence, with the right timing, at the
melodies, dynamics, and phrasing that takes important factors in mind. right tempo, they feel as though they have
his ear far away from what can be found Scott Fore’s approach to learning and “learned” that song or exercise. Once they
in your standard fiddle tune or bluegrass teaching does not involve memorizing an feel as if they have “learned” it (have it
song, his ability and willingness to absorb arrangement of a tune and then moving memorize in their head), they feel like they
what he hears and then make it his own is on to learn another tune.
what has allowed him to create music that is Memorizing how to play the
unique. If Scott hears a lick or phrase that melody of a tune is just the
was played by anyone from Doc Watson first baby step in the process
to John Coltrane to Stephane Grappelli, he of really learning a tune. In
will first learn and absorb that lick or phrase. fact, when Scott Fore teaches
The next thing he will do is begin to explore new students he backs way up
that lick or phrase by playing the “What from the process of learning
if” game. He will say, “What if I played any tune. One of the first
that lick in another position on the neck?” exercises that Scott will give
or “What if I played that lick in a different a student is to request that
key?” or “What if I combined that lick with they play a “song” using only
this other lick I already know?” or “What one note and learning how
if I played the same notes, but changed the that note interacts with all of
timing?” or “What if I emphasize the notes the chords in the progression.
differently?” It is Scott’s natural curiosity Scott said, “A note by itself is
and willingness to explore and ask those just a note. It’s when the note
“What if” questions that has made him the interacts with other notes
guitar player that he is today. or chords that it becomes
The difference between musicians who something more. I want
“have talent” and improve rapidly and those students to know how every
who struggle to make progress lies in their note sounds and relates to
ability to look beyond the surface of any every other note or chord.”
given lick, phrase, or song. Those who I’ll have students close
stay on the surface are content with simply their eyes and just play one
learning and memorizing an arrangement note over and over. I have
of the song so that they can eventually them vary their timing, their
play that arrangement up-to-speed at a phrasing, their right hand
jam session. Once they are able to do that, attack, their dynamics, their
they then move on to learn a new song in rhythm, and their tone. I’ll Scott Fore competing at the
the same manner. Those “gifted” players also have them focus on National Flatpicking Championship
Flatpicking Guitar Magazine May/June 2010
exact same pitches, in a position at various locations all over the fingerboard,
up-the-neck. Scott said, “If the and in different keys, the student now has
first note of the melody in the the basic melody of this new song firmly
open position was an open G ingrained in their mind. So now the student
note, I’ll have them start on the is ready to add some fancy licks to that bare
G note at the fifth fret of the D bones melody, right? No. Now is the time
string, or the G note at the tenth to go back to the process that began with
fret of the A string, so they are the one-note exercises. Now is the time to
working with the exact same explore that basic melody by working on
pitches, but learning how to move tone, dynamics, note articulation, timing,
those pitches to a different place and technique. Scott has the student play
on the neck. “ The next step is to the melody at a slow tempo while focusing
learn the tune in different octaves. on producing good tone and clean notes and
If the original version started on making the melody “sing,” then gradually
the open G string, the student will increase the tempo while working to stay
now explore that melody starting relaxed. By this time the notes themselves
on the G note on the low E string, are second nature, the fingers can find the
or the G note at the eighth fret notes without the brain having to think about
of the B string. They are still where they are, so now the brain can start
playing the same sequence of to pay attention to the more subtle aspects
notes, just at a different octave.” of expressing those notes. Scott said, “I
In addition to learning the want them to use this time to examine every
basic melody at various positions aspect of their playing.”
on the neck, Scott will encourage After the student has spent some time
the student to also find the chord exploring the more subtle aspects of the
shapes and scales in those melody Scott will begin to teach them
positions as well. If the song is how they can add texture and interest to
in the key of G, he will ask that the melody. First he shows them how to
are ready to move on and “learn” the next the student learn the G scale that relates to embellish with scale tones, chord tones,
song. What they end up with after practicing the positions on the neck where they are and neighboring notes. He also shows
this way for a couple of years is memorized trying to find the melody. He also asks that them how to employ techniques like slides,
arrangements to 20 or 30 songs. But have they learn the chord shapes of the chord hammers, pull-offs, bending, pre-bending,
they really learned any of these songs, or progression to that song in those positions double stops, harmonics, and crosspicking.
the style, or the music? Scott said “I want as well. Knowing the scale and the chord In presenting different ways to add interest
students to learn music and to find their own shapes not only helps the student learn the to the melody, Scott also introduces the
voice on the guitar. The difference between neck, it also provides a road map to help concept of tension and release. Additionally,
a beginning player and a more advanced them find the melody notes, since most all of he will teach how to vary the rhythm and
player does not have anything to do with the melody notes will come from scale tones phrasing by using syncopation or by moving
how many songs they know or even how and, most prominently, chord tones from the a melody note forward or backward in time.
many arrangements of those songs they can scale. Scott said “One of the most important He also demonstrates how to change the
play. The difference is in the things that are things for the student to know is the names chord quality by adding suspended chords
more subtle like tone, timing, dynamics, of the notes on the fingerboard. Once this or 9th chords to the crosspicking rolls. In
fluidity, phrasing, and overall expression.” is learned everything else is easy.” this step of the learning process the student
By starting his students out by exploring Once the student has learned the basic is exploring numerous possible ways to
just one note, Scott has them focus on those melody of a song at several positions on vary the melody, but still keep the song
elements that are lost when the only thing the neck—and the corresponding scales recognizable.
the student is focused on is memorizing a and chord shapes—Scott will then teach After the student has worked with all
new song arrangement. the student how to combine those positions of these steps, Scott then encourages the
When Scott does teach a new song to a to create an expression of the melody that student to start playing the “What if ?”
student, he guides them through a step-by- moves around to several positions on the game. What if I tried to play the whole
step methodical approach. He said, ‘The neck. He will also show them how they break using crosspicking, or double stops, or
first thing I do is have students learn the can employ open notes to either help change harmonics? What if I started the solo in an
basic melody of the song. In my mind, the positions, or add texture to the melody in odd position? What if I tried to play the solo
melody is King. So I have them learn the the form of “floating” phrases. Scott now on one string, or in one position? What if I
melody. It is not my arrangement, or Doc may also ask that the student start the whole played the solo around a pedal tone? What
Watson’s, or Steve Kaufman’s, it is just the process over again, using the same melody, if I started on a “wrong” note, how would
basic melody.” Once students learn the but this time do it in a different key. I recover and keep it musical? What if I
melody in the open position, the next step After working with the same note played an old time fiddle tune with a Latin
is to learn the exact same melody, with the sequence over and over again and finding it or African rhythm? What if I played all
quarter notes? What if I modified the chord
8 Flatpicking Guitar Magazine May/June 2010
progression and added chord alterations and and efficient right hand method that allows unless it backs up away from the window
extensions? the player to execute quick and strong up and changes its perspective. I want to
Scott encourages students to explore and down pick strokes while remaining provide the reader with ways to back up and
every song as thoroughly as possible. He relaxed and comfortable. Describing this question what they are doing so that they
also requests that they listen to a lot of music technique in words would be confusing; can gain new perspectives. Ultimately, I
to help come up with new ideas. He said, however, Scott teaches his right hand hope the book will be something that will
“Your phrasing tends to be a derivative approach on an instructional video that can help any guitar player take their playing to
of what you are listening to at the time. be found on line at: www.virtualwoodshed. the next level.”
If students will listen to music outside of com. Scott has a number of instructional Given Scott’s success on the contest
fiddle tunes and bluegrass and then bring videos on the site. The one you want to circuit, I asked him about his approach
that phrasing to a fiddle tune solo, they will look for is called “Bluegrass Guitar Lesson to arranging tunes for a contest. The
likely discover some interesting variations. with Scott Fore.” Seeing Scott talk about first thing that he pointed out was that,
I try to take anything that catches my ear and execute the technique at the same time to him, a good arrangement is a good
and bring it into what I do.” Scott steers his is much clearer than trying to describe it in arrangement, whether it be for a contest, a
students away from directly copying licks words or photos in this article. Do yourself live performance, or a recording session.
and phrases. He said, “If someone comes a favor and check it out. He said that when preparing for a contest
in after having learned a Doc Watson lick, After addressing right and left hand he would typically come up with about 20
I think that is great. But then I ask them technique in the first section of the book, different arrangements of each tune. He
to see if they can change that lick in some Scott plans to present his ideas regarding would then record these arrangements and
way so they make it their own. I feel like musical techniques on the guitar, to include listen to them in order to decide which
the goal should be to find your own voice hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, bends, arrangement had the best feel, the best flow,
on the instrument, not copy others.” harmonics, double stops, crosspicking, the best phrasing, the best employment of
The next step in the learning process is floating licks, etc. He will not only present dynamics, and the best representation of the
to practice improvisation. Scott’s approach the techniques, but also show how to melody and harmony.
is to first teach his students that there are use these techniques most effectively in Scott said, “To me, melody is King, so
no “wrong” notes, just varying degrees of arranging guitar solos. Part three of the in any arrangement I want to first plant
tension. He has student conduct an exercise book Scott calls “The Theoretical Game.” that melody in the listener’s ear. Even if
whereby they play all of the notes in the In this section he will lead the reader I deviate from the melody, I don’t want to
chromatic scale against a rhythm track of through a series of “What if?” scenarios so just play flashy licks over the changes. I
one chord. He said, “I want them to get that the reader can become familiar with want the melody to remain prominent. You
used to the sound of all the notes played playing the “What if” game. Scott said, “I also want to arrange your solo so that the
against that chord, not just the ‘good’ ones. want to provide the reader with different judges can hear the harmony. That way
Eventually I want them to learn how to perspectives and a variety of options. A lot the solo can stand on its own without the
relate the song’s melody to scale tones and of times coming up with something new backup. At some contests the judges can’t
chord tones, and be able to find their chord simply involves a change of perspective. hear the back up player, so you have to
centers, and know how to play all of those A fly buzzing around a window can’t see arrange your solo so that the chord changes
‘good’ notes. But if I can teach them that it that there is an open door a few feet away are identifiable in the solo. Dynamics and
is OK to hit those ‘wrong’ notes and make
them work, then maybe they will not be so
anxious about making a mistake.”
Scott added, “The hardest part of learning
how to improvise is getting over the fear
of playing wrong notes. If they practice
playing both wrong notes and right notes
against a chord, then they will play every
note with confidence because when they
hear that bad note, they will know how to
resolve that tension with a good note. If you
put intent behind every note, even the bad
ones will sound OK. It will sound like you
meant to play that note. I like them to know
that when they hit that wrong note, there is
no need to panic, they just need to move up
or down a half step and resolve it.”
Currently Scott is working on a new book
that he calls “The Guitarist’s Toolbox.” He
said that he plans to present the book in three
parts. The first part will focus on ways to
analyze and improve physical right and left Scott Fore working with student Cheryl Lunsford
hand technique. Scott has a very interesting
Flatpicking Guitar Magazine May/June 2010
accents are very important as well. If you title “Master Folk Artist” by the Virginia a DPA 4099 microphone. This is a “mini
play a string of eighth notes it can sound Foundation for the Humanities and was shotgun” mic that sits on a gooseneck. He
dull or it can sound interesting depending featured in their book In Good Keeping, blends the microphone with both a Schertler
on how you accent the notes. It is not just which tells the story of the first five years Bluestick (under the saddle) and Schertler
the notes you play in your arrangement that of the Virginia Master Folk Artists and their DYN (glued to the bridgeplate). He plugs
are important; it is way that you play them Apprenticeship program. in to either a Schertler or Ultrasound amp.
that makes the difference. For me it is all Over the years Scott has formed In addition to all of that gear, Scott uses
about exploring and listening back to hear a friendship with David Doucet, the Wegen or John Pearse picks, Elixir strings,
what sounds best.” guitar player from the famous Cajun and Shubb or Elliott capos and uses and
Recently Scott has not been playing in band BeauSoleil. The two have recently favors Pegasus cases.
many contests. Some of the contests that recorded a guitar duet album together that For this issue’s audio CD and transcription
he has won in the past don’t allow winners has gotten interest from several labels. On Scott has provided two traditional tunes.
to come back and others, like the National this recording David and Scott sat down in The first is “Wildwood Flower” and the
Championship, will have winners sit out front of a couple of microphones and just second is “East Tennessee Blues.” Both of
for a number of years. In the mean time jammed. The recording’s content includes these are traditional tunes with a few “What
Scott has enjoyed performing as a solo vocal tunes and instrumental numbers from if” twists. In “East Tennessee Blues” you’ll
act on the folk circuit where he presents a both the Cajun and Appalachian traditions. find some blues, some Western swing, and
show that combines singing, flatpicking, We featured Scott and David playing a little bit of bebop influence. “Wildwood
fingerpicking, and banjo playing. He “Black Mountain Rag” on a recent podcast Flower” starts off with a standard treatment,
compares the variety of content to a typical broadcast (FGM podcast #26). If you would but then moves into the realm of jazz
Doc Watson or Norman Blake show. Scott like to hear that tune, visit our podcast page: with some chord substitutions behind the
is also busy performing with a Contra dance http://flatpick.libsyn.com/ melody.
band, Toss the Possum, and his Gypsy jazz For those of you who are interested in If you have enjoyed reading Scott’s ideas
band, The Hillbilly Hot Club. He also guitars and gear, Scott plays a Bourgeouis relating to the study of the flatpick style of
recently recorded on a bluegrass project Country Boy Deluxe as his main guitar for guitar, he is available for private or group
with banjo player Rudolph Rustin and may bluegrass and folk gigs. In the Gypsy jazz lessons, workshops and performances.
do some touring with that band in the near band he plays a Dell’ Arte Jimmy Rosenberg You can contact him via email at:
future. Scott has also been awarded the model. For sound reinforcement Scott uses theflatpickking@yahoo.com.

10 Flatpicking Guitar Magazine May/June 2010