Improvised guitar pickin' on "The Gambler"

Lesson #207 • Jan 16, 2019

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

As I was recently practicing “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers, I found myself improvising a bit and settled into this fun little sequence I wanted to share. This uses the same chord progression and suggestions of the melody heard in the Gambler - but combines those with some familiar elements I’m fond of, such as alternating bass notes & muted strumming & some fun flourish notes. The result is a nice little exercise I’m sure I’ll find myself coming back to, and I wanted to make this lesson and share it with you. I’ll not only show you the tab for the exercise I’m playing, but more importantly explain the building blocks I’m using to create this sequence. Enjoy! (- David Potsiadlo, Jan 16 2019)

Video timestamps

  • 0:00 Playthrough & lesson overview
  • 1:44 Start w/ the chords & progression
  • 3:00 Alternating bass notes
  • 4:41 Alternate chord voicings for G and A
  • 6:55 Adding palm muting
  • 7:35 Walking up to each chord
  • 9:23 Adding pinky flourish notes
  • 10:48 Putting it all together

Full exercise

E ––––––––|–––––2––––2––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–
B ––––––––|–––––3––––3––––––––––––––3–––––3–––––3––––3–––––3–––––3–––––3––––3––––3–––––––––2––––––––|–
G ––––––––|–––––2––––2––––––––––––––4–––4–4–––2–2––––2–––––4–––4–4–––2––––––2––––2–––––––––2––––––––|–
D ––––––––|––0––––––––––0–0–2–4–––5––––––––––––––––4–––––5––––––––––––––––4––––0––––––0–2––––––4–2––|–
A ––0–2–4–|––––––––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––4–––––––––––––––|–
E ––––––––|–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–
             D                    G           D          G           D         D        A

       E –|–––––2––––2–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––2–2––––––||
       B –|–––––3––––3––––––––––––––3–––––3–––––3––––3–––––3–––––3–––––3––––3––––2–––––––––3–3––––––||
       G –|–––––2––––2––––––––––––––4–––4–4–––2–2––––2–––––4–––4–4–––2–2––––2––––2–––––––––2–2––––––||
       D –|––0––––––––––0–0–2–4–––5––––––––––––––––4–––––5––––––––––––––––4––––2––––4–2–0–––––––––––||
       A –|––––––––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––||
       E –|–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––||
             D                    G           D          G           D         A        D

Chords needed & progression used

Shapes:                  Progression:

E –––2––––3––––0–––      | D . . . | G . D . | G . D . | D . A . |
B –––3––––0––––2–––      | D . . . | G . D . | G . D . | A . D . |       
G –––2––––0––––2–––      
D –––0––––0––––2–––
A ––––––––2––––0–––
E ––––––––3––––––––
     D    G    A

Alternating bass notes

Here’s how to play the alternating bass note for each of the three chords we’ll use:

Chord:       Simple:                 Advanced:
E ––2––      ––––––2–––––2–––––      ––––––2–2–––––2–2––––
B ––3––      ––––––3–––––3–––––      ––––––3–3–––––3–3––––
G ––2––      ––––––2–––––2–––––      ––––––2–2–––––2–2––––
D ––0––      –––0––––––––––––––      –––0–––––––––––––––––
A –––––      –––––––––0––––––––      –––––––––––0–––––––––
E –––––      ––––––––––––––––––      –––––––––––––––––––––

Chord:       Simple:                 Advanced:
E ––3––      ––––––3–––––3–––––      ––––––3–3–––––3–3––––
B ––0––      ––––––0–––––0–––––      ––––––0–0–––––0–0––––
G ––0––      ––––––0–––––0–––––      ––––––0–0–––––0–0––––
D ––0––      ––––––0–––––0–––––      ––––––0–0–––––0–0––––
A ––2––      –––––––––2––––––––      –––––––––––2–––––––––
E ––3––      –––3––––––––––––––      –––3–––––––––––––––––

Chord:       Simple:                 Advanced:
E ––0––      ––––––0–––––0–––––      ––––––0–0–––––0–0––––
B ––2––      ––––––2–––––2–––––      ––––––2–2–––––2–2––––
G ––2––      ––––––2–––––2–––––      ––––––2–2–––––2–2––––
D ––2––      ––––––2–––––2–––––      ––––––2–2–––––2–2––––
A ––0––      –––0––––––––––––––      –––0–––––––––––––––––
E –––––      –––––––––0––––––––      –––––––––––0–––––––––

For the G, you can also use this chord shape:

Chord:       Simple:                 Advanced:
E –––––      ––––––––––––––––––      –––––––––––––––––––––
B ––3––      ––––––3–––––3–––––      ––––––3–3–––––3–3––––
G ––4––      ––––––4–––––4–––––      ––––––4–4–––––4–4––––
D ––5––      –––5––5–––––x–––––      –––5––5–5–––––x–x––––
A –––––      –––––––––5––––––––      –––––––––––5–––––––––
E –––––      ––––––––––––––––––      –––––––––––––––––––––

Bringing in alternative chord voicings

For the G and the A, let’s get used to playing them with these voicings.

E ––––––––––                             E ––––x–––––  <== muted by left index                                   
B ––––3–––––  <== left index             B ––––2–––––  <== left index (barred)                     
G ––––4–––––  <== left middle            G ––––2–––––  <== left index (barred)                      
D ––––5–––––  <== left ring              D ––––2–––––  <== left index (barred)                    
A ––––––––––                             A ––––0–––––                         
E ––––––––––                             E ––––––––––                               
      G                                        A  

Adding stretched pinky notes to the D and A chords

For the D chord:

E ––––2–––––2––––                             E ––––2–––––2––––          
B ––––3–––––3––––                             B ––––3–––––3––––                    
G ––––2–––––2––––                             G ––––2–––––2––––                    
D ––––0–––––4–––– <== use left pinky finger   D ––––0–––––x––––                
A –––––––––––––––     for the 4th fret note   A ––––––––––4–––– <== use left pinky finger                
E –––––––––––––––                             E –––––––––––––––     for the 4th fret note                    
      D     D/F#                                    D     D/C#         

For the A chord:

E ––––x–––––x––––
B ––––2–––––2––––
G ––––2–––––2––––
D ––––2–––––4–––– <== use left pinky or left ring finger
A ––––0–––––0––––     for the 4th fret note
E –––––––––––––––
      A     A*

I made a lesson about this:

Palm muting

I mention the palm muting strumming technique in the video - here’s my previous lesson on that topic:

Walking up to the D and G

E ––––––––––––––2–––    E ––––––––––––––––––
B ––––––––––––––3–––    B ––––––––––––––3–––
G ––––––––––––––2–––    G ––––––––––––––4–––
D –––––––––––0––0–––    D ––0––2––4––5––5–––
A ––0––2––4–––––––––    A ––––––––––––––––––
E ––––––––––––––––––    E ––––––––––––––––––
                D                       G

Good luck!

I hope this was helpful - let me know if you have any feedback or questions! Thanks and all the best.

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