One String And The Truth
March 7, 2008 11:06 PM   Subscribe

One-string tunes for guitar or bass?

My five year old has nearly mastered plucking "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on the top string of her guitar. What are some other tunes that we can teach her to play that only use one string? We'd like to get her comfortable with a couple different tunes before we get all crazy with the "Three Blind Mice" and whatnot.
posted by padraigin to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Deep Purple - Smoke on the Water
posted by rancidchickn at 11:25 PM on March 7, 2008

Louis Louis
||: boing boing boing...boing boing...boing boing boing...boing boing :||

oh, baby, me gotta go.
posted by artdrectr at 11:45 PM on March 7, 2008

Pretty much any tune whose range is limited to one octave will be playable on one string. Assuming your nipper isn't too dexterous yet either means you're looking for melodies which don't jump around too much, and so you're on the right track with nursery rhymes and simple ditties. Also, Christmas songs tend to fit this description.

One of my earliest "one string" tunes was Troika (Sleigh Bells): (fret numbers, broken loosely into phrases)

12 11 9 11 12 9
7 9 5 7
9 7 5 12 11 12 9
7 5 4 7 5
4 5 4 2 4 5
12 9 7 5 7 9 9 0
posted by benzo8 at 11:48 PM on March 7, 2008

me spell Louie no so good
posted by artdrectr at 11:52 PM on March 7, 2008

There's a riff from the beginning of Secret Agent Man (Danger Man in the UK, though I don't think it used the same theme) - my Dad's generation, not mine, though for the first thing I learned on the guitar, it sounded pretty cool. It actually uses the bottom two strings, but you only finger one, and it's really simple. B - E - C - E - C - E - C# - E - C - E - C - E, and repeat ad infinitum or until bored. Or learn the rest of the song.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 12:36 AM on March 8, 2008

Whoa. Congratulations to her. She's gone as high as the seventh fret, at least! What comes to mind are mostly metal riffs, but these are ones that I've found that rouse pretty much everyone.

Slayer's Seasons in the Abyss:

0 2 3 0 2 3 5 0 2 3 0 7 3 0 6 2 (repeat)

It's fun slow or fast. If she doesn't like that, Judas Priest's Breakin' the Law is more melodic:

5 7 8 5 7 8 5 7 8 1 3 5 1 3 5 3 8 7

The thing is, the rhythm is not as straightforward. They're all quarter notes, except the second and third 5s and the second 1 and the last 3 are all eighth notes. Man, text is not great for describing rhythm. Just listen to this for the rhythm.

The Peter Gunn theme (which may be familiar even if you haven't seen the show - I haven't) goes like this:

0 0 3 0 5 3 6 5

It's all straight eighth notes and the pattern is fairly intuitive.

Black Sabbath's Sweet Leaf (you can call it "Sweet Candy" or something) can be arranged like this:

0 0   5 4 3   0 3 5 5

It's a surprisingly satisfying riff.
posted by ignignokt at 1:34 AM on March 8, 2008

Not sure whether you prefer children's songs, but "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes is easy:

7 7 10 7 5 3 2

(on the D string if you want the right key)
posted by mmoncur at 3:22 AM on March 8, 2008

If she keeps practicing, some day she'll be as good as One-String Willy!
posted by Ike_Arumba at 5:47 AM on March 8, 2008

Sesame street is almost all on the B its easiest iteration. 7-5-3 3-5-7 7-5-3 5-3 g3 b2-3-5-7 7-5-3-3 g3...I forget, figure it out.
posted by TomMelee at 6:35 AM on March 8, 2008

Rolling Stones, Satisfaction (E or A string, 22, 245, 55422)
posted by priested at 6:39 AM on March 8, 2008

Did I also mention I love the idea of 5 year olds learning metal riffs?
posted by priested at 6:40 AM on March 8, 2008

12:51 by The Strokes?
posted by tmcw at 6:45 AM on March 8, 2008

Quite a fun little task-- Happy Birthday works out to be..

Happy Birthday to you...

1,1,3,1,8,6 1,1,
Happy Birthday tooooo yooooou

1,1,10 ,6 ,6,6,5,5,3
Happy Birthday Mr. President...

Happy Birthday Toooo yooooo.
posted by Static Vagabond at 7:56 AM on March 8, 2008

Don't need those two 1's on the end of that second line, should really start to proof read my posts...
posted by Static Vagabond at 8:00 AM on March 8, 2008

I'm a guitar teacher and I have some students as young as 7. We tend to consider five too young to really start on the guitar and steer those students towards piano. But if it's a half or 3/4 size guitar it can be doable.

As said above, you can play any simple melody on a single string, but I have to ask why you've set that as a goal. There are plenty of guitar method books geared toward younger kids (here's a page that links to a few, although I can't find or recall the name of the one book a lot of my youngest students have), and they all introduce strings one at a time, but generally emphasize playing across the strings in a given position rather than sliding all over the fretboard, since that's how you play guitar.

In any case, if you want to foster her musical education I'd recommend picking up a book and working through it with her, which will provide you with plenty of simple tunes, and looking into lessons eventually.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:40 PM on March 8, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. These are some great starts, and some of these songs are already familiar to her (Louie Louie, Seven Nation Army--she hasn't really discovered Slayer yet).

Ludwig_van, she's playing on a half-sized guitar. She got a little First Act a couple of years ago and recently decided she's tired of just banging on it and wanted to learn some real songs. My husband is working with her on good technique, and it's easier for her to focus on getting the right fingering and tone if she only has to worry about going from side to side on one string.

We probably will go for a more formal approach if her interest continues, but right now she's just having a good time with it and we don't want her to feel pressured.
posted by padraigin at 2:02 PM on March 8, 2008

it's easier for her to focus on getting the right fingering and tone if she only has to worry about going from side to side on one string.

We probably will go for a more formal approach if her interest continues, but right now she's just having a good time with it and we don't want her to feel pressured.

Well, respectfully, I don't think the concept of "the right fingering" can be meaningful if you're only playing on a single string. The right fingering involves playing across the strings. And tone shouldn't be much of a concern at her level. I don't think you need to pressure her, I'm just suggesting that it's possible for her to develop habits which will make it more difficult for her to learn the guitar later on.
posted by ludwig_van at 4:22 PM on March 8, 2008

Response by poster: Good point, and thank you. By "right fingering" I guess I mean pressing the strings down properly and plucking correctly. I don't actually play guitar, so maybe that's the wrong terminology.
posted by padraigin at 9:01 PM on March 8, 2008

"Blister in the Sun" by the Violent Femmes. I have no idea how guitars work/what chords are/I'm barely decent at Guitar Hero, but I can play this one. The top string, 0-4-5-4-0-4-5-4-0-4-5-2-0 (tap the guitar twice, then twice again). I feel like a rockstar when I play this song. My only other musical talent (besides my stint as a high school tubist) is playing 50 Cent's "Wanksta" on the piano.
posted by whiskey point at 7:31 AM on March 10, 2008

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