How to Play Blue Railroad Train: One of the Most Recognized Bluegrass Guitar Tunes!

If you’re familiar with one of the most recognized Legends in Bluegrass guitar, Tony Rice, chances are you’re familiar with one of the most recognized tunes he’s famous for: “Blue Railroad Train.”

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Blue Railroad Train

The Song that Opened Up New Possibilities for Me in the Key of D

If you’re anything like I used to be when I first started playing Bluegrass guitar, playing in anything other than the key of G—and sometimes C—makes you feel somehow “out of your element.” If that’s true, then let me share with you a song that changed my perspective on soloing in other keys—especially one of the most important keys in Bluegrass: D—”Blue Railroad Train” by Tony Rice.

Before I ever created a series on playing lead guitar in the key of D, I learned the freedom of being able to play in the chord shape of D.  You see, “Blue Railroad Train” isn’t playing in the actual key of D; it’s played in the key of F! But the way Tony—and most other Bluegrass guitarists—play it is with a capo on the third fret in the chord shape of D.  In my Bluegrass Guitar Essentials course, I demonstrate why it’s so important to learn to play in the “Three Essential Keys” and their chord shapes.  These “essential keys” are the foundation of Bluegrass Guitar playing in my opinion.

Because of “Blue Railroad Train” I’ve been able to look at playing Bluegrass guitar in a whole new way.  This song forces you to play out of your comfort zone; out of your element, so to speak because it has phrases in it that are beyond just the first few frets, which most people are glued to in their playing.  Most people wanting to learn how to play Bluegrass guitar like their bluegrass guitar heros have been playing a long time but don’t know how to venture beyond the first four or five frets.  “Blue Railroad Train” solves that by including licks, phrases, and open string transitions that are well beyond the first few frets.

Where To Go From Here

If after watching the videos above you’re interested in learning more licks to add to your figurative bag of licks, please check out another article I’ve written on the subject entitled “Bluegrass Guitar Licks To Add To Your Flatpicking Arsenal” as well as the various other links I’ve embedded throughout this post.  Also, if you want more Bluegrass guitar tips in general, be sure to check out the main page for my article posts.

Thanks so much for joining me in this article.  I look forward to hearing from you on how you’re progressing in your Bluegrass guitar goals.

Until next time,

Best Wishes and Keep Practicing,

Eric Beaty