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Learning Doc's Guitar

Photo of Doc Watson taken in 1982 by Terry Ketron.
Doc Watson, 1982
Photo by Terry Ketron

If you've been inspired to learn to play the guitar by hearing Doc play, then you're in good company! There are are a number of excellent learning materials available to help you in your quest, including video tapes, DVDs, books and CDs.

Please keep in mind that these learning materials focus on Doc's playing style and techniques. If you are just starting to learn guitar, these might seem very advanced to you, so it's probably a good idea to get some basic flatpicking and/or fingerstyle instructional materials.

To see a list of tunes covered in each of these learning materials, just click on the links shown or the thumbnail picture. And don't forget that we also have some free TABS of Doc's tunes available here at Doc's Guitar on our TAB page.

If you are looking for a particular tune visit our Search page, where you can see a listing of learning resources and albums where that tune appears.

VIDEOS

Doc's Guitar
Homespun Tapes (1991) DVD/Tab

This video is a real treasure. Doc teaches both flatpicking and fingerpicking and covers his signature tunes like "Black Mountain Rag."  Guests include Jack Lawrence, Ralph Rinzler (who "discovered" Doc)  Pete Seeger and Mike Seeger. Available in DVD format and comes with a Tab booklet. MORE DETAILS...

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Flatpicking with Doc
Homespun Tapes (1996) DVD/Tab

This tape is hosted by Steve Kaufman and focuses on Doc's flatpicking. Doc and Steve cover a variety of musical styles ranging from fiddle tunes to waltzes to the  blues. The tape also includes an appearance by special guest is Richard Watson, Doc's grandson. Available in VHS or DVD. MORE DETAILS...

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BOOKS
Play Like A Legend: Doc Watson NEW!
by Joe Carr, Mel Bay Publications (2013) Book/CD

A great new book/CD featuring transcriptions of Doc's great guitar flatpicking recordings. It offers detailed explanations of special techniques employed by Doc such as Carter Plus soloing, using three note patterns (3NPs) and numerous crosspicking patterns. Exercises are designed to isolate specific licks and patterns, making them easier to learn. MORE DETAILS...

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The Songs of Doc Watson
Oak Publications (1971) Book/Tab

This is perhaps the earliest book on Doc's playing style. Contains 30 songs, with notes on each by Doc plus great photos. Also includes a foreword by Ralph Rinzler, who "discovered" Doc, and an introduction by Doc in his own words taken from interviews by Ron Stanford in 1970. MORE DETAILS...

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The Guitar of Doc Watson
by Fred Sokolow, CPP Baldwin (1993) Book/Tab

Another early publication, this volume by well-known teacher Fred Sokolow has 15 songs, including most of Doc's signature tunes. Includes Merle's classic piece, 'Thoughts of Never' as well as 'Florida Blues.' MORE DETAILS...

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The Legacy of Doc Watson
Transcribed by Steve Kaufman, Mel Bay (1999) Book/Tab

This book is a unique compilation. It serves not only as an instruction book, but also as a biographical commentary.  A running dialog with Doc reveals stories behind each tune, while Kaufman provides additional performance tips. Contains two  transcriptions for some tunes that appear on different recordings. MORE DETAILS...</>

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Doc Watson & Clarence Ashley: The Original Folkways Recordings 1960-1962
Transcribed by Dix Bruce, Mel Bay (1999) Book/Tab

This collection contains transcriptions of all 48 songs from the two-CD Folkways set. The book includes melodies, chord progressions, lyrics, Doc's leads, and several examples of Doc's backup playing style. These tunes are derived from Doc's earliest recordings. MORE DETAILS...

Webmaster's Note: This book is currently out of print. You may be able to get a used copy on eBay.

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Fingerpicking, Flatpicking and Slide
Homespun Tapes (1979) Book/CD

This set looks at Merle's playing, but I'm including it here anyhow.  The CD's include comments by  Doc.  It has three parts: fingerstyle, slide guitar and flatpicking.  Contains several duet arrangements of Merle and Doc. Edited and digitally enhanced from the original three-cassette series, "Country Guitar Styles" taught by Merle Watson. MORE DETAILS...

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