Piedmont Blues

Piedmont or East Coast blues is characterized by a highly syncopated guitar technique that is comparable in sound to ragtime piano. 

The style originated in the Piedmont region of the United States, the hilly area whichlies between the Atlantic Coastal Plain the Appalachian Mountains from central Georgia to central Virginia.









The Piedmont guitar style employs a complex fingerpicking method in which a regular, alternating-thumb bass pattern supports a melody on treble strings. The highly syncopated guitar style connects closely with an earlier string-band tradition integrating ragtime, blues, and country dance songs.

In the early twentieth century, influential artists such as Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Blake , Blind Willie McTell , Rev. Gary Davis , and and Sonny Terry made Piedmont blues popular.   Women were also masters of Piedmont guitar style, including Etta Baker and Elizabeth Cotten , whose “Freight Train” is one of the best-recognized fingerpicking guitar tunes.

Archie Edwards was one of several extraordinary Piedmont blues musicians from Virginia, including his friend, the late John Jackson . Another friend, Warner Williams, still drops by Archie’s Barbershop now and then to join in the Saturday jams.  John Cephas teaches occasional guitar workshops at the Barbershop.


Piedmont Blues .   University of North Carolina Asheville students enrolled in the Liberal Studies Introductory Colloquia "The Art of the Blues" and "Jazz and Blues in American Culture." Online resource that includes information about Piedmont blues and biographies, recordings, and photographs of many individual musicians.

Center for Southern African-American Music.  University of South Carolina School of Music.  An online archive including print, audio-visual, and primary source materials related to African-American music of the south.  The blues section includes biographies and recordings of many Piedmont blues musicians.

Digital Library of America. Online resources includes non-commercial sound recordings that document much of Appalachian music's geographic, ethnic, vocal, and instrumental diversity. Many blues musicians from the region are represented in the collection, including Archie Edwards

East Coast Blues.  Barry Pearson and Cub Kota. Blues Foundation website. Brief discussion of Piedmont and jump blues.

Shades of Blue. Juke FM. Overview of different styles of blues, including Piedmont, and the people who helped make them popular.

The Evolution of Delta, Piedmont, Nashville, Rockabilly, & Ragtime Guitar Fingerstyle Blues, Jon Chappell.  Guitar Player Magazine, June 2007.  Description and roots of various fingerpicking guitar styles. 

Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition of the Southeast. Bastin, Bruce. The University of Illinois Press, 1986.

Encyclopedia of the Blues. Herzhaft, Gerard.  The University of Arkansas Press, 1992 (ISBN 1-55728-253-6).

Virginia Piedmont Blues: The Lives and Art of Two Virginia Bluesmen. Pearson, Barry Lee. The University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990.