Steve Earle

Ellis Unit One - tablature

Last updated:  13 March 1998

Notes on the Tablature for "Ellis Unit One" by Steve Earle:

This is the acoustic guitar part for the intro and the first verse.  The rest of the song is pretty similar; you shouldn't have too much trouble figuring it out by using the Tab for the verses as a basis.

Note that Steve is using a very unusual tuning that I call "raised 'E'":  you'll need a lever-type capo, like the Kyser Loqo or the Shubb, or a "Third Hand" capo, to play this song.  An old-style "elastic band" capo won't work.
First, after tuning your guitar normally, take your capo and turn it upside-down; that is, so that the open part of the capo faces up instead of down.  Then put it on your guitar *from underneath*, at the 2nd fret, but put it on only partially -- you want to cover all the strings *except* the low "E" string. 
The effect of this is to give you the sound of a "drop-D" tuning without having to re-tune. 
I find that clamping the capo directly *on* the fret instead of behind it minimizes tuning problems.  Even so, you may have to re-tune a little after putting the capo on.
Very important:  the Tablature is relative to the Capo *except* for the low "E" string.  That is, if the Tab says to play a note on the 3rd fret of one of the Capoed strings, play it 3 frets up from the Capo; BUT if the Tab says to play the 3rd fret of the low "E" string, play the *actual* 3rd fret of the low "E" string.
The song is played using the open chord forms for "D", "G" and "A", but because of the Capo, the actual sounding pitch will be "E", "A" and "B".
You'll find that this song is a good workout for your fingerpicking skills.  Steve uses a slightly modified alternating thumb bass; it's pretty regular except for occasional spots where he drops a note or two from the normal pattern.  One of the trickier things he does is to extend a hammer-on from one chord to the next.  This can cause problems if you don't listen carefully to the record.  A CD player with an "A-B" function helps tremendously here.
I have included rhythmic notation for those of you who can read it, as the timing of the notes is crucial to the successful playing of this song.  Don't take the rhythms as an indication for how long to hold the notes; they're just there for the rhythm of the picking.  Generally, you'll want to hold the notes as long as possible before shifting fingering.  Due to the distance between the notes, I haven't connected the 8th note staffs.  You may notice that I haven't always put in the bar lines where they actually belong -- instead, I sometimes place them at chord changes & leave them out in spots. 
If you can't read the rhythm notation, just ignore it!  ;-)  But be sure to listen closely to the record. . .
Well, I hope I've helped to explain some of the mystery behind this song.  This was probably the toughest song to actually Tab out, as there are so many little changes, & the mix is such that his voice drowns out some of the little nuances.
I'm not claiming that my Tab is perfect, but I sure sweated over it!!  Corrections are welcome. . .
If any of you have further questions, or would like to request the rest of the song (after *really* trying to figure it out, I hope!), you can e-mail me at:   (Andrew Cushen)

Happy fingerpicking!!

© 2003-2007 Clint Harris  ( – All Rights Reserved
© 1995-2003 Lisa Kemper  – All Rights Reserved

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