How To Play The 'Carter Scratch' (Featuring Courtney Marie Andrews) Maybelle Carter's guitar innovation helped revolutionize the way the instrument is played. Watch Americana singer-songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews show you how it's done.
NPR logo How To Play The 'Carter Scratch' (Featuring Courtney Marie Andrews)

How To Play The 'Carter Scratch' (Featuring Courtney Marie Andrews)

The eight women we chose to honor in this season of Turning the Tables were skilled singers, writers, instrumental innovators and musical pioneers. But often in the stories of these women's lives and legacies, their musical skills are obscured by a focus on persona or biography. We also want to highlight their work as musicians and the fundamental musical contributions they made to American popular music.


Maybelle Carter's innovative method of playing rhythm and lead guitar simultaneously, called the "Carter scratch," helped revolutionize the way guitar is played. It made her "perhaps the most emulated guitar player of all time," says Courtney Marie Andrews. Andrews is an Americana singer-songwriter who has a powerful, expressive voice and a knack for deeply empathetic lyrics (see for yourself in her Tiny Desk concert). She's also a fan of Maybelle Carter, so we asked her to explain what makes the Carter scratch so important and demonstrate how it's done.