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Don Alder - Advanced Acoustic Guitar Part 3: Practice Through Songwriting

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 26 **

This month we’re going to turn songwriting into practicing using a number of modern acoustic guitar techniques including harmonics, pull-offs, hammer ons and tapping. The whole idea is to play this as fluid as possible from technique to technique. All the notes and positions are explained in the video. I’ll just discuss the applied guitar techniques as they happen.

This piece of music is 4/4 time with 6 bars of 4. The key of Em. The chords are Em C G Am Bm C. Repeat these chords as a looping pattern. Once you get the feel you can move on to playing the melody using the various techniques. Shout out to Kris Schulz for the Tab and Music Notation.

Pull-Off With your left hand press your first finger on the 5th fret of the high E string (A note), then use your third finger and press on the 7th fret of the high E string (B note). Keep light pressure on both the 7th and 9th. With your right hand pluck the high E string to sound the B note. While the note is still sounding pull off the third finger on the 7th fret, in this process you need to have that third finger move in a downward motion pulling on the string. This will help to drive the sound of A note. This is one example of a pull-off. Practice this in various spots with different fingers to help build strength and tone. Try to work on getting the same volume for both notes however you can also explore volume differences to create note expression.

Finish the segment as shown in the video. Pull off of the A note to the open E string. Fatten the sound as in the video by plucking both E strings simultaneous. Add a bit of vibrato on fretted notes for some expression. Plucked Harmonic Use the index finger and thumb on the right hand. Hover your index finger over the 12th fret on the high E string, tuck your thumb slightly under the index finger. Pluck the string with your thumb while using the index finger to lightly touch the 12th fret.

The end result is a bell like sound. You might as well experiment a bit and try this on the other strings. Now try this, put your left hand index finger on the 1st fret. Now use the same technique with the right hand but pluck on the 13th fret, presto you now get a new harmonic, then 2nd fret and 14th fret. You get the idea. Now do this with chords and hear the magic happen. You get luscious cascading effects. Lenny Breau was one of the first to popularise this technique. It has become very common for current day players. Acoustic guitarist Tommy Emmanuel has an extraordinary ability with this technique. Hammer-On The sound of the note is created from the left hand. The video shows examples using the index finger to strike down on the 2nd fret of the D string.

Experiment using the index finger and other fingers to anchor a note on the fret and use the finger forward of it to strike down. Exercise by anchoring the index finger on a fret, then strike down with the middle finger, then hold that note and strike down with the ring finger, hold that note and strike down with the pinky. Then work backwards. This is great for developing coordination and timing. Slap Harmonic Many ways to do this. The version in the video we use the right hand index finger and slap down on the 12th fret close to the fret wire. Slap the last four strings or individual strings, same rule applies for moving up the neck as the plucked harmonics. Tapping Use any finger on the right hand to strike down on any note of the fret board. This technique does take a bit of work to execute properly. Due to ease of doing it’s often misused for lack of attention to detail. If you strike down incorrectly you’ll often hear additional tones ring out which aren’t pleasant.

Look to create a solid single tone. As in the video I was not paying attention to detail and you can hear this unfriendly tone, avoid it all costs. Tapping opens many possibilities but I must admit I think the “Stick” is much better suited for tapping. “Stick” players are doing much more with it then guitarists. Thanks for taking some time out for this lesson. See you soon!

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