** As featured in issue 43 **
One of the quickest ways to add a bit of Country spice to your day to day playing is to look into the world of using pull-offs, hammer-ons and open strings to create some wider intervallic ideas and ringing notes to your lines.
The beauty of the guitar (or any stringed instrument) is that when playing a note in a higher register, you can always play the open string to get a fixed pitch, and while these notes won't always work, when they do you're going to open up lots of unusual sounds.
The problem comes in that our strings are fixed pitch, so the notes E A D G and B will work great on a G7 chord (coming from the mixolydian scale – G,A,B,C,D,E,F) or on an A7 chord (coming from A Mixolydian – A,B,C#,D,E,F#,G) – but when you look at a key like Bb (Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G,Ab) you have a few problems as your B,E and A strings all clash directly with notes found in the key.
If we start by looking at the key of A and start in the 1st to 4th fret areas, we can use the open G, D and A strings as they'll give you the b7th, 4th and Root respectively. In example 1 I've demonstrated this in a descending scalar idea, and used the minor to major 3rd movement we've looked at in previous columns.
It's worth noting that I tend to reach over and pluck adjacent strings with my middle finger for some spank, but I also attempt to let these open strings ring out as much as possible to create an explosion of notes bleeding into each other.
Another great use of this technique is when playing chords or double stops. In example 2 I’ve used a little A chord double stop at the second fret as a starting point and pull off on the G string to bring out the b7 to imply an A7 chord. In this example I've continued by descending the scale similar to example 1, but there's no reason you can't continue up the neck playing out of other chord positions you're familiar with from previous columns.
The final example will give you an idea of how modern players like Brad Paisley creates his all out chaotic ideas. As a starting point I've just moved the previous ideas up to the 5th fret area and played the A minor pentatonic scale. This creates some more interesting ideas, so as an example the 5th fret G string pulled off to the open string gives you the interval of a 4th, and intervals like this are much harder to play with a conventional fingering or without an awkward string change.
When you take these ideas and move them further up the neck, you get some truly impossible to execute ideas. So if you pull off from the 15th fret B to the open string you'll get the interval of a 10th – this is all but impossible to play in context, and when you consider that you can create these impossible sounds on literally every single finger you result in some really confusing sounds.
Obviously this is just an introduction to the open strings and pull off concept, and there's a lot more to learn here, so it's important to go and listen to all the guys who have used this as part of their sound over the years, a great place to start would be with Albert Lee, Brent Mason and the super star that is Brad Paisley
Get to work and I'll see you soon!