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Lesson Series

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Maneli Jamal - Learn Percussive Acoustic Part 4: Thumb Slaps & Picking Dynamics

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 10 **

Before we get more into some progressive fingerstyle, it is critical to know some fingerpicking patterns as well to apply to our vocabulary of acoustic guitar techniques. I spent a great amount of time focusing on getting good guitar tone on the right hand and experimenting with nail lengths. Right now I get my right hand fingernails ‘done’ at a nail salon. I go for the acrylic gel on top of my natural nail. They will become hard as rock and I get them redone every month or so. If you mind the embarrassment of going to do this you can always find a do it at home kit. Just note that anything you put on your nails will go into your body and some people can have allergic reactions to this method. The length of each finger is important and depends on what kind of sound you’re going for. I have found that the best tone for my style is using both flesh and nail to get a balanced warm tone. Too much nail will sound sharp and no nail will sound very warm.

In the first example, we have a pretty simple progression from G, D, Em, D. The trick in getting the “x” to sound clean is to slap the right hand thumb on the low E string on every 3rd beat per bar.

I personally use a thumbpick for this but you can also use your bare thumb. Whenever we hit the “x” with the thumb we always use that thumb to hit the open low E string after to sound fluid. Using the same chords we can now use our right hand palm to accent the 3rd beat of each bar.

Example 2 is just a simplified version of this without any slaps. Combing these ideas is an important step to making a good arrangement with dynamics.

Example 4 now shows us how we can incorporate a melody inside this chord progression while keeping the same fingerpicking pattern and thumb slaps. This is the root of all fingerstyle music, bass notes with treble notes combined to create a full harmonious sound. This is simply one approach to this chord progression but what happens if we fuse this style with some Jazz chords now? We can have some cool phrasing here as shown in Example 6. These are mostly maj7, min7 and dominant 7 chords played in different inversions. Try these fingerpicking patterns to some of your own progressions to see how they can add some more musical elements to your playing

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