** As featured in issue 35 **
Hi guys and welcome to my guitar lesson column! If you’ve been playing for a few years or even longer, you’re probably familiar with many of the common guitar techniques used by the majority of players, such as string bends, hammer-ons and pull-offs, tapping, sweep picking and fingerpicking. The range of techniques used on this instrument we love so much is both vast and hugely versatile and taking the time to learn a new technical approach can yield a period of inspiration and musical development. In some cases it can even define a player and help to mould their sound or voice, as legato has in my case.
Over the next few guitar lessons we’ll be looking at a series of interesting guitar techniques that are less commonly used but can spark a lot of inspiration and help you to break out of a musical rut or even form a more unique sound in your guitar playing.
The first technique we’ll be looking at was developed and used primarily by Fusion ace Greg Howe. Greg is renowned for a very particular set of techniques that define his sound and make him immediately recognisable. One of the first things that struck me as a young, technique hungry guitar player in my late teens, was that Greg was using a lot of techniques that seemed to be developments of the basic techniques that I already knew. In essence he was thinking outside of the box and attempting to create ideas that combined existing techniques into something greater than the sum of its parts and resulting in a sound that became part of his unique voice.
The particular technique we’ll be studying is a combination of a ‘hammer-on from nowhere’ (one of Greg’s signature techniques), a hybrid picked note and a standard, downward picked note, all performed with a palm muted right hand. The combination of these common techniques creates a very unique sound when applied in a certain pattern and creates a sound that is easily identifiable as Greg Howe and a musical idea that can be used very creatively for developing new vocabulary.
The pattern is mapped out in detail in the video demonstration, where I go through each part of the technique and apply it to various chordal or harmonic scenarios. As usual you’ll find each of these examples written out for you in the accompanying TAB for the lesson. The general idea is to blend the individual techniques into the larger phrase as smoothly and seamlessly as possible and then apply the concept to lots of harmonic scenarios, so that you develop either your own lines or an ability to improvise freely with the idea over time.
To give you some examples of how I might work with an idea like this and develop some vocabulary with it I’ll go through two potential ways that you can manipulate this material. The first method has you working out a particular phrase and then moving it up the neck diatonically through a given scale on a set of strings. The second method involves taking a single idea and trying to apply it to any given chord in one part of the neck. Practising both of these methods will allow you to develop new vocabulary and find your own sound and the things that work for you with the technique and the things that don’t.
In the next issue we’ll be looking in detail another combination of common techniques that create something more than the sum of its parts that I use in my playing all the time. In the meantime, keep your ears tuned for things that your favourite players do that really define their sound and are immediately identifiable as ‘belonging’ to that particular persons musical voice.
Good luck and I’ll see you all next time!