** As featured in issue 45 **
Hi there guys and welcome back to my column for this issue. We’re changing direction a little for this issue, moving away from complex changes playing and looking at a really cool Latin rhythm for the right hand that is really useful and can be applied to pretty much any chord sequence you can think of. I find these little right hand sequences to be very useful in all manner of contexts and they can be particularly effective when backing a singer or another soloist in a duo situation, as the sound has a great rhythmic forward motion and can be executed at any tempo and still sound great. We’ll be looking not only at the right hand technique itself but a series of chord sequence variations that will give you a ton of great material to study and build from for weeks to come.
This technique relies on standard finger picking, alternating bass notes with the thumb and a percussive hit with the right hand for rhythmic interest and tonal variation. Begin by ignoring the left hand, just muting the strings so that you can fully concentrate on what the right hand is doing. We can apply some chords later.
Start the rhythm with a percussive down-strike onto the strings with the heel of the right hand (see the video for more details of exactly which part of the hand I use) and swiftly follow up with the first three fingers plucking the D, G and B strings. This is the pickup of the rhythm before beat one of the bar, since the rhythm actually starts on beat four of the bar. This can take some getting used to, so don’t worry if starting on beat four feels weird at first. Follow up on beat one of the bar with a downstroke of the thumb on the A string, finally plucking the D, G and B strings again with the first three fingers. This gives you a sequence of four sounds, HIT – PLUCK – THUMB – PLUCK that are repeated around and round with the THUMB on beats one and three of the bar (or all four beats if playing double time – twice as fast at the same tempo).
We are going to apply this sequence to a II – V – I – VI7 progression in the key of C major, giving us the chords Dm7, G7, Cmaj7 and A7. For the sake of interest and voice leading I’m going to add extensions, giving us Dm9, G13, Cmaj9 and A7#5. For the first three chords our bass movement in the Thumb will move between the root and 5th of the chord, alternating between the A to E string, or vice versa. For the A7#5 chord we will be alternating between the root and b5 of the chord between the E and A strings respectively. Another key point to note is that the left hand changes chord on the last 8th note of every other bar rather than on beat one of the bar. Again this can take practice and can feel un-natural at first. Work slowly and make sure to be rhythmically accurate with no rushing or dead notes in the left hand, only speeding up the technique once you are consistent and relaxed with it.
I’ve actually written out and demonstrated some further examples using some simple chord substitutions that can be applied to our basic chord progression using some cool tri-tone substitutions for the V and VI chords and turning the II chord into a Dominant 7th. Check those out too and practice combining them in any order you like as I do at the end of the video lesson.
Once you have the right hand part down and can execute it on these chord sequences, why not try it on other material? The Real Book is a great source of Latin Jazz tunes that will work superbly with this rhythmic approach, but you could easily apply this to all sorts of material. Experiment and see if you can surprise yourself – this is a very useful right hand technique to get down.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this lesson guys – good luck with the rhythm and I’ll see you in the next issue!