A Suggested Low-Stress Practice Routine

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Maybe sitting in front of an interactive computer screen is part of your practice regimen (that’s yours truly in the photo jamming with BB King’s band at his museum in Indianola, Miss.). But if not, here are some thoughts I recently offered to a student. To avoid the Yngwie Malmsteen-like physical maladies caused at least partly by shredding without warming up, I suggest starting your sessions with major scales at the end of the neck, using open strings. You’ll fret about two-thirds of the notes, so your fretting hand relaxes continually. Play the scales relatively slowly and softly to avoid […]

Modulate the B String to Help Make the Melody Stand Out

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The B-string on a steel-string guitar can be loud – it is the thickest wire on the guitar, even thicker than the wire inside the wound sixth string. The inherent volume of the second string can produce unbalanced melody notes compared to notes played on the first string. Your ear is your guide in determining how hard to pick each string to balance the melody. However, when you pick the first and second strings simultaneously, it’s not easy to make one louder than the other. The volume differential between the first and second strings may obscure the actual first-string melody […]

Free Notation/TAB/Audio of Italian Classic “Return to Sorrento”

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Mark was contracted to provide guitar solos for a 70th Anniversary (!) party in Portland in March, 2019. The husband, a  native of Italy near Naples, requested the time-honored song “Return to Sorrento” (“Torna a Surriento”) in celebration of their lives together. Mark arranged a fingerstyle version, which is published here along with audio of Mark playing it. On YouTube you can watch Pavarotti, the Three Tenors and Dean Martin, among others, singing this famous melody. It was written in 1902 by the brothers DeCurtis. Here is a WikiPedia history of the song, listed by its Italian title “Torna a Surriento”.  

Turn Your Amp Around for a Better Concert Sound!

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If you are performing with a small personal amplifier, consider this: Turn the amp around so it is facing the wall behind you. The reflected sound off the wall adds to the richness of the overall sound, and distributes the sound well around the room. And the folks in front don’t get the direct output from the amp. Tommy Emmanuel does this in some settings. Bose designs their reflective speakers this way, so that some of the sound is bouncing off the wall behind the player. In December, 2018, my trio Acoustic Guitar Summit performed for the Sacramento Guitar Society […]

Mark’s Three New Books Released!

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Mark was busy in 2018: Two 30th Anniversary Editions and a new Repertoire book! Relaxing Songs for Fingerstyle Guitar includes 15 new Hanson solo guitar arrangements of well-known tunes, from a spectacular new version of the classic “Sleepwalk” to Ed Sheeran’s recent “Photograph” and “Hallelujah” from Leonard Cohen. Notation/TAB/Online Audio. Lower-Intermediate to advanced. More info. The Art of Solo Fingerpicking 30th Anniversary Edition includes 20 new/updated pages and four cool new tunes, including Mark’s “Cast Away” and “Easy Virtue.” Notation/TAB/Online Audio. More info. The Art of Contemporary Travis Picking is the perennial best seller, having trained scores of thousands of […]

STOP READING THE MUSIC!

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Great musicians are able to think ahead, hear the music in their heads as it approaches, and anticipate what their hands need to do in the moments to come. To do this best, I highly recommend you MEMORIZE your music. To memorize your music: STOP READING IT.  My suggestion for memorizing: play each passage of a tune you are working on copious times while reading it, but then CLOSE THE BOOK, or turn the music over so you CAN’T read it. Now play it without looking. If you stumble, go back to the notation/tab to ensure you are playing it correctly. […]

Mark in a Fretboard Journal Video!

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I visited Jason Verlinde and his cohorts at Fretboard Journal‘s office in Seattle a few months back. They filmed me playing my arrangement of “Water Is Wide” and  my alternating-bass warhorse “Key to the Kingdom.” Although I brought my own guitars along, they requested that I play a guitar that the magazine had commissioned from local luthier T. Drew Heinonen. Below is the “Water Is Wide” video. The “Water Is Wide” notation and TAB are available three ways in hardcopy from us: 1) as a stand-alone piece  2) in my publication Great American Tablature Songbook (57 tunes in all), and 3) […]

Chord Chart for the Pixar Movie Coco’s “Remember Me”

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RememberMeChordChart I’ve had several students (one is singing it in both English and Spanish) ask for these chords after looking at rather suspect versions online. This chart contains chords for the main version you can hear on the soundtrack and YouTube, not the slow lullaby version in C. The recording is in the key of G, sung very high in places. I’ve also provided guitar chords in the key of D, in case you need to sing it in a lower key. Using key-of-D chords with the capo at V produces the original key. An unusual chord progression is the […]

“Tri-Tone Substitutions” Made Easy!

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Understanding “Tri-tone Substitution” Note: This article references my bluesy rave-up fingerstyle arrangement of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” A video of me playing it in Santa Barbara in August, 2017, has been posted here on YouTube: The actual music starts at about 0:35. Perhaps you have come across the term “Tri-tone substitution” in your studies, and had a hard time understanding it. Here’s an easy way to understand tri-tone substitutions: Think of them simply as dominant-seventh chords resolving down a half step – F7, instead of B7, going to E, for example. Most of you use B7 to resolve […]

A Tribute to John Renbourn

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September, 2016 Greta and I were invited to a tribute gathering this month for English guitar hero John Renbourn. John died at the age of 70 at his home in Scotland in March of 2015. Unfortunately, we had to turn down the invitation to attend. This is the tribute I wrote to be read at the gathering: Tribute to John Renbourn My wife Greta Pedersen and I have known John ever since I recruited him as a guitar columnist for Frets magazine in the 1980s. We have many fond memories of John: from sharing the stage with him numerous times, to […]