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 […]

Which Fingerpicking Book Do I Start With?

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Folks write to me on occasion asking which of my fingerstyle books to start with: Contemporary Travis Picking or Beyond Basics Fingerstyle Guitar. My response: •    The Art of Contemporary Travis Picking is strictly alternating-bass (“Travis Picking”), using pretty basic chords until later in the book. It is largely about training the PICKING hand. You get two actual guitar solos amongst the 14 pieces in the book; the other 12 are accompaniments to a melody that is played/sung by a second instrument. The techniques in this book allow singer/songwriters to beautifully accompany their songs, but it also provides all […]

Right-Hand Muting Without a Thumbpick

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Several people have asked recently how I mute the bass strings without the aid of a thumbpick, as heard in my tune “Easy Virtue,” which we published recently in the 30th Anniversary Edition of Art of Solo Fingerpicking. Video. I learned this approach from the late, great John Renbourn, who picked with skin and nails (glued on ping-pong balls, actually!) – no picks. Above is a bird’s-eye-view photo of my right hand for the section of the tune that mutes the bass strings. From my normal “classical” picking-hand position (high wrist; palm parallel to the top; nothing resting on the […]

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 […]

More NAMM Photos, 2019

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“Flying into Los Angeleez” to quote Arlo. Disneyland just below. The Traveling Wilburys – part of photographer Neal Preston’s gallery: Some really BIG guitars were on hand. Collings head Steve McCreary with Greta. Martin displayed these, along with dozens of others. Gator’s mascot considering masticating… And a view of the crowd.  

NAMM Trade Show Anaheim, January 2019

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We made our annual January trek to Anaheim, Calif., for the music merchants’ trade show. Here are some photos: Holding some of my books in the Hal Leonard booth: In the Collings Guitars booth with (L-R) Peghead Nation’s Teja Gerken, Portland fingerstyle virtuoso Eric Skye, L.A. session guitar ace Mark Goldenberg (Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, etc.). Greta at Laguna Beach during the Upper Midwest Arctic Vortex.

Scales for Warm Up

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CAGEDScalesEndOfNeck Warm Up Correctly & Shoot 100% As I shot baskets at 24-Hour Fitness recently, I was thinking about my old coach’s advice about warming up and shooting accurately, and how his advice might pertain to guitarists. He said to start by shooting easy shots – close-in layups – to get your mechanics going, your muscles loose, and your confidence level up. You should shoot these at close to 100%. Then gradually increase the distance from the basket, shooting easily, being as relaxed as you can. His comment: If you can’t make the easy close-in shots, you won’t make the […]

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. […]