“Tri-Tone Substitutions” Made Easy!

Posted on Posted in Announcements, Press, Stories, Tips from Mark, Uncategorized

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 […]

“Slap” Harmonics

Posted on Posted in Free tabs, Stories, Tips from Mark, Uncategorized

Tip From Mark – ‘Slap’ Harmonics I had a question from a client recently about making harmonics sound properly. In particular, he asked about picking-hand ‘slap’ harmonics in my arrangement of “Moonshadow” in Travis Pick the Hits! I will discuss technique using that example. If you need more information about playing harmonics successfully, I’ve written an extensive article that you can read here. At measure 60 in “Moonshadow” (shown below), I barre the four treble strings at the 2nd fret, an Amajor chord. This must happen quickly, as I have just fretted two individual strings with fingertips, and pulled off […]

Guitar Harmonics – How to Produce Them Successfully!

Posted on Posted in Free tabs, Stories, Tips from Mark, Uncategorized

Guitar Harmonics – Make Them Chime! I occasionally receive questions from clients about harmonics on the guitar: what they are and how to produce them. Guitar players love harmonics for their high-pitched ringing tone (Hawaiian slack key players call them “chimes”), and for the fact they allow a note (or more) to sustain as the fretting hand moves laterally on the guitar neck – not possible when you have to sustain a fretted a note. High-pitched guitar harmonics occur when a player creates a ‘nodal point’ (a non-vibrating ‘dead’ spot) on a vibrating string. Nodal points occur at the mathematical dividing points on […]

Guitar Purchase for Players with Smaller Hands

Posted on Posted in Stories, Tips from Mark

I received a question recently from a player with smaller hands about purchasing a steel-string guitar that fits him. I had a couple of thoughts that I passed along: Small hands suggest a couple of things to me concerning guitar size: 1) a 1-11/16″ width neck (many are 1-3/4″ now); 2) a short-scale neck; meaning a 24.9″ neck length – approximately – instead of the more standard 25.5″ (approx). Short scale makes the strings more supple and reduces lateral stretching a bit in the fretting hand. 3) a smaller body size; Martin 0, 00, and 000 guitars, for example, are short scale, […]

Need Help Memorizing a Piece of Music?

Posted on Posted in Stories, Tips from Mark

How to Memorize a New Tune By Mark Hanson Of course, a time-honored method of learning a new tune is to read the available notation and/or tablature. But what brought you to the new tune in the first place? Likely, having heard it inspired you. Here is a a memorization suggestion, to go along with the “practice-one-hand-at-a-time” tip: Listen to the tune many times through before trying to play it. Eons ago, the way I learned Beatles and Byrds songs was to sit in front of the record player, listening to a tune over and over all the way through as I wrote down the […]

My Amplifier Settings

Posted on Posted in Stories, Tips from Mark

My Amp Settings April, 2016 As I wrote recently, I am very happy with the current amplified sound I am getting. I use a Fishman Loudbox amp, running a Sunrise pickup through Channel 1 and a K&K Pure passive pickup through Channel 2. That stereo pickup system is mounted in both my mahogany Collings SJ and Indian rosewood Goodall CJ. The K&K has more output than either Sunrise I own, so the Channel 2 volume rheostat is lower than Channel 1. One Sunrise pickup has a slightly different output than the other, so I balance the two channels by ear. How […]

Practice One Hand at a Time!

Posted on Posted in Stories, Tips from Mark

April, 2016 The following is a practice technique I have used for years with my students: practice one hand at a time. In my experience, as fingerstyle students learn a new tune, they often struggle moving the fretting-hand in time with the picking hand. Most often the rhythm suffers – the student slows down (or stops…) in order to include all of the notes. Consider taking a hint from the piano world: train your hands one at a time. The Notation/Tab seen above is taken from “Happy Together” from my recent book/CD Travis Pick the Hits! (See and hear the entire passage here.) Ex.1 requires no […]

Getting A Great Amplified Acoustic Guitar Sound

Posted on Posted in Announcements, Stories, Tips from Mark

Getting A Great Amplified Acoustic Guitar Sound I have always created the tone and balance of my acoustic guitar with my hands, rather than with equipment. For instance, I always record through good microphones. But these days when I play smaller gigs and can’t use microphones, I have come up with the best, most natural sound I’ve ever gotten out of pickups and an acoustic amp. It’s a stereo setup, using two pickups. My setup is: • Fishman Loudbox Artist two-channel amp • K&K Pure-Mini pickup • Sunrise magnetic pickup • stereo endpin jack • stereo guitar cable (stereo jack […]

Need Help Keeping a Steady Tempo? (Part 1)

Posted on Posted in Tips from Mark

Above: Four guys with a steady sense of time (L-R) – Doug Smith, Mason Williams, Mark Hanson, and the late Nokie Edwards of the Ventures. At the 2005 Grammy Awards in L.A. — Many students – and some professionals! – have trouble keeping a steady tempo. (“That darn metronome – something’s wrong with it!”) Speeding up is usually the problem, although dropping or adding beats happens, too. For some developing musicians, counting out loud as they play can help, but, in my experience, students often can’t count out loud while playing, or the counting simply speeds up along with the guitar playing. Here’s a […]