Guitar Purchase for Players with Smaller Hands

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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?

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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

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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!

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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

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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)

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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 […]

Reducing String Squeaking Noises

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The Problem: Moving fretting fingers laterally along strings when shifting positions is an inherent part of playing a guitar. But, as most of us know, it can cause bothersome non-musical screeching sounds on round-wound strings. A player can reduce this noise through choice of strings (coated or flatwound strings), but let’s disuss what you might do with your hands. A Solution: As explained in an earlier Tip from Mark, RELAXING your fretting hand is a key to reducing string screeching. Before you leave a chord position, relax your fretting hand as you prepare to move. This simple relaxation technique likely will considerably reduce the […]

Increasing Fretting-Hand Efficiency

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The simple secret: Relax your fretting hand before you move to the next position. This is a subtle move, but can make a huge difference in the clarity and efficiency of your playing. There are two advantages to relaxing your fretting hand before/as you move: 1) it MUTES the strings as your fingers leave the strings; and 2) it avoids sounding the strings due to “pull-offs.” In other words, by relaxing your fretting-hand fingers as you release a chord you avoid sounding a potentially wrong note as you move to the next position. The Exercise: Get a feel for this […]