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 […]

Chord Names and Grids

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This question came from a student: In your books Art of Contemporary Travis Picking and Art of Solo Fingerpicking you use an asterisk after the chord name: G*, for instance. What does this mean? In my publications, the chords with an asterisk are a different “voicing” or fingering from the norm. For instance, G and G* are both G chords, but use different fingerings to produce the notes I want at those points in the arrangement. An asterisk (*) is simply meant to guide you from the notation/tab to a particular chord grid diagramming the required fingering. For instance, only […]

More on Half-Diminished Chords

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Here’s another installment concerning ‘half-diminished” chords. Remember that “half-diminished” and “minor-seventh (flat5)” are synonymous. So far we have used three-fingered shapes combined with an open string to produce the four-note “minor-seventh (flat5)” sound. This time let’s find a four-fingered version of it. We’ll get to the theory eventually. If you are familiar with my arrangement of “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” (from my Great American Songbook CD and Book), you already know a B half-diminished chord. In that tune, I use it as a II chord in a II-V-I chord progression in the key of A-minor. It has an […]

Suggestions on How to Practice

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I received a nice email from a student who attended a recent workshop at Dusty Strings in Seattle. The specific workshop topic involved an “easy” way to visualize the guitar neck. His post-workshop question dealt mostly with developing an effective practice regimen. I have also included some other thoughts on how to become a better guitarist and musician. Learning to know the neck of the guitar is akin to a piano player being able to play in higher octaves. This is easy for a pianist, as each octave on the piano looks the same. Not so for the acoustic guitar, […]

To Fret – or Not to Fret – the Bass String with Your Thumb

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In the classical guitar world, fretting the bass string with the thumb is frowned upon. This is understandable for at least two reasons: classical guitar necks generally are wide, making it hard to fret with the thumb and fingers simultaneously; and Segovia figured out how to play the great repertoire without it. But with narrower neck guitars and long fingers, fretting the sixth string with the thumb can offer a guitarist a decided advantage. A main one: guitarists can fret five-note chords that classical guitarists can’t get. Another one: in ragtime styles in the key of C, a barre F […]

Why Learn Fingerstyle Guitar?

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Fingerstyle Guitar is a great brain developer, a great motor skill developer, and a great way to enjoy life, and to help others enjoy theirs! Since most musicians spend a majority of their time playing alone, fingerstyle guitar offers the perfect multi-voiced, piano-like approach to playing solo guitar. It usually features a melody, accompanied by a simultaneous bass line and mid-range harmony notes, all played by one person on one instrument. Like a mini piano! I have written many books and DVDs helping the aspiring guitarist learn to fingerpick patterns, to subsequently break the patterns, use alternate tunings, and generally […]

Half-Diminished Chords

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This topic came up at our seminar in the midst of the tune “Avalon.” Many folks don’t know what a ‘half-diminished’ chord is. Before I explain it, let me teach you an easy way to play one: In standard tuning, play a simple first-position D-minor chord at the end of the neck – first position. Slide this shape three frets up the neck to the 4th/5th/6th frets, maintaining the open D in the bass. Voila! You are now playing a D-half diminished, also known as a Dm7flat5. (Don’t include the open fifth and sixth strings!) These chords are often used […]