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 […]

The Passing of John Renbourn

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My longtime guitar hero and friend John Renbourn of Pentangle fame died in late March, 2015. He was 70. Starting in the ’60s, I was inspired by John’s great facility and deep sensitivity with the guitar. He and his picking partner Bert Jansch provided me with considerable inspiration and countless hours of lifting fingerpicking tunes off records. I still play many of the tunes I learned from them.

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, […]

Mark’s University of Oregon Interview Published!

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The text of the November 2014 interview is included below. View the entire interview, including photos and video, at the Register-Guard of Eugene, Oregon.   THE VIRTUOSO MENTOR: Acoustic Guitarist Mark Hanson Shares His Gift in More Ways than One By: Sumi Kim, Taylor Goodman, and Michael McGovern “As a teacher, I’m constantly rewarded by the interactions with my students and to see the satisfaction they get from learning something new or having an epiphany.” – Mark Hanson He wanted to be the next Mickey Mantle, to play center field for the New York Yankees. Or maybe he was destined […]

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 […]