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 […]

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 […]

Mark at Luthier Events in 2017

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I’ve had fun attending and performing at several Luthier events this summer. I was the steel-string demonstrator at the GAL (Guild of American Luthiers) convention in Tacoma in July; and a performer, teacher and demonstrator at August’s SBAIC.com in Santa Barbara. At GAL I performed 40 seconds of my arrangement of “Water Is Wide” 33 times in a row – on 33 different guitars! The luthiers wanted to compare apples to apples, hearing the same player play the same piece on all the guitars. Next time maybe I’ll play O.C. Smith’s “Little Green Apples”… In Santa Barbara I had a […]

“Slap” Harmonics

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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 […]

Free Tab: “Celtic” Scale Exercises in Drop-D

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Alternating-Bass Scale Exercise For a recent wedding I was asked to play an instrumental version of singer George Ezra’s uptempo tune “Budapest” as the recessional. This was a fun little project, and a tune that fit right into an alternating-bass Travis-Picking form. The range of the melody suggested the key of D in drop-D tuning. (He sings it in F.) I put the capo on the second fret to approximate the original key (capo III was too high). Due to copyright restrictions, I will not print the arrangement here, but next best: As I toyed with the melody I came […]