April 1, 2004

EZ Street: How to Nail Hammer-Ons

By Andy Ellis

When we first start playing guitar, we’re taught to assign the fretting and plucking chores to separate hands. As a result, our tendency is to view these two techniques as discrete actions: The left hand frets strings, the right hand plucks them, and—with any luck—combining these maneuvers yields music. (This assumes you’re a right-handed player; most lefties do it the other way around.) While there’s nothing wrong with this segregated approach, once you dig deeper, you’ll discover it’s possible to fret or attack the strings with either hand.

In this lesson, we’ll learn how to attack a string using fretting-hand fingers. Known as a hammer-on (or sometimes simply a hammer), this technique yields a crisp, percussive tone.

It's hammer time on EZ Street ...

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How Not to Suck: 3s and 7s
By Jude Gold

So, you can play barre chords. Great. Guess what: In many band situations, you’ll rarely need them. Think about it: Rockers and metal-heads often strip these fat grips down to just roots and 5s (making them power chords), acoustic guitarists prefer the glorious ring of open strings (why do you think the capo was invented?), and, in funk and jazz groups, well, five- and six-note barre chords often sound just plain muddy.

No worries, just pull out those 3s and 7s ...

preview    download mp3 Intermediate

Blues Guru Robben Ford: Jammin' Pentatonics
As told to Jude Gold

Last month we covered three pentatonic scales that you can use in the key of E—namely, E minor pentatonic (which works nicely over E minor or E7 chords), and E major and G# minor pentatonic (which match E major perfectly). They all share the same fingering. It’s also worth trying this fingering at less obvious positions on the neck—like at the 11th fret. Here, the fingering spells D# minor pentatonic, which, in the key of E, has an intriguing sound because, like G# minor pentatonic, it never hits the root, E. Also, it creates a raised 4 scale degree—or A#—making the scale helpful when you want to project a mysterious sound.

Spice up your blues licks ...

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How To Play Like. . . Grant Green
By Vincent DeMasi

If those tried-and-true blues licks are starting to get a little stale, then it’s high time you got hip by adding a jazzy color to your sound. I recommend a healthy dose of green—Grant Green, that is. He was one of the hardest-swinging soul-jazz cats of his era. During the first half of the ’60s, he waxed some 50-plus sessions for Blue Note as both a leader and sideman. His smooth, syncopated lines seemed to dance atop the changes, melding bebop’s sophisticated harmonic edge with the earthy, soulful moans of the blues.

Color up with a few Green blues licks ...

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Metal Guru Rusty Cooley: Killer Sequences
As told to Jude Gold

To make scalar, stepwise riffs and runs more interesting, many guitarists apply sequences to scales. But I find that many of the traditional patterns guitarists employ sound too in-the-pocket and predictable. This is especially true of four-note sequences, which often produce that stale, one-e-and-a two-e-and-a sound. Shawn Lane, however, was always experimenting with new groupings, and he is the inspiration behind one of my favorite patterns—the sequence I refer to as sevens.

To play sevens, you’ll first need to choose a typical three-note-per-string scale...

Seventh heaven awaits ...

preview    download mp3 Advanced

Rock Guru Steve Morse: Adjacent-String Adrenaline
As told to Jude Gold

You can do a lot with just three adjacent strings and a nimble picking attack. Ex. 1 is from “Air on a 6-String,” a solo electric guitar piece from my new album, Major Impacts 2 [Magna Carta], and while the phrase is only one bar long, it implies a lot of harmonic motion. Taking place on the fifth, fourth, and third strings, the riff uses the open A string as a pedal tone. Use a touch of palm muting on the fatter strings and the low notes won’t steal the show.

Adrenaline finger rush ...


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