Rusty Cooley

January 1, 2005

Here’s yet another ear-boggling way to leave your listeners stunned and amazed: Utilize wide stretches of your fretting hand to play dazzling legato licks that sound supernaturally fast and intervallic. One exhilarating approach is to fire off single-string triads as triplets in which only the first note of every three is picked [Ex. 1]—provided, of course, you’re comfortable with the huge reaches involved. Always be sure to approach monster grabs such as these with caution. Few fires take longer to put out than ones that involve enflamed tendons in your wrist or forearm.

When I’m seated at home, in the studio, or in my lesson room, I rest my guitar on my left knee just as classical guitarists do, so the neck points up at a more comfortable angle. And I always—always—use a classical footrest under my left leg to raise the guitar up to an ergonomically correct level. (Of course, if you’re a lefty, you’ll implement all these approaches on your right side.) And when I stand up, my guitar is in the same position, because I set my strap high. I gave up trying to look cool years ago. I’d rather play well enough that the strap thing gets overlooked.

Now, let’s continue the souped-up single-string riffs. Once you can blaze up (and down) the first example, try spreading its simple Dm-Gm harmony to all six strings by jumping to the next octave when you hit the fourth and second strings [Ex. 2]. You can even squeeze a passing Am triplet in there, too [Ex. 3]. Once you’re handy with the moves involved, you’ll find there’s virtually no limit to how fast you can play these riffs. Here’s a fun six-string triad riff to close with that is slightly easier than the previous two, because it stays in the tenth position [Ex. 4]. Starting once again on Dm, the passage tears through five major and minor triads before tagging Dm again on the highest string and commencing its descent. —As told to Jude Gold

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