CRE­ATIVE ACOUS­TIC

Chris Woods keeps his touch light this month with a look at the won­der­ful world of har­mon­ics; where to find them and how to play them well.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS - NEXT MONTH Chris ex­am­ines the in­trigu­ing and un­usual idea of us­ing a par­tial capo

Acous­tic vir­tu­oso Chris Woods fresh­ens up your mod­ern acous­tic tool­box with a look at the won­der­ful world of har­mon­ics.

Son­i­cally, there’s a host of ex­cit­ing tones to be cre­ated us­ing har­mon­ics and a whole range of ways to do it. There are two main ap­proaches: first, nat­u­ral har­mon­ics and, se­cond, ar­ti­fi­cial har­mon­ics. In this col­umn we will be look­ing at both – and even one or two be­yond. I’ve cre­ated 20 ex­am­ples to give you some in­spi­ra­tion. Some of the tech­niques may be new to you; some may not, but be sure to see them as cre­ative of­fer­ings to kick-start some new ideas of your own.

I’m go­ing to be­gin by fo­cus­ing on nat­u­ral har­mon­ics. If you’ve never played a nat­u­ral har­monic be­fore, it will be worth­while stay­ing with th­ese first five ex­er­cises for a bit, be­fore mov­ing on. The fun­da­men­tal idea is that you rest your fret­ting hand fin­ger on the string – com­monly over the 12th, 7th or 5th fret, but not push­ing down as you would for a stan­dard note. Don’t press, just touch the string, then pluck it and lift the fin­ger off, mak­ing sure you are right over the fretwire it­self. Touch and lo­ca­tion are vi­tal points and the real key to suc­cess in the har­mon­ics world. Per­fect this and you’ll be play­ing har­mon­ics in no time.

From Ex­am­ple 6 we delve into the world of ar­ti­fi­cial har­mon­ics – and a lit­tle bit be­yond. With this ap­proach we can now play a har­monic for any fret­ted note. So, for ex­am­ple, if you play the note of A (2nd fret, third string) we can cre­ate a har­monic on the same string 12 frets above it. Not enough hands, surely? Ah, well, we sim­ply cre­ate a unique pick­ing hand po­si­tion. We fret the har­monic note with the pick­ing hand’s first fin­ger and pluck the note with the same fin­ger’s thumb. If you ex­tend your first fin­ger and thumb in op­po­site di­rec­tions you should cre­ate a stiletto-style shape with your hand; this is the ul­ti­mate hand po­si­tion for play­ing ar­ti­fi­cial har­mon­ics. Now, if we wanted to play an ar­ti­fi­cial har­monic for that A note on the 2nd fret, third string we would fret that note with our fret­ting hand, then use our pick­ing hand thumb to pluck the third string, while the same hand’s first fin­ger plays the har­monic di­rectly over the 14th fret. The ‘fret, pluck, place and lift fin­ger to cre­ate the har­monic’ ac­tion should be a swift, sin­gle move­ment. It will take a few goes un­til you get it dead right, but by us­ing this prin­ci­ple you can arpeg­giate whole chords and ex­e­cute en­tire runs, as typ­i­fied by the amaz­ing Tommy Em­manuel and the late, great in­no­va­tor, Lenny Breau.

As we jour­ney through the ex­er­cises we’ll be look­ing at slapped har­mon­ics and more, so be pre­pared to try some­thing new!

Us­ing arti fi­cia l har monic s, you ca n ar peg­giat e whole chord s and ex­e­cut e en­tir e ru ns

Chris Woods: guide to nail­ing har­mon­ics

Lenny Breau; an acous­tic in­no­va­tor and mas­ter of all types of har­mon­ics

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