IN THE WOOD­SHED

Char­lie Grif­fith says give your first fin­ger a rest and treat the re­main­ing three dig­its to a spot of fret­board fit­ness train­ing.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Char­lie Grif­fiths with ex­er­cises to strengthen your sec­ond, third and fourth fret­ting fin­gers.

This month we fo­cus on fret­ting-fin­ger dex­ter­ity with some ex­er­cises de­signed to test and im­prove con­trol, in­de­pen­dence and stamina be­tween your fin­gers. As an added chal­lenge, we’ll con­cen­trate our ef­forts on what is for most peo­ple the weaker side of the hand and use only the sec­ond, third and fourth fin­gers, tak­ing the more nat­u­rally strong first digit out of the equa­tion. Play­ers like Ge­orge Lynch and Paul Gil­bert ac­tu­ally favour us­ing these fin­gers (cer­tainly for prac­tice regimes), but this could be be­cause they have a huge amount of tal­ent, re­mark­ably long fourth fin­gers – or both!

The ex­er­cises use a com­bi­na­tion of le­gato tech­nique and pick­ing, which should help give you a broader pal­ette of sounds to work with. Feel free to ex­per­i­ment with how you ap­ply the tech­niques. The le­gato tech­nique is par­tic­u­larly good for de­vel­op­ing the strength and uni­for­mity of tone heard in play­ers like Joe Sa­tri­ani, Allen Hinds, Brett Garsed and Al­lan Holdsworth who all have phe­nom­e­nally con­sis­tent fret­ting hands. A com­mon prob­lem for mere mor­tals is that each fin­ger has its own ham­mer-on strength, mak­ing the flow of notes sound un­even in vol­ume (you might need to go more softly with your sec­ond fin­ger and be more vig­or­ous with your fourth, for ex­am­ple, so they meet some­where in the mid­dle). Prac­tis­ing le­gato is much more ef­fec­tive with a mid-gain over­drive that re­sponds to fin­ger dy­nam­ics, rather than a full-on sat­u­rated tone, which au­to­mat­i­cally com­presses the note – mask­ing any weak­nesses you may have.

Ex­am­ples 1 and 2 are chro­matic-based shapes us­ing the sec­ond, third and fourth fin­gers played on three ad­ja­cent frets. The first ex­er­cise uses ham­mer-ons through­out, while the sec­ond is based on pull-offs. In both cases, play the first bar three times, then for the fourth bar dou­ble the rate of notes. Speed­ing up in short bursts like this is a very ef­fec­tive way of in­creas­ing fin­ger stamina.

An­other com­mon prob­lem that needs at­ten­tion is note-length con­sis­tency. The first two ex­am­ples are based on a triplet sub­di­vi­sion but Ex­am­ple 3 is 16th notes; re­gard­less of the cho­sen di­vi­sion, the im­por­tant thing is that they are played evenly. Each triplet should be the same length as the next and all the 16th notes should be con­sis­tent. Sound sim­ple? Well you might not find it so in prac­tise, as it can be tricky to con­trol the tim­ing be­tween the third and fourth fin­gers, so lazy pull-offs or early ham­mer-ons can dis­rupt the flow.

Ex­am­ple 4 is a Steve Morse-style string-skip­ping lick that will re­ally help de­velop elas­tic­ity be­tween your fin­gers when chang­ing strings. As this is a bit trick­ier you can al­ter­nate-pick the notes to re­lieve some of the ten­sion on your fret­ting hand. Un­til now we have only used chro­matic-based shapes, so for ex­am­ple 5 we have a more scale-based shape us­ing both tone and semi­tone spa­ces. Plac­ing tone spa­ces be­tween the sec­ond and third fin­gers and third and fourth fin­gers will help de­velop the stretch of your hand. Work through the ex­am­ples slowly and stay re­laxed so as to avoid hurt­ing your­self. NEXT MONTH Char­lie ex­am­ines the kind of se­quen­tial pat­terns used in mod­ern blues

Pre­pare to give those weaker dig­its a dose of cir­cuit train­ing!

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