FRET­TING TECH­NIQUE 10 great ways to im­prove it

Richard Bar­rett delves into the world of fret­ting-hand mas­tery, from sort­ing out your fourth fin­ger to con­struct­ing flow­ing legato lines with 10 be­spoke ex­am­ples and back­ing tracks.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Fret­ting im­pacts on ev­ery other as­pect of your play­ing – if it sucks, so will ev­ery­thing else! Richard Bar­rett is here to help get your fret­board fin­gers func­tion­ing fab­u­lously!

Hear­ing a per­fectly al­ter­nate or sweep-picked line in a solo is an un­de­ni­able thrill, and some­thing many of us aspire to. Yet the fo­cus of many tech­nique tu­to­ri­als is ded­i­cated to the pick­ing hand. This is, of course, a fun­da­men­tal part of great solo­ing, so that is not meant in any way as a crit­i­cism. How­ever, it’s pos­si­ble that many play­ers who aren’t sat­is­fied with their ef­forts in this area are ac­tu­ally far bet­ter with the pick than they re­alise and would ben­e­fit from turn­ing their at­ten­tion to what their fret­ting hand is up to. For ex­am­ple, do the notes you are fret­ting syn­chro­nise per­fectly with your pick­ing? Are you find­ing that by the end of a long flashy phrase that you are breath­less and fa­tigued?

By reap­prais­ing their fret­ting hand tech­nique, many play­ers have found the ben­e­fits are: bet­ter pos­ture, in­creased stamina, im­proved co­or­di­na­tion, a greater im­pro­vi­sa­tional vo­cab­u­lary and, ul­ti­mately, bet­ter tone – this last one can be a sur­prise to many, but it’s ac­tu­ally re­ally true! You may also find that your pick­ing tech­nique im­proves greatly from the bet­ter syn­chro­ni­sa­tion, so there is no down side to giv­ing this ap­proach a go.

You will find 10 ex­am­ples here, each de­signed to fo­cus on a spe­cific area, be that an over-arch­ing con­sid­er­a­tion, such as stretches or stamina, or specifics like us­ing the first fin­ger to ex­e­cute string bends. The in­ten­tion here is to show these tech­niques in a mu­si­cal con­text, rather than a list of ex­er­cises, though you could al­ways cherry pick any phrases that seem par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing and use them as ex­er­cises. Again... noth­ing to lose here!

As a pre­cau­tion, al­ways warm up with some re­laxed chord play­ing or Pen­ta­ton­ics – any­thing that isn’t too tax­ing on the hands and wrists – be­fore get­ting into any stamina or stretch­ing ex­er­cises. Even then, bear in mind that you should most def­i­nitely not be ‘go­ing for the burn’ with a ‘no-pain-no-gain’ mind­set. These mini pieces are de­signed so that with reg­u­lar rep­e­ti­tion over time, they will re­wire the brain and fin­gers (in­cre­men­tally) to use the most re­laxed or least ar­du­ous route across the strings and, hope­fully, lead you to ques­tion and im­prove on your habits. For in­stance, when stretch­ing, you will most likely shift your fret­ting hand thumb down on the back of the neck – how far is ideal for you? Do you find your wrist bends ex­ces­sively when reach­ing for cer­tain notes? Per­haps you are hold­ing on to a pre­vi­ously played note that is caus­ing you to stretch un­nec­es­sar­ily etc.

Though the prospect of fac­ing down these all too of­ten glossed-over prob­lem ar­eas of our tech­nique can at first seem like get­ting round to clear­ing out a ne­glected old shed, ask­ing your­self these ques­tions and tak­ing a log­i­cal ap­proach will reap gen­uine, last­ing ben­e­fits. You’ll also be sur­prised how quickly you can make fun­da­men­tal changes to your tech­nique if you keep a reg­u­lar rou­tine and stay fo­cused on any changes you wish to make. I do hope you like the pieces – and have fun!

these pieces are de­signed so that, with rep­e­ti­tion over time, they will re­wire the brain and the fin­gers

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