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.
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