Will mcni­col master­class

Master your tone and ar­tic­u­la­tion as Will McNi­col shows you how to get the most out of your fin­ger­style tech­niques in this in­spi­ra­tional one-off master­class.

Guitar Techniques - - USER GUIDE -

Your acous­tic gui­tar has an enor­mous dy­namic range and is ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing a plethora of dif­fer­ent tones. Be­ing able to take ad­van­tage of all this sonic po­ten­tial can make for the most captivating per­for­mances; full to the brim with nu­ance and de­tail. In this se­ries of ex­er­cises we’re go­ing to look at how you can un­lock the po­ten­tial of your fin­ger­style tech­nique in or­der to ex­pand the tonal and dy­namic pal­ette you have at your dis­posal.

It’s very easy for things like fin­ger­style pat­terns to be­come set in stone, where your fin­gers are ef­fec­tively on au­to­matic pilot. How­ever, it’s good to think of each fin­ger as an in­di­vid­ual en­tity within these pat­terns, each ca­pa­ble of its own dy­namic and tonal range. By do­ing this you can be­gin to shine a spot­light on par­tic­u­lar ar­eas of melodic in­ter­est, whether it be a del­i­cate first-string melody or a pow­er­ful sixth-string bass line. By ac­cent­ing cer­tain fin­gers within a pat­tern you can also be­gin to shift the rhyth­mic em­pha­sis as well, which can have some in­ter­est­ing ef­fects that we’ll dis­cuss more in the ex­am­ples.

Com­bin­ing fin­ger in­de­pen­dence with sim­ple al­ter­ations to things like an­gle-of-at­tack (the an­gle at which your pick­ing-hand fin­gers come in to con­tact with the strings) can make the world of dif­fer­ence to your tone. Start­ing at 90° to the string will give you a much more brit­tle tone, and as you ro­tate your hand to be closer to 45° the tone will be­come richer and more full-bod­ied. Where your pick­ing-hand is placed in re­la­tion to the bridge or neck is also a good way to play with tonal va­ri­ety. Closer to the neck and you can get a much sweeter (dolce) tone, and closer to the bridge you’ll find harsher (pon­ti­cello) tones. There’s not nec­es­sar­ily any ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ here, sim­ply dif­fer­ent ways of play­ing the same thing. It’s down to you to de­cide which is the most ap­pro­pri­ate, and how vari­a­tions in tone can make your per­for­mance more in­ter­est­ing. Let’s not for­get about the over­all dy­namic of your play­ing. Play­ing with vol­ume can seem quite sim­ple at first glance, but can present its own chal­lenges. You prob­a­bly have a nat­u­ral dy­namic where you just sit down and play with­out much con­sid­er­a­tion to vol­ume. Break­ing away from this com­fort zone can be a lit­tle tricky at first; as you push harder to gen­er­ate a much louder sound it’s easy to lose con­trol of ar­tic­u­la­tion, and things start to sound less re­fined. Sim­i­larly, as you move to much qui­eter vol­umes, you may find the strings scratch more and you don’t have the same con­fi­dence in your fin­ger­style pat­terns.

So there we have it, three key fac­tors: fin­ger in­de­pen­dence, tone con­trol and vol­ume con­trol. Com­bine them and they can have a trans­for­ma­tive ef­fect on your play­ing. I hope you have fun with these ex­er­cises and demon­stra­tion piece, and that they open doors for you to look at tunes you cur­rently play and how you can make them even more ex­pres­sive. NEXT MONTH We have a two part se­ries with Cana­dian rock vir­tu­oso Nick John­ston

YOUR ACOUS­TIC GUI­TAR HAS AN ENOR­MOUS RANGE AND IS CA­PA­BLE OF PRO­DUC­ING A PLETHORA OF DIF­FER­ENT TONES

Will McNi­col is a very fine clas­si­cal and steel-string acous­tic gui­tarist

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