Char­lie Griffiths of­fers more help with hon­ing those vi­tal gui­tar skills. This month: how to mas­ter play­ing in the 5/4 time sig­na­ture.

Mas­ter an es­sen­tial facet of legato tech­nique as Char­lie Griffiths shows how to in­cor­po­rate fret­ting-hand hammer-ons into your play­ing.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Fret­ting-hand hammer-ons are an es­sen­tial facet of legato tech­nique. It means drop­ping your fin­ger on to the string to cause it to vi­brate and there­fore cre­ate a note. This is quite straight­for­ward when stay­ing on one string, but cross­ing strings is where the real skill of the tech­nique lies. Tra­di­tional hammer-on and pull-off style legato typ­i­cally means that we pick the first note of each string tran­si­tion. This en­ables you to es­chew the use of the pick and use only your fret­ting fin­gers to ini­ti­ate the string change, some­times called ’ham­mer­ing-on from nowhere’, or ‘fret­ting­hand tap­ping’. Play­ers like Ed­die Van Halen, Pat Metheny, Richie Kotzen, Greg Howe and Al­lan Holdsworth are the great­est at this ap­proach and, as their play­ing demon­strates, can yields very smooth, speedy re­sults.

Ex­am­ple 1 will in­tro­duce you to the ba­sic me­chan­ics of the tech­nique. With this ex­am­ple you will use each fin­ger to ham­meron to a new string. When you hammer on to the string make sure your fin­ger lands as close to the fret wire as pos­si­ble for the clean­est pos­si­ble tone. You shouldn’t need to use too much force; just a good solid fin­ger drop. The first time you try this you will prob­a­bly no­tice that you not only hear the note you are ham­mer­ing to, but also a lot of noise from the open strings. This is nor­mal, of course, but we need to erad­i­cate all this ex­tra­ne­ous noise with some care­ful string mut­ing.

There are three points of con­tact which you can make with the un­wanted strings. For the bass strings you can use the side of your pick­ing hand palm to mute, but for the tre­ble strings you need a lit­tle more fi­nesse. The gen­eral rule is to use the un­der­side of your fret­ting fin­gers to lightly touch the strings above the one you are play­ing. Also use the tip of your fin­ger to touch the string di­rectly below the one you are play­ing. With th­ese three points of con­tact all work­ing in uni­son, you should be able to pro­duce a sin­gle clean tone with­out any ex­tra noise.

Our sec­ond ex­am­ple shows how you can in­cor­po­rate this tech­nique into a sim­ple de­scend­ing scale. No­tice that all six strings are played with­out a sin­gle pick stroke. Fret­ting­hand hammer-ons are great for de­scend­ing scales and ar­peg­gios smoothly and quickly.

Ex­am­ple 3 is more riff based and will help you get used to us­ing the tech­nique in the more dif­fi­cult as­cend­ing fash­ion. This ex­er­cise will also help train your fin­gers to stay close to the strings. Ex­am­ple 4 puts the tech­nique in a more hard rock lead gui­tar con­text. The melody de­scends through a se­quence of four notes while each de­scend­ing string change is per­formed with a fret­ting-hand hammer-on to a new string. Ex­am­ple 5 com­bines tap­ping with fret­ting-hand hammer-ons to cre­ate a smooth de­scend­ing Ed­die Van Halen-style stream of notes.

Prac­tise each lick slowly and ac­cu­rately be­fore grad­u­ally build­ing up the speed un­til you’re ready to play along with the back­ing tracks we’ve pro­vided. NEXT MONTH Char­lie ex­am­ines the art of mas­ter­ing the tricky 5/4 time sig­na­ture

Fret­ting-hand ham­mers re­quire strong fin­ger­tip con­nec­tion to the strings as seen here

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