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.
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