Monday 31 January 2011

Hold onto that bass note...

...or don't; the choice should be up to you, not up to your skill level. One of the standout features of good fingerstyle players for me is that they will hold onto a bass note if it should ring throughout a measure; even if it is difficult to do so. You can spot the beginners, all credit to them "I played the note!" but the note lasts about as long as it takes for them to refret to the very next plucked note.

Holding onto bass notes can be challenging. For simple in-chord stuff, you can normally fret the whole chord, giving you the bass note and plucking melodies in the chord per measure, before changing to the next chord. When the melodies start moving out of chords sometimes it becomes difficult to hang onto that bass note.  Here are some options:
  • More practise :)
  • Don't hold onto the bass note play it staccato, but do it on purpose to make sure it sounds like an accent, not like "I couldn't hold the bass note".
  • Rework the fingering so you can find a position to hold the bass note more easily.
  • Rework the arrangement to something simpler you can play.
  • Adopt a different technique that allows you to hold the bass note; for instance:
    • Naudo Style middle finger bass note: for example, instead of playing a full first finger barre chord E shape or A shape, play the bass note with your middle finger. Ringy and pinky fingers can do normal stuff in chord leaving index finger able to play on or _behind_ the chord root position. (There are other features of this technique; it's not strength taxing, you can more easily mute strings in the middle of the fretboard, it is easy to pivot around your middle finger...not to mention your middle finger is pretty strong and normally "wasted" in a normal chord formation. Leaving your index finger, typically a very quick and agile finger, for "under chord" work is quite sensible.) 
    • Thumb over bass notes. I refer to this as bad technique, but it isn't really, it's a very handy technique :)

Tuesday 25 January 2011

What's happening January 2011

The earlier reports of the death of "What's Happening" are greatly exaggerated :)

Over Chrissy I took two weeks down South, and then another (working) week up North, so over three weeks I played the guitar maybe twice, for about 15 minutes each time.  I was happy to use the break as a test for the left pinky, which has continued to remain "injured".  What I can report is that it got better, but after the three weeks I sat down for an hour and it started to go bad again.  Just a dull pain when I stretch it too far, or put a lot of pressure on it.  Luckily my brain is working again unlike the first time when I did the damage, and I thought "this is starting to hurt a bit, I'm going to stop now" and did.

So the left pinky injury summary to date is:
* If you are playing something difficult and it is starting to hurt, *DON'T* play through, stop, play something different, approach the piece slowly over days/weeks, build up to it.
* Stretching for me hasn't really been effective for this particular injury.  Stretching definitely helps avoid cramping when you are playing too hard and muscles are tensing up, but it has made basically no difference to the pinky.  I find if I'm relaxed during a session then after the first two songs I'm warmed up; those first two are my stretching.
* Rest, time and not pushing it too hard is slowly, - v e r y   s l o w l y -, improving the finger.

Meanwhile, I love playing Super Mario theme!  It is a zero flick song, it's all standard fingerwork.  Since creating quite few flick-style pieces recently I (a) didn't think I'd enjoy  just plucking ever again and (b) felt that too much flicking was becoming boring.  Trapped!  But this piece is a lot of fun to play, bright and chirpy.  Difficult, I won't kid you, but doable.  I put two maybe three instances of left thumb bass fretting, I don't like putting it into songs because it is "bad technique".  The two occasions I do it there was no real other way to achieve what I wanted.  Trust me, when I've worked out a measure I will try and try and try to get it using standard techniques, and if that fails I might first try to rework it, and as a last resort I'll break into the bad techniques ;)  There is one part where I bass thumb the 2nd on 6th and two note harmony 5/6th on top two strings, sliding down, holding the bass note.  Difficult, I don't get it every time, but great when it works out.  Song is otherwise ready for video though, I think you'll like it, must dust of the camera and get recording!

I'd actually forgotten about "Take me Back" until a few days ago.  Did I mention I have a list of all the songs I can play sticky taped to the back of my guitar?  Once I start playing a song I remember exactly how to play it and what to do...but I can never remember all the songs I can play!  I hadn't written that one down yet, so forgot about it.  Heard it on the radio and remembered it is still in my production line!  It's a pinky hurter, so I'm taking it easy on that one, just once a session is enough.

On the gig front, not good news.  Finally got back from one cafe "I don't have a spot for you" which was good at least now I know.  Other pubs and cafes yet to get anything firm from.  Lunchtimes is as good as out, nobody wants that.  If I want lunchtime, it will have to be busking.  I'm not amazingly keen to go busking again, but if it ends up being that well it's better than playing to the bedpost and dog.

Since lunchtime gigs are out, and it will need to be evenings (cutting into family time which I wanted to avoid), I may as well open the floor to any venue nearby.  There are open mics in a few places within 10kms from my house, but I dunno, open mic is bands, and singers, people doing stand up comedy.  Does a bloke playing fingerstyle guitar fit into a place like that?  I should go check one out to get a feel for it, but again, cutting into family time.

I've sent out a request to one nearby venue that could be alright, currently not doing live music, but who knows.  Yet to hear back.

Also sent an email to another Perth fingerstyle player, Andrew Ellis, he has a regular session and apparently has "guests" from time to time, I could be a "guest"...again yet to hear back.

I tell ya, if this were my profession I'd be starving on the street!
Anyway, welcome back to ramblings.  If I ever say I should stop rambling again, remind me that this is a blog about rambling :)

Monday 24 January 2011

It's good to be back!

I'm still here, it's good to be back!

Know any good guitar blogs? (other than mine :)) I'm thinking something slightly above "I finally nailed a C-chord!", but maybe not as life-changing, fundamental concept re-aligning as Adam Raffetys blog (not a dig at Adam, love his stuff, but often leaves me feeling overwhelmed and underpowered to take onboard any of it).

Hit me up for some topics this year too, I've got a blank slate at the moment. Nil mentioned "Thumbpick or no Thumbpick", a good subject - I'm still musing over some discussion points.