Friday 6 May 2011

What's happening May 2011

I managed to get a good break over Easter, the whole week in between in fact. Even spent at least two nights in front of a campfire with another Floyd enthusiast; we worked through Dark Side of the Moon several times, him singing and me on guitar. It's a deviation from fingerstyle - where we do everything, unsupported - but while you are having a few whiskeys it's a good excuse for sloppy playing, and reverting to simple strum patterns not worrying about the melody so much. It's good not to be solo all the time.

Two days ago a song jumped into my head, and wouldn't get out. This happens a couple of times a year to me, and basically I can't get rid of it until I've arranged it (or at least arranged a bit of it. Yes, I have many incomplete arrangements :)) It is a classic 70's Aussie rock song by Sherbet, "Howzat". Unmistakable bass line and chorus. It mapped out really well into fingerstyle - and I was in luck, there was a great midi on the net when imported almost perfectly into powertab, I didn't need to do much work. And, unusually for me, it is a left hand finger twister! I've put in another good technique which hasn't featured in my arrangements for a while; where you hammer-on/pull off/slide the bass line while plucking a melody note. Your thumb sympathetically wants to pluck that bassnote while plucking the melody note, but don't.

I spent about an hour and a half last night quite engrossed in it, then realised I was abusing my left pinky. I had the good sense to stop at that stage. Yes, I've made it so I have to fret a bass F and a top string A at the same time - which I can do - but I shouldn't :)

More on that later; here is a little snippet of it, quite interesting, I would have recorded an audio bite (need to do that more often) but I couldn't play it up to my minimum standard yet!  *Update* about a day later I recorded a very scratchy demo, still got a lot of work to go but I'm not afraid to share the learning process, warts and all, with my mates :) Still not clever enough to insert as an embedded thing, so here is a link.

Now since switching to I've been running some polls. It's interesting stuff, and people have been voting. I've put a new one up; if anyone was interesting in some sort of fingerpicker statistic, let me know a good poll to run!

The first poll was "what song would you like JAW to do a lesson on" and the results from 165 votes were:
88 (53%) : Canon in D, definitely, even if it is hard
25 (15%) : Here Comes the Sun, new to fingerstyle I want to learn!
21 (12%) : Wish You Were Here, I love that song
13 (7%)  : Another One Bites the Dust, how do you bass slap!?
11 (6%)  : Anything, I just want to hear your crAZy Aussie accent!
7  (4%)  : Sunshine of Your Love, for some groove

No surprises there, it lines up with the viewing statistics on my youtube channel :)

The second poll was "what is your current fingerstyle guitar" and the results from 132 votes were:
59 (44%) : Classical  
27 (20%) : Big body steel string acoustic  
23 (17%) : Small body steel string acoustic  
18 (13%) : Nylon string crossover/hybrid  
2  (1%)  : Solid body electric  
2  (1%)  : 12 string  
1  (0%)  : Hollow body electric  
0  (0%)  : Other

That was more surprising, I thought classical wouldn't rate as high as that - I thought the steel string acoustics and even the hybrid would rate higher than classical. So I'm not sure if the classical players are coming here looking to get a bit pop/rockier - or the pop/rockier players are coming here ready to get more classical! :)


  1. Aahh, Wheres our soundbite of your DSotM session? I'd like to hear that ;)

    Ahh the polls, I was wondering.. Is there any way to have a comment button on the poll so you can vote and explain your vote or read why others feel the same or differently? That would be neat. I would like to know the 2 people who voted for the 12 string! I have tried to use ours on some FS but my god! It's almost impossible for me to pluck all of the strings I want to pluck. It usually ends up sounding more like me playing horribly on a 6 string.
    Looks like your about to spend some more time with Pachelbel by the looks of that 1st poll. I have always wondered about that song. I never knew so many people knew it. None of my vids have even a thousand views yet but Canon is by far in the lead.

    I tried Time but, unfortunately, I'm nowhere near being able to touch/flick the strings with the back of this knuckle. Very painful. But I have been strumming it out a bit. There's a piece of me that for some reason wants to play some Beatles. Come Together in particular. It has to be one of my favorite songs by them. In my spare time I have been trying to figure out the "Jurassic Park Theme". Its an all time favorite movie of mine and the score, done by J Williams is superb. I think it starts in A# (that's what sounded right along with the piano)and moves to D... Not sure if my ears are lying to me yet. I got about 3% of it done ;) One day I'll be good at this lol.

    GO BIG BODY STEEL!!! hehe

    And what was that about using a classical (on the Fur Elise video) ? Think it will help? I don't have one but I could probably get my hands onto one. I used to be very set against it but I'm up for anything nowadays. I've heard too much crazy-good music played on them recently.

  2. Ha Ryan, what happens at the campfire stays at the campfire :) Note - I've updated this post with a different soundbite.

    Commenting on polls - not sure. 12 string is challenging for fingerstyle, but check out 1EdKhim on youtube, there's a great example of it done well. I've tried 12 string fingerstyle myself, I reckon the trick is rather than plucking twin strings you sort of strum them as a pair, so a very shallow attack angle. Which is a hard for the thumb to do, not too bad for fingers. Dunno. Needs research :)

    Sounds like you are still right into your fingerstyle, good for you :) Borrow or buy a secondhand classical, just as a trial. You won't like it to start with, but you may come to really, really like it!

  3. Great to have a "What's happening" on the new blog!
    Just one thing about the poll, I reckon some people who play Nylon string crossover/hybrid did vote Classical as it is still a classical guitar, I for instance was not familiar with the term "hybrid" applied to guitars, and always considered mine to be a classical guitar (as opposed to steel string acoustic).

  4. You might be right Rom, a lot of people would think nylon = classical. I am quite happy with the term crossover/hybrid, and will continue to promote it, even if it causes some confusion :) I consider a crossover/hybrid is a nylon but with non-traditional, non-"classical" features, such as a narrow neck, cutaway, electrics, thin body, that sort of thing. It's for those who want some nylon but not the full classical.

    I think they do fill a space, for instance a player who is primarily electric or steel acoustic, but every now and then needs the mellow sound and dynamics of nylon. However, for hard core fingerstylers like me, hybrid represents resistance, denial - give in to classical, don't muck around! ;)

  5. GREAT effect on that bass line

  6. JAW MY GOOD MAN! I've been reading a few of your articles. Pretty interesting. This is my first post.

    Nice work with Howzat! Love the chorus. Just wondering, are you a fan of Dire Straits by any chance? I've been trying to make an arrangement of Sultans of Swing in my spare time. It doesn't really sound good but it's fun to do.

    Keep on pickin' you legend!

  7. Hi Mates!

    It's my 1st comment on the new site. It's nice, it was time to organize all your guitar related stuff in a place like this. You obviously have put a lot of effort into this site and publishing guitar stuff in general, I hope you will find a way to make some money out of it, you would deserve it. I'm primarily here to read your blog, don't really use your tabs, but one of them was really important and helpful at the start, since it pushed me into fs and guitar playing. I'm very grateful for that.
    Guitar for FS? Interesting, on classical the wider neck is the only benefit, the absence of cutaway, shorter fretboard is a drawback for me (not to mention the lack of dots on the neck :D). By the way, almost all of the best fingerstylers play steel: Chet Atkins, TE, Juber, Dykes, McKee, etc., so, seeing the poll's result, we have a special community here :)

    Oh, I almost forgot to say Happy Birthday! I know I'm a bit late. I'm having a beer for you :)


  8. Thanks guys - yep Anon, the bassline is key to that song. Glad you like the chorus Kris, there are a few more things I'm going to do to it, but the essence is pretty much there. Dire straits - I am a fan, but like Lindsey Buckingham songs - they are so complex already it's difficult to squeeze a melody and bassline into them! Check out Naudo's Sultans of Swing...or maybe don't, you might throw your guitar down in disgust, it's amazing! :) Oh, and welcome!

    L3fty - good to hear from you. Indeed, all the "best" "most famous" fingerstyle players are on steel. But, my two most favourite fingerstyle players (Naudo, Iggy) are both on nylon. What does that mean? I don't know, there is no accounting for taste I guess!

    It's good to hear you are here for the blog, I've currently only got 8 mates, but it does seem to generate enough conversation to keep it interesting, and keeps me thinking of new things to ramble on about. Some of it might even be relevent!

    Classical guitars...I thought the lack of cutaway would be a problem, but it's not. You can play over the 12th easily to say the 15th, on top string at least, more than that you have to reach around. Reaching around is cool though because it's a "non standard manoeuvre" ;) There is only one song I play where I need to reach around. As for the dots, you and me are <-> here. Shh, don't tell anyone, I had dots installed at 5th and 7th on my classical (it's all you need for a quick reference). I got used to not having dots but every now and then I'd miss by a fret. I don't miss any more with dots installed :)

  9. Hello,

    Kris again here. I just checked out Naudo's version of Sultans of Swing. That man is a legend. I have been looking at a couple of his covers and they are amazing. I'm not sure if you have seen his cover of "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees, but that's one great funky cover. I might actually prefer some of his covers over the originals like his cover of "Eye of the Tiger".

    By the way, i have read that classical guitars have more "feel" than steel string guitars as in you can change the volume with more ease. How true exactly is this, because i've only ever played a steel string once.

  10. Kris, yep, I know Naudo catalogue quite well :) I got about halfway through transcribing his Bee Gees "Tradegy" (I've got a soft spot for 70's disco) but that was in the early days where I didn't quite understand what he was doing and attempted to "classicalise" it. I still don't quite understand what he is doing, but enough that maybe I'll give it a look over again one day and do something more with it.

    I reckon you can achieve more dynamics with nylon, as a minimum, it is _easier_ to achieve more dynamics with nylon than steel. But when I was playing steel I was playing's only recently I've started to understand that quite often less is more. What I *should* be doing is playing plugged in where the volume is not a problem - you don't need to play full-bore, you can let the amplifier work that out for you - and you can concentrate on sitting mid-dynamics and flaring in either direction as the song dictates.

    Hmm, there's a blog entry in that, good thinking!


    Is this an hybrid or a 'true' classical?

  12. That's about as hybrid as you can get :) thin body, cutaway, electrics, lots of bonus frets, "non standard" soundhole (and maybe even curved back)...looks like it might be "standard width" neck though. Where standard width is completely non-standard - 50mm, 52mm, 2 inches at the nut - are all considered "standard" classical guitar neck widths.

    Definately loose terms, I'm not trying to cast definitions in stone here, just something that we can use when we are talking about classical guitars versus non-classical but nylon string guitars.

    I think we can however all agree that the greater taxonomy is the class "nylon"...

    Nice video find. I've never actually known who wrote that piece, Chet or Tommy, it is credited to them both. It is very Chet style, but at the same time it feels more like Tommy wrote it but in Chet style. I've always thought it was Tommy who wrote it. Great to see Chet play it though, especially on nylon!