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Help with techniques??

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(@akflyingv)
Honorable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 406
Topic starter  

So I've been playing guitar for a little over 2 years now and I'm just not feeling like I used to. I wanna try and add a few new techniques to my playing and was wondering if you guys can help me get started. I'm mainly into blues music, british blues, and folk style rock like Dylan and Young. There are three:

1. The first is fingerpicking, I'm sure a lot of people have no problem doing this but I just can't seem to figure it out. I don't know if there are patterns that are necessary to know or what.
2. The second is playing slide, everytime i've tried to play slide it has come out sounding horrible. I've only ever tried to play slide in standard tuning and have never messed around with others in fear of breaking a string. I've also never knew which Open tuning to choose from because there seems to be so many.
3. The third isn't necessarily a technique but a style of music. I'm really into blues and would love to get into some of that Robert Johnson style country blues.

I don't know if any of you can recommend a good place to start with these or maybe a book or something. I really want to expand a little bit so I don't feel so limited. Thanks for taking the time to read and Thank you in advance for any responses.


   
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(@chris-c)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 3454
 

Hi,

There are heaps of variation on 'fingerpicking', but here's a couple that I know:

  • 1. Hold a chord down as usual. Then use your thumb to pluck a bass note from that chord on one of the 3 thickest strings (E A D). Obviously it needs to be one that's part of the chord. So don't use the low E string if it's not usually included in the chord. Then pluck any or all of the 3 thinnest strings (G B E) in one of many possible patterns. A popular one is to use your Index, Middle and Ring fingers (one per string) and play the G, B, E, B G strings – i.e. down and back again. Obviously, if the strings aren't open those won't be the actual notes you play, just the order of the strings. It's awkward at first but, like all things with guitar, start slow and accurate and build it up a little each day over several weeks.

    Play the chords Am, C, D, and F like that and you've got the start of a version of The House of The Rising Sun.

    2. Travis picking. Hold the chord down again. Pluck the thickest string in the chord and the thinnest together (so that won't always include the low E). Use your thumb and middle finger for this. Then play the following strings one after the other: G string (thumb), B string (index) D string (thumb) High E string (middle finger) G string again (thumb). There may be other versions, but I just took those directions from a chart in a Bob Dylan songbook.

    3. Roll your own. If you hold down a chord you can pretty much make up your own finger picking. It might take a lot of practice before you can deliberately pick out precise melodies and/or harmonies (if that's what you want to do), but so long as you've got a chord held down none of the notes you hit should actually sound bad. You can combine thumb strumming with little extra bits and pieces from the fingers, or you can pick single notes with your thumb and any combination of finger(s). In fact you don't even always need to hold a full chord down - sometimes you can just 'imply' a certain chord with a few notes. If you do this for a while you will start to develop a feel for what works for you.

  • Good luck. I'm sure that there's many lessons around the net that are more accurate and detailed than that. But maybe it's a start... :)

    Chris


       
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     lars
    (@lars)
    Noble Member
    Joined: 18 years ago
    Posts: 1120
     

    edit - I am so slow, and Chris beat me ;-)

    Re. 1
    I assume now that you are thinking about "folk-style" finger picking, like the type you can hear e.g. on Dylan's earliest albums. Obviously I am no expert on this. You are onto something when asking about different patterns to learn. That is the way I think of it too. 'Don't think twice it's allright" has one (dominant) pattern, 'Baby let me follow you down' has another. But there is one important common factor, and that is to get the thumb moving on the beat, steadily and independently of the other fingers. You need to practice the basic form of the various patterns again and again, and then you can start adding, hammer-ons, pull-offs etc. to make it more interesting.

    So how to do this? ...
    I'd say you start with one basic pattern. Why not start with 'Dont think twice' (assuming you know it). We'll go for the basic pattern in the song, and I think it is something like this (assuming you read tabs)


    C
    : . . .
    ||----------------------|
    ||-----1(i)--------1(r)-|
    ||-----------0(m)-------|
    ||-----2(m)------2(i)---|
    ||-3(t)-----------------|
    ||---------3(t)---------|

    (stolen and adapted from dylanchords.com)

    Note the dots above the tab, indicating the beats, and the bracketed letters indicating fingers (t thumb, i index, m middel and r ring)

    Finger a C chord (with G in the bass), and start with you thumb striking the 5th string and the with your i and m simoultaneously on 2nd and 4th string like you were starting "Tom Dooley. The next four notes are played seperately and evenly one on each 8th note. Just pluck them as indicated. Do you recognise it? good. Play it again and again, when watching telly when speaking on the phone, in your sleep - you have to stop thinking about what you are playing and just let it move automatically - you will get the feel for it eventually!! Then you can start changing chords etc.

    OK maybe you know all of this already, or maybe it does not make sense. Good luck anyway, and it *is* worth the effort.

    lars

    ...only thing I know how to do is to keep on keepin' on...

    LARS kolberg http://www.facebook.com/sangerersomfolk


       
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    (@wes-inman)
    Illustrious Member
    Joined: 20 years ago
    Posts: 5582
     

    Most folks fingerpick with the thumb, index, and middle fingers (Travis picking). Years ago I was heavy into Ragtime guitar and learned to fingerpick from good books. But Ragtime you use the thumb to play bass on the E, A, and D bass strings, then you assign the index finger to the G string, the middle finger to the B string, and the ring finger to the high E. Even if you play more than one note on a single string you use the assigned finger. So if you have 3 consecutive notes on the high E you play them all with the ring finger. Hope you know what I am describing.

    In Ragtime anyway, you usually play a steady alternating bass with your thumb. So, if you are playing an A chord or Am, your thumb would play the open A, then the E note on the D string, back to the open A, then back to the E note. The bass is usually pretty straightforward 4 beats per measure alternating like this.

    What you play on the top 3 strings can be quite complicated though.

    Here is a sample, being the intro the first note comes in a eighth note early, but after that your thumb plays steady on the beat.


    E7 A7

    e-------0-----4p----------------3m----2i--------
    b-----------------------------------------------
    g-0h-1------------------------------------------
    d---------------------------------2-----------2-
    a----------2-----------2-----0----------0-------
    e-0--------------0------------------------------
    i r r r r
    t t t t t t t t

    & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4

    On the E chord, stretch out your pinky to play the note at the 4th fret on the high E. On the A7 play a barre over the first 4 strings with your index and your middle or ring finger playing the G note at the 3rd.

    This is how lots of Ragtime tunes are played. I practiced this for several years, now whenever I fingerpick I use the thumb, index, middle, and ring. But most folks just use the thumb, index, and middle fingers. Whatever you like is best. :D

    If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


       
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    (@akflyingv)
    Honorable Member
    Joined: 18 years ago
    Posts: 406
    Topic starter  

    Thanks a lot guys.
    I'm gonna start practicing using the 4 finger method like you guys mentioned. I was trying to do that steady thumb for the bass and it is really hard but i'll keep at it and hope it gets easier. Thanks a lot.


       
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    (@citizennoir)
    Noble Member
    Joined: 17 years ago
    Posts: 1247
     

    Hi AKFV :D

    Well, looks like the fingerpicking is down.
    I 'use' my fingers when I play. (As did Peter Green. Your Avatar is tied for my favorite album :D )
    I just do my own thing with it though.
    I kinda use my thumb as a timing thing.
    I'll strike bass notes with it on off rhythms and it gives my playing a really interesting sense of timing cause
    then my strums or pickings are delayed and seemingly 'thoughtful' if you know what I mean....?

    Anyway -
    About slide....
    My suggestion is to nail the basics of 'using' a slide properly before attempting to play anything with it.
    I know most 'stars' choose not to place it on their pinky.... that is the correct way though.
    Learn how to damp properly - nothing worse than extraneous string noise.
    How much pressure to apply to the strings.
    Proper vibrato technique.
    How to use your other fingers.
    How to put the slide down on the strings in the first place.
    Stuff like that.
    It's mostly about control and technique and will require some time put into it.

    For getting the technique down, I say just stay in standard tuning and use the high e string.
    For actual standard tuning slide playing - use the D,G and B strings most.

    When you feel comfortable and wanna try somemore musical things...
    I would say trying open D is probably best.
    You use the top two highest strings the most on that, so it's a bit easier to do.
    Don't worry about breaking strings.... If I remember correctly, all the changes are tuned down.

    Then open G I think is the next logical step.
    This uses the middle strings more.
    I like this one the best.

    When playing bottleneck, sliding is not used as much as you might think.
    Very sparingly and usually with short slides.

    And I don't know where you are exactly or what you know...
    I have to say this just in case:
    To get good intonation, the slide goes OVER the fretwire.
    Not in the space where you usually fret with your fingers.

    As far as playing Robert Johnson style stuff goes....
    WOW!!!!
    Very advanced.
    I could scan some RJ tab and send it to ya if you want.
    Let me know.

    Good Luck & Have Fun :D

    Ken

    "The man who has begun to live more seriously within
    begins to live more simply without"
    -Ernest Hemingway

    "A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
    -Orson Welles


       
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    (@akflyingv)
    Honorable Member
    Joined: 18 years ago
    Posts: 406
    Topic starter  

    What RJ song would be the easiest to start with? I'm not very good at the finger picking, but I don't mind putting in the work and getting atleast one of his songs in my repertoire.

    I bought a tab book of Robert Johnson stuff a week or two ago and the thing that confuses me are the chords above the tab lines. Are you supposed to hold those chords and play what is in the tab?? So if it was an Am would you hold an Am chord and switch with the chords above the tabs but only play the piece of the chord that is listed?? Hope you get where i'm saying.


       
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     lars
    (@lars)
    Noble Member
    Joined: 18 years ago
    Posts: 1120
     

    Probably the chords are like the rhythm part for what you are playing - you can play a simple version of it just strumming these chords. Also what you pick is probably notes within these chords, so they indicate in which shape you put your fingers

    Did I answer your question :roll:

    lars

    ...only thing I know how to do is to keep on keepin' on...

    LARS kolberg http://www.facebook.com/sangerersomfolk


       
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    (@akflyingv)
    Honorable Member
    Joined: 18 years ago
    Posts: 406
    Topic starter  

    Thats kind of what I thought but it just seemed a little to easy. If a song uses a capo and it says Am would you still use the regular open chord shape??


       
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    (@citizennoir)
    Noble Member
    Joined: 17 years ago
    Posts: 1247
     

    Hey :D

    If your guitar is still tuned to standard tuning....
    then yes.
    Treat the capo as you would the nut and use the regular chord shapes from there.

    If your guitar is in an open tuning....
    then NO.

    If you are playing R.J., I would imagine that it's an open tuning.
    ie.
    Open Em for 'Hellhound on My Trail'
    Open A for 'Travelling Riverside Blues'
    Etc...

    Although one version I have of TRsB has a notation that reads....
    'Played with capo at 1st fret on recording, thus transposing song to the key of Bb'

    In which case you would capo up and move all the TAB up one fret as well.

    Can you read TAB????

    See, in the case of TRsB, it's in open A.... (without capo)
    So it says play an A chord (an A over the music notation). You would not play an A chord.
    Strumming the open strings would give you an A chord.

    Hope this is making sense.....?

    Ken

    "The man who has begun to live more seriously within
    begins to live more simply without"
    -Ernest Hemingway

    "A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
    -Orson Welles


       
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    (@akflyingv)
    Honorable Member
    Joined: 18 years ago
    Posts: 406
    Topic starter  

    I can read tab, and when I first got the book I did make an attempt and it didn't sound right. I used the capo where it said and played the chords like it said but I must have overlooked the tuning. Oops! Maybe that is why it never sounded right.

    I've never played out of standard tuning, do i need thicker strings so its not so loose???

    Thanks a lot guys for the help so far.


       
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    (@citizennoir)
    Noble Member
    Joined: 17 years ago
    Posts: 1247
     

    Nah,
    your regular strings should do fine.

    Do you need the tunings????
    Like open G, open D etc....
    or do you have those????

    The reason I asked if you can read TAB is that with the RJ stuff in open tuning w/a capo,
    you'll have to look at what they tell you are the fingerings in order to pull it off.
    All the little things that you'll need to know are in the TAB.
    I really don't think you'll be satisfied with just the basic chordal knowledge.

    Even so....
    In Traveling Riverside Blues,
    the intro before the lyrics come in is:
    A - A7/G - A5 - A
    And that's in open A tuning.
    Most people wouldn't know those in standard tuning.

    And RJ was a master who played rhythym/lead fills/bass lines at the same time.

    The TAB will tell you what he's doing.
    It might seem overly daunting at first.

    The best thing to do is to take it piece by piece and learn the different parts of each piece.
    Like learn the bass line all by itself.
    Then the Rhythm part.
    Then try to combine them.
    Small sections at a time.

    One song will surely keep you busy for some time.
    You'll learn an awful lot though.

    I don't know which would be easiest.
    Just go with your fav.
    Mine is Hellhound on My Trail.

    Good Luck :wink:

    Ken

    "The man who has begun to live more seriously within
    begins to live more simply without"
    -Ernest Hemingway

    "A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
    -Orson Welles


       
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    (@akflyingv)
    Honorable Member
    Joined: 18 years ago
    Posts: 406
    Topic starter  

    Yeah I think it's going to take me a real long time. I'm gonna start working on it tonight or tomorrow, I'll try and split all the parts up and working on them seprarately. Thanks a lot.


       
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