Many of my unique or unusual guitar
techniques have resulted from attempting to
play a particular passage using a conventional
approach, and then discovering it didn’t
give me the sound I was after. Forced to
find another way to execute the passage,
I’d stumble across a new idea that I could
develop and incorporate into my playing.
Here’s an example: It’s a challenge to disguise
or avoid a subtle triplet feel when performing
straight, non-sequenced legato lines using
three-note-per-string shapes, especially
at high speed. We have to deal with two
primary issues when playing fast linear lines
using a conventional legato technique. First,
it’s hard to maintain the same volume and
tone between picked notes and those that
are articulated by hammer-ons or pull-offs.
Second, it’s tough to avoid the slight rhythmic
inconsistencies that often occur when you
switch from one string to the next.
I wanted to perform ultra-fast linear runs
that have the sonic uniformity and evenness
we typically associate with keyboardists
and sax players—or anomalies like Allan
Holdsworth. This quest helped birth the idea
behind this lesson’s examples, which involve
executing three-note-per-string linear lines
with two hands.
The basic principle is that your fretting hand
plays two of the three notes on a string, while
you tap the third note with your picking hand.
To play ascending lines, you use a technique
that’s similar to a keyboardist’s approach, in
that you’re essentially performing hammer-ons
with all fingers. By contrast, descending
lines involve mostly pull-offs, with the
exception of a tap played by a picking-hand
finger. This tap initiates the first of the three
notes you play on each new string.
I’ve found this approach to be very effective.
Because there’s no picking attack, you get
a very consistent volume and tone—one of
our goals. Also, by using both hands, you
can achieve an overall rhythmic consistency,
which is our second goal.
These four examples will get you started with
this technique (picking-hand taps are indicated
by a “+” above the staff and with a T above
the tab). After you play through them, explore
the concept with other passages of your own.
As you do this, note that tapping sequences
involving multiple strings may require you to
hammer the initial note on a new string. You
might find it uncomfortable when your
fretting hand’s first finger is responsible for
playing this first note. In such instances, the
trick is to hammer hard with your first finger
to get the string ringing. This specific move
is often the key to unlocking our two-handed
has enjoyed a successful recording career
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