February 2017
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Style Guide: Left-Hand Techniques

Style Guide: Left-Hand Techniques

We’ve gone over a few really important concepts in this lesson—concepts that should really help your left hand get stronger and more fluid. If you focus on the basic elements that make up left-hand playing, you’ll find it so much easier to work on your strengths and weaknesses. I hope this helps you switch chords more easily, and play more fluid single lines.

Recommended Listening

Allan Holdsworth: When it comes to legato playing and amazing chordal playing, few can top Allan Holdsworth. The track “Devil Take the Hindmost” from 1993’s Metal Fatigue is one of the most amazing displays of guitar playing I’ve ever heard. Rumor has it that Allan deliberately made his picking technique so light that it matched the volume of his hammer-ons and pull-offs, making it so you can’t hear any attack. It’s a flowing sea of notes you can get lost in.

Joe Satriani: Joe can play anything he wants, but most of the time when he hits the gas, he plays legato style, as it’s more fluid. Check out the album Flying in a Blue Dream for some amazing legato playing throughout the album, especially on the title track and on “Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing” at 1:33 into the track for some impressive left-hand prowess.

Stevie Ray Vaughan: Most folks don’t think of SRV as a technician because he’s so amazingly soulful, but he has it when he needs it. Check out his playing on “Little Wing” from Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble: Greatest Hits, particularly the run at 3:35 for some breathtaking open-position hammers and pulls.

Leo Brouwer: I’ll throw in some classical guitar since it makes such great use of left-hand technique. Cuban composer Leo Brouwer’s 20 “Estudio Sencillos” or “Simple Studies” often sound more like rock music than classical guitar music. It’s no wonder that Randy Rhoads borrowed some themes from Brouwer for some classic Ozzy riffs. Guitarist Ricardo Cobo has a great recording of all 20 studies on an album called Brouwer: Guitar Music Vol. 1. Check out study VII for some rapid-fire left-hand legato playing, study XVIII for some haunting music peppered with hammer-ons and pull-offs, and study XIX for a great finger-independence exercise.

Marc Schonbrun
Marc Schonbrun graduated magna cum laude from the Crane School of Music in New York. He is an active educator, writer, and performer in the San Francisco area, and has an eclectic performing background that includes classical concertos, jazz trios, and rock bands. An active lecturer, Schonbrun frequently tours the country explaining music technology to players and teachers. Visit marcschonbrun.com for more info.
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