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Advanced Fingerstyle Techniques: Slapped Harmonics, Tremoloed Bass Notes, and More

April 15, 2010

From Power Plucking
Michael Hedges-Style Slapped Harmonics
This example features slapped harmonics (notated as “S.H.” between staves), whereby you fret select strings (in this case, strings 2–4), and then use your index finger to quickly “slap” across them at a higher point on the neck (e.g., twelfth, seventh, or fifth frets), stimulating harmonics. Since this figure’s harmonics are all based on open strings, you need to slap your index finger parallel to the indicated frets to sound a harmonic on all three strings simultaneously. But make sure you don’t hit the strings so hard that you physically fret the notes, like you would when using a tapping technique.

This approach is in the style of the late fingerstyle great Michael Hedges and the legion of pluckers he inspired. Use an open-hand strum on each open G–C/G move, plucking with your hand positioned over the neck, near harmonic “slap points,” to ease the transition between techniques.

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Tribute to Tuck Andress
Tuck Andress is most commonly associated with fingerstyle jazz, but his eclectic discography boasts much more than jazz tunes—he has arranged numerous cover versions of famous pop, rock, and funk songs, from Michael Jackson to Jimi Hendrix! Plus, when he plucks his Gibson hollowbody on recordings, he records it direct and miked acoustically, which is close enough to fingerstyle acoustic rock for our purposes.

The next example presents one of Andress’ extreme fingerstyle techniques—a passage decorated with triplet double-stop flurries on beats 3–4. Try this with your plucking hand’s index and middle fingers positioned almost totally straight, while fl uttering them back and forth across strings 2–3.

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Tremoloed Bass Notes Using Hammered Roots
This final figure involves, oddly enough, hammered (then plucked) bass notes, played in conjunction with arpeggiated tones of C, Em, Am, and F chords. (You may find difficulty in fretting the Am shape, unless your acoustic has a cutaway.) The end result sounds not unlike an inverted tremolo—the sound of a single bass note being reiterated as quickly as possible. Believe it or not, this is actually a percussive approach borrowed from Buckethead, who gleaned it from Parliament Funkadelic bassist Bootsy Collins.

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Want to hear more percussive acoustic guitar sounds? Listen to genre-jumping motherpluckers like Tommy Emmanuel, Adrian Legg, Doyle Dykes, Preston Reed, Martin Simpson, Billy McLaughlin, Kaki King, and Phil Keaggy. Also, consider studying some flamenco moves like rasgueado and tremolo, as perfected by pluckers such as Paco de Luc’a, Carlos Montoya, Laurindo Almeida, and others.