Guitar Rock Improvisation Thoughts, Tricks, Concepts and Techniques, 10th Episode.
We took a little break last week from blogs on guitar improvisation, to give you some more time to digest it all.
Previous episodes in this series:
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 1
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 2
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 3
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 4
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 5
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 6
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 7
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 8
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 9
After last week’s little break, let’s get back to learning more about improvising.
Slide guitar refers to the guitar technique where you use a “slide” (called that because you slide over the strings), to play the notes.
There are guitarists who call a slide a “bottleneck”.
This is because old blues guys oftentimes made their own slides out of bottlenecks.
Slides are usually either made of glass, porcelain, metal, or brass.
The material it is made of has an effect on the sound.
Glass slides sound softer and warmer. Brass slides sound more punchy, brighter, and more aggressive.
How does it work?
- You lightly press the slide on the strings: just enough to have full contact with the string, but making sure that it’s not touching the fretboard.
- You hold the slide perfectly parallel with the frets.
- Move to different pitches on the neck, sliding the slide to different locations on the fretboard.
- You always want your slide to be perfectly centered on top of the fret for good intonation.
- You want to mute all the neighboring strings as much as possible. After all: the slide causes all the strings it touches, to vibrate. This is probably the hardest part in mastering slide playing
- If you’re not holding a pick, you free up fingers to help mute strings. This explains why most slide players typically fingerpick instead of using a pick.
- It’s more challenging to play slide on a guitar with the lower action. You solve this by sliding a piece of cardboard right under your strings, to lift them.
You can see Guthrie Govan doing this in the following video. Fast forward to around 25:49
Other notable slide players, you want to check out: Chris Rea, Bonnie Raitt, Jeff Beck, Johnny Winter, Duane Allman, Ry Cooder
Switch pick ups more often
By doing this, you will immediately join the leagues of the greats. 🙂
Top players switch pick-ups during solos to create different sounds.
You should too.
Why would you not take advantage of all these great sounds your guitar is capable of producing?
One of the possible problems is that you might keep forgetting to do switch pick-ups in the heat of the moment while playing a kick-ass solo in front of an audience.
The solution to this:
Deliberately practice 2-3 minute improv sessions on a daily basis; where your sole focus is on switching pick-ups every couple of phrases.
The theory is that, if you do it often and regularly enough, it will become a habit.
Harmonics are these cool, eerie sounds you get when you pick a string while very lightly touching it with your fretting hand finger right on top of the 5th, 7th, or 12th fret.
These particular harmonics are called “natural harmonics”.
They are called that because they naturally occur on the string without having to apply certain techniques to produce them.
Here’s a quick overview of other ways you can create harmonics.
- Pinch harmonics.
This works better with overdrive or distortion. The technique: you pick a string and lightly touch it with the side of your thumb right after the pick attack. Zakk Wylde is known for his use of pinch harmonics.
- Tapped harmonics.
My guess is that Eddie Van Halen might have invented this technique. This works best with overdrive or distortion.
You finger a note, and quickly, lightly tap exactly 5, 7, 9, or 12 frets higher than the fingered note, right on the fret. Check the following video around 6:00.
- Picked harmonics.
This is a tough technique that requires a good deal of practice. You basically finger notes with your fretting hand, and pick the string, lightly touching it exactly 12 frets higher with the tip of your picking hand index. Steve Morse tends to favor this technique. You can hear/see him play harmonics this way in “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” (Deep Purple) at 4:29 and at 6:39.
- Harp harmonics.
This is the same technique as picked harmonics, but you do it on chords instead of on single-note solo lines.
These harmonics are often combined with fingered non-harmonic notes to create a harp-like sound.
THE guitarist famous for his use of this technique is Lenny Breau. Check Lenny out here:
The use of harmonics is a major element in the soloing styles of Randy Rhoads, Steve Vai, Van Halen, Joe Satriani, Dimebag Darrell, Zakk Wylde, just to name a few.
Strive for rhythmic randomness in balancing long sustained vs. short notes.
This idea is meant for the guitar students who play many long sustained notes, and not enough short notes.
“Rhythm” in soloing, isn’t only about where you place things, or about beat divisions.
It is also about how long or how short you make the notes you play.
That is one of the things I admired in Joe Satriani.
There seems to be something about his mastery and control of the lengths of notes in his solos.
Too many long sustained notes in a row can possibly make a solo feel long, slow, and boring.
On the other hand: too many short notes, can make melodies sound erratic and hyper.
Balance is everything: but it all starts with awareness.
Once you’re aware of it, then you can change things as you see fit.
There you have it…
Some new techniques and ideas to further get you going on your path to rock god. 🙂
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