The Upward Slur (Hammer-On, Ascending Ligado)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Slurs are fun. They are easy to do and open up all sorts of new musical possibilities. The slur is a means of linking one note to another in a way that sounds smoother than playing each note separately. Upward slurs are known colloquially as hammer-ons, and downward slurs as pull-offs, for reasons that will become obvious.

First let’s learn the upward (hammer-on) slur. What we want to do is to link two notes together where the second is higher in pitch than the first.

For example, let’s move from the open top string to the note one fret above:

The curved line between the two notes shows how slurs are written in both tablature and standard notation. To play this example, first play the open first string, then hammer the left-hand first finger down to sound the note at the first fret. Because the first fret is played only with the left hand, it is necessary to bring the finger down smartly with enough force to sound the note. Notice that the two notes sound linked together compared with the two notes played separately by the right hand. Try doing it both ways to hear the effect.

Remember these technique points:

  • The hammer must be strong enough to sound the second note clearly.

  • The finger that hammers starts from a point not too far from the string, not more than 1/2 to 3/4 inch. Otherwise you could miss the string, or at least the exact point that you want to strike. You will get the best sound hammering just behind the fret.

  • Hammer with the tip of the finger, not the side.

Now try from one fret to another instead of just slurring from the open string.
Put the left-hand first finger on the F at the first fret. Play the note, then hammer firmly with the third finger. Practice until you hear two distinct sounds.

Now try practicing this exercise. When you see the number 5 in the tablature simply slide the third finger up to it, and then back to the 3. We’ll be learning more about position-changing soon.

Upward Slur Exercise

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More about Dotted Notes

Friday, April 20, 2007

We have seen that putting a dot after a note increases its length by half, and thus that the dotted quarter note lasts for a quarter note and a half, or a quarter plus an eighth. When the eighth note was the beat, as in "The Ash Grove,” there was no problem because the dotted quarter lasted for three eighth-note beats. But what if the count is in quarter notes, as in 4/4 time? The dotted quarter will now have one and a half beats, and we have to find a way to count this.

Here is how it is done:
The quarter note lasts into the next beat, so we count the next number while holding the note. If the dotted quarter is followed by an eighth note (as it frequently is), the eighth note would be on the second half of the second beat, so it would be counted with an “and.”

Try counting and tapping these examples.

It is worth persisting with the above two examples until you really understand the count. The dotted quarter note is the hardest one for most beginners to count.

Now try counting and playing these examples.


“Muss I Denn”

Irish Air: “Endearing Young Charms”

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