Playing a Full Bar

Monday, July 30, 2007

We’ve seen in our previous study that the first finger of the left hand is sometimes used to cover more than one string, as in the F chord, where it is used for two strings. When the finger goes across all the strings this is known as a full bar. Somewhat illogically, anything less than a full bar is known as a half bar.

Beginners tend to find barring difficult until the left hand has acquired a degree of strength and control. However, if the bar is done correctly it is not necessary to use great strength. As with the half bar, it is far more important to find the right position for the finger so that all the notes can sound clearly with only moderate pressure.

The Full Bar

Here is how to find the right position:
1. Imagine the fret to be taller than it is, like a wall rising from the fingerboard.
2. Imagine that you are going to lay your first finger into the corner formed by that wall and the fingerboard.
3. Place the first finger across the strings at the third fret, just touching them with no pressure.
4. Little by little, ease the finger down until you make contact with the fingerboard. As you do this, pass your right-hand thumb lightly and repeatedly across the strings. At first you will hear only the deadened sound of the strings damped by the left-hand finger. Then, as the barring finger moves into its position in the “corner,” the sound will become clear. At this point do not apply any more pressure; this is all you need.

The other secrets to good barring are these:
- Make sure that the crease at the first joint of the finger does not fall on a string. Adjust the position by moving the finger forward or back until the crease lies between the third and fourth strings.
- Do not let the finger curve—this will produce deadened or buzzing sounds on the inside strings.
- Remember to make and keep contact with the fret. Stay in the “corner.”

As a first practical exercise start at the third fret, and try this:

Chord block, first finger across the third fret

After playing this several times, easing into the bar until you hear a clear sound from all strings, add the notes of a full G chord like this:

Chord block

This is a particularly useful chord shape, because it can be used to make a full-sounding major chord at any accessible fret on the guitar. For example:

Here the E chord shape is duplicated with a bar to form other chords. In the same way, the A-minor shape may be moved to form new minor chords.

Instead of showing all the frets from the beginning, it is customary to show the position on the guitar with a Roman numeral. Notes barred together are frequently shown with a slightly curved line.

Chord block. A chord at fifth fret.

Here the A chord is played at the fifth fret with a full bar.
Now here are some more useful movable chords to add to your store.

Movable Chords

The chords are shown with their names at the third fret. However, the G minor could be
moved back to the first fret to form an F minor, or forward to the fifth fret to form an A

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The Downward Slur (Pull-Off, Descending Ligado)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The term pull-off gives a clue to the technique of the downward slur. The first note is played,then the left-hand finger pulls away, plucking the string as it goes.

Here is how it looks in tablature and standard notation:

It is important to remember that the left hand actually plucks the second note. Many begin-ners just lift the finger off, resulting in a weak slur. Try it now, and really sound the open string.

Where two fretted notes are involved, both fingers must be in position before starting the slur, otherwise the secondnote will be indistinct.

Place the first finger firmly behind the first fret. Then put the third finger on, play the note with the right hand, and pluck the finger away to sound the lower note.

Slurs on Inside Strings

When slurring is between notes on the inside strings, in most cases you will pluck down-wards, with the finger ending up on the fingerboard and in contact with the adjacent string. An exception is the rare case in which the upper string is meant to continue sounding. To avoid damping the upper string, pull sideways so that the finger clears the other string.

To practice these points, try this example.

Downward Slur Exercise

One of the distinguishing marks of the flamenco giants is the quality of their slurs. The hammers produce a powerful note, and the pull-offs have real snap to them. Often flamenco performers will go very fast with these, creating a fascinating and intricate web of sound.

Practice for Upward and Downward Slurs

The next exercise is in flamenco style. Play the first three measures alternating i and m. In measure four, follow the marked fingering. From measure five to the end use just the thumb.

Rhythm of Soleares

Exercise for Left-Hand Solo

Here is a challenging exercise for the left hand alone. Start by hammering on the first two notes, then pull off the next two. Then for the next group hammer the first, second, and fourth fingers and pull off to the second finger. Continue hammering on when going up in pitch, pulling off when coming down. This is excellent practice for slurs, and also for strengthening the left hand and particuarly the little finger.

The music notation is included to show which fingers are used, because in most cases the fingers do not coincide with the fret numbers.

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