Technique

Transcribing other instruments may inspire you to think differently about how you approach the guitar, it will also do wonders for your technique. Once you start doing this, you might notice that your fingers move in unfamiliar ways, especially if you are used to playing regular pentatonic and blues scales. For example, wide intervallic leaps are relatively easy to play at high tempos by an accomplished pianist but presents a few problems for the guitarist because the mechanics of the instruments are different. But, even though the mechanics are different and some intervals are harder to play than others, if you spend the time, it can be accomplished. In order to feel comfortable with the content on this page it is recommended that you have at the very least some intermediate level of technique.

The following type of exercises are useful in developing the skills necessary to execute some of the challenging areas you will often encounter in jazz, whether it be trying to learn a Charlie Parker head or transcribing some tricky Kenny Kirkland solo. Please remember that it is important to take these and all the other examples through the 12 keys, you won’t be doing yourself any favours if you learn them in only one key.

Here is the first example, it is a string skipping exercise using the interval of a 10th in a C Major Scale, remember always to play the exercises slow and accurately first, the speed will come later.

String Skip Maj 10th

Next we have another string skipping exercise, this time utilising the interval of a 17th, you take the interval of a 10th and go up another octave from that note.

String Skip Maj 17th

The next example is a good exercise for sweep picking, the notes are derived from the arpeggios of the C major scale modes starting with C Maj followed by D Min, E Min, F Maj, G Maj, A Min and B Min7b5. Carefully read the following paragraph about the finger rolling technique before you attempt this one.

Finger Rolling

Where you see a finger of the left hand ascending or descending playing one note after another across 2 or 3 strings you need to employ a technique called Finger Rolling, this technique is quite difficult to explain without actually physically showing someone on the guitar but let's have a go anyway.

Finger Rolling is whereby you literally roll a finger of the left hand over the strings. In the example, when you attempt the first roll with the 2nd finger ascending on the C Maj Arpeggio roll the underside of the finger over the strings, to do this place the tip of the 2nd finger at the place where you start the roll in this case being the note G (5th fret 4th string) play the note, then lift the tip of the finger just enough to dampen the string you’ve just played to prevent it from continuing to ring and obscure the sound of the next note, as you dampen the note, apply pressure using the underside of the finger to sound the next note C (5th fret 3rd string) then lift the underside of the finger to dampen that note and apply pressure still using the underside to sound the E (5th fret 2nd string) you will need to do the exact opposite when rolling in a descending manner. Play the exercise very slowly making sure that none of the notes ring and intrude on the subsequent notes.

Sweep Picking Example 1

This example is an extension of the finger rolling technique integrated with sweep picking and is to aid you with competency in those areas, take care with fingerings and positions by following the ones given.

Sweep Picking Example 2

The following exercises are for the hammer on and pull off technique, this style is sometimes called the legato style and can be heard to great effect by guitarist Allan Holdsworth. The first one utilises the diminished scale descending and is an exercise in hammering on and pulling off with all fingers of the left hand. The significance in using all the fingers of the left hand to hammer on and pull off is to strengthen the 3rd finger which is the weakest, and as a result is avoided by some guitarists when holding the guitar in the classical position, that is with the thumb placed in the middle of the back of the neck for support instead of wrapped over the top Jimi Hendrix style.

Hammer On/Pull Off Example 1

Hammer On/Pull Off Example 2



A Few Words About Technique Practice

Repetition is a benevolent beast, it can drive you mad, but the lunacy can be disproportionate to the end result, which is immense gratification. Remember, it doesn’t happen overnight; when I was at University studying jazz I would practise many hours a day and be extremely upset and frustrated at not seeing immediate results, so try not to let the demand for immediate gratification deter you from reaching your goals, it takes time, when I practise, noticable improvements can sometimes happen months after the hard work.