27 Jun 2007 09:03 pm
Newsletter Issue 2: String Bending
Bending is the art of stretching a string to raise the pitch. Bends create a moaning or wailing sound associated with the blues, but can bring expressiveness and style to pretty much any type of music. A few well-place bends can turn “Mary Had a Little Lamb” into “Mary Had a Little Lamborghini.”
Don’t know a bent string from a bent nail? Here’s how to get started:
1. Grab the neck of your guitar like a baseball bat, with your thumb draped over the top.
2. Line up your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd fingers on the 2nd string, so that your 1st finger’s on the 6th fret, your 2nd finger’s on the 7th fret, and your 3rd finger’s on the 8th fret.
3. Pick the 2nd string.
4. Push the string up toward the ceiling with all three fingers, while sustaining pressure against the fretboard with your 3rd finger (so that the note continues to ring).
5. Disinfect and bandage wound.
And here are some general guidelines for bending:
1. Unless your name starts with Popeye and ends with The Sailor Man, you’re going to have trouble bending notes on an acoustic guitar if it has typical (medium-gauge) strings. You can certainly try 1/2-step bends on the first or second strings, but anything else is going to make you wish you ate more spinach.
2. Even on an electric guitar with lightish strings (first string gauge .08-.10), bending requires some serious force, so for most bends, line up your first, second, and third fingers on the same string. The third finger is the one fretting the note, but all three fingers push the string.
3. Scientists have proven that having a pained expression makes bends sound better. Which shouldn’t be a problem—unless you’ve got calluses of Kevlar, your fingertips will provide plenty of inspiration.
4. You’ll notice that other strings tend to get in the way when you bend a string up. Try not to let them slip under your fingertips, or over the back of the nail. In both cases, those strings will make noise when you release the bend. Instead, the strings should pile up against your fingertips.
5. Usually, you’re going to want to bend a note up to to a specific pitch—either a half-step (one note) or a whole-step (two notes) higher. This means you need to train your ear to recognize the proper pitch you’re bending to. To do this, first play the target note, and then try to reach the same pitch when bending. For example, if you’re bending a note on the 3rd string, 5th fret up a whole step, first listen to the note on the 3rd string, 7th fret.
If you’d like to learn more about bending, or see proper hand position, check out this good lesson on YouTube.
Enjoy the music,
Chord Chart Updates
27 Jun 2007 08:43 pm
The Newsletter Needs a Name
The Heartwood Hammer-on? No…
The Heartwood Harmonic? That’s OK, I guess…
Anyone out there have a better idea for the name for my new rag?
18 Jun 2007 09:48 pm
My Newsletter's First Issue – Why I Love Power Chords
As some of you may have noticed, I’m now writing a weekly newsletter. If you’re interested in subscribing, you can learn more here, or just scroll down on the main blog page and find the form in the right-hand column. I hope you’ll check it out. I’m really psyched about it.
When I think that the content of the newsletter might inspire some discussion, I’ll post it in my blog so that people can leave comments. Here’s the first issue—hair combed, backpack on, lunchbox in hand:
I love power chords. They’re so easy to play, yet so useful, that some guitarists spend a lifetime playing little else (not that I would recommend this). If a jazz chord is a Shakespearian love sonnet, then a power chord is a big, wet kiss.
Here are more reasons to love power chords:
1. Beginners can play them using just one fingering. To change chords, just scoot up and down the neck. Stick to power chords with a root note (the lowest note) on the 6th string at first—they’re easier. And if you lower your 6th string to a D (called drop-D tuning), you can play power chords with one FINGER by barring the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings.
2. Power chords sound great with lots of distortion. “Normal” major and minor chords have three kinds of notes: A 1st, a 3rd, and a 5th (they’re called triads for this reason). These notes normally sound lovely together, but when you crank up distortion, the 3rd creates all this muddy dissonance. Power chords have no 3rd—they’re made of just 1sts and 5ths, which is why they’re notated with a 5 (as in A5 or G5).
3. Power chords are neither major nor minor. If the keyboard player is playing Am, you can play A5. Now she’s switching to an A major chord? Keep chugging on A5—you need to save energy for that 10-minute solo coming up…
4. Power chords aren’t just for long-tressed hessians. They were the first kind of harmony, after the octave, to be accepted by composers of Gregorian chants.
Don’t know a power chord from a Power Ranger? Here’s some tablature. The notes in parentheses are optional.
Here’s more information on power chords.
16 Jun 2007 03:25 pm
The $100 Challenge Winner Is…
Some of you might recall, way back in December, I presented my blog readers with a challenge: What could I do with the traffic this website attracts (about 9000 visitors a day, now) that would both generate income and provide a valuable service?
Well, the ideas flooded in, about fifty all together. I was impressed with the ingenuity of people’s ideas, and am thankful for everyone’s kind words regarding my site. May the Ghost of Jimi Hendrix watch over and protect your guitars and amps, and may the Spirit of Keith Richards keep your internal organs going long after their warranties have expired (I know, I know, he’s technically still alive).
Anyway, the last of the ballots have been cast by my multinational panel of e-commerce experts. And the winner is…
Dave Sharpe, of Kelso, Washington (a fellow Pacific Northwesterner!).
Dave has won $100, plus 10% of any money I make off his idea in 2007. Actually, implementing his plan will take a while, so let’s say 10% of what I make for eight months following implementation.
In my next blog entry, I’ll tell you about Dave’s great ideas, and also respond to all the other submissions.
16 Jun 2007 07:58 am
Not Kidnapped by Aliens
Hi Everyone, or rather, Everyone Minus All The People Who’ve Left Me For Dead,
Oh! You’re still here! Nice to see you again! Guess where I’ve been for the past five months? Not kidnapped by aliens, I’m afraid. I bought a house in December, and am still trying to figure out where I packed the can opener.
Despite the slow pace of getting my new home set up, I am really enjoying being a home owner. My favorite part is my teaching studio, in the backyard. It’s as if this elegant little bamboo-floored building was built with me in mind: It’s got plenty of space for teaching private lessons, lots of power outlets, and windows that bring in lots of light and through which I can watch squirrels frolic while I wait for my next student to arrive.
The backyard itself is also lovely, and since I’m watching it bloom for the first time, there are new surprises every day. Here are some photos I took after a recent rainstorm: Flowers
Anyway, it’s nice to be back, and I’m looking forward to updating my blog some more, starting with the 100 Dollar Challenge results. Yes, that’s right! The results are in!
What’s that? You forgot all about it? Oh….