Magazine article Guitar Player

EZ Street: Free Your Hands and Your Mind Will Follow

Magazine article Guitar Player

EZ Street: Free Your Hands and Your Mind Will Follow

Article excerpt

Most of us start playing guitar the same way: We master a few chords in the first or second position, and then string them together into songs. It's a wonderful, organic approach to performing music. The momentary pain and frustration of practicing grips yields to the pleasure of strumming progressions, and what's not to dig about that? There are enough song-books containing basic chord arrangements to keep us strumming for a lifetime.

However, it's easy to get stuck at this stage of development, even if you yearn to venture beyond the confines of the lowest frets. Once you've plunked a few sour notes or botched some licks "up there"--especially in public--you're inclined to stay close to the nut and play it safe with familiar chords and runs. Unless you take action, the territory past the 4th or 5th fret will remain unexplored, even menacing.

THE DRONE STRING GATEWAY

There are many fun ways to investigate the mysterious higher frets on the neck. One--which we'll try in this lesson--entails playing along the strings, as opposed to across them. Involving only one or two fretting fingers, this technique lets us pick out melodies against a ringing drone string. The results can be dramatic. Indian sitar ragas and Celtic pipe tunes, as well as Appalachian dulcimer and flailing banjo, are based on this "melody against drone" concept, and some guitar bands--the Cure, Mogwai, and U2 come to mind--derive their chimey sound from it. Best of all, once you've encountered cool riffs along the fretboard's upper regions, you'll want to expand on this success. Who knows? Maybe you'll be tempted to learn more about the scales, arpeggios, and chords that dwell there.

But for now, let's start simply with Ex. 1. In this two-bar phrase, move your 2nd finger along the fourth (D) string, while simultaneously playing the fifth (A) string as a drone. …

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