Harnessing the Physicality of the Guitar : Some Tips for Smooth Performance
By Jeff Gunn
After playing for many years , my attention has increasingly turned towards the physicality of guitar performance . Both as a performer and educator , the importance of thinking through the ways we move between chords , the support given to a finger bending a string , and the amount of pressure necessary to sound a chord have become even more apparent . Common challenges faced by the beginner include a lack of curl in the fingers , fingers resting on adjacent strings , fingers in too close proximity to the metal fret bar or simply not enough pressure applied to sound a note or chord – all of which lead to muted and / or unbalanced sounding notes and chords . Even for advanced players , it is valuable to consider multiple ways a note , lick , or chord can be fretted and picked / strummed in order to produce the fullest possible tone and clean transitions .
With challenges come some of the solutions below that will ensure that we are using our energy in the most efficient ways on the fretboard and beyond .
Curl your fingers , move towards the middle , and lower your thumb …
Ex . 1 E major
One of the first chords the beginner learns is E major . Frequently , a guitarist will pick each note and while some notes sound out , others will give a deadened tin-like sound . Common solutions include adding more curl to the fingers so that they do not touch the adjacent strings , making sure the fingers are in the middle of each fret and lowering the thumb against the back of the neck , which brings out the wrist and allows for the cleanest possible sounding chord .
Look for notes in common … Ex . 2
When moving between chords , look for shared notes . For example , when moving from an A minor to a C major , you need only move your third finger from the third string to the fifth string , while the first and second fingers remain stationary . This will make for smooth transitions and clarity .
Hang on and support …
Ex . 3
The pinky is naturally the weakest finger in the fretting hand . Hanging onto the notes on the same string with fingers one , two , and three will add strength and provide a stronger tone . Similarly , when bending using the third finger ( ring finger ), hang on with the first and second fingers .
Use Alternate picking …
Ex . 4
When playing lines , make sure to use alternate picking ( a combination of downstrokes and upstrokes ), which allows for seamless transitions between notes and greater precision . Perform it on a single string before progressing to multiple strings , groupings of strings , and then skipping strings .
Move , shift , and reapply pressure between bar chords … Ex . 5
When moving between bar chords , play the chord , release pressure while maintaining the same shape , and then shift up or down the neck to the next bar chord before reapplying pressure so as to sound the chord . This works with all similarly-shaped chords . Play the F major to G major and repeat moving up and down the neck respectively .
Being aware of the ways you move will help you get your skills to a place where you can execute anything that comes to mind without limitation . Awareness of your physical movements on the guitar can help improve your tone and precision leading to effortless performance .
Jeff Gunn is a content creator for JamPlay and TVO . Check out his new guest release single “ Spiritus Momentous ( Never Give Up Opus 2 ) feat . Koi Anunta and Mike Sleath ” on CandyRat Records and YouTube at www . youtube . com / gunnjeffrey
. For more , go to www .
jeffgunnmusic . com .
58 CANADIAN MUSICIAN