Volume 2, Issue 2, January, 2005

FOR BEGINNERS

by Stacy Hobbs


Let me begin by saying my philosophy of playing the harp guitar may be quite different than yours!  In fact, everyone I’ve seen play the harp guitar has their own distinct style!  I will offer tips and pointers that have worked for me; you can utilize them for your own purposes as you see fit.

When I first began playing the harp guitar I was drawn to its huge sound when the bass notes are pinched or alternated with the top end of a chord played on the guitar.  I’d like to share with you some ideas on this.

For this workshop you will need a basic knowledge of open position chords and their primary and alternate bass notes (root/fifth).

First thing we’re going to do is play a simple primary and alternate bass note pattern with the right hand while holding down a G major chord with your left hand.  

For a starting place we will assign the right hand thumb to the 6th through 4th strings on the regular guitar neck.  The index will take care of the 3rd string, middle on the 2nd, and ring for the 1st string.

Fret a G chord and play the 6th string with your right hand thumb for beat number one, then pinch up on the first three strings with your right hand index, middle, and ring, for the “and.”  Then play the 4th string with your right hand thumb for beat number two, pinch up again on the same three strings for another “and.”  Repeat this entire pattern one more time to complete a measure of 4 beats.  It reads something like "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and.Your thumb will only be playing on beats 1,2,3,4, alternating between primary and alternate (root and fifth).  

This is basic guitar stuff most everyone knows.  You should work toward being able to play the primary and alternate bass notes with all your open position chords.

Let's introduce a twist to the routine, which allows us to develop independence in the right hand thumb.

Again, fretting a G chord, play the 6th string of the guitar with your right hand index and pluck up on the first 3 strings with your right hand middle, ring, and pinky.  Awkward, huh?  Now play the 4th string with your right hand index and pinch up on the first 3 strings again using the same 3 fingers as before.  Repeat this pattern again and again. 

Apply this technique of playing the primary and alternate bass notes with your right hand index finger to all your chords.

For an exercise, try playing a simple 1-4-5 chord progression using the primary and alternate bass notes in your five major keys (C, A, G, E, D).

Example:

G     C      D      G
/ / / /  / / / /  / / / /  / / / /
1234 1234 1234 1234 

We have now stretched the boundaries of our right hand. While it may not have sounded very musical, it was nevertheless a useful vehicle for “freeing up” our right hand thumb.

We’re now going to play the same primary and alternate bass note pattern using the “sub bass” strings this time.

(See previous Issue for sub bass tuning)  

Still fretting the G chord, play the 7th sub bass string with your right hand thumb.  Pinch up on the first 3 strings of the guitar with your “normal” index, middle, and ring.  Next play the 8th string followed by the pinch.  As before, use the bass notes on the 1-2-3-4 count and the pinch on the “ands” in-between the beats.

Do this until it is somewhat comfortable then try out all your chords. 

Here are the primary and alternate string choices for your sub basses:

C chord uses 9th and 7th or 12th
A chord uses 11th and 6th
G chord uses 7th and 8th or 12th
E chord uses 6th and 10th
D chord will use 8th and 11th

While some of these combinations may not sound “right,” the intention is to re-train your right hand thumb.

As an exercise, try playing a simple 1-4-5 chord progression using the primary and alternate bass notes of the sub basses.  Play using these five major keys: C, A, G, E, D.

The beauty of this lesson is that even if you have your sub basses or the six-string guitar tuned differently, you can still apply the same principles with good results.  

Play on!!

Stacy


Stacy Hobbs has been performing, recording, and teaching music for the past 22 years. He purchased his first Harp Guitar in 1998, which proved to be his true calling. Visit www.stacyhobbs.net for more!


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Copyright and Fair Use of material and use of images: See Copyright and Fair Use policy.