Hannabach 815 Classical Guitar Strings. Are They Worth It?

If you have been in the world of classical guitar for any amount of time, then you have come across the name Hannabach. In considering these Hannabach 815 classical guitar strings, most people always want to know the answer to one question, “Are they worth the price?” But the answer to that question is a little more complicated than a yes or no. So, let’s dive in and see.

hannabach 815

HANNABACH’S TAKE ON THE 815

First things first. Let’s get the specifications out of the way. The Hannabach website begins their description this way, “The series 815 is the basis for our legendary reputation and our best-selling string too – for good reason.” And then they offer their take on why they find them superior (as they should being the maker of the strings). There is nothing special about the initial description. It includes the usual ideas of fulfilling the demands for playability and intonation for even the most discerning professional.

They do mention that it is ideal for instruments with 65cm scale length. I don’t own or know anyone with a smaller scale length that has tried them but I don’t think it would be an issue with a 64cm or 66cm. The strings have enough length to make the longer and I don’t believe they would be too effected by the small change from 65cm to 64cm. I am a little confused by one statement but it could just be the translation to English from German. It says, “Precision-round (100% uniform round without irregularities or deviations) and higher silver-plated and against corrosion coated bass strings.” I think this sentence might mean that it is better resistant to corrosion but I know the strings are not coated. (Hmmm…).

A LITTLE COMPARISON BETWEEN TWO CLASSICAL GUITAR STRING SETS

As you can see in the charts below, the Hannabach 815 MT (MT stands for medium tension) has a bit higher tension overall when compared to a set of EJ45 Normal Tension strings from D’Addario.  The gauges are about the same between the two. You will also notice that the D’Addario is silverplated wound while the Hannabach is described as silverplated copper wound. This subtle difference isn’t so subtle when it comes to playability. More than a few people notice a difference when comparing the two. The stiffer basses lead to more focused tone and not as much overall oscillation distance minimizing buzzing issues.

The one downside to the higher tension and difference in material is the break-in period. They seem to take about a week to break in and really “come alive” with fantastic tone and balance throughout. Also, the G string tends to sound a bit dull initially but that changes after a few days of playing.

Hannabach 815MT String Specifications

Item # Note Gauge (in.) Tension (lbs.) Material
8151_MT E/1st .0280 16.41 clear nylon
8152_MT B/2nd .0319 13.94 clear nylon
8153_MT G/3rd .0398 14.39 clear nylon
8154_MT x 2 D/4th .0287 16.19 silverplated copper wound
8155_MT A/5th .0358 15.74 silverplated copper wound
8156_MT E/6th .0437 15.74 silverplated copper wound

D’Addario ProArte EJ45 String Specifications

Item # Note Gauge (in.) Tension (lbs.) Material
J4501 E 0.028 16.230 clear nylon
J4502 B 0.0322 12.040 clear nylon
J4503 G 0.0403 11.880 clear nylon
J4504 D 0.029 15.620 silverplated wound
J4505 A 0.035 15.890 silverplated wound
J4506 E 0.043 14.190 silverplated wound

A FEW CRITIQUES OF HANNABACH 815

There have been a few other downsides reported from other reviewers of the strings. The first is that they seem to not fair well on cheaper guitars. I know this seems like a strange critique. However, the cheaper instruments just don’t seem to react better or worse to the quality of string. That being said, the string really should not be blamed for the inferiority of an instrument. It would be like putting an inferior instrument into the hands of David Russell and expecting him to sound like he does on his concert instruments. He would only be able to get a certain level of sound and nuance. Then, even he would hit a limit as to what the guitar could provide.

There have also been a couple of quality control critiques. They had to do with missing strings in sets and certain strings breaking on instruments. The missing string would definitely fall on the company. However, the breaking of the string would need much more analysis to figure out whether it was the string, the guitar, or even the player that caused the string to break.

CONCLUSION ON THE HANNABACH 815

All in all, there is a consensus that these Hannabach 815 strings set a pretty high standard for sound and quality. As with any product, there is bound to be someone that is disappointed. Overall, the disappointments are far out numbered by those that are really pleased with the Hannabach 815s. Though I am not using them at the moment, my experience in using Hannabach in the past has been definitely inline with the pleased rather than the disappointed. In my opinion, they are worth the cost for superior sound and playability.

Note: This article I originally wrote for the Charleston Classical Guitar website blog.


All products featured on Chadbecks.com are independently selected by the author. However, when you buy something through the retail links, I may earn an affiliate commission.

Addressing Distinct Challenges In Carcassi’s Op. 60 No. 1

Sometime during my second year of undergrad, I played Carcassi’s Op. 60 No. 1. At that point in my learning, I did not realize the importance of studying the foundational works of the greats of the past. The 19th century holds such a vast amount of music that one could master the guitar by studying these works exclusively.

After returning to it a number of times throughout my playing, I am always finding something new that I did not find previously. In working to play it at a high level, three distinct problems need addressing. The first focuses on the misunderstanding that most casual learners of the guitar see as staccato notes. The second, and more subjective relates to fingering. The third delves into the independence of finger movement when playing the arpeggio section.

Staccato Notes In Op. 60 No. 1

In the 19th century, scale passages were commonly played with slurs as common practice. This causes great misunderstanding when looking at an older manuscript or edition of a piece of music. The beginning of the piece has the indication of “staccato” and there are staccato markings over many of the scalar passages. The problem arises when a student of the guitar puts on 20th-century glasses to view 19th-century writing practices.

The use of the staccato indication in this piece indicates that the scalar passages should not use the common practice of the slur. They do not indicate that the piece should be played staccato throughout. The piece does not have any indicated staccato markings that should be adhered. The piece should be played fluidly and as legato as possible without slurring any of the notes (every note should be played by the right hand).

Carcassi’s Right Hand Finger Choices

The interesting thing about Carcassi’s Op. 60 is that it follows Op. 59. Now that may not sound like an astonishing idea. However, Carcassi, like his contemporaries, laid out a method and then wrote the following collection applying the principles set out in the method. Therefore, the piece itself does not contain right-hand fingerings.

In order to understand the purpose of this piece according to Carcassi a look into Op. 59 is required. In it, the following exercise appears (Example 1). Notice the exclusive use of the thumb (+) on the lower three strings. This idea is continuous throughout the entirety of his method. Therefore, when playing the scalar passages the thumb was used much more frequently than we find in modern interpretations of the piece.

Example 1

Independence of Finger Movement in the Arpeggio Section

The arpeggio section of this piece is deceptively difficult to create smooth transitions. Many times the piece has a very legato feel by a player and then the arpeggio section hits and it sounds very broken.

The challenge as Carcassi wrote it is in the leaps up and down the fingerboard. The challenge from the player’s perspective is to move the hand before necessary and to place it in order of right-hand execution. Though the shifts may not be completely seamless in sound, they will come fairly close with proper left-hand movement.

Though all of the ways of improving the movement will differ depending on the player, these few will be of the type to look for in this small passage. The initial place to look is in measure 29 where it all begins (Example 2). After playing the C on string 5, the finger releases after the C on string 2 plays allowing it to begin the movement to string 4 and the G on fret V. Then, the rest of the fingers follow the movement one at a time as the right hand executes the arpeggio. This idea continues through each of the chords. Lead with the elbow after the finger releases to begin the movement to the next chord.

In measure 31, finger 1 releases immediately after playing the C on string 2 in order to begin the movement to string 4 for the F♯. Then, the rest of the fingers land one at a time according to the order of the right-hand arpeggio. This idea really sets this section apart in learning it as a study. It allows the student to really focus on the execution of the left hand in the independence of movement before the chord releases and the idea of following the order of the right hand for smooth execution.

Though this is not strictly independence of movement, another small factor might aid in this section. The use of a preparatory hinge bar in measures 32 allows for the laying down of finger 1 to play the G on string 1 before laying the full bar down to reach the G on string 4.

Example 2

The addressing of these issues applies as much to this piece as in many other pieces. The challenge with the guitar many times is knowing what to look for when assessing a specific challenge in a specific piece. Obviously, any player could have any number of challenges to focus on in Op. 60 No.1 and not just the ones mentioned here. These represent the issues most commonly seen in the learning of this wonderful study.


I encourage you to help support this educational work by purchasing a downloadable pdf of this piece. It includes:

  • Full notation version,
  • Full notation/tablature version

Just click the button below to visit the store. Thank you for your support and keep learning!

Basic Guitar Harmony: Scale Primer and Intervals – Part 3

Basic Guitar Harmony: Scale Primer and Intervals – Part 2 outlined the formula for the major scale. The next step in learning to understand harmony when looking at music is the use of key signatures. The key of a tune is vital to understanding phrasing, chord progressions, and improvisation.

Key Signatures

On a musical staff (where the notes are written as opposed to the tablature or tab for short) there is a symbol that looks like a fancy “S”. This is known as the clef of the staff. It indicates the actual pitch relations on the five lines. For a guitarist, the staff will always have the fancy “S” known as a treble clef. Also, immediately to the right of this clef the key signature is given. The key signature is derived from the sharps or flats found in the major scale that the tune is based upon. The number of sharps or flats, or their absence, will indicate the key of the tune. Therefore, when playing the notes in the tune, these notes are always played as sharp or flat all the time unless otherwise noted within the score.

Each key signature corresponds to one of the major scales. For instance, if four sharps are seen in the key signature, then the key of the tune is E Major. This is because the key of E Major has four sharps. Three flat notes indicates the key of E♭ Major. If no sharps or flats are given, then the key is C major because there are not sharps or flats in the C Major scale. The example below (Example 1) gives a pictorial view of the key signature for each major key and its relative minor. The relative minor key has the same notes as the major key and therefore are related.

Example 1

key signature chart

Intervals

The perceived distance between two notes as heard to the ear indicates their musical relationship. The name given to this relationship is the interval. Previously, intervals were touched upon in the formula of the major scale. In that formula, the intervals of a Major 2nd (whole step) and a minor 2nd (half step) created the major scale sequence. Furthermore, to determine an intervals name, it is important to include both the notes as you count through the musical alphabet. Intervals should be learned by counting from the bottom (lowest) note and the to the top note (highest). The distance from C to E would be counted like this: C-1, D-2, E-3. Therefore, the interval from C to E is a Major 3rd.

Each interval also has a name that identifies the quality of the interval (Major, minor, Perfect, etc.). These quality identifiers will be crucially important in the understanding harmony. Furthermore, it is important to recognize intervals both by sight, sound, and where they exist on the fretboard of the guitar. In the example below (Example 8), the tablature shows where to play each given interval. Notice that after the Fret 12 is reached, the intervals are placed on the next string. There is more than one place to play these intervals on the guitar. In this case, they are given on a single string (up to Fret 12) to facilitate the understanding of the distance visually.

Example 2

intervals-1

In the above example, the basic definitions of the qualifiers are as follows.

Perfect = This qualifier began being used centuries ago. It describes the purest sounding intervals of the scale.
Major = This is the larger form of an interval that is not described as a perfect interval.
Minor = This is the smaller form of an interval that is not described as a perfect interval.
Diminished = This describes a perfect interval that has been made smaller.
Augmented = This describes a perfect interval that has been made larger (not given on the example above).

Cycle of 4ths (or 5ths)

In almost every style of music, chords tend to move in specific patterns. One of the most common movement are the movements of 4ths and 5ths. The diagram below (Diagram 1) shows this movement pattern. There are twelve roots of chords and/or keys shown around the circle. If movement is in a counterclockwise direction, then each root is a 4th higher than the previous one–hence the name cycle of 4ths. If the movement is in a clockwise direction, then each root is a 5th higher than the previous one–hence the name cycle of 5ths. The memorization of this order of notes (4ths and/or 5ths) should be memorized because any study of harmony will require the understanding of these relationships.

Diagram 1

 

Harmony is a very big subject. However, understanding the major scale and intervals is the first step to its mastery. Processing this information takes time.  It is better to master small pieces and then add the together to create the whole. This is the same with theory and harmony and now the tools have been presented for the first step in that process.


I encourage you to help support this education work by purchasing a downloadable pdf of this entire lesson (Part 1, 2, & 3). It includes:

  • All the information in Part 1, 2, & 3 plus,
  • The completed major scales,
  • Roman numeral explanations,
  • Printable practice notecards for the scales.

Just click the button below to visit the store. Thank you for your support and keep learning!

Basic Guitar Harmony: Scale Primer and Intervals – Part 2

In Basic Guitar Harmony: Scale Primer and Intervals – Part 1 the key reasons for studying harmony were outlined as well as the introduction to the chromatic scale. Now the attention will focus on understanding the major scale.

The Major Scale

In the Western culture, as opposed to Eastern culture, most of the music heard derives from the major scale. A major scale can begin on any of the twelve tones of the chromatic scale. The difference between the chromatic and major scale lies in the relationship between each tone. The major scale uses a specific whole step (two frets) and half step (one fret) order (Example 1).

Example 1

major scale formula

whole step = Whole Step

half step = Half Step

Building Major Scales

Now that the formula for a major scale is defined, it’s time to build one. The C Major scale starts on the note C. Using the chromatic scale from before and the formula just presented as a guide (Example 2), the next note in the scale is up a whole step to the D. Another whole step brings the scale to an E. One half step away from E is the note F (notice that there are no sharp or flat notes between E and F and B and C). Continuing on with the formula for a major scale, a whole step from F is G, another whole step from G is A, and another whole step from A is B. The last distance is a half step bringing the scale from B back to the root note C. The C Major scale is now complete.

Example 2

c major scale

Notice that the same indications for whole step (angled straight lines) and half step (curved line) are used in the examples for clarification. It is difficult for many beginning guitarists that read only music to separate the idea that the lines of a musical staff are different than the strings. This becomes more apparent due to that moving from one line to a space on a musical staff does not always equal the same distance. Obviously, on the tablature lines, it is much easier to see the distance by fret (one half step).

The Bb scale gives another view of a scale taken from the chromatic scale (Example 3). Another new symbol appears in this scale known as a natural sign (♮). This symbol appears on the B note after the B♭ and all other flat notes. It returns the note to the natural instead of keeping it a half step below the normal B note. This does not need to be written in the note names because it is obvious in not having a flat sign next to them.

The Bb major scale does not have the notes circled to give a sense of the lack of observable distance (whole step vs. half step) in a normal musical staff. The distance is easily seen in the tablature for the guitar.

Example 3

bb major scale

Examples 4 and 5 illustrate the C major scale and Bb major scale without the extra notes of the chromatic scale. Each scale is played entirely on string n in order to familiarize the the distances of the whole step and half step.

Example 4

c major scale 2

Example 5

Bb major scale 2

The next step in the process is to construct all twelve major scales on paper, away from the guitar. The following order is a good order to use because it is referred to as the circle/cycle of 4ths (this will be discussed in Part 3): C, F, B♭, E♭, A♭, D♭, G♭, B, E, A, D, and G. Check your results with the those in Appendix A of the downloadable resource available at the end of this series.

After double checking the scale, it is time to begin the memorization process away from the guitar. The importance of this memorization in the life of a musician cannot be overstated. Almost every theoretical concept in music will be based on this information. The better you know these major scales, the easier more advanced concepts in music will be to attain.

Basic Guitar Harmony: Scale Primer and Intervals – Part 1

It’s time to dig into the nuts and bolts of music. This series helps the aspiring musician get the first concepts in basic guitar harmony by starting with an understanding of  scales and Intervals. Most schools of thought divide music theory (outside of technique specific to the instrument) into three main areas of study: harmony, melody, and rhythm. Out of the three, harmony requires the most amount of time and effort to understand. In my opinion, harmony is the most important area of study. Harmony, for the purposes of these lessons, means the science of combining notes or tones. 

Basic Guitar Harmony. Nah, Just Give Me A Song

Why study harmony anyway? It is the foundation of almost every style of music. But in case any objection to learning harmony comes to the surface, the following list will help persuade otherwise.

  1. Knowledge of sounds available for any use or purpose
  2. Understand the intent of the composer
  3. Make educated choices on the phrasing of musical lines
  4. The ability to expand almost any idea whether it be to make variations on any chord progression, song, riff, etc.)
  5. An accurate understanding of what makes music work this will speed up the learning process greatly
  6. The knowledge to analyze what other musicians are doing on recordings, jams, etc. 
  7. The ability to enrich musical ideas through:
    • Chord extension and embellishment (adding 9ths, 11ths, etc., to given chords). 
    • Chord substitution and reharmonization (replacing the chords in a given progression with interesting substitutes)
    • The addition of moving voices
    • Melodic (think the vocal line) embellishment, decoration and variation 
    • Change keys 
    • The understanding to create and compose different moods, feelings, and colors

The above list only begins to scratch the surface of how the understanding of harmony will aid those who study it. If any of the terms and ideas are unfamiliar, then this is definitely the place to begin the journey of musical understanding. 

The Chromatic Scale

The western musical system gives every tone a name. These names create the musical alphabet and consist of only twelve names. After the final name has been used, the series begins again from the beginning when ascending (going higher). When descending, the reverse order repeats as necessary. Playing each of the tones in order, ascending or descending, a chromatic scale is created.

On the guitar, each fret creates a new tone and thus a new name. The distance covered by one tone to the next in a chromatic scale is a half step (this will be further covered later). The below example (Example 1) shows a chromatic scale beginning on the tone A. It continues one octave (starting and ending on the same tone) until the next A is reached. Practice playing this scale in order to begin the process of recognizing its characteristics.

Example 1

basic guitar harmony chromatic scale

A few observations need to be made about Example 1. Notice the difference between the top scale using all sharps(♯) and the lower scale using all flats(♭). A sharp raises a tone by one half step (one fret on the guitar) and a flat lowers the tone by one half step). Between the two scales arrows connect two enharmonic notes (same notes that have different names). The observation that the same fret on the same string is played below the note indicates that the same note is indeed played.

This introduction in basic guitar harmony lays the groundwork for understanding the major scale. This and key signatures make up the bulk of Basic Guitar Harmony: Scale Primer and Intervals – Part 2.

Beginning Guitar Lesson 1 (Pick Version) – Part 2

Many methods begin after explaining the generalities of positioning the guitar and holding the pick with learning to read the notes on string 1. This is coupled with learning to understand the staff and the rhythmic value of notes. All of this can be overwhelming. Here, the method will begin with the act of getting
each hand comfortable with playing the strings as quickly as possible. Though there will be notation and tablature presented, the patterns will be easily memorized to focus more clearly on the habits to be formed by each hand and their coordination. If you need a refresher on positioning the guitar and holding the pick, then review Beginning Guitar Lesson 1 (Pick Version) – Part 1.

Understanding The Notation/Tablature

The following example (Example 1) is the type of notation/tablature that is used throughout the rest of this lesson. It is an excerpt from a later exercise that will be practiced toward the end of the lesson. The top five lines create what is known as a musical staff. The bottom six lines create what is known as tablature (tab for short). They are connected by a large bar at the far left. This indicates that the tablature represents the notation and vice versa. For our purposes, this lesson will only require the understanding of the tablature and a number of markings in the music notation but without having to read the notes themselves.

The six lines of the tablature represent the six strings of the guitar. The top line is string 1 (the string closest to the floor) and the bottom line is string 6 (the string closest to the player’s head). The numbers on the lines indicate what fret should be held down by a finger. Frets are the metal bars running perpendicular to the strings. Fret 1 is located the farthest away from the body of the guitar and then are counted toward the opposite end until reaching the last one on the fretboard. Only the string indicated by a finger held down should be played.

In Example 1, only one string will be played for each note represented on the staff, hence not all six strings. For the purposes of the majority of this lesson the fret number is the same as the finger number of the fretting hand (usually the left hand). The number of the left hand fingers begin with the index having the number 1 and ending with the pinky having the number 4.

Example 1

 

First Notes On Guitar

Two other observations are important to understanding Example 1. Above the musical notation (the top five lines) there are two symbols. The first looks like a table and is followed by a “V” symbol. The table indicates that the pick should play the string moving down toward the ground (downstroke) and the V indicates playing the string up (upstroke). Throughout the entirety of this lesson the downstrokes and upstrokes will alternate for each note (alternate picking).

Exercise 1

 

There is no better place to begin playing the guitar than in learning to play the open strings. Open strings means that the string does not have any of the frets pressed down by the fretting hand. Therefore, the string can ring freely.

In Exercise 1, the number 0 is used to indicate that the string does not have any fingers placed on it when it is sounded. Begin by playing string 6 four times while alternating the picking (up/down/up/down). Each time there is a number the string should be played. Next the 0s move to the next string, string 5, and again the string is played four times. This continues all the way to string 1 until returning to string 6. At the end of the exercise is a dark double bar line with two vertical dots. This is a repeat sign and tells the player to repeat back to the opposite facing repeat sign at the beginning of the exercise.

The goal of Exercise 1 is to maintain a relaxed feeling in the picking hand as the feeling of playing the string begins to become a habit. The movement of the wrist should be small and the picking are should remain relatively straight. The best description for the movement when playing is move like you are shaking water off your hands after washing them. It should be a small and relaxed movement. Keep the wrist in the midrange of motion just like the description above for the left hand (fretting hand). Do not move on to Exercise 2 until this exercise feels extremely comfortable.

Exercise 2

beginning guitar pick exercise 2

A good feel for playing the strings without using the left hand (fretting hand) has been developed. Therefore, it is time to begin pressing down the frets to create different tones. Place the left hand thumb on the back of the guitar neck just behind fret number 1 (Example 2). Play string 3 open with a downstroke of the pick. Then place the first finger (index) of the left hand just behind fret 1 on string 3 (Example 3). Hold the string down and play the string with an upstroke of the pick.

If a buzz is heard, then compress the string a bit harder or move your finger closer to the backside of the fret. Also, notice in Example 9 the space between the palm of the hand and the neck. The palm should almost always have space between it and the neck. Be careful not to use too much pressure because it is counterproductive tension. Continue through the rest of the exercise by next using finger 2 on fret 2, etc.

Example 2

beginning guitar fret thumb

Example 3

beginning guitar first finger

Exercise 3

beginning guitar exercise 3

After Exercise 2 has been thoroughly mastered, then attention should be given to playing the ascending (notes moving higher in pitch) without returning to an open string (Exercise 3). All the previous principles will apply to this exercise. Continue to double check the technique of the right and left hands. In this stage many habits will be forming and can cause delayed success down the road of guitar playing.

Many beginning guitarists fail to start with the very basic movements of the hands. There is a feeling of wanting to jump right into playing chords or learning a recognizable song. These are all pursuits that will be achieved. However, without mastering the basics of hand movement there will be much more struggle than is necessary to achieving the desired goals.


I encourage you to help support this education work by purchasing a downloadable pdf of this entire lesson (Part 1 & 2). It includes:

  • All the information in Part 1 & 2 plus,
  • Beginning to move the fingers across strings,
  • Working up the fretboard while moving across strings

Just click the button below to visit the store. Thank you for your support and keep learning!

Beginning Guitar Lesson 1 (Pick Version) – Part 1

There are many beginning guitar books that endeavor to set every student on the correct path to learning the guitar. In no way is this beginning guitar lesson intended to be the “end all” of every first guitar lesson. This lesson focuses primarily on getting the right and left hands moving on the instrument.

It will cover the general positions for holding the guitar while playing with a pick. It will also cover some information on what to watch out for in your hands when beginning to learn the guitar. However, it is not meant to be the final say or an exhaustive dissertation on the mechanics of guitar technique. It is meant to get the student that has never played the guitar before moving their fingers on the instrument in an effective manner for future development.

Positioning The Guitar

The basic principle for positioning the guitar is to allow the right and left hands to move freely and without undue tension while playing the instrument. Most beginning players begin by playing seated in a chair. This is a fine way to begin, but normally the head and neck of the guitar are too low and cause the fretting hand (hand used to hold down the frets) wrist to be bent too far making the compression of the string to the fret more difficult than necessary. It also prevents pivot necessary on the thumb to move from the lower strings to the higher strings effectively.

When playing in a seated position without a strap it is advised to use a device to raise the left leg up off the ground to bring the body and neck of the guitar higher up (Example 1). This allows for the player to sit in a more upright position and for the left hand to move freely up and down the neck. Not surprisingly, good posture really helps the overall efficiency of movement and enjoyment of playing the guitar.

Example 1

 

beginning guitar sitting-with-footstool -small

Playing with a strap is another good way of placing the guitar in a good position for the left hand. It puts the guitar in a similar position in either the seated (Example 2) or standing  (Example 3) positions with the strap. The obvious advantage in using a strap is that the seated and standing positions should be almost identical creating the same feeling when playing regardless of standing or sitting.

When seated, the right leg must angle downward in order to make use of the strap holding the guitar. Sitting at an angle on the chair helps to achieve the correct position with the strap.

Example 2

beginning guitar sitting-with-guitar-strap -small

Example 3

beginning guitar standing-with-guitar-strap-small

Midrange Motion Of  The Left Hand

The main focus when working on how to position the guitar is in avoiding the extremes of the fretting hand bending. The idea is called the midrange of motion. The midrange of motion exists somewhere in between the extremes of bending the wrist in either direction.

The easiest way to begin to feel this mid-range is to feel the extremes and then find the place in the middle. Hold your arm out straight and extend the wrist all the way to the ceiling like telling someone to stop but keep the arm parallel to the floor. Then, flex the wrist in the opposite direction straight down to the floor. After feeling these extremes, find the comfortable spot right in the middle. This is the midrange of movement and the general position the left hand should be in when playing the guitar.

Holding The Pick

Though everyone will develop a slightly different manner in which to hold a pick, there is a basic starting point for everyone. The most common issue is the lack of control when using a pick by beginners. This is usually because the pick is too far away from the hand. The further away the pick is from the hand the less control the player has over the pick. By the way, the pick is actually short for plectrum even though plectrum is not really used in our common language about the guitar today.

The contrast of table tennis (ping pong) and tennis illustrates this control point. If someone has never played either game, and attempts each, then which one will they be able to play more quickly? The answer is table tennis because the paddle is a much smaller and closer extension of the hand. Most who attempt to play tennis find the ability to control the ball very difficult. It takes much practice just to play the game of tennis when compared to playing a game of table tennis.The guitar pick is no different. The closer the pick is to the hand the more control one has over the usage of it.

The Process Of Placing The Pick

To begin holding a pick, place the hand in a position like holding onto a pipe (Example 4). The fingers remain relaxed with some muscle exertion used to maintain the position. Then,  place the pick on the side of the index finger (Example 5). In this image, an opaque pick was use show the finger underneath the pick. Finally, rest the thumb on top of the pick (Example 6). There will be constant experimentation of how hard to hold onto the pick when playing. It is important to have the pick firmly held but also light enough to allow give in the pick. This creates a more enjoyable tone from the instrument. Not allowing the pick to give a little creates a noticeable harshness.

Example 4

 

Example 5

 

Example 6

 

Many will talk about fanning the fingers our or keeping them held in. It is a good idea to begin with them held in like the examples above. This allows for the hand to learn a floating reference for the string location on the guitar. It will also keep the bad habit of resting the pinky finger on the guitar body. This attempts to create a reference point for playing the strings. This is a bad habit even if the player can play a song well. It creates much tension in the hand and prevents fluid movement from string to string.

Move on to Beginning Guitar Lesson 1 (Pick Version) – Part 2 to begin exercises focusing on building solid coordination between the hands. It is a mistake to overlook these as “simple”. However, they hold the key to a solid technique for years of guitar playing. As always, a PDF of the lesson with even more content will be available at the end of part 2.

Learning To Connect Two Guitar Scale Forms – Part 2

The last post (Learning To Connect Two Guitar Scale Forms – Part 1), formed the basis for connecting two forms by learning two forms. The process of learning to connect these two scale forms is very logical. To begin, a thorough understanding of the preceding information about the forms themselves is
imperative. The ability to play through and see clearly each form on the guitar is the first step in making the connections possible.

Let’s Connect Those Scale Forms

The process begins by connecting the 6/4 form to the 6/2 form on string 6. The 6/2 scale form is then played ascending and descending and, upon the return, passes back to the 6/4 scale on string 6. The next step is to begin the 6/4 scale form again and continue in the scale on string 5 and then shift to the 6/2 scale form. The 6/2 scale form is then played ascending and descending and returns to 6/4 scale form on string 5. This continues as each shift is assimilated on every string.

As the learning of the shifts improves, it is a good idea to say the notes as when learning the scale forms without shifting. This will further embed the names of the notes on the guitar and the key that you are playing. It should be obvious that this will only enhance the understanding of improvisation as chord changes are presented to solo over.

Connecting 6/4 and 6/2 Guitar Scale Forms On String 6

 

The connection on string 6 uses left hand finger 4 to change position. It is important to not let the finger slide on the string making a noise. This technique is useful for a specific effect. However, the goal in these scales is to create an unperceived shift to the next scale form on the guitar. Left hand finger choice can be changed, but the goal of any finger choice should be to create a smooth legato transition from one form to another. In the above, and each of the following, the shifting point is indicated by a bracket above the notes and left hand fingering in the scale.

Connecting 6/4 and 6/2 Guitar Scale Forms On String 5

 

Changing on string 5 uses the same logic as changing on string 6. Notice that the bracket is over the change on string 5 instead of 6 in the above example. This process continues through each of the strings. Practice should continue until assimilated. Then, practice with rhythmic variation should begin. The downloadable version of this lesson includes a series of rhythmic variations following the scale shifts. All the scale shifts are included as well. When the key of A major is sufficiently assimilated, then the work on each of the twelve keys should begin. The patterns will not change, but the positioning of the root of the scale and the notes themselves will change. Learning to say the notes when changing to learn a new key cannot be overstated.

Conclusion

Learning to connect scale forms is vital to a clear understanding of the guitar. It helps in improvisation, harmonization, and general theory. It may take time, but the final results will leave deepen the understanding of how move freely throughout the instrument without any hesitation.


I encourage you to help support this education work by purchasing a downloadable pdf of this entire lesson (Part 1 & 2). It includes:

  • All the information in Part 1 & 2 plus,
  • The string changes on all strings,
  • 9 different applicable rhythm variations

Just click the button below to visit the shop. Thank you for your support and keep learning!

Learning To Connect Two Guitar Scale Forms – Part 1

Learning the guitar usually begins with learning a few chords and then possibly taking on some notes. It then progresses to songs that are familiar in both chord and note form. Inevitably the time comes to focus on the guitar scale forms. This is usually when improvisation is discussed as well. The
problem eventually appears in the student’s playing that they are confined to one particular scale form during their solos. Or, they transition to a new form but without clarity of the musical line. This is where learning to connect the forms comes into play.

By connecting the forms smoothly from any point ascending or descending, the single note solo line has continuity and fluidity. A musical thought can be expressed without having to reorient one’s self to the position on the guitar in a way that cause the line to miss its intended direction.

Two Guitar Scale Forms

In this post, we will be offering up two of the usual scale forms to study. Once these scale forms are memorized, Part 2 of this post will develop a method to move between the scale forms regardless of the position in the scale at any given moment. Don’t rush the learning of the form. It sometimes takes a while to really get the form into your memory and play it fluidly. There will be a few ways to perfect this given after the forms are presented.

6/4 A Major Scale Form

 

In the above guitar scale form, you will notice the name 6/4 A Major Scale. This indicates that the scale begins on the sixth string and the root (the note A) is played by left hand finger 4 at the beginning of the scale. In this scale you will also see the abbreviation, F.S. This stands for “Finger Stretch.” Finger 4 of the left hand must stretch a whole step (two frets) to attain the next note. The hand should not move from the initial position during the stretch.

6/2 A Major Scale Form

 

As indicated above, this scale has the name 6/2 A Major Scale. Following the same pattern from the 6/4, this indicates that the scale begins on the sixth string and the root (the note A) is played by left hand finger 2 at the beginning of the scale.

General Guidelines For Learn Guitar Scale Forms

It is important to know the actual notes that you are playing on the instrument. Too many students only learn the visual patterns without regard to the notes themselves. This sets up poor understanding of theory and proves to be a stumbling block when it comes to higher levels of improvisation. The notes of this scale beginning at the root (the first note of the scale) are A, B, C#, D, E, F#, and G#. They move in this order ascending the scale and the reverse order when descending the scale.

The best way to practice this understanding is to say the notes while you play through the scale. Then, pick a specific note at random and find it as quickly as possible in the scale form. Note cards can help with this by putting each note on a card and picking one after shuffling them. This helps keep things moving in random rather than in a pattern when learning the notes.

After getting comfortable with each scale, set your metronome to play quarter notes (i.e. one click per note). Then play eighth notes (one click but playing two notes). After there is a certain amount of security in playing eighth notes, then it is time to begin variation in rhythmic patterns. This variation causes the form to become more deeply imbedded in the memory. There are many other scientific reasons for this but that is not the subject of this material at present. Below are two examples of two ways to practice the 6/4 A major scale with varied rhythms.

Rhythmic Variation No. 1 For 6/4 Scale Form

 

Rhythmic Variation No. 2 For 6/4 Scale Form

 

It is a good idea whenever working on scales to get used to using a metronome. The metronome is the only objective tool guitarists have to measure progress. Many of the metronomes for mobile devices have preset rhythms that match the ones given in the above exercises.

Conclusion

It is crucially important to be able to see these scale forms clearly next to each other. They should be played in the position indicated but also in as many keys as possible to further the understanding of the fretboard. The time it takes to learn these fluidly will depend on the current level of the student. After the scales are fluid attention should be turned to learning how to connect the two guitar scale forms. This will be discussed in Learning To Connect Two Guitar Scale Forms – Part 2 of this series.