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Tricks Of The Trade

Guitar Tricks

Article from One Two Testing, September 1984

quick ways to flash licks

...and other bizarre guitarre procedures. Paul Colbert, body-popper of the six string delves into his bedside cabinet for a set of strange electric techniques. Fingers should be insured before reading these pages.

Harmonics are those notes that live above the frets. They're the notes you find by plucking a string while a finger of your left hand is lightly touching it over, for example, the 12th fret, without actually pushing it onto the fretboard.

We all know where the loudest harmonics live (5th, 7th and 12th frets), but one of the platinum rules for getting the best out of them is this – don't leave your fingers hanging around afterwards. Pluck quickly then shift them out of the way, otherwise you stand a good chance of killing the harmonic.

Speed of the right hand is crucial in the following technical ploy. Form a chord with your left hand as normal – for example, a G major in the shape of an E barre. Keep your left hand in that position, but look for the equivalent frets an octave further up the neck (our example would occupy the spaces between the 15th and 17th frets). Now using the edge of your right thumb, bang the strings sharply against the fretboard, then snatch your right hand away, still leaving your left hand in place. With practice you should get at least 80 per cent of that G major reproduced entirely in harmonics.

You can use any chord you like, but it helps if the notes are closely grouped together. Also try to position your right thumb so that it mimics the shape of the barre chord. In our picture the joint of the thumb is sounding a D and a G note on the A and D strings, the middle of the digit is belting the B note on the G string, and the top of the nail is landing around the D note on the B string.


Not the sort of speedy ploy you can throw into the midst of a 12 bar, its true, but sneaky as a special effect. Take the A string around the octave and push it upwards as hard as you can towards the edge of the neck. Then take the E string, lift it over the top of the A string, and use one left hand finger to hold both of the strings in that position so they cross paths somewhere around the 18th fret.

Repeat the arrangement with the G and D strings. You now have two pairs of strings that won't make much of a note when you pluck them, but they will rattle and with the right adjustment you can get a passable imitation of the wires of a snare drum. Can also sound good if you strum away and gradually let them slip under your fingers back to their true positions.


You've just strummed a magnificent chord that sounds as if it should sustain forever. What can you do with your right hand other than scratching at the biggest spot of the day?

How about helping that chord out with an extra bass line. Taking our G major barre example again, keep your left hand in position once the chord has been struck then, with the index finger of your right hand, sound a B note on the bottom E string by tapping your finger hard against the 7th fret. Now slide it up to the 8th and back down again. Simple. You don't lose anything of the chord itself, but you add a little ornamentation to the bass part. Flick your index finger off at the end of the run and you can sound the original G on the E string again.

Play around with different chords and different index finger notes. You'll be suitably slack jawed at how much you can add but often, on long sustained chords, the simple, short lines are the best.


This is perhaps one of the most irritating techniques to try to get the hang of because I can't tell you exactly what to do nor where to do it – only provide general guidelines.

These squeaky harmonics were originally much favoured by Beck and Gallagher but have spread as far as Van Halen, Belew, Burchill, Taylor, you name it. The trick involves producing a sound which is half note, half harmonic. Instead of twanging the string with the flat side of the plectrum, you turn the pick so it's at an angle of about 30 degrees then quickly scrape the edge of the plectrum across the string. It may help to push downwards a little at the same time, and some guitarists using this technique like to hit the string with the edge of their fingernail along the way.

But that's only half the job. The real secret is knowing where on the length of the string between bridge and neck, you should do the plucking. You'll enjoy better results if you play on a spot where you would normally find a harmonic. A safe bet to try first time out is directly over the pole pieces of the neck pickup. On carefully thought out guitars this should produce the equivalent harmonic on the pickup side of the 12th fret as 5th fret will invoke at the other end. A rough edge to your plectrum also aids.

The Damp

Damping, not to be confused with dampening, which is an advanced black belt guitar technique involving much courage and a large pond. Most guitarists quickly adopt the habit of stopping – or damping – unwanted strings with their left or right hands, but it can be applied as a constructive technique.

It's easiest done by twanging with your plectrum as usual, but resting the edge of the palm of your right hand lightly on the strings while doing it. You can produce short, stubby sounds by supplying a reasonable amount of pressure from your palm, or merely trim off the long sustain by positioning the edge of your hand directly over the saddles in the bridge.

By experimenting with the angle of your palm, you could keep the bass notes long and the top notes short, or vice versa. If you want a more consistent tone and find you're having trouble manoeuvring your right hand, lightly tape a strip of foam rubber across the top of the saddles.

The Bend

More a matter of attitude than skill. One of those dodges where you think, 'of course, why not', but it just never occurred to you to do it. Next time you've got your first finger on the top E, your second finger two frets up on the B and are bending for all your worth, put your third finger on the G string and bend that as well. It's quite possible to push two notes at a time and it's frequently more effective if you bend one of them up a tone and the other only a semitone so they climb to different intervals. Old Leggy is a dab hand at this and if we threaten to put carpet in his pipe next time round, we could swing a longer feature out of him.

The Message In Abuttal

Finally, not so much a trick as a treatise! The nearby pictures prove how the same chord shape moved both up and down the strings and sideways across the fretboard can produce a well known riff or saying. Play the strings one at a time from low to high.





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Publisher: One Two Testing - IPC Magazines Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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One Two Testing - Sep 1984

Feature by Paul Colbert

Previous article in this issue:

> Beyond E Major

Next article in this issue:

> Casio MT400V Keyboard

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