Monday, February 4, 2013

Doctrine of Woodshed: Left Hand Tapping

Welcome back to Doctrine of Woodshed.  This week we’re going to talk about some more interesting and unusual left hand technique.  Actually, the technique we’re talking about this week is ALL left hand.  

Left hand tapping is something we’ve mentioned before.  It involves playing a note by hammering on with your left hand without any picking.  If you can do more traditional tapping then it is the same concept with your other hand.  

You can use this to play scalar or melodic passages.  This will create a legato that sounds significantly different than the legato we talked about last week with hammer-ons and pull-offs. This is what we talked about being the Allan Holdsworth legato technique.  But that’s not what we’re talking about today.  

If you mix up left hand tapping with pull-offs to an open string you can create interesting, fast licks with minimal effort.  You are probably familiar with this sort of thing.  It is what Angus does in “Thunderstruck” through almost the entire song.  Here's the beginning:

This YouTube video is not mine. I claim no copyright, and send me a message if it goes down.

The only note in this that is picked is the very first open string.  After that it is all left hand.  You can even see Angus raising his right hand to the crowd in some videos.  (Of course, you can also see him picking through this lick in some live videos.  So who knows)

I also use it in a Doctrine song that is not on our EP.  The song “Revelation” uses a technique similar to “Thunderstruck” to create a blistering melodic passage.  It will also give me a chance to talk about some of the pitfalls of this technique and how to overcome them.  

Unlike “Thunderstruck,” my left hand is shifting positions quite quickly during this passage.  Practicing it is going to first depend on having the shifts down.  Try playing it without the pull-offs, even possibly picking the notes.  Like this: 

Once you have the idea of hammering and then pulling off to an open string plus the shifting down, the next thing to do is start slow and gradually build up speed.  However, what you’re quickly going to find is that you make a lot of noise.  Pulling-off requires that you flick your finger in one direction to get the open string to sound.  This will inevitably mean you accidentally hit neighboring strings.  

The way to get around this is by muting those strings with your right hand.  So no, I don’t get to raise my hand to the crowd like Angus during “Revelation,” but in return I get to play a faster lick without fear of unwanted notes.  

Take the thumb of your right hand and mute the G string, and then take your index finger and mute the high E string.  Like this:

You can even lay your thumb across the rest of the lower strings to make sure they don’t ring out.  Here’s an excerpt from the solo.  Hopefully “Revelation” will be on a record soon, but in the meantime you can hear it at a Doctrine show.  It’s always in our set.  We’ll be at The Sound Hole in Myrtle Beach Friday, February 15.  

All tracks were recorded direct using a Line 6 Pod HD 500
Backing tracks made using GarageBand
Special thanks to Corey Holden

Blake Graham exclusively uses (and is not endorsed by):
Carvin Guitars
Line 6
Jim Dunlop

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Our debut album produced by Jamie King (Between the Buried and Me)

Joe, Corey, and myself all have lessons available through Star Music. Send me a message or call Star Music at 843 448 2819 for more details.  

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