Adding chromaticism to add interest to simple melodies

All 12 notes can be valid choices to use while improvising.  What makes it good or bad depends on how it is used. We will cover ways you can add chromaticism into your playing without it feeling like you are hitting wrong notes. These are neighboring tones, approach tones, enclosures, and use of diminished arpeggios.

 

Neighbor Tones:

The simplest form of adding non-diatonic notes into your improvised melodies are neighbor tones. This concept is extremely easy to grasp and put into your playing almost immediately. A neighboring tone is a note a half step below or above any note in the scale you are using. This creates a nice smooth sound that creates so many new possibilities.

 

Approach tones:

Once you understand the concept of neighboring tones you can jump into approach tones. The typical approach tone is 3 notes. This is very bebopish, and cool sounding. When used in rock it sounds really hip. Guthrie Govan is known for using this kind of stuff a lot. You can think of an approach tone as approaching a note in the scale you are using from 3 chromatic notes above or below. In most places in the scale, what you are doing is simply connecting 2 different notes in the scale with a neighboring tone. You can extend this to longer approach tones by thinking about connecting the scale with neighboring tones.  Django Reinhardt often used extended approach tones in a very fast chromatic scale way.

 

Enclosures:

 

Take 2 notes above and 2 notes below your note of choice in the scale you are using. There are good amount of combinations you can come up with.  A common enclosure is one above and 2 below. This is a very popular type of chromaticism in bebop and sounds extremely cool.  You have seen each of these so far have added on to previous knowledge, starting with neighboring tones. Now we will take a little bit different approach to adding chromaticism to your solos.

 

Diminished Arpeggios:

To fully understand this concept I am going to explain some theory behind it.

1)      A Diminished chord is often a substitute for a dominant chord. When chords have the same function, they often substitute for each other. There are only 4 diminished chords, after that they repeat in an inversion.

2)      Often diminished chords are used as passing chords. For example you could play the chord progression C – Dmin like C | Db Dim | D-. This works because the diminished is working as a secondary leading tone. This also means you can add a secondary dominant. The secondary dominant would be C | A7 | Dmin. Most chords are capable of having secondary dominants and leading tones.

3)      Implying chords simply means playing around other chords that are not written. Or in other words you are using notes that are note emphasized by the rhythm section.

So how does this work? You imply a bunch of chords. Let’s say you are playing in the key of G. You can play a G arpeggio, G# Diminished arpeggio, A minor arpeggio, A# diminished arpeggio, B minor arpeggio, C arpeggio, etc. This allows for tension and release as well as creating a chromatic root line.

 

All of these approaches to adding chromaticism are not meant to withhold your creativity, they can be play with your stylistic manners. You can articulate them differently, put different rhythms to them, Different notes, Mix them up however you wish. These are just a few proven ways to use chromaticism to spice up your solos.

Examples of slap guitar

  1. Fundamentals of slap guitar
  2. Moving forward with slap guitar
  3. adding plucks to your slap guitar technique
  4. Examples of slap guitar

 

In this Lesson I will show you some videos of slap guitar. You can see how guitar greats use this technique and you can imitate them. Most music is learned by repeating what others before you have done so here are some tutorial videos and performance videos that include slapping.

These 3 videos sum up the basics of slap guitar. Watch these videos and understand what is going on and get the sound into your head. It is a fun technique to play with and to practice. It also sounds very cool! Happy Slapping!

Adding plucks to your slap guitar technique

So we just talked about slapping guitar in a triplet feel. If you add 1 extra note you can get a 16th note feel going and this is where things get cool. A 16th note feel is going to be faster and sound more complex, but it’s really not that much harder to execute. In this lesson you will learn the basics of plucking strings, why you should pluck your strings and plucking patterns.

Plucking guitar strings is pretty self-explanatory. You take your index (first) finger, middle finger and ring finger and you pluck the string to get that harsh pluck sound. To make this technique easier for you while you are using your thumb to slap I suggest you keep your fingers curled under your hand a little bit. Keep them loose because a tense hand is hard to work with.

Plucking strings are an ornamentation to slap guitar. The note choices are not hugely important. You should pick notes that are part of the key, but the specific notes are not really a big deal. It is just to add flavor to your playing. I suggest when you first start plucking you worry about 1 note. The root would work well in the beginning. That way you won’t get bogged down thinking about notes you should pluck and you can concentrate on proper slapping technique.

I am going to show you a simple plucking pattern you can use that uses slapping and plucking. Before I had you doing the triplet slap pattern where you hit the open E on each beat and you slapped your left hand on the string then slapped a muted thumb on the strings again in a triplet feel. You will do this again except after the muted thumb slap you will add a pluck with your fingers. You will need to play this as 16th notes or else you won’t be able to get all the hits in and slap the next beat on time.  Practice this slowly and work up speed gradually.

You have now learned all the basics of slap guitar. There are more things you can do to add more interest to your guitar slapping, but you now know what you need to know to slap guitar like a real slapper. You can add plucking to your slap guitar to add flavor to your playing. The notes you choose are not extremely important as long as they are in the key. Make sure you practice with proper technique and you will see great improvement over time.

2 handed tapping like Steve Vai part 2

Steve Vai’s tapping technique is quite fun, but can be difficult to execute. If you have not read the first article on Steve’s 2 handed tapping click here to review it. Steve Vai’s tapping style can be taken much more in-depth than just the top 3 strings. In this lesson I am going to show you how you can switch string like Steve Vai. You will still be using the shapes like we talked about in lesson 1. I will leave these shapes up to you to find. There are so many possibilities that you can come up with for the shapes.  This article is going to concentrate on becoming more advanced with your right hand. You will learn switching to lower strings and higher strings.

Before we discussed how you tap with your ring finger on the high E string and the middle finger on the B and G string played in a downward motion. This is the same concept that will be used in switching strings except you will have to alter tap. You will either add 1 extra tap or subtract one. However, you will be focusing on the 3 string pattern. This 3 string pattern is what gives you the sound of Steve Vai.

When you want to go down a string and use the B, G and D strings you will need to add 1 extra tap with your middle finger. You tap the high E string with your ring finger, and then tap the B G and D with your middle finger. After you have successfully switched strings you continue with the same tapping pattern as before with the ring finger on the B string instead of the E. You can use that add note to go down as many strings as you want to the E string.

When your goal is to switch to higher strings you need to use 1 less tap with your right hand. Let’s say we are playing on the B, G and D strings and you want to go back to the high E string. You tap with your ring finger on the B string and then middle finger on the G string. Now you tap your ring finger on the high E string and you have successfully switched back to the 3 highest strings. You can use these string switching techniques to run scales as well. Or you can stick to creating interesting sounding shapes to get the sound you want.

Steve Vai’s tapping is an interesting approach to 2 handed tapping that if you want to switch strings you need to add 1 extra tap with the right hand or take away 1. Doing this technique has a very cool, unique sound. It can be difficult to perfect, but once you do, the sky is your limit. Have fun tapping away!

Moving Forward With Slap Guitar

  1. Fundamentals of Slap Guitar
  2. Moving Forward With Slap Guitar
  3. Adding plucks to your slap guitar technique
  4. Examples of slap guitar

By now you know what it takes to create a nice slap sound. If you need to review the fundamentals of slapping the guitar please review lesson 1. Slap guitar can be taken much farther than just slapping 1 string. You can become more adventurous and add more technique and more interesting ideas to your slap guitar playing. In this lesson you will learn how you can start improving your technique by adding more to what you already know.

 

A Slapped Note Does Not Hang Around.

We just covered an exercise where you play quarter notes at 60 beats per minute with a metronome. In this exercise you were slapping the low E string. The next step to slap is to stop the note when you play it. So do this exercise again and each time you hit a note let it ring for a moment, but stop it with your left hand before you slap again. You can stop the sound by placing your fingers over the strings. This will make your slap sound cleaner and make it more focused.

 

Guitarists can be drummers too!

Slap guitar is very rhythmic. Slap would be boring if it was not. So to make your slap more rhythmic you can use your left hand to make a noise. Do this exercise: Slap the low E string on the beat at 60 beats per minute. On the & of each beat slap your left hand fingers down on the strings.  The left hand is a rhythmic tool for your slapping. A very small percentage of slap guitar is actual played notes. These percussion sounds are what makes guitarists similar to drummers.

 

A Guitarist and a Drummer Had Triplets

A lot of slapping can be done with a triplet feel. Before you attempt doing this exercise make sure you have worked on the 8th note exercise above. This time you are going to play an 8th note triplet. You hit the low E string every beat. You will then make the left hand percussive sound and then you leave your left hand fingers down to mute while you slap your thumb again. The third hit is a muted thumb slap. No pitches should be played; it is just a percussive sound.  Once you are comfortable with this you can start to speed up your slapping. Speed it up slowly to ensure proper technique.

 

Conclusion

Slapping guitar will sound more refined if you stop the note from ringing every once in a while. You can use this opportunity to be rhythmic by stopping the note with a rhythmic noise by slapping your left hand down. If you mute the strings with your left hand you can still use your right hand thumb to slap again and make a percussive sound without a note ringing out. A lot of slap guitar is done with a triplet feel so you can practice slapping with triplets. Enjoy!

Fundamentals of Slap Guitar

  1. Fundamentals of Slap Guitar
  2. Moving Forward With Slap Guitar
  3. Adding plucks to your slap guitar technique
  4. Examples of slap guitar

Welcome! Have you ever come across a guitarist who was slapping his guitar? Typically this technique is done on bass, but it can be done on guitar as well. It is a fun technique to learn and can sound very cool. Slap is primarily used in the funk style and sounds best with a funk sound. After reading this lesson you should be able to know how to slap the guitar, and the challenges of slapping. This lesson will focus primarily on the thumb. Later on we will talk about adding finger plucking to your slap to make it even more fun!

Slap Guitar Is Like a Bounce House

Pretend you are in a bounce house for a minute. When you jump you go down, then bounce right back up. The same principle applied in slap. When you slap your guitar strings you should bounce back up. If you don’t bounce up it won’t work well. Another illustration of slapping the guitar is being on the moon. Have you ever seen movies on people on the moon? They float down and back up. This does not mean that you constantly have to be going back down to slap the string over and over, but when you slap the string you should bounce up quickly.

Slapping Is Not Hard, But The Part Of Your Thumb You Use Should Be.

Think about it. Slapping has a pretty bumpy harsh sound to it. Do you think you can get that sound better by dropping cotton on the strings or dropping a hard bouncy ball on the strings? Of course the bouncy ball is going to make the sound better. Same concept goes with your thumb. When you play slap guitar you should use the side of your thumb at the knuckle. This is the hardest part of your thumb. This will make that pop slap sound better.

Low Strings Make the Best Slappers

When you are using this guitar technique you will find that the 2 lowest strings make the best strings to slap on. Once you get higher than the A string you are better off using other fingers to pluck them. Typically the easiest string to slap on is the low E. It may take some practice to get the A string to sound good slapping, but it will get easier.

Practice Simple To Perfect Your Happy Slappy Technique

To start practicing this technique I suggest you put on a metronome at around 60 beats per minute and hit the low E string each beat. You can use our metronome at GitGuitar here. Concentrate on hitting the string with the correct part of the thumb. You should also concentrate on bouncing off the string. For an extra little note: You will find some areas of the guitar string are easier to slap on. So you may want to experiment to find the hot spot on your guitar. Once you can play quarter notes at 60 slapping with perfect technique you can move on to more advanced techniques using slap.

Conclusion

Slap guitar is a fun technique you can use to sound more funky. Typically this technique is a funky bass technique, but guitarists can use it also. To get the perfect sound in this technique you need to bounce your hand quickly off the strings. You should also use the hard part of your thumb. Practice quarter notes at 60 beats per minute and you will improve dramatically. Enjoy!

2 handed tapping like Steve Vai

Steve vai has a unique style of guitar tapping. In this lesson you will learn an approach that Steve Vai uses to do 2 handed tapping. This is an advanced 2 handed tapping lesson, if you have not yet mastered the basics of 2 handed tapping, check out the link here. In this lesson you are going to learn the approach Steve Vai uses. Doing this you will learn how to use 2 fingers on your right hand to tap. You will also learn some of what he does with his left hand. Of course, this will not cover everything that Steve vai does when he taps, but this will provide you with a foundation of what he does. Let’s jump in to it.

Steve Vai uses 2 notes per string shapes with his left hand. He makes a box with his left and taps using this shape. There are many possibilities of box shapes that you could play. Steve Vai doesn’t stick to one of these shapes for a long time. You can hear that when he taps he isn’t repeating an idea. He is constantly moving through these shapes. If you want to learn to tap more like Steve Vai learn as many shapes as you can come up with. Learn them well though; you will progress faster if you learn a few things well rather than a bunch of things poorly. Here are a few example shapes he uses with his left hand.

2 handed tapping left hand boxes

There are 3 left hand boxes here. The blue box, the red box and the box with the “/”. Make your own shapes similar to these to use with this 2 handed tapping technique.

With his right hand Steve Vai uses 1 note per string shapes. Of course these shapes are constantly changing in Steve Vai’s playing as well. So come up with your own shapes for your right hand as well. Here are some example shapes Steve Vai uses for his right hand.

2 handed tapping right hand shapes

These are shapes you can use with the right hand to tap while 2 handed tapping. The purple note belongs to both shapes.

The hard part about the right hand is getting the correct tapping. This will be challenging with just 1 finger, so Steve uses 2 fingers. He uses the middle finger and the Ring finger. To be able to play like this you must pull your fingers downward. Use your ring finger on the high E string, and on the B string and G string use your middle finger. Switching string with this technique will be covered in a future blog post.

When you play these shapes you need to play them in the correct order. Tap first on the right hand, pull off to the note highest on the string, pull off and to the lower note on the string. You will be playing these shapes as if they are descending scales. You play the E string first, then B string, then G string in that order.

2 handed tapping like Steve Vai is a fun thing to do, but it can be tricky. He uses 2 fingers on his right hand and he uses shapes on his left hand. These shapes used by both hands are always changing; this is what gives his tapping that constantly flowing sound. Work on this slowly and get it clean and smooth. You will soon be sounding like Steve Vai. To continue to part 2 of this article click here. Discuss below!

For an example of the tapping technique taught above view this video below. Start the video at 6:00 and end it at 6:54.

Playing across bar lines – Implying odd time signatures in 4/4

Most musicians when playing in 4/4 consider each measure a connect unit. When you play like this it is very easy to differentiate between each beat and each measure. This is the norm because this is what most people is familiar hearing, and this is how they are taught. There is a whole world of possibilities waiting to be explored if you learn to play outside of the common time signature. If you learn to imply an odd time signature over 4/4 you can easily add a little extra spice to your playing.

When you imply an odd time signature you are still playing 100% in time, you are just disguising your rhythm so it seems like the song changed. With this approach, the rhythm you choose will take some amount of time to cycle around and return where it started. The way to do this is to pick an odd number. The easiest numbers to play are 5 and 7. For this lesson I will use 5, if you are interested in taking this further, you can apply this principle to 3, 7, 9 or any odd number.

To explain how this works I will use common counting for the 16th note, but I will explain an easier way to count for this principle. Count in 16th notes, here is a diagram to show you the 16th notes.

This shows how to count 16th notes so that you can learn to imply odd time signatures

Take a piece of paper and write this out. Then on every 5th count put an X over it. It will then look like this.

counting odd time signatures

When you play this it will go over each bar line. This will cycle around and eventually come back to where it started. So how do we count this? You need to feel the 16th note beat then count 1 2 3 4 skip a beat 1 2 3 4 skip a beat. Make sure you really feel the 16th note rhythm. After you work on this for awhile you will start to memorize it and it won’t seem as hard. Just like everything else start slow and work up.

How do you incorporate this in to your playing? Well this concept is used a lot in djent metal and they use it for rhythm. You can come up with complex rhythms that are single note rhythms that repeat, or you can use a simple power chord with this rhythm. Another possible use for this concept is soloing. Why not throw this concept into a solo for a couple measures to add a little freshness to your playing. If this concept is something that lends itself to your style of playing, then you will find a use for it. If not then you are at least aware that this exist.

Playing over the bar line is a great way to spice up your playing. Implying odd time signatures with 16th notes will sure change the sound. There are many uses, experiment to find something that fits you style. Have fun with this new bit of knowledge!