Do you remember learning to play guitar (or maybe you’re learning now) and your fingers hurt SO bad? I remember that. You wouldn’t think pressing your fingers into tiny pieces of metal would hurt so bad…well, when I say it like that…maybe…
This post is going to focus on your fretting hand. For me, it’s my left hand. When you boil guitar down to it’s basic elements, as the player, you have two things going on. Your strumming hand is making the strings vibrate, and your fretting hand is giving the strings the correct pitches. Let’s talk about that fretting hand of yours.
What’s the Goal?
Your fretting hand has the task of making everything sound right. No pressure. You just have to make sure you press down the right strings at the right time with the right amount of pressure. Oh, and while you’re at it, sometimes you’ll have to mute certain strings. And all this is in strict coordination with your strumming hand.
Alright, so it’s really not that bad. You just have to take it one step at a time and make sure you get some fundamentals right. Let’s look at a couple of those…
The acoustic is a rhythmic percussive instrument, and most of the time we think that has to do with how we strum. While that is largely true, a lot of that percussive sound depends on the fretting hand – muting the strings.
Sometimes you need to mute all the strings while you strum. This gives you a sound that cuts through the mix, much like a snare hit on the drums. Other times you just need to mute the low E and/or A strings so a chord sounds right. You can always spot a sloppy D or A chord when you hear the low E ringing out with it.
The other fundamental thing you do with your fretting hand is to enhance chords. Sometimes this means sliding one chord into another, like you can do by playing a regular C chord and then sliding it up 2 frets into a form of a D chord. (I don’t know what that chord is called…if you do, please let me know!)
There are also hammer-ons and pull-offs with chords. You can take an A chord, and hammer-on the B string from 2nd fret to 3rd fret. Same with a D chord on the high E string from 2nd fret to 3rd fret. These are some of the most common ones, but you can figure out ways to do this with almost any normal chord. It just has to fit the song. (One of my favorites is with an Fmaj7 [1×3010] to [1×3210])
You Try It!
Get you some practice with hammering-on and sliding between a C and D and let me know how it goes:
x30010 -> hammer-on -> x32010 -> slide -> x54030
This concludes the strumming and fretting fundamentals posts, but you can get more practice and help in the Acoustic Worshiper Community.
Also, leave a comment below and let me know how you apply these techniques in worship. I’d love to hear from you and hear how you’re making a difference in your church by playing the acoustic guitar.