One String Songs (Exercises). Working Out

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One String Songs and ExercisesIn this lesson we demonstrate some invaluable technique-building exercises to boost your picking prowess and fingering finesse. These exercises and single string guitar songs can be beneficial for players of any standard -just make sure that you start at a metronome speed which reflects your technical ability and expect to improve gradually. Your patience will be rewarded. If you’ve already listened to the ten audio examples, you’ll have noticed that they all have something of a “Flight Of The Bumblebee” sound to them.

This is because, like Rimsky-Korsakov’s celebrated violin party-piece, they use the chromatic scale, which has a tuneless, disorientating effect if used in the wrong context. Normally, the way to sound like you’re playing in the right key is to miss out the notes which are wrong for that key but, of course, the chromatic scale doesn’t contain any wrong notes, which means it should be used with great care!

One String Songs. Applications

As anyone who’s ever heard Steve Morse or Brett Garsed will know, there are all sorts of musical, tuneful-sounding applications for the chromatic scale, but the ten examples here are offered more as technical exercises rather than licks you can use over a 12-bar in A. Perhaps in a future we can look at how to apply chromatic ideas over music with a definite tonal centre (how to make them sound nice!) but, for now, I would recommend that you work through these ten examples of one string songs purely to build your technique and improve the synchronisation between your hands. Trust me, this stuff might sound odd, but it really is good for you.

Equal fingers

One nice thing about chromatic exercises is that they use all four left-hand fingers equally, so the much-neglected little finger gets used to working with the other three. You might find that adjusting the position of your fretting hand helps a little – try some subtle wrist movements and try to find a position which enables the tip of your fourth finger to stay near the string’s even when it’s not in use. Many players think that they could play faster if only their hands would move faster but, as often as not, the solution is to make the movements smaller rather than more frantic. Why have your fourth finger hovering several inches away from the string it’s about to fret? Think of the nanoseconds you’re wasting! The other theme with these exercises is that they all use the top E string exclusively. To benefit your picking hand, I would suggest practising the examples on every siring to check that your right hand can tackle each with equal ease.

More immediately, you’ll find that the single-string rule necessitates more position shifts, and it’s good to work on this facet of playing as it frees you from the constraints of playing in box shapes, (if you can rely on your left hand to execute accurate, efficient position shifts then the whole fretboard is your metaphorical oyster.)

The key to doing this with precision is to target the first note in each new position and to move up confidently, ensuring that you start the new position in time with the metronome. I find it helps if your picking hand also targets these notes, perhaps accenting them at first, just to draw your attention to the trouble spots. There’s one other theme running through all these exercises: they’re all designed to be looped, so when you’ve mastered the music as it’s written, try increasing the number of repetitions. Playing one of these exercises ten times in a row is a far greater strain on your concentration than playing it once.

One String Songs. Performance notes

Let’s get on with the ten examples. As always, these should be practised slowly at first, working with a metronome and building up speed only when your timing, hand synchronisation and consistency of tone are all up to scratch. Don’t forget to use alternate picking (down-up, down-up) for maximum efficiency.

Exercise 1 uses a simple 1-2-3-4 lingering in the first bar, and the reverse (4-3-2-1) in the second bar.

Exercise 2 is the same as Exercise 1, but with the fingering reversed – note that it sounds even more unusual.

Exercise 3 is more confusing – it changes between a 1-2-3-4 pattern and a 4-3-2-1 pattern every beat. Watch out for those fourth finger shifts (for example, between the fourth and fifth notes) – these are best handled by keeping your fourth finger on the siring as you shift.

Exercise 4 continues this theme, but the position shifts just got bigger – we’re shifting by two frets every beat now.

Shift fret

Continuing this trend, Exercise 5 bumps the shift up to three frets each. Note the hint of a diminished seventh tonality in this one.

Exercise 6 is lots of fun. As you can see from the Roman numerals denoting the position shifts, you’re moving your left hand every three notes, even though the metronome is suggesting groupings of four. You need only three left-hand fingers for this one, but try it with 1, 2 and 3 at first, then with 2, 3 and 4 (for more of a challenge).

Exercise 7 takes that 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4 cycle we’ve been seeing so much of this lesson, and takes four-note segments from it starting on each linger in turn. Thus, you start with 1-2-3-4, then 2-3-4-1, 3-4-1-2 and 4-1-2-3. You’ll find it easiest to target the first note of each beat here, much as we targeted the position shifts earlier.

Exercises 8 and 9 use a kind of pedal-point motif. Exercise 8 pivots off the index finger using a 1-2-1-3-1-4-1-3 pattern and Exercise 9 is the reverse, pivoting off the lazier little finger in a 1-4-2-4-3-4-2-4 formation. Which do you find harder? Thought so…

Exercise 10 brings together the pedal-point idea and the position shifts from earlier. We’re pedalling with the open E siring here, in a way that might remind such one string songs as Gary Moore’s “End of the World” lick or Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years” or, indeed, Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue”. Don’t he tempted to fret all the notes with the same finger – it’s better to follow a 1-0-2-0-3-0-4-0 policy, shifting up four frets when you run out of digits. The shifts may be bigger, but at least there are fewer of them to negotiate. Have fun and I’ll see you next time.

one string guitar tabs

one string guitar tabs

It’s a part of One String Songs Exercises

Below you can download a full copy of

Single String Songs exercises with backing track


11 December 2012 0 comments
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