How To Sound Smoother In Simple Steps

In this lesson I'll show you what I know about various techniques to help you sound smoother as a guitarist. I will be mentioning various scales and chords throughout this lesson, so I recommend that you look at some lessons for those at some point. I'll upload some when I get time.

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Ultimate Guitar
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Right then, to sound smooth we have to start at the beginning, as obvious as it sounds. You see, most of the 'sharp' notes that you play on a guitar come from your plucking hand. This is because whether you're using a pick or your fingers, this is the hand closest to the pick-ups or hollow chamber if you're using an acoustic, as well as being the hand that most of the time starts the vibrations on the strings. In order to sound smooth you have to put a lot more work into what you're fretting hand does. I have put enough work into it that I know it's possible to play guitar solely with your fretting hand, and often I'll does that either while practicing or occasionally live so that I can get a really liquid sound. It also helps focus what your fretting fingers are doing, as most 'bum' note are because of this hand being lazy. How do I sound smoother then? Answer, you use hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides and bends along with other techniques that focus on the fretting hand. I'll give you a quick overview of what hammer-ons and pull-offs are, and then I'll show you some of the problems that may arise when you're trying to use them. Slides are pretty much self-explanatory. You hit a note then while keeping your finger(s) on the guitar so the note still rings on you move your finger up or down the string to the desired fret.
     H  P  P          H  P      
E|--2--3--2--0--2----2--3--0--2----3--5--|
B|--0-----------0----0--------0----0--0--|
G|---------------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------------|
A|---------------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------------|
This is one way that people can write down hammer-ons and pull offs on this site for a tab, but notice that this only works for the top string, so I'll show you another way to write the same tab so you won't get confused by other tabs you might find.
E|--2-H3-P2-P0--2----2-H3-P0--2----3--5--|
B|--0-----------0----0--------0----0--0--|
G|---------------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------------|
A|---------------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------------|
See how it's the same tab but this means you can now have the hammer-ons and pull offs on each string? This is part of the tab for Joe Satriani's crystal planet. Joe Satriani is a very good Legato(smooth sounding) player, which is why I'll use him as my main example for this lesson. What's a hammer on? Once you've played a note, be it open or fretted, you literally hammer your finger(doesn't matter which one as long as it feels comfortable) down onto one of the strings on a desired higher fret, which produces a note without having to pluck the string. A pull-off is almost the exact opposite, but slightly more complicated. You pull you finger off the string to sound a note on either an open string or a desired lower fret, but for the lower fret you finger will have to be on that fret before you pull your finger off or it's just another hammer-on. Also you can use hammer-ons and pull-offs together, and many players do. It's a very efficient way of getting a smooth sound, especially once you know your scales. Problems that may arise: Can't hear a pull-off note; this is a common problem. Try and move you finger so that as you pull it of it sort of twangs the string. a good way to practice this is to try a pull-off without plucking the guitar strings to see if you can hear the note by using only your fretting hand. Once you can you're doing it right. I can't hit a hammer-on properly without muting the strings: the problem is that you're probably not hitting the strings with enough force. Be careful though as too much pressure will increase the pitch of the note unintentionally. It's all about practice though. Theory and equipment you can buy. Practice can't be purchased. I'm having trouble skipping strings using this new technique; that's because you're one hand down. You don't have to rely solely on you're left hand, so you can use your right hand if you need to for string skipping. If you don't want to, then I suggest practicing hammering on with all of your fingers so that you can sound a note on a different string to keep this legato going, and muting if needed can be done by your other fingers. In other words, use you free fingers to hammer-on notes on the string you want to switch to and use your other fingers to mute the desired strings. You'll probably find it's easier to move down strings then up, that's because you can use the length of you fingers to mute when moving down but not when moving up. Don't give up, just try using your right hand to mute if need be if your left hand alone can't cope. Videos of this are on youtube. Search "Joe satriani - modes" to get a feel of what notes sound good and why, and search "Guthrie Govan - Legato" to get an idea of the legato technique. Guthrie is a professional guitar teacher just like Joe Satriani, but Joe is quite busy these days with his solo career and chicken-foot to look after, so Govan gets more time to upload lessons. Another technique that falls into the legato category is two-handed tapping, and right-hand muted legato also fits, but I'll go into them in another lesson. For now, I suggest trying out the tab I put in this upload; it's a good legato lick to start of with if you're new to it. Take care guys, and happy hammering!

6 comments sorted by best / new / date

    krypticguitar87
    okay the whole string skipping thing was confusing to me, just the way you explain it. it's the first time you bring it up and really has very little to do with hammerons and pull offs. and I'm not sure what you mean by "one hand down", it just doesn't make sense. I think this lesson whould have been better if you left the last two paragraphs off, or at least the one that addresses string skipping. you also brought up bending and sliding, but didn't really give examples, you kind of explained sliding, but never showed it in use... this whole thing would have been alot better if you just started up front by saying that you are only teaching hammer ons and pull offs, and left the mentioning of these other techniques out, they just confuse things...
    LeoKisomma
    Yeah, I know What you mean, I'll upload a second part to this lesson that just focuses on hammer-ons and pull-offs. The reason I mentioned string skipping is that unless you're really good it's hard to play more than one string at a time with just you're fretting hand. This lesson was really like an introduction on a smoother style, not a note-by-note lesson. I'll definitely make another part to this lesson soon.
    LeoKisomma
    By the way, "one hand down" means you're not using one hand. In legato, you mostly using you're fretting hand, which means it has more to deal with. If you practice while concentrating on your fretting hand more, chances are you'll make less mistakes.
    Catsbitemyface
    Horrible lesson. You're just telling people to go do something you're not teaching them anything. They're just gonna go find more lessons on how to do the same thing.
    LeoKisomma
    My second lesson on this is currently being reviewed, it's got far less words and far more actual notes. Think of this lesson as an intro, I'm going to be putting up the bare facts very soon. And I'm sorry if it seems a shonky, but I'm trying my best and I do hear you. I don't have any problem with people looking at other lessons because that's how people learn, but I'm definitely going to make this lesson better.
    Wankysweater
    Good lesson man. I understand what you are saying with your Legato explanations. Its difficult putting finger movements into words, and not everyone is going to catch it. Keep it up! Can't wait to see your next lesson.