Addicted to the Six Strings

My progress of mastering acoustic guitar songs

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What Is Fingerstyle Guitar?

Posted by Isaac on May 18, 2009

“Fingerstyle” refers to using each of the right hand fingers independently in order to play the multiple parts of a musical arrangement that would normally be played by several band members. Bass, harmonic accompaniment, melody, and percussion can all be played simultaneously when playing Fingerstyle. Fingerstyle guitar songs are often composed and played using steel string acoustic guitar.

Acoustic guitarClassical Guitar

There are three main categories of guitar: classical guitar, acoustic guitar and electric guitar. Classical guitar ( also known as nylon string guitar, as shown in picture on the right side) is evolved from lute, and it is used to play classical pieces, which is the rudiment of fingerstyle pieces. Electric guitar is widely used in most genres of music, mainly rock n roll and metal music, as well as pop and jazz music. It is frequently used to play solos in songs and also rhythm parts.

In contrast, acoustic guitar is limited to rhythm playing in the past; It can only prove it’s existence in a band or song by strumming or when it is played alone, as it has small volume and it’s tone doesn’t stand out like electric guitar or classical guitar.

Electric GuitarHowever, as time passes, more and more musicians realized that acoustic guitar has the potential to be used to play solo pieces, just like classical guitar, and surprisingly, some songs sound even better using an acoustic guitar. More musicians compose their pieces using acoustic guitar, and hence, the traditional fingerstyle is born. It’s playing style is similar to classical guitar, except the songs are played using acoustic guitar. The traditional fingerstyle guitarist includes Masaaki Kishibe, Isato Nakagawa and Chet Atkins.

Slowly, acoustic guitarists started to explore the possibilities of an acoustic guitar. More and more advanced techniques are brought in, such as tapping (originally an electric guitar’s technique, which is a technique of ringing a note by pressing on the string with right hand), popping, slapping (bass guitar’s techniques, produce groovy and funky sounds), slap harmonics, etc. They’ve also discovered that there is drum’s soul inside an acoustic guitar! Just like a drum set, different parts of guitar can be hit to produce sounds like snare drum, bass drum and hi-hat. Therefore, fingerstyle evolves to a higher level, which is called contemporary fingerstyle. Contemporary fingerstyle requires higher level of techniques, mainly right hand techniques. Some of the famous guitarists include Michael Hedges, Kotaro Oshio, Andy McKee, Tommy Emmanuel and Preston Reed.


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A Guitar Freak’s Ultimate Goal ^^

Posted by Isaac on May 13, 2009

I started to play guitar when I was sixteen, I first picked up guitar when my roommate brought one to the hostel. After learning a few chords, I was motivated to learn more and search for more information, music sheets, technique and even interview of my favourite guitar heroes by internet and books.

One day, when I was surfing forums, I came across a name, Kotaro Oshio, a Japanese artist who plays guitar solos (or fingerstyle) with guitar. I was shocked when he performed his pieces. He managed to include the melody, harmony, bass line, and even percussion in his songs, just with an acoustic guitar! Since then I learn more about fingerstyle and knew about more and more talented guitarists, such as Andy McKee, Tommy Emmanuel, Masaaki Kishibe, Isato Nakagawa and Preston Reed.

Example of fingerstyle song, Classical Gas played by Tommy Emmanuel

Then, I started to learn their songs, learn the complex left and right hands’ techniques and explore the possibility of an acoustic guitar. I’ve mastered some of their songs that have difficulty level of easy to medium. However I am not satisfied. I want to learn those soulful, exciting songs with high difficulty with a lot of skills, such as attack mute, tapping, and playing melody and beats simultaneously.

Therefore I set my goal, which is to master the following fingerstyle and classical songs below: (Not in order)

1. Hard Rain

2. Angel

3. Ebon Coast

4. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You

5. Going Home

6. Bo Go Ship Da

7. Cavatina

I have included Cavatina, a classical song which is the theme of the famous movie The Deer Hunter, Bo Go Ship Da, the theme song of Korean Drama, Stairway To Heaven and also Going Home, soundtrack from the Japanese animation Bleach. These songs have to be played using classical guitar. As joining NYP’s Guitar Club requires one, I have bought a classical guitar recently. Therefore I hope to learn more classical techniques and songs with the newly bought classical guitar.

As the songs require high level of techniques, I will schedule myself to practice every day, but not exceeding 2 hours a day, which is four 30 minutes sessions a day. This is because the longer the practice session, it will be harder to concentrate, especially when I can’t master a certain technique, get bored, or frustrated. I will break down a song into several parts, and practice only one part of it every session. I will play the part slowly to know the tricky part and think of way to overcome the problem. It will be easier for me to spot my mistakes and I can play cleaner.

When I am able to play each part perfectly, then I will join those parts together, which I will play the song right from the start to the end. I will pay more attention to the place where two parts join together as these places usually are easy to forget.

When I am able to play the whole song, I will record myself to spot those mistakes which are not detectable when I am playing, for examples, lack of emotion and bad postures. Moreover, by recording myself, I will be able to put myself into a on-stage-performance like environment, which I will be able to train myself to be more confidence and be able to play in front of crowd with minimal nervousness.

If there is any part that I found that is too difficult to me, I will put the part aside and practice on another song first. After some time I will get back to the difficult song. This is to avoid myself from being frustrated, impatient and then abandon it.

I hope I can achieve this goal before Week 13, which is about 3 months from now. I am sure that I will be able to master the song if I am practicing according to my schedule. I am sure that my guitar playing will improve when I am able to play those songs fluently. Moreover I will have more songs to play for self enjoyment and satisfactory. I will be able to entertain my friends and family with the songs I’ve learnt.

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