Tips, Techniques, Examples about my favorite musical instrument, the Twelve-String Guitar.

If you play guitar check out Playing Technique, or Strings / Setup. There are also some interesting posts about guitars at, you guessed it, Guitars.

If you want to spread your musical talents around, you will find some good info at Recording.

Marketing - meh - I'm probably the world's best bad example. Although you could find funny stuff there.

I've made some music videos through the years, and you can find them and other interesting music at Music I Like, Music I Play.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Creating Tunes

How do we come up with new tunes? While chasing down the wily whomp, I spent too much time hammering the open 5th course. I didn't spend all my day playing one note, of course. I checked in on the group discussion on different types of tremolo, which seems to be an art all its own. Tremolo is the only way on a nylon string guitar to produce melodies with notes that sing over many beats. The melody is in the high notes, formed by repeating the same note rapidly. Two, three, or sometimes even all four fingers alternate while the thumb articulates a bass accompaniment. The different finger picking styles are indicated by using letters for each of the right hand fingers: p (or t) for thumb, i for index, m for middle, and a for annular (ring). 'x' is often used on those rare pinkie occasions. The most common pattern seems to be pami, although some people swear by (or at) piami.

Steel strings sustain a lot more than a classical guitar's strings.
However the effect of a tremolo on a steel string guitar can be transfixing. Chet Atkins and Doyle Dykes are two notable guitarists who I've seen and heard using this. A twelve-string guitarist however has a harder hill to climb. I think the double courses could sound interesting, but the space between the courses is small - classical guitars have about 11 mm. between the 1st and 2nd string in the playing area over the sound hole, but 12-strings have only about 6 or 7 mm. So you have to be twice as precise in a technique that needs a lot of precision. Another difficulty is octave strings are backwards and won't ring as readily when plucking from the finger side rather than the thumb side.

The piece that I'm working on, first measures above (which will surely be renamed), tries to overcome some of these problems. The opening tremolo is a 'baby' version, using just the stronger two fingers. This allows a little of a rest type stroke, pushing into the course, and the octave comes out a little better.

You can hear this fragment (about half a meg) here. I'm moving a little further on it, employing a standard pami tremolo later in the piece. I can only do this on the first course, and even then my fingers are up along the fret, slapping against them. Maybe us 12-stringers need to develop our own techniques, or maybe I'm totally off-base and one of you twelve-string readers can post Recuerdos del Alhambra on a 12-string.

I'll keep you posted on the progress of Trembin' Whomp.

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