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Doug's Secret Vault of Guitar Technique Tips
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Left-Hand Technique Tips
- Bar Chords. The Secret ("Little Jennifer's Secret") of How to Play Clear Bar Chords. Many guitarists have trouble with bar chords. This guitar lesson will help.
- More on Bar Chords. How to Learn to Play a Bar Chord in Under 2 Minutes. Plus, watch Doug's video spoof, "Bar Chords--The Ginsu Knives of Guitar Playing." Sorry, subscribers only.
- Chord Changes. The Little-Known Secret of Connecting Your Chord Changes Smoothly. When you're changing guitar chords and it sounds disjointed, use this secret.
- Guide Fingers. More than you ever wanted to know about guide fingers.
- Slurs. ("Hammer-Ons" and "Pull-offs") When you learn how to play the guitar, your slur technique must be top notch. It's an important part of classical guitar technique. This tip contains high-def guitar videos.
- Playing in High Positions. Conquering Guitar Acrophobia: Playing in the High Positions Past the 12th Fret.
- Nasty Habits. Top Ten Nasty Habits of Guitar Technique Part 1: Allowing Left-hand Fingers to Help a Bar Chord. If your bar chord technique is weak, this is what happens.
- Nasty Habits. Ten Top Nasty Habits of Guitar Technique Part 2. Allowing the Helpless Pinky to be Pushed Around.
- String Squeaks and Romeo and Juliet. How to get rid of string squeaks. Sorry, subscribers only.
- Vibrato. Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On: How to Execute Vibrato, Part 1. These are advanced guitar lessons on this essential classical guitar technique. Very few guitar lessons go in depth to this degree. This series on vibrato contains many high-def guitar videos.
- Vibrato. Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On: How to Execute Vibrato, Part 2 (subscribers only).
- Vibrato. Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On: How to Execute Vibrato,Part 3. The stunning conclusion--includes what to do if confronted by a HIPPLF. A must read! (subscribers only)
- Shifting. Hey Bud, Look Where You're Going or, Look Before You Leap. Here is a guitar technique tip that is very simple but has the potential to improve your playing a lot. It is one of those things you think, "Wait, that's too simple. There has to be more to it than that."
- No Girly-Men Guitarists Here. Develop your hand strength by practicing Macho-Monster Bar Chords.
- Stretching exercises. Good for everyone. And they make life easier for the player with short or stiff fingers.
- How to Use Hinge Bars as Guide Fingers.. This technique will enable you to play difficult passages containing consecutive bars securely and accurately with less hand fatigue and less string noise. Subscribers only.
- Specialty Bars Part 1: Hinge Bars.. There are more types of bars to master than just the basic bar. I call them specialty bars. This tip tells you everything you need to know about hinge bars. Subscribers only.
- Specialty Bars Part 2: Cross-Fret Bars.. There are more types of bars to master than just the basic bar. I call them specialty bars. This tip tells you everything you need to know about cross-fret bars. Subscribers only.
- Specialty Bars Part 3: Partial Bars.. There are more types of bars to master than just the basic bar. I call them specialty bars. This tip tells you everything you need to know about partial bars. Learn the valuable lesson I learned from the Rolling Stones about playing partial bars. And find out why I give thanks to the Rolling Stones every time I play Francisco Tárrega's Recuerdos de la Alhambra. Subscribers only.
- The Left-Hand Position. This month it's back to the basics: the left-hand position. This is an all-video tip. It is a nearly one-hour comprehensive guitar lesson on positioning your left hand. I explain the parallel and slanted hand positions, pros and cons of each, when to use them, and how to use and position the left-hand thumb. But this isn't just for beginners. Even if you've been playing a long time I think you will learn something new. Subscribers only. April 2013
- The Spider Exercise. The spider exercise is a valuable exercise for every guitarist in the late-beginner to early-intermediate stage of playing. It is one of the best exercises for developing both the independence and synchronization of movements of the left-hand fingers. For the late-intermediate to advanced guitarist, it is an excellent stretching and warm-up exercise. Read the tip and watch my comprehensive 28-minute video on how to master this great exercise. Subscribers only. May 2014
Right-Hand Technique Tips
- How to Master the Tremolo Part 1 of 4. This is the most complete information you will find anywhere on mastering this wonderful technique. But you really have to read all four parts to learn the technique. Reason enough to subscribe.
- How to Master the Tremolo Part 2 of 4. Subscribers only.
- How to Master the Tremolo Part 3 of 4. Subscribers only.
- How to Master the Tremolo Part 4 of 4. Subscribers only.
Fast scales, Arpeggio Technique
- Arpeggio Exercises. Want to DRAMATICALLY improve your classical guitar right hand technique on arpeggios? Forget the Giuliani 120 studies or the Carlevaro 230—they're for people who enjoy root canals and filling out income tax forms. This is a much better way to improve your basic classical guitar technique.
- Fast guitar scales with "ami". Do you dream of one day being able to play lightning-fast guitar scales like nobody's business? Well,lucky you, your day has come!
- Right-Hand Planting Technique for Arpeggios.
Tone Quality, Fingernail Care
- Fingernails. How to Shape, File, and Polish Your Fingernails. The most complete and detailed information anywhere on determining the correct nail length and shape for you, and how to file, shape, and polish your fingernails.
- Best Artificial Nail System Yet. You say you broke a nail? Can't grow nails? You have bad nails, period? Man up. It isn't a big deal any more.
- How to Produce a Beautiful Tone, Part 1 of 4. How to Produce a Good Tone on the Treble Strings with Rest Stroke. This tip has fantastic video and text explaining seldom-explained details on producing a beautiful rest-stroke tone.
- How to Produce a Beautiful Tone, Part 2 of 4. How to Produce a Good Tone on the Treble Strings with Free Stroke. This tip alone is worth the price of a subscription. Subscribers only.
- How to Produce a Beautiful Tone, Part 3 of 4. How to Produce a Good Tone with the Fingers on the Bass Strings. When you use the fingers on the wound basses is your tone thin? Getting lots of scratchy noise? This tip explains how to get a full tone and get rid of the "scratchies". Subscribers only.
- How to Produce a Beautiful Tone, Part 4 of 4. How to Produce a Good Tone with the Thumb on the Bass Strings. Subscribers only.
- Fingernail Health. Why are my nails so thin? Why do my nails break so easily? How can I get my nails to grow better? My nails keep splitting, what can I do? These are frequently-asked questions by guitarists. I will give you some answers. Subscribers only.
- Right-hand Position. How to Find a Good Right hand Position for the Classical Guitar.
- How to Roll a Chord, Part 1 of 2. How to properly execute this commonly-used but tricky technique.
- How to Roll a Chord, Part 2 of 2. More in-depth detail on how to properly execute this tricky-to-learn technique. Subscribers only.
- The Tambor Percussion Effect. Watch the high def video demos of this multi-faceted classical guitar technique.
- Rest Stroke Follow-through.. Basic classical guitar right hand technique.
- Right-hand String Crosses. Good String Crosses Gone Bad. Setting up your right-hand fingering to produce good string crosses.
- The anchor-finger technique. More than you may want to know about this classical guitar right hand technique.
- Interval and Chord Balance Part 1 of 4. Part 1 describes how to learn to control the relative volume between two notes played simultaneously as an interval. A crucial element of classical guitar technique.
- Interval and Chord Balance Part 2 (of 4). Part 2 describes the guitar technique of how to bring out an individual note of a three or four-note chord. Subscribers only.
- Interval and Chord Balance Part 3 (of 4). Part 3 describes techniques using the thumb to bring out an individual note of an interval or chord. Subscribers only.
- Interval and Chord Balance part 4 (of 4). Part 4 shows how to use the guitar techniques described in Parts 1-3 on Luis Milan's Pavane No. 1. Subscribers only.
- Right-Hand Finger Alternation. To Alternate or Not to Alternate--THAT Is the Question.
- Interval and Chord Balance Update. This video is just like having a private guitar lesson with Doug Niedt. This is an update to the articles preceding. Doug shows a very cool way to learn to control interval and chord balance. Subscribers only.
- How to Choose Right-Hand Fingerings, Part 1 of 3. When we learn a piece, we tend to focus on left-hand fingerings. In fact, many guitarists let the right hand "find its own way" making few conscious decisions about specific fingering. That is a grave error. Bad right-hand fingering can cause dysfunctional tension in the hand, inaccurate playing by the right hand, inaccurate playing in the left hand, loss of speed, and poor tone quality. In this month's technique tip, I will give you some guiding principles to help you choose good right-hand fingerings. Sorry, subscribers only.
- How to Choose Right-Hand Fingerings, Part 2 of 3. In Part 2 of How to Choose Right-Hand Fingerings we look at how several elements determine fingering choices. For instance, playing on the wound bass strings with the fingers vs. the thumb. How voices in a piece determine which fingers to use to play each voice. And two big ones, finger alternation and string crossings. Sorry, subscribers only.
- How to Choose Right-Hand Fingerings, Part 3 of 3. Thumb-Index fingering, using the little finger, playing 5 and 6-note chords, playing intervals on the bass strings, fingering for harmonics, tremolo, fast scales and more! Sorry, subscribers only.
- What Do Yo-Yo Ma, Christina Aguilera, and The Pussycat Dolls have in common?. Performing With Energy, Passion, and Excitement: It's All About Communication.
- Pre-Planting At The Beginning of a Piece. Want to have a boffo beginning? Prep the fingers AND the brain. This one is obvious, but VERY useful.
- Adrenaline and Altered Perception of Tempo. Reading this tip should improve your performances nearly 100%. A major cause of performance difficulties is playing too fast--and not knowing it.
- FOR MEN ONLY. No hairy arms or ankles.
- Using Dynamics in Performance.. How to be sure your dynamics come across in a concert hall or other performing space.
- Where Do I Put The Darn Dynamics? This is a follow-up to the previous tip. Sorry, subscribers only.
- How to Give a Performance Without Making a Complete Fool of Yourself. This tip has a large amount of practical information for the aspiring performer. Sorry, subscribers only.
- How to Stabilize Scordatura Tunings. It can be difficult enough to tune a guitar in standard tuning, especially during a performance. Here is how to handle altered tunings.
- How to Play Loud on the Guitar. Want to add more drama to your playing? Increasing your dynamic range (the range of volume from soft to loud) is the way to do it. Playing the classical guitar quietly is easy. Playing loud without distorting the tone quality is difficult. In this tip, I tell and show you how to do it with text and a dozen riveting videos to help you out. Sorry, subscribers only.
- Memorizing Music. How to Never Ever Forget a Piece of Music Again. Subscribers only.
- Keeping Yourself on the Practicing Track. An inspirational essay to help you get on track with practicing the guitar every day.
- Practice Goals. Practice smart. To get great results out of your classical guitar practicing routine, it must have focus. Here's how to set goals for every practice session.
- Practicing in Altered Rhythms. Learn how Itzhak Perlman's accompanist practiced. Practicing In Altered Rhythms will turn your playing around!
- Practice With Your Eyes Closed. There's a reason people close their eyes when they kiss. Sorry, subscribers only.
- "The Old Kleenex Trick". A very LOW-tech solution to hearing yourself better.
- Talent is NOT the Answer. This month I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that if you follow all my tech tips and do everything I recommend, you can master the guitar. The bad news is that it will take 10,000+ hours of focused, deliberate practice to do it. Face the brutal facts of reality here.
- Sight-reading. How do you get a guitarist to be quiet? Put a piece of sheet music in front of him. Not good. Develop your sight-reading skill. This is a must for every guitarist.
- "I've Practiced That Spot A Hundred Times. But when I play for someone, I still mess it up." Heard yourself say this a few times? This may be the missing element in your classical guitar practicing routine. Sorry, subscribers only.
- How to Use Reflex Bursts to Learn a Fast Scale. Learn to play scales effortlessly at warp speed with this great practice technique. Sorry, subscribers only.
- How to Use Reflex Bursts to Master Fast, Difficult Passages Other Than Scales. Use this wonderful practice technique to master a variety of difficult passages. Sorry, subscribers only.
- Counting Out Loud. This is an element of basic musicianship. It is especially important for the beginning and intermediate guitarist. In fact, this skill will improve your guitar playing more than anything else you can do. Read on. Subscribers only.
- Scales, Part 1 of 2. "The practice of scales enables one to solve a greater number of technical problems in a shorter time than the study of any other exercise." These are the words of Andrés Segovia, the greatest guitarist of the last century. This month's tip is a guide to why you should practice scales, how to practice them, and a list of 19 technical maladies that they can cure. In Part 2, I will demonstrate in a video how to fix those 19 problems. Subscribers only.
- Scales, Part 2 of 2. Last month's tip was about practicing scales. At the end of the article, I cited 19 technical problems one could cure with the careful practice of scales. This month's tip is a video explaining each problem, followed by a short segment demonstrating how to use scale practice to fix it. The video runs 38 minutes, so you might want to watch it in small doses. Subscribers only.
- Practice Routines Part 1 of 2. Practice routines are important. A practice routine is a habit that determines your progress. A good practice routine can make your abilities as a guitarist grow very quickly. A bad routine will result in slow growth and little improvement. Guitarists who practice well, play well. Subscribers only.
- Practice Routines Part 2 of 2. In Part 2 I explain what to do after you have warmed up and practiced your technical exercises. Subscribers only.
- Know What You Are Playing—SING! To play a piece of music well, one of the most important things is to “know how the song goes”. Perhaps the most basic element of knowing “how the song goes” is to know the melody of the piece. Surprisingly, many students do not know the melody of some of the pieces they play! Fortunately, there is an easy cure for this: SING. Subscribers only.
- The Step-Practice Method This month I demonstrate a practice technique that can help you learn almost anything, from sophisticated pieces like the Bach Chaconne to the guitar part of Peter, Paul, and Mary's Puff the Magic Dragon! Some call it the "step-practice" method. It is a simple concept, but effective. Sorry, subscribers only.
- Mark Up Your Music. Marking up or annotating your music—in other words, writing things down, helps keep your practice sessions efficient and your playing consistent. It helps you keep track of everything and all the changes you make as you are learning a piece. I list and explain 15 essential items to mark in your music. Learn more about this obvious and simple but valuable practice tool.
- Marsha to Doug: "You need a bath." Hand Contrast Baths. Having problems with muscle or tendon pain? Try this.
- Put An End To Your Guitar's Lap Dance Now. A great way to keep your classical guitar in a stable playing position.
- Should I Listen to Recordings and Performances of Other Guitarists?
- Metronome Tempo Markings. File under: "Lies My Classical Guitar Teacher Told Me." Or, more charitably, "Things My Classical Guitar Teacher Forgot to Mention--Or Assumed I Knew."
- Connecting A Single Melody Note To A Strummed Or Arpeggiated Chord. Not too many guitarists do this classical guitar technique correctly.
- Doug's Rule of Life #17. This rule can be applied to your entire life.
- Transcriptions and Arrangements. What is essential, is invisible to the eye.
- Harmonics. These high-def videos show you all the ins and outs of playing natural harmonics, right-hand harmonics, and artificial harmonics. A very fun guitar technique.
- Cascading Harmonics for Classical Guitarists. This is probably the best tutorial to found anywhere on cascading harmonics. Thirty musical examples and 14 video clips demonstrate in great detail how to execute this wonderful guitar technique. Sorry, subscribers only.
- How to Read Harmonic Notation. This 28-page guide will help you navigate the murky world of harmonic notation and its contradictions and inconsistencies.
- How to Nail Harmonics Past the 19th Fret. It's really simple.
- How to Tune Your Guitar. The best way to tune your guitar. Plus, lots of facts you never knew. Why you can never be in tune with a piano. Why you should never play in a room with a fan. And more. For the intermediate and advanced guitarist. Sorry, subscribers only.
- How to Buy a Guitar. How do you choose a guitar? What do you look for? This article tells all. Sorry, subscribers only.
- How to Count the Rhythms in Songs Written in Multiple Parts. Most of the music we play has a melody, accompaniment, and bass part. In other words, it is written in multiple voices. I find that many beginners and even intermediate guitarists sometimes have difficulty counting pieces written in multiple parts. This month’s tip explains how multiple voices work and how to figure out how to count them. You may especially be interested in the video towards the end of the tip. I explain how the voices work in Fernando Sor’s very popular Study No. 5, a piece many of you probably play or want to learn. Sorry, subscribers only.
- Pizzicato. This tip is about the pizzicato effect, a very interesting sonority that appears in many classical guitar pieces. Most method books explain it in a paragraph or two. But there is a lot more to playing pizzicato than a paragraph or two. My technique tip includes 12 pages of detailed instructions, several musical examples, and 6 videos including one 30-minute video that shows every aspect (and then some) of playing pizzicato.
You will learn not only the details of the traditional pizzicato, but will also learn why Fernando Sor would never cut it as a heavy-metal guitarist, how to produce the California surf music guitar pizzicato, and even how to imitate the 60's fuzz tone of the opening riff of the Rolling Stones' (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction on the classical guitar. Only here will you find info like that, folks! Sorry, subscribers only.
- Cross-String Ornaments, Part 1 of 3. Many guitarists love cross-string ornaments. They like their clarity and brilliance. Others think they sound like "two skeletons copulating on a tin roof in a thunderstorm." This group much prefers slurred ornaments.
This month I will explain the pros and cons of both and let you hear the differences. And, I will explain the "Fast-Practice Technique" of learning cross-string ornaments. Sorry, subscribers only.
- Cross-String Ornaments, Part 2 of 3. In Part 2 I explain the "Slow-Practice Technique" for learning cross-string ornaments. I also explain the role of the left hand in executing cross-string ornaments. Sorry, subscribers only.
- Cross-String Ornaments, Part 3 of 3. In Part 3, I show examples of how to use cross-string ornaments in real-life repertoire. First, you will learn how to use them in a Baroque piece, the well-known Bourée by J.S. Bach. Then, I will demonstrate how to use them in Romantic piano music, specifically La Maja de Goya by Enrique Granados, and guitar favorite Leyenda (Asturias) by Isaac Albéniz. Sorry, subscribers only.
- How to Play Staccato, Part 1 of 3. Text, musical examples, and 45 minutes (!) of detailed video instruction on left and right-hand staccato. How to play varying degrees of crisp staccato with minimal extraneous noise. Sorry, subscribers only.
- How to Play Staccato, Part 2 of 3. Maintaining clean, short staccato on passages with string crossings can be very tricky to do. I guide you through it step by step. I also cover the technique of executing staccato with the back of the right-hand thumb. Sorry, subscribers only.
- How to Play Staccato, Part 3 of 3. In Part 3 (the conclusion) I cover how to use staccato and legato at the same time in separate parts of a passage to add interest and contrast. I also discuss how to use staccato in contrapuntal and even popular music. To illustrate my points, I demonstrate with videos of passages from Giuliani's Rossiniana, Sor's Grand Solo, Albéniz' Malaguena, and even Mr. Bojangles. Sorry, subscribers only.
- String Damping, Part 1. Have you ever learned a piece and even though you are playing it quite well, noticed that something still doesn’t sound quite right? You are playing all the right notes and the correct rhythms, but it just doesn’t sound clean?
One of the steps of polishing a piece that you might have missed is the application of string damping throughout the piece. It is one of those details that contributes to the overall impression of how you sound.
Part 1 dives in with several musical examples and 8 videos to get you started on this important technique. Sorry, subscribers only.
- String Damping, Part 2. Part 2 describes how to use the back of the thumb for string damping. Also learn why you might have to consume mass quantities of donuts, potato chips, cheeseburgers, Twinkies, Oreos, and cupcakes to improve your back-of-the-thumb string damping technique. Sorry, subscribers only.
- String Damping, Part 3. In Part 3, we learn how to damp going from a higher to lower bass string. We will then be able to play any piece with an absolutely clean, linear bass line.
We also learn to damp melody lines going from a higher to lower string. Hang in there, next month Part 4 will wrap everything up. Sorry, subscribers only.
- String Damping, Part 4. Part 4 is the conclusion of my string damping tips. This part covers right-hand string damping, using string damps to observe written rests, controlling resonance and overtones, thumb damping, using string damping to clarify endings of phrases, and how the style and context of the music affects the use of string damping. All explained in 32 pages with 34 musical examples, and 14 high-def videos demonstrating exactly how to execute all these great techniques. Sorry, subscribers only.
- Do I Play the Repeats in My Music?. A subscriber emailed me a question about playing the written repeats in the music he was playing. He said he had gotten into the habit of not playing the repeats because he thought it sounded boring. So how about it? Why do composers put all those repeats in their music? Do we need to observe them? I think the answer is really interesting.