ARCHIVE | Grace & Fury #1: Add9 ad nauseam

“Grace & Fury” was the name of my teaching studio from about 1994 through 2000. It was also the name of an online guitar magazine I operated. In late 2007 I resurrected the name for a column I was contributing to Heavy Frequency magazine. I had planned for a series of six articles, but before I could complete them the HF staff decided to cease operation (uhh … purely coincidental, I’m sure). For posterity and the sake of archiving I’ll repost them here.

Intro

So just what is this Grace and Fury business, you may be wondering? The concept of the series is to provide guitarists with hand- (and mind-) twisting musical miniatures built around advanced guitar techniques. Each piece will be purposely peculiar to play but still sound cool in a way that many “exercises” do not. Several things could occur as you work through the passages. You may: a) curse my very name b) develop previously unfocused upon skills c) introduce to the hands new gestures or physical habits. So, aside from inherent gains in technique, you will hopefully find inspiration in the sound and feel of the unfamiliar shapes.

Principles

The title of this installment refers to the type of arpeggios being spelled out. Without venturing too far into the shadowy world of music theory, intervals describe how the seven notes of the major scale (which are numbered one through seven) relate to one another. A major triad consists of the root, 3rd, and 5th (first, third, and fifth notes) of the scale (G, B, D in the key of G major). It is when you begin to add more notes (the 7th, the 9th and so on), that things get a bit hairy and chord names change. Simply put, however, an “add 9” chord, is the triad plus the 9 th.The general structure here is root, 5th, 9th, 3rd (G, D, A, B in the key of G major) with diatonic variations (altered intervals – another discussion) occurring as the form moves through the key and up the neck.

Fretting

These voicings require some fairly wide stretches. In order to reach all the notes, it is best to position your hand in such a way that the wrist is dropped and the back of the hand is essentially on the same plane as the fretboard. This will put your thumb in the middle of the neck; try to keep it in line with your index finger.

Note the fingerings. While the form changes by degrees on the E, A, and D strings, the index finger always crosses over to catch the note on the G. The point here is not to hold down the notes as a chord which would ring. Instead, fret each note as it is being played, essentially rolling through the shape. Keep your hand and fingers loose; tightening up will sabotage the desired flowing motion as it pertains to each shape and to lateral movement between them.

Picking

There are several ways to approach picking this piece but I’ve chosen to focus on economy of motion through directional or sweep picking. In order to be clean and quick, it is crucial not to waste energy while attempting to play in this fashion. When picking three or four (or more) adjacent strings one after another, consider the process one continual motion, not a series of tiny movements. This will ensure a smooth flow consistent with the fretting hand and an evenness of sound. Also, maintain a consistent pick angle in both directions. This is very different from a strumming motion where variations of attack may be desirable.

Don’t let the 6/8 time signature make you queasy, by the way. If you’re not big on reading rhythms, just think of a downbeat on counts one and four and play three notes per beat, ala triplets. It is paramount to focus on playing with rhythmic accuracy, otherwise your sweeps will turn to mush.

Conclusion

Approach add 9 ad nauseam as you would anything new. Start slowly and pay attention to details. Spend some time with it and you well see results you might not expect (not including tendonitis). Most of all, have fun and don’t get frustrated. Y’know, not with me anyway.

add9 ad nauseam - 2007 Van Horn

add9 ad nauseam – 2007 Van Horn

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One Response to “ARCHIVE | Grace & Fury #1: Add9 ad nauseam”

  1. Troy… you ‘d’man…

    …I met with Grace & Fury long before most here did… …and they’re not a ‘privileged few’… …but, a privileged many…

    …rock on… man

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