Monday, October 16, 2006

harmonics pt. 3: cataloging and improvisation

This is, for reasons I will outline below, going to be the final post on playing ‘natural’ (open-string) harmonics for a little while.
Before we develop a systematic technique (a mechanical-physiological interface) for playing harmonics, I recommend that you start improvising with what we’ve already covered. As I sometimes tell my students: You’re a newcomer only once—enjoy it.
In fact, go away and improvise on these harmonics right now.

Now what? Cataloging these harmonics. Itemize and group these, for example, by interval. Find the harmonics that make perfect fifths (they may not only be found in the obvious places). Find the fourths, thirds, seconds, unisons, octaves, etc. Now go away and improvise on one set of intervals (e.g. do an improvisation primarily using major thirds in harmonics).

Happy with those? Try improvisations using groups of two or more of these intervals (e.g. improvise on major thirds and minor sevenths).

Now try categorizing these harmonics by some other characteristic (e.g. tone).

Have fun, and take you’re time. You will do a lot of your searching and finding at this stage. Enjoy this process of discovery; you’ll only get this buzz once.

I’m taking a break from harmonics in order to get into a situation where we can systematically develop techniques for playing them: The mechanical-physiological aspect that, as I pointed out, “traditional guitar pedagogy neglects, and for which traditional notions of technique are ineffectual.” In order to begin developing this, I want to reexamine certain dogmas and rudiments of guitar technique. Specifically, I will make a detour into position playing.

Have fun and keep improvising.

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