HARMONICS “Take 5” (download)



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This Harmonics edition of Take 5 from Muriel Anderson is an accelerated curriculum designed to help get your harmonics technique up and running quickly without having to struggle through a lot of tedious exercises and boring etudes. Work through the course and you’ll have a basic but solid harmonics technique under your belt and five practice pieces featuring harmonics to incorporate in your repertoire!

”Innovative use of harmonics can add sparkle and interest to your music, and besides, they’re just plain cool. Players like Chet Atkins, Lenny Breau, and Tommy Emmanuel all make extensive use of harmonics in their playing, and I’ll show you quite a few of those techniques in this course. I cover natural harmonics, artificial harmonics, harp harmonics that I learned from Chet Atkins, and a couple of techniques of my own–palm harmonics and extended harp-harmonics. Once you get the concept and the physics of the technique, the creative possibilities are endless!”

You’ll start the course with a quick primer during which Muriel will explain what harmonics are, what’s really happening with the vibrating string, and then she’ll show you a variety of unique harmonic techniques.

”First, I’ll explain a little bit of the physics of harmonics to help you understand the basic concept. Then, I’ll cover several kinds of techniques for harmonics: Natural harmonics, Harp harmonics (as learned from Chet Atkins/Lenny Breau), Palm harmonics, and Backward Raked harmonics. I also show you many ways you can finger and pluck harmonics and the advantages of each – there are a lot of ways to be efficient and creative to get an effect you want in your music.”

Muriel will then guide you through 5 Harmonic studies, progressing from basic to more advanced applications of the technique.

Level 1: Fingerstyle Harmonics
”This etude is going to use all natural harmonics. It’ll be in 3/4 time using an E minor chord and a B minor chord all done in harmonics. This simple riff will help you get your natural harmonics technique together. All the harmonics are either on the 12th fret or on the 7th fret, and I show you a few different fingering options. You can use all or parts of this riff in many different songs or in your own music. Be creative with it!”

Level 2: Fingerstyle Harmonics
”This is a Finnish folk song called “Mansikka” (“Strawberry”) that’s sung as a round. All of the notes can be played as natural harmonics except for one note that we’ll play as a fretted note. You almost can’t tell that it’s not a harmonic because you’re hearing the other harmonics ringing over it. It’s a little trick to get regular notes to sound like harmonics. This tune starts out easily enough, but there are a couple of tricky moves in there and it takes a little bit of work to get everything in the right order. Don’t worry – I break it all down for you!”

Level 3: Fingerstyle Harmonics
”This etude has the melody on the top with the index touching the harmonics while the ring finger plucks, leaving your thumb free to play bass notes. This etude introduces the use of artificial harmonics. The trick is to follow the shape of the chords with your right hand 12 frets above what you’re fingering with the left hand and to get the coordination of plucking with both your thumb and ring finger of the right hand while the index finger touches the harmonics.”

Level 4: Fingerstyle Harmonics
”In this etude, we’re going to use the Lenny Breau harp harmonic technique both in one direction and also doubling back in the other direction. We use both natural and artificial harmonics. This is a great way to practice that Lenny Breau technique. Get your hand in a position where it’s just hanging over the strings so you can easily reach the strings and harmonics you need. Working up the speed is not that difficult if you stay relaxed and take it slow at first to really get the mechanics of what you’re doing.”

Level 5: Fingerstyle Harmonics
”I’m going to really challenge you with this last etude. It’s short but packed with techniques that you can use in many different creative ways. I’m going to use the Lenny Breau technique together with a hammer on. This is the riff from the very end of “Mr. Bojangles” that I learned from Chet Atkins, and I also use my palm harmonics, both natural and fretted ones where you have to swoop your hand in the shape of the chord. Here I’ll go into the details of how to hold your palm and fingers to get the palm harmonics. The important thing is where you place your palm, exactly on the node, to get the harmonics. It doesn’t matter exactly where your index finger is located, strumming down. You might have to change the position of your right arm or of your guitar to grab these. For the fretted chords, you want your palm to approximate the shape of the chord as you swoop across, but don’t stress too much over it – it’s pretty forgiving.”

Muriel will explain and demonstrate all of the key concepts and approaches along the way.  You’ll get standard notation and tabs for all of the Performance Studies. In addition, you’ll be able to loop or slow down any of the videos so that you can work with the lessons at your own pace.

Grab your guitar and let’s let’s play some harmonics with Muriel Anderson!
TrueFire’s Take 5 courses feature an accelerated curricular approach to help students get up to speed quickly on a particular style or technique. Each Take 5 course starts with a primer on the particular style or technique and then guides the student through 5 performance studies progressing from basic applications to more sophisticated approaches.