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Ways to Change Position

Ways to Change Position

Straightforward chord playing often involves jumping from position to position, but more complex solos are usually fingered to take advantage of smoother ways to make the transitions. The simplest is when the move is covered by an open string, like this:

Using an open string

The open string rings over while the hand moves up.

The Guide Finger

Often the left hand finger can act as a guide up the string. This is one of the most common ways and its important to understand.

Heres the sequence. The first finger is used for the C, and stays on the string when the D is played. Then it travels up the string to the fifth fret without losing contact with the string. It doesnt have to press hardjust enough to keep contact and use the string as a guide rail. This movement is often shown with a small minus sign beside the destination finger (see the example above).

The Portamento

The portamento is a nice technique. It can make a position change easier, but it can also add a sound to the movement which, like a slur, adds smoothness to the musical passage. Heres an example:

The first note is played and held for almost its full time value. Then, with the note still sounding, the finger travels up the string to the fifth fret in time to play the E on the second beat. The small note indicates simply that the E is played normally to distinguish it from the slide (see below). The finger maintains a light pressure on the string, and there is a slight scoop sound as it moves up. This linking sound should not be too pronouncedthe real secret is to leave the first finger in place until the last possible moment, and then to travel quickly up.

This is the kind of technique that requires experimentation until a satisfactory sound is achieved.

The Slide (Arrastre)

The slide, also known as the arrastre, is very similar to the portamento, except that the second note is not played by the right hand. The example below shows what happens.

  • The C is played.
  • The note is held for almost its full value. Just before the next beat, the finger slides up the string to arrive at the E exactly on the beat. The D will be heard, but obviously with diminished volume. Like the portamento, it has the effect of adding smoothness or legato to a passage.

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