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pix Killer Ways To Totally Change The Way You Play Acoustic Guitar, Part 1 pix
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pix pix by Simon Candy  

Page added in December, 2014

About The Author

Specializing in online acoustic guitar lessons, Simon Candy is based in Melbourne, Australia where he runs his own guitar school.

He has taught guitar for over 20 years to people of all ages and levels covering a variety of styles including blues, rock, jazz, and fingerpicking.

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Send comments or questions to Simon Candy.

© Simon Candy

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  With so many cool, innovative, and unique ways that you can play an acoustic guitar these days, there really is no reason to feel uninspired, unmotivated, or frustrated with your guitar playing. If you feel like you are at a dead end, playing the same old stuff, and making little to no progress at all, then you just need a push in the right direction and that is what this article is all about.

The last thing you want as an up and coming guitarist is to hit a plateau with your playing, and worse yet, accept it. This would be like saying:

"My playing is fine how it is. I really don't need to improve any more. I'm happy to remain at the exact same level with my guitar playing for the rest of my life."

Hopefully that statement above sounds ridiculous to you. Of course you want to improve with your guitar playing both technically and creatively, and it's the creative side that we are going to focus on in today's article.

In part 1 I will show you two cool and unique ways you can approach your acoustic guitar playing that will be certain to get your creative juices flowing. Three more possibilities will follow shortly in part 2.

If there is one thing I have learned over the years of playing guitar, it is to be open to all styles of music and to continually discover and study different guitar players and musicians off all kinds. This particularly helped me at times when I was feeling bored, stale, or frustrated with my own guitar playing. I'd be playing the same old stuff, the same old way, all the time. Discovering new ways to do things helped my motivation, inspiration, and creativity no end.

Of course I'm not saying to forget everything you have ever learned on guitar and begin again but rather, integrate some elements and techniques of other styles into what you can already do on your acoustic guitar. This will reignite your creativity big time not to mention your motivation!

I see my own acoustic guitar playing as something that continually evolves and is why I am always looking to include elements and techniques of other styles into it. It's very exciting to find new approaches to your playing that resonate with you. Even though I have been playing for 25 years now, the guitar can still feel like a totally new interment to me, in a good way, when I do this.

To continue along the path of simply playing the same old stuff all the time on your guitar will most likely lead to you quitting your playing altogether. If you are reading this article then surely that is the last thing you want.

The key is to stay engaged with your instrument at all times. As I said before, view your guitar playing as something that is continually evolving, improving everyday in small ways, and your creativity and motivation will go through the roof!

Before we move on let me make one thing clear, I'm not meaning at all to go and surf the net for new tabs, songs, or riffs to play on your guitar. This kind of thing is ok to do, but will only satisfy you in the short term and have little to no effect on your creativity and motivation in the long run. Rather, I want to provide you with ways you can approach your acoustic guitar playing that will have a long lasting effect in regard to your creativity, motivation, and inspiration.

I could write many many pages on any one of the approaches to playing your acoustic guitar presented in both parts 1 and 2 of this article and is why we are just barely touching the surface with them here. I want to introduce you to them, if you aren't aware of them already, and encourage you to explore further the ones you like.

So let's get into some creative ways to approach playing your acoustic guitar that will see your motivation and creativity reignite big time, for good!

Open And Alternate Tunings For Your Guitar Playing

There are many different ways you can tune your guitar besides the standard tuning that we all use. These are known as open and altered tunings and will make your guitar feel totally new to you again, in a good way of course.

Your guitar won't feel like it did the first time you ever picked it up, which is good, however open and alternate tunings will give you a new approach to playing your acoustic guitar. They can make what would otherwise be very difficult and awkward for you to play in a standard tuning, very possible and easy to do.

Below are some common tunings for your acoustic guitar playing. It's a good idea to spend a little time in one tuning first before moving to another. This way you get a chance to get use to the characteristics and logistics of that tuning. Swapping back and forth too frequently will probably confuse you if you are new to the tuning.

DADGAD Tuning (D A D G A D): Strumming your open strings together in this tuning produces a Dsus4 sound and is conducive to open and moveable chord shapes on your guitar. It is often referred to as "DADGAD".

Here is a taste of this tuning using open type chords moving down the neck of the guitar:

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Notice the great sound you get here with a simple chord shape, broken up into single notes.

Here is another example of DADGAD tuning with the chords strummed this time for a different effect:

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Csus2 Tuning (C G C G C D): This is a very symmetrical tuning that allows you to play in different octaves across the strings without having to really change position. Strumming the open strings of your guitar gives you a Csus2 sound with this tuning.

Here are a couple of runs to highlight the symmetry of Csus2 tuning:

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Open G Tuning (D G D G B D): This tuning should still be a little familiar to you as the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th strings are unchanged. It is often used in a lot of slide playing, amongst other things, and sounds a G chord when you strum the open strings together, hence it's name.

Here are some slide licks for you to check out using this open G tuning:

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Notice that the strings that I target in the licks above are those that have remained unchanged from our standard tuning. You can certainly use the other strings with your slide too, but even without them, it still sounds different due to the ringing through that you hear from these strings (1st, 5th, and 6th) when using the slide. Play these licks with and without open G tuning to hear what I mean.

Things You Can Do Right Now To Start Creating With Open And Alternate Tunings

  • Become familiar with an alternate or open tuning by taking something you already know how to play in a standard tuning and learn how to play it in another tuning such as open G or DADGAD.

  • Write an original composition in something other than standard tuning.

  • Learn some existing songs that are in open and alternate tunings. This is a great way to introduce yourself to a new tuning and gain some cool insights into how to use it etc.

The Wonderful World Of Harmonics

Harmonics can open up a whole new world of sound when it comes to your acoustic guitar playing. Harmonics alone will see your creativity sky rocket! They sound absolutely amazing when you truly experiment and tap into their potential. Check out some existing players who use these a lot and you'll hear what I mean.

Let's have a look at the octave harmonic. There are others, but this is the most useful one for creating with on your acoustic guitar. To sound an octave harmonic you simply touch the string, with your picking hand as it is vibrating, exactly 12 frets above from where you are sounding the note. Be sure to touch the string directly above the fret, not in between as you do with regular notes.

Check the picture below to see exactly how to go about this.

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As my index finger touches the string, you can see my thumb plucking it from behind to sound the harmonic.

Here is an example to get you started with this technique. I am sounding the open string harmonic so you need to place your index finger directly over the 12th fret (open string + 12 frets = 12th fret):

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The p above the tab stave indicates your thumb and the i is for your index finger. These are what contribute to the sounding of the harmonics. The "12" in the brackets shows that you are playing directly above the 12th fret to sound the open string harmonic.

You are basically spelling out an Em chord in the example above, so it will sound good over an Em chord or in the key of Em itself.

No need to restrict yourself to open string harmonics though. In the example below I am sounding out a G major scale using the fretted harmonic approach. Remember to maintain a distance of 12 frets between the notes you play and the where you sound the harmonic with your index finger.

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With harmonics, it's as much about the actual technique of sounding them as it is about visualising what your fretting hand is playing, 12 frets higher.

Things You Can Do Right Now To Start Creating With Harmonics On Your Guitar

  • Get a backing track in the key of G major, there are plenty on youtube, and sound out your G major scale above with harmonics. You will instantly have a cool and unique sound to start creating with.

  • Do above, only change key.

  • Learn a melody in the key of G major, or use one you already know, and play it with your harmonics from the scale above. This is a great way to get this technique into your playing.
Harmonics are a whole new sound to start exploring and creating with on your acoustic guitar. They will increase your creativity levels dramatically as you play around with them and integrate them into the things you can already do.

We have barely touched the surface on what you can do with harmonics on your guitar in today's article. If you are keen to explore them further, you will discover just how amazing they really are and what they can do for your playing.

Start Creating Now On Your Guitar

The key is to jump in and start experimenting and creating with both open/alternate tunings and harmonics now with your playing. While it can be challenging at first, there are many victories to be had along the way to mastering these concepts.

Do you know all there is to know about using a capo on your acoustic guitar? I'm willing to bet that you don't. The capo is an essential stylistic tool for your guitar playing and will really enhance your creativity. Check out this free guide and audio download and discover the best ways to use a capo on your acoustic guitar.

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pix Additional Columns by Simon Candy pix
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  • And 11 more in the Guest Columnists series, view the index
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