Playing Well With Others – Part 3

Be Nice to Your Fellow Musician

A quick overview as we bring this session of “Playing Well With Others” to a close. We looked at cultivating the musical conversations with our instruments by being a good listener, working with other guitarists by using chord inversions and capos along with the roles of rhythm and lead players, and finding your place in the mix with your tone. These are all key factors in being a great musician and someone that others can respect as a player.

I also mentioned several bands that have two or more guitar players and how they work together, I’d also suggest listening to songwriters that have put things aside to record and perform together that have made some incredible music like, “The Highway Man” featuring Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson, and the British/American super group the “Traveling Wilburys”, consisting of Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, and George Harrison, all great guitar players and songwriters in their own right. There is one more artist I recommend listening to, Mr. Guitar himself, the late great Chet Atkins. Chet gave us several guitar duo albums with Jerry Reed, Merle Travis, Lenny Breau, Les Paul, and Mark Knopfler. That’s some good picking! Chet had a heart of gold and helped many of his fellow musicians over his career. The thing with all of these musicians is that they all know their place in the song arrangements and took turns just like during open mics, jam sessions, and songwriter’s nights. Everybody gets to play their part.

Now let’s look at a technique known as “Harp Harmonics”. Chet Atkins was one of the first guitar players to popularize this technique. Also known as artificial or false harmonics, these are not natural harmonics that are made by lightly dampening the strings over the 5th, 7th and 12th frets as you play them. To play artificial harmonics first fret a note (as in the “Harp Harmonics” example), at the 5th fret on the “G” string, lightly touch the string with your index finger 12 frets above the fretted note (one octave above) that is at the 17th fret. Place your thumb behind your index finger and pick the string with your thumb to produce the sound of the harmonic, then pick pluck the “E” string 7th fret with your ring finger to produce the natural sounding note. Then move to the “D” string, play the harmonic the same way followed by the “B” string 5th plucked with you ring finger and repeat, Pretty cool.


Coda: We all have heard horror stories (I have a few of my own), of how bands and relationships have fallen apart for one reason or another. There are times when a group of musicians sound great together and there is a certain chemistry that’s happening in the music, but once the music stops it’s another story. Ego’s, personality’s, and substance abuse are just a few things that have ruined many groups and friendships. “People hear more clearly the tone in which you speak than the words you actually say” – Zoro. How we speak to one another is more important than the tone of our instruments. You may not always agree with someone but remember, Jesus said “Love your neighbor as yourself”- Mark 12:31.

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