View Full Version : Starting to play electric guitar again from scratch...

08-23-2002, 03:46 PM
Having been a casual guitar player for about 2 years, i've decided to get serious about it again.

For the past 6-7 months i've totally neglected my electric guitar in favour of fingerstyle (mostly classical) on my acoustic which is what I usually play.

I wiped the dust off my epi sg and thought i'd continue where I left off. I was pretty good considering I only put a few months work into it before changing to acoustic. I could play a couple of easy zeppelin and sabbath tunes but nothing too complicated.

Just tried to pull a few of them off and it's sloppy as hell! I've been recently looking at jamey's www.guitarprinciples.com website (just ordered the book) and im impressed by his articles.

Reading the one on vibrato and bending technique http://www.guitarprinciples.com/Guitar_Technique/Bending.htm i've had it all wrong all along! The guitar teacher I used to go too tought me the totally wrong technique. Since the i've been bending the strings using my finger muscles instead of my forearm and have adopted the "finger vibrato" technique which makes bending with vibrato impossible!

I've decided to start leading/solo work from scratch and take a fresh start. It'll take me a while to get out of the bad habits but it will happen in time :) Have any of you guys got any good advice to get me started, a few bluesy licks would be nice.

P.S Looking at the vibrato guide he recommends you wrap your thumb over the top of the neck for extra support. I've always been strict about my thumb position and always kept it in the middle of the neck. Although the it does seem easier to bend with the way he says, Im finding it difficult to finger chords and scales with my thumb like this. Should I always keep my thumb in this position and just practice until i find it comfortable or stick to what im used to? It seems awkward moving my thumb over the neck everytime I want to bend or add vibrato...

08-23-2002, 06:27 PM
I always read that placing your thumb on top of the neck instead of leaving it on the back of the neck was wrong, wrong, wrong. A bad habit you weren't supposed to pick up. Well, I don't know of ever seeing a rock guitarist that didn't do that. I do it quite often and do it without really realizing it.

I say do what's comfortable and works for you. EVH does quite a few things that are considered unorthodox in his playing but I don't believe you're going to find too many people that will tell you he sucks just because his tremolo picking is a little different.

And each style (classical, rock, blues, etc.) will require different things from the player.

Bongo Boy
08-23-2002, 06:32 PM
When I recall what Jamey wrote, I think he actually suggests "there is not one best way" for the left hand. Take a look again at that same article and maybe one or two others--it may be in the one that focuses on body awareness and attaining speed, etc. Seems he suggests the thumbs-up approach for specific applications, and thumb-behind-neck for others. Did you see such comments?

08-23-2002, 07:57 PM
no the vibrato one is the only article ive properly read. The guy at cyberfet.com says a similar thing. That for pentantonic based pieces you should raise your thumb as it makes it easier to bend is generally more comfortable for that style of playing. But for scales and barre chords you should keep the thumb in the middle to allow your fingers to stretch more.

08-23-2002, 09:55 PM
I too have realised that my thumb positioning doesn't let me vibrato bends too well. I mean, I can do it, but it sounds baaad.

My thumb is always around the middle, or just peeking over the top, but never wrapped over completely.

Bongo Boy
08-23-2002, 10:23 PM
This may be drifting off-topic, but Jamey surprised with me the importance he gives to the vibrato itself--not just the technique. I recall he seemed to place it above playing scales, for example.

I was surprised because, as a total beginner, I would have thought it to be "an uncecessary flair you can learn much later after getting the basics".

Is this one of those things guitarists do with great regularity (and subtlety), like so many vocalists? Eh?

08-23-2002, 11:01 PM

I think vibrato is important for a few reasons.

1. Sounds nice :D

2. Most wind instrumentalists strive to achieve a good, humanlikey vibrato. If you;ve heard panpipes played well, or some Oriental wind instruments, you'll know that the degree of accuracy in mimicing voice vibrato, is astonishing.

Perhaps its the same with guitar, but to a lesser degree than with other stringed instruments. Violin and viola for instance, have books devoted to vibrato. Its encessary for sustain and good intonation. However, the guitar is fretted sustain is easier to achieve, and not as linked to the fingers.

That said, there's nothing worse than no vibrato, or an underdeveloped vibrato. I saw an article written for violinsists, on how to tap into a natural vibrato. I'll post a link if anyone wants.

Many players have a signature vibrato, and nearly all good players have a great vibrato. It just adds flair, but is also a fundamentally important tool of expression. Often a guitarist has an exageratted vibrato, so that's not too subtle, as you asked. Answering the regularity question, its used a lot.

But too much can sound odd.


What a ramble.

08-23-2002, 11:11 PM
Hi guys...

I agree to what Nick said. Lemme add a few things.

- To me, vibrato is one of the most essential things about playing. See, it really is one of the most elemental things to separate one player from another. Itīs part of the unique voice of a player.
You can often recognize players from their distinct vibrato. Steve Morse i.e often uses a very wide, fast vibrato, which is some kind of his signature ( of course he is not the only one who uses that kinda vibrato ).
Vibrato can be practised, but I think it develops most naturally if you give it time... it should develop if you play a lot.

- Just like a singerīs vibrato, a guitar vibrato very much shapes a note and can make the same four notes sound all different. Meaning that, one of the reasons why a lot of beginners think "Man, when I play this melody, the sound of it sucks", it often is caused because they donīt use vibrato at all, or because they didnīt develop "their" vibrato yet.
Give the same guitar, plugged into the same amp, to a beginner and then to someone who has been playing for 30 years. Let them both play the same melody. The reason why the "pros" version of the melody will most likely sound better is not necessarily his attack or anything... itīs his phrasing and his vibrato.

- A lot of people who start out getting into vibrato tend to overuse it. They pick a note and immediately shake it violently, which does usually not sound very nice. After a while, you might start to approach it like very good singers... you pick the note, let it sustain for a little while, then you slowly add vibrato... very much like a voice.

- Vibrato ripes with age, meaning that you longer you play, the more it becomes part of your playing, an integral part. Often, you donīt even have to think about it anymore.

-There are many different kinds of vibrato... slow and narrow, fast and wide, "circle vibrato"... try to experiment with all of them, see what you like, donīt limit yourself to just one kind of vibrato.
Steve Morse might use the wide and fast one quite a bit, but he also uses lots of different ones... slow, narrow etc.

Talk about rambling, huh ?

Bongo Boy
08-23-2002, 11:40 PM
Those were both extremely nice ramblings...thanks guys.

08-23-2002, 11:50 PM
cheers for the advice, because I've only used finger vibrato it gives very little control and i could never add it to a bend. I was always very fast and quite narrow, it suited some styles but for others it was too snappy.

I've spent the last few hours just running through the minor pentantic scale getting used to putting my thumb over the neck. Im getting the hang of it now, but it's still a bit awkard fretting the higher strings. As for vibrato, im finally getting the technique right, it's slow as hell but I think i've got the right idea. I etch my thumb over the neck and push the string up to it using my forearm. My index and middle fingers are ok with staying still but my ring finger keeps trying to push up the string itself instead of staying rigid... All in good time though :)

Is there anyway I can use my metronome to help train my vibrato? I was thinking maybe put in on a low speed (40 - 60) and gently bend up and down for every beat. Gradually overtime I could increase the pace... What do you think?

08-24-2002, 12:55 AM

Yes, you should definitely use a metronome when working on your vibrato. Vibrato which is in time sounds way more musical than one that is not in time, IMHO.
Experiment... do a vibrato on half notes, quarter notes, faster...

About the thumb-thing... classical guitarists most likely would never wrap their thumb around the neck... they do have it behind the neck, parallel to it. Which is helpful to stretch, so you should do that when playing bar chords and runs that require stretches etc.

For electric guitar ( and acoustic guitar too ), wrapping the thumb around it, putting it on top of the neck is a common thing to do. Not only to apply more pressure for bendings etc... you can also fret bass notes with your thumb while using the other fingers to play melodies on the upper strings.
Jimi Hendrix often played bass notes with his thumb... heck, he even barred the strings with it ( he had LOONG fingers ! ).
Anyway, it īs up to you... try the different possibilities and figure out what works for you. Donīt just settle with one way, you can i.e. use the thumb when bending, or leaving it behind the neck for runs and stretches...
Hope this helps

PS: Going to bed now... yaaaaawwwn