Jazz Guitar Technique – Phrasing/Articulation


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Jazz Guitar Technique
Andrew Green
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Microphonic Press
ISBN: 0-9700576-1-X

Phrasing and Articulation

One way to increase the interest within an eighth-note line is by varying attack and volume. This is done to achieve a more vocal quality in your playing. A quick perusal (better yet, a long perusal) of any Charlie Parker solo, for example, will give you an idea of the rise and fall of attack and volume that happens within a well-conceived line. You will quickly realize that Bird’s phrases don’t consist of a stream of endless eighth notes played with no articulation.

Horn players and vocalists shape their phrases and dynamics through control of their air stream and through tonguing or articulation. There are several ways in which guitarists can emulate these aspects of phrasing: 

• Slurring (“S”) 

• Hammering (“H”) — After first picking a note, playing a higher note by fretting it without picking again.

• Sliding (“Sl”) — Playing a note one fret below the desired note and moving up to it using the same finger. This happens faster than a slur or hammer, so that the effect is of one attack not two. 

• Pull off (“P”) — Picking the first note, then playing a lower note by pulling the string with the finger that fretted the first note. 

• Accenting (“>”) — Picking some notes harder, therefore louder, than others.

The general idea is to pick on the upbeats and either hammer/slur or pull off on the downbeats. The notes that aren’t picked will be slightly softer, allowing for variation from note to note within a line. Add to this the concept of varying the accents on the notes you do pick, and you have gone a long way toward achieving a more swinging, less monotonous sound.
Play the following:

Pick and slur

Notice that within the phrase, not only were some notes louder than others, the varying of attack yields a more vocal quality overall.

The following is a sample of the Phrasing studies in the book.

Phrasing Studies