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You can't plough a field by turning it over in your mind.
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Ben Higgins
29 years old
Born Feb-26-1985
Guitar (surprise!), Karate, cars (American and European), reading, weightlifting (sometimes), horses.
Joined: 11-March 10
Profile Views: 27.247*
Last Seen: Yesterday, 07:46 PM
Local Time: Nov 21 2014, 03:20 AM
12.644 posts (7 per day)
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Ben Higgins

GMC Instructor

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My Content
20 Nov 2014
I was inspired to write this post due to a good question I was asked by Chris S. In my lesson Ben's Vibrato Odyssey 5 I break down the act of performing vibrato by setting a sequence of bends together. As you can see and hear, I use whole tone and semi tone bends and you may notice that the note I bend to is the next note that would occur in the scale.

The only reason I did this was to make it sound harmonically comfortable whilst doing these slow versions of vibrato. If one were just using vibrato naturally in a song, you wouldn't pay attention to the exact pitch that the note was being pushed to.. not necessarily anyway. It may depend on the speed of the vibrato. If it's quick then it doesn't matter so much, it's all about the effect. If you were making a deliberate back and forth oscillation of a note at a slow tempo then the pitch would be much more noticeable and therefore if you bent to a note that was not harmonious with the context of the track then it might not sound right.

So, in the context of that lesson, that was one reason why I did that. The other reason was that it was to get people practising smaller vibrato (the semitones) and wider vibrato (the whole tones).

Thinking in terms of bending to a particular interval is a very handy training tool to help us control vibrato and increase the effect of it. Once we've learned how to do this we can kind of forget about bending to particular intervals and just let the vibrato happen. Most of the time we don't have to worry about the width of our vibrato, we can just concern ourselves only with how much of the effect we're feeling at the time.

Going back to the lesson, when I go to the B string you'll notice that I'm directing my vibrato upwards. I'm also not sticking with the strict scalar bending that I was doing on the G string.

One reason is that I wanted to demonstrate how to use upwards vibrato in a subtle way and not just pushing it up a whole tone. Another reason is that it is quite tough to use upwards vibrato and keep a particular tempo, especially if it's a quick one. It's much easier to do this with downwards vibrato I find. Try it yourself.

This particular lesson concerns itself with what I call 'regular' vibrato or 'downward' vibrato. When I use regular upwards vibrato on the higher strings I tend to only use it for more aggressive wide vibrato. Why ? Because it doesn't quite give the control and subtlety that you can get with downward vibrato. So how do I get the control I want ? I'll use sideways vibrato which is first explored in Ben's Vibrato Odyssey 1. This is really effective on the higher strings, especially above the 12th fret. If you've struggled with performing vibrato on the really high notes then try it.

I may also use downwards vibrato or even circular vibrato on the B string if the tempo allows the time for that level of control and restraint. But mainly, on the B and top E strings I'll use sideways vibrato for restraint and if I want more of the effect I'll use upwards 'regular' vibrato.

So, what about you guys ? How do you solve the vibrato issue on the higher strings ?
20 Nov 2014
I'll let the article do the talking... but it made me physically uncomfortable going through it. In the same way that you would if you looked over the edge of a tall building. That weird feeling that you're just on the edge of something. It's hard to explain.. if anybody else gets that same weird feeling let me know ! laugh.gif


Btw, I don't know why I put an extra 's' on universe. One is surely enough wink.gif
20 Nov 2014
Love this ! The biker who got caught doing a wheelie uploaded this to show how polite and fair he thought the police were. And the bonus is, the copper was on a horse biggrin.gif

16 Nov 2014
As guitar players our hands are very important to us. If they get injured, we can't play until they're recovered. If they're feeling cold and stiff, we can't play properly or we risk pulling a tendon. So, practically speaking, we need to look after our hands and why wouldn't we ? They're essential to everyday life, not just guitar playing.

But guitar playing requires that our hands be supple.. slender fingers instead of big sausage fingers are 'more ideal'.. battered, weathered, hard worker's hands may not be as suited to dancing around the neck as some young Berklee graduate's dainty little digits. Or is that really the case ?

Attached Image

People need to work to put food on the table. Sometimes it's hard, physical labour that's not particularly 'musician's hands friendly' but that's life. It's not just a case of necessity either. Sometimes we just want to do things that are very different and more physical than playing a musical instrument. Perhaps we want to go rock climbing ? Sailing ? Learn to be a blacksmith ? Be a mechanic ?

So many times in my life I've been told 'Watch out for your hands'. I understand the sentiment but where do you draw the line ? You've got to live and living requires using what we've got, right ? Who wants to wrap themselves up in cotton wool and never do anything else for fear that they may hurt their hands ? As long as we apply common sense and are not self destructive then there's no reason why we can't do other things that require much more rugged use of our hands. Avoiding doing anything else for fear of your hands is surely paranoia ?

I'm genuinely interested in how you guys approach this so please share your thoughts.

Have you guys ever come across the concept that our hands adapt and shape themselves according to the activities we ask of it ?

If you ever look at the hands of a farmer or fisherman they won't look like anything like the hands of Steve Vai. Our hands really do adapt to what we ask of them. Yet with this in mind, we can be drawn into duality thinking. We can end up thinking that if we want to be a musician then our hands must be reserved only for the soft not the hard. Yet I believe we can shape them to do both. I think there is a practical limit to the levels of physical hardship that you put your hands through and the level of musical dexterity you may achieve as a result but I'll leave that to you guys to add your thoughts as to why that could be.

I think this could be a really interesting discussion, given your different hobbies and work backgrounds. What do we think about all this ?
12 Nov 2014
We've all heard the cliche "The tone is in the fingers". Different people can play through the same gear yet sound unique. I think this is easier to detect with lead guitar playing, stuff that requires personal expression. There was a video shared recently about this, yet the differences were not easy to detect mainly due to the fact that they were just playing a simple power chord progression. If we were to give a group of guitar players the same phrase to play, they wouldn't sound the same. The amount of pick strokes may differ, some may use a slide where some may not. A bend, a pull-off. Different ways to reach different notes.

But I wanted to hone in one specific aspect of tone and that is what the picking hand is doing. Btw, when I say 'picking hand' it doesn't mean we're focusing on alternate picking, it's just that 'right hand' isn't always applicable if somebody is left handed and we're modern and all inclusive here ! So just remember that when I say 'picking hand' that also encompasses strumming, muting and everything else that this hand does.

Have you ever noticed how when you've experimented with different hand positions (and pick positions, angle etc) that the tone changes ? Sometimes for the better but sometimes for the worse. It's a matter of personal preference of course but anything that gives me a thinner tone is 'worse' to me. My ideal tone is wherever the thickest, clearest signal is found when the string is picked. The note has to be the dominant signal with as little unwanted overtones as possible.

Try this:

Making sure you're on the bridge pickup, start picking really close to the bridge. Hear how the tone is much thinner here ? But also can you hear how the lower strings vibrate and interfere with the cleanliness of the high strings ? Try tremolo picking on the high E with your hand near or over the bridge.

Depending on the level of gain you use, you might notice a slight dulling of the notes due to interference from the other strings vibrating. In the mix this might not be an issue but unaccompanied it will be apparent. This type of stuff is worth knowing if you're predominantly a 'distortion' player.

You may be totally fine with the tone and the extra noise that comes from playing close to the bridge but if you're not then you may want to counter act the noise, change the tone or both. One way of doing both is to bring your hand to the middle, between the end of the fingerboard and bridge. This should give you the 'thickest brightness', if that makes sense ? But it is also affected by the angle that your hand is in relation to the guitar body. If you bring your hand in so that your thumb is closer to the strings then you should get the best control over the tone. You should be able to keep the lower strings quiet so they don't interfere with anything you're playing on the higher strings. It will also change the way the pick meets the string. Keeping the pinky side of your hand close to the strings in the usual muting position, bring your thumb side in and out, seeing how the tone changes as you pick.

Now bring your hand closer to the neck. Normally people don't tend to play here for everyday general playing but they might pick close to the edge of the fingerboard, or even on it, for effect. It gives a slight hint of neck pickup doesn't it ?

As I said before, it's totally a matter of taste but if you bear two things and mind, tone and muting control, then you might find that you have more options to influence the sound of your guitar playing than you realised !
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Todd Simpson
Welcome! :) Great to have ya!
9 Jun 2010 - 2:11
Ben Higgins
Thank you man !! :-)
5 Jun 2010 - 15:24
Welcome to GMC!!!!!!! I hope you enjoy your stay and I look forward to cool lessons! :)
5 Jun 2010 - 0:14


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