ACOUSTIC EXPO 2013: All too often you hear the word 'genius' used to describe this guitarist or that one. But after seeing part one of Raul Midon's guest lesson, you may agree that it most definitely applies to him.
The basis of most of Midon's playing is percussive rhythm, influenced primarily by his Argentinian roots. It was this Latin influence that eventually led to all the string pops, slaps and palm hits. "It was never enough for me just to play the usual strumming ideas on the guitar as an accompaniment to the voice," he says. "I thought there was so much more to it than that."
Outfitted with long acrylic fingernails, Midon has a super hard attack. This is mirrored in the fretting hand, where hammer-ons from nowhere are extremely loud. The main difficulty in tackling his rhythm style is the synchronisation between the two hands, as there are many surprising subdivisions of beats.
A good starting point is the fingerslap (notated as FS). It's achieved by whacking the fingers and the top part of the palm onto the strings to sound a fretted chord. It's important to bounce off the strings to produce a sound, although Midon mixes this with fingerslap mutes (no bounce so the fingers deaden the strings).
This can be mixed with conventional strumming, although even here Midon plays with i, m, and a fingers for maximum power. Further percussive features are added by fretting hand hammer-ons. There's a lot going on at once, but fortunately Midon slows his tricks down so we can take a closer look.
It's easy to forget that he does all this while singing, and that's partly where the next section comes in. His mouth trumpet may seem like just a gimmick but if you close your eyes you'll be convinced you're listening to the real thing.
A good starting point with the whole scat technique (popularised by George Benson) is singing in unison with your guitar lines. It's a good way to train your voice and will help you craft more meaningful lead lines in time.